Monday, September 9, 2013

Enterprise Zones and Trading Jobs (Monday LINKS)

On Sunday, Jean Marbella with The Baltimore Sun profiled Michael Beatty as the front man for the Harbor Point development project.  Harbor Point has found itself in the news often over the past few weeks related to some controversy over the award $400 million in "enterprise zone" tax breaks and subsidies to help fund the project.  As discussed earlier, these "enterprise zones" are partially funded by the state and are intended to bring commercial development to impoverished areas.

Overall, I think tax expenditures to spur economic development can be helpful, particularly when the target area is not marketable on its own.  As Beatty and other business leaders have noted, Baltimore City's property tax rates are prohibitively expensive and make some sort of tax forgiveness a given before any new projects will be undertaken.

Nevertheless, the Enterprise Zone construct is flawed with Harbor East and Harbor Point standing out as glaring examples of plainly marketable properties that have been drawn into tenuous "zones" with impoverished areas of the City that are unlikely to see much benefit from the development.  Even more concerning was this section of the piece addressing the move of Sylvan Learning Center:

Becker's company, formerly Sylvan Learning Systems, was Harbor East's first tenant and is in its third building in the neighborhood. Beatty was "incredibly diligent" about making sure he understood Sylvan's and then Laureate's needs, and keeping the company in the neighborhood even as it grew, Becker said.

"The first building he built for us was professional but not really notable," he said. "You can see the architectural standard and ambition grow. I've been delighted in how the neighborhood has progressed."

Landing the company was something of a coup for the developers — it was the first time in more than 20 years that a national company of Sylvan's size had moved its headquarters to Baltimore City, in this case from suburban Columbia.

Understanding the preexisting bias I may have for Howard County, this still seems wrong to me.  The State of Maryland subsidized Columbia's job loss.  And this is not "Rich jurisdiction.  Poor jurisdiction."  Think about everyone working to make Howard County less of a bedroom community and more of a place for people to "live, work, and play".  I don't know what, if any, negotiation took place before Sylvan packed up, but it seems that when two state jurisdictions are battling against one another, the only ones who lose are the taxpayers. 

All Marylanders want to see Baltimore succeed.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether we want the state subsidizing intra-state job-shifting.  That seems a bit fruitless to me.  Admittedly, the actual state funds are a few steps removed from the underlying move (state subsidized Baltimore City enterprise zone; City subsidized development; Developer offered "right price" to Sylvan), but it still should have us all scratching our head as to what Maryland tax-payers are getting out of this deal.


The Baltimore Orioles remain two games out of the Wild Card after a tough loss to the White Sox, ending on a base-running error.

The Ravens are tied for first place atop the AFC North...and also tied for last place at the bottom of the AFC North.

There was an odd train-auto accident on Saturday morning at an apparent intersection between the tracks and Old Frederick.  I am not familiar with this location and would appreciate the help of anyone who can help me figure out where this happened.

The Baltimore Sun's "Hidden Maryland" takes a look at the James N. Robey Public Training Center.

Michael Abramowitz explains the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine as a basis for intervention in Syria.

The President of Vassar College explains how income inequality, and the stratification of higher education costs, are driving tuition rates higher at the expense of taxpayers and low-income students.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: AnnieRie helps us all "Eat Local" by identifying local sellers of all of your favorite foods.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!