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Baltimore County close to inking Amazon deal — no, not that one

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Baltimore County is close to landing an Amazon distribution center, to be located at Sparrows Point in eastern Baltimore County.

When County Economic Development Director Will Anderson briefed the County Council on the proposed deal Tuesday, he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear:  What is on the table is an Amazon distribution center, not the company’s second global headquarters, known as HQ2.

“Our project we think is very close,” Anderson said. “The HQ2 project we think is much more of a moonshot that many people are chasing.”

The county doesn’t plan to compete for HQ2. In fact, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is backing Baltimore City’s pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters to be located at Port Covington.

What would come to Baltimore County is a $225 million distribution center and 1,500 jobs, Anderson said. It would be part of Tradepoint Atlantic’s redevelopment of the old Bethlehem Steel site at Sparrows Point.

“This is a massive win,” Anderson said. “I know it’s overshadowed a little bit by chasing the headquarters, but this would be a massive win if Tradepoint and the county and the state can pull it in.”

Kamenetz said the county is taking aggressive steps to close the deal. If it’s successful, “There will be more people working at Sparrows Point than when the steel mill closed in 2012,” he wrote in a statement.

Since Tradepoint took over the steel site, several businesses have set up shop there, including FedEx. Under Armour is building a facility there now.

The County Council is being asked to greenlight a $2 million state loan to Amazon. The loan comes with incentives. If Amazon hits certain targets — such as a number of people hired and retained and the size of the facility — the company won’t have to repay it.

The county would kick in a $200,000 loan, as well.

Councilman Todd Crandell, whose district includes Sparrows Point, said the county should get the loan squared away before the deal is even finalized.

“It’s just proactive to be as competitive as possible to help land this major company in the 7th district,” Crandell said.

Although the distribution center has nothing to do with Amazon’s proposed second global headquarters and the county is not vying for that massive project, Council Chair Tom Quirk is still dreaming about it. Amazon’s HQ2 is expected to bring 50,000 jobs to wherever it ends up. If Baltimore City lands it, Quirk said, a lot of those employees would be living in his district in southwest Baltimore County.

“Driving back and forth and spending a lot of money,” he said, “and housing stocks would do quite well, and the tax base will go up, so obviously it’s a huge win even if we get it close by.”

The Council is expected to vote on the loans for the far more likely Amazon distribution center on Monday. 

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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