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BDC Provides Briefing to Economic Development Commission

"It seemed appropriate that the county’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) was at the Donaldson Brown Center to hear a talk about the development of Bainbridge.

Brown was a financial titan of his era and the mansion, perched on a cliff with breathtaking views of the Susquehanna River, is a testament to his prestige and love of this area. From what I have heard about him, Brown would have loved this challenge.

Bainbridge Development Corporation (BDC) executive director Donna Tapley said she is looking for the support and energy of the EDC to help make Bainbridge a priority economic development site in the county.

As the economy has improved, there have been more prospects tapping on Bainbridge’s door to look at the enormous, undeveloped site. Unfortunately, infrastructure issues, lack of incentives and the need to get the U.S. Navy to settle on continuing pollution problems have made it difficult to get anyone to sign on the dotted line.

Tapley said one of the partner developers even brought a prospect exclusively to Bainbridge, but the same prospect was working through the state and was directed to another site in Cecil County. County Economic Development Director Lisa Webb explained that prospects are assigned different names by economic development entities to allow companies to freely look at options without setting off alarms where they currently base their business so the county office had no idea the BDC and county economic development office were working with the same company.

But the BDC wants to get an equal footing in order to set the hook and reel-in prospects. They are actively looking into Enterprise Zone status for Bainbridge as well as a designation of a Sustainable Community. Both come with incentives for those companies that settle there.

The BDC also has plans to increase the sewer capacity and add sewer pipes. They will look for funding sources.

Artesian Water, which offers water within Port Deposit’s town limits, has said they can get 240,000 gallons of water to the serve the site within 60 days, if needed, Tapley said.

The Navy was given a revised appraisal which is being reviewed.

While some may lament that it seems that it is taking forever for the Navy to act, Tapley said the Navy is being very responsive.

“The Navy exceeds their usual pace with this,” she said.

One of the things the BDC is trying to get across to the Navy is that the community has suffered losses because of the initial lack of movement to get rid of pollution problems and the time that has elapsed since new pollution issues were discovered by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010. Tapley said these include the town needing to turn their water resources to a private company, the loss of a partner who was rehabbing the old Tome School and the loss of Cecil College’s math and tech building which was slated to be constructed on the Bainbridge site, but had to be moved to the North East campus or the college would have lost funding for the project.

Throughout this long process with the Navy, the BDC decided they needed to revise their concept for the site. They first wanted to get Bainbridge to be more of a research and development facility, but have broadened their vision to include distribution and manufacturing.

This new plan was unveiled before Port Deposit’s town board in January and presented to the County Executive and Cecil County Council in February. Tapley said the BDC is now working with the town to modify their comprehensive plan and zoning to work with the new concept.

Tapley said the BDC views the arson at the Tome School’s Memorial Hall as being catastrophic, but vows the site will someday be rehabilitated and put to good use. Anyone who takes on the project will find that 100 acres of land around the historic school is included in the deal.

Tapley said she is before the EDC to get ideas and encouragement for Bainbridge’s development. It is the same reason that the town of Port Deposit is planning informational signs in the downtown and why there are regular tours of the site – to get the buzz going about the possibilities at Bainbridge.

Bainbridge is at a critical point, Tapley told the EDC. She expressed optimism that the BDC’s plans will result in Bainbridge becoming an economic asset to Cecil County."

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