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Press Release - Garrett County in the Zone: State Enterprise Zones Are Effective and Essential

Last Updated on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:59pm | Board of Commissioners

OAKLAND, MD —March 11, 2014 — True to its intent, Maryland’s Enterprise Zone Program has fueled dramatic job growth and private investment in Garrett County over more than a decade, according to Garrett County’s Office of Economic Development. Contrary to conclusions released by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services deeming the program cost ineffective, the initiative has catapulted employment and capital expenditures throughout Garrett County.
Created in 1982 to combat national trends of overseas relocations and job loss, the Maryland Enterprise Zone Program was designed to stimulate growth and improve employment within distressed areas of the state. Since its inception, Enterprise Zone businesses have qualified for specific tax credits in return for job creation and capital investments.
“We are extremely proud of our Enterprise Zone businesses. While the State may be of the opinion that the program is not cost effective, we have leveraged it to great results in Garrett County,” said Mike Koch, Executive Director of Garrett County’s Department of Community Planning and Development. “Maryland’s Enterprise Zone Program has increased employment opportunities for residents and assisted in the expansion of local businesses.”
Within Garrett County’s Enterprise Zones, the program has powered profitability, business growth, and new industrial ventures. Between FY 2000 and 2012 in the Northern Garrett Enterprise Zone, employee numbers for the five businesses located in the Zone increased 26.5%. Capital expenditures totaled $39.4 million, real property assessments on the physical improvements located in the zone increased by 3,372.8%, and two of the businesses expanded multiple times.
The 12 businesses located in the Southern Garrett Enterprise Zone experienced similar growth. Between FY 2000 and FY 2012, employee numbers for these businesses increased 184.9%, business capital expenditures totaled $9.3 million, and real property assessments on the physical improvements located in the zone increased by 413%. Four businesses also expanded during this time span.
While the Keyser’s Ridge Enterprise Zone has not experienced the same growth rate as aforementioned areas, it will receive a healthy economic boost in 2014. Strata Safety Products, a global leader in mine safety, will move into a 10,000-square foot space slated for completion this spring. The space, which is to be used for research and development, product management, and customer service, will employ 25 new workers.
A fourth zone, the Central Garrett Enterprise Zone, did not meet re-designation requirements in June 2013. Between FY 2000 and FY 2012, the three businesses in this zone showed a total employee increase of 119.3%, business capital expenditures totaling $9 million, and real property assessments on the physical improvements located in the zone increasing by 2,015.1%. Two businesses within the zone expanded multiple times during this period.
Frank Vitez, President of Phenix Technologies, an international manufacturer of test systems and components located in Central Garrett, praises the merits of the program. “The Enterprise Zone tax credits have been instrumental in the continued success of Phenix Technologies.” 
As a result of the tax credits, Phenix constructed a 70,000-square foot manufacturing facility, significantly increased the number of its employees, and developed an array of new products. The recent loss of an Enterprise Zone designation, however, is disappointing for companies and the community alike.
“The Enterprise Zone program has expanded our economy in a powerful way,” said Mike Koch. “Companies in the zone help us reinvent our rural economy, investing in capital expenditures and new employee hires. The Enterprise Zone program is the backbone of business growth in underserved areas across Maryland. It helps us stand tall and proud.”
About Garrett County, Maryland:
Nestled in the mountains of Western Maryland, Garrett County features high elevations—and higher opportunities for prosperity. Lured by an abundance of resources and natural beauty, over 900 businesses elevate their workforce—and profit margins—in Garrett County. Boasting a solid workforce and affordable real estate, Garrett County blends modern conveniences with country living. Efficient by design, our technology and transportation infrastructure redefine rural life, offering convenience and proximity to key markets. For more information, visit