Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Attributed to the first-century Roman philosopher Seneca, the sentiment applies well to the ways in which Baltimore began to pre-position itself, long before COVID-19, for the “new economy” of goods moving directly, and swiftly, from producers to consumers.
“Today, as we sit here post-COVID, or almost post-COVID, we’ve realized the importance of supply chains in our everyday lives,” says Aaron Tomarchio, executive vice president for corporate affairs of 3,200-acre (1,295-hectare) Tradepoint Atlantic, Baltimore’s signature logistics development. Officially launched with the opening of a FedEx distribution center in 2017, Tradepoint Atlantic, swiftly at 60% buildout, already supports some 10,000 jobs at the site of an iconic former Bethlehem Steel mill.
“More investments into improving our nation’s supply chain are coming,” Tomarchio tells Site Selection, “and being here in the Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore is certainly poised to take advantage of that.”
Just as television ratings are all about attracting eyeballs, the fundamental precept of e-commerce is to agglomerate as many goods as possible as close as possible to as many human heartbeats as possible for rapid distribution among them. In that sense, northern Maryland occupies a prime spot along the southern link of the I-95 corridor stretching from Washington, D.C. to New York.
That advantage has drawn the attention of Kansas City-based NorthPoint Development, the No. 1 industrial developer in the U.S. for the past five years, as named by Real Capital Analytics. NorthPoint is involved in distribution-related projects in Baltimore and Hagerstown, with more in the planning stages.
“We look very closely at timetables, people within a given truck drive,” says Jed Momot, NorthPoint’s chief strategy officer. “In the area between Baltimore and Philly, there are approximately 30 million people within that three-hour haul. That’s same-day delivery. And then within the one-day truck drive, you’re probably reaching 40% of the U.S. population. Northern Maryland is right in the sweet spot.”
Maryland, believes Momot, benefits from the notion that the farther north one goes along that prized eastern corridor, the harder it is to do business.
“In New Jersey and New York, it is extremely hard to get deals done,” he tells Site Selection. “So, things continue to outflow from there. Maryland will win a lot of these projects not only because you can reach so many people via the I-95 corridor, but because they tend to be development and business friendly. We are looking to invest more in Maryland, for sure.”
From Steel Mill to Logistics Powerhouse
The sheer scope of Tradepoint Atlantic, on the southern end of the Patapsco River as it opens into Chesapeake Bay, mirrors Maryland’s ambitions. Incentives supporting the project reflect the state government’s early recognition of opportunities presented by investments in e-commerce, especially given Maryland’s privileged location.
“We had Republicans and Democrats — federal, state and local levels of government collectively saying, ‘we want to re-envision the Bethlehem steel mill.’ So, in about seven years, we’ve been able to turn a contaminated former steel mill into a site now that’s employing 10,000 people,” says Tomarchio. “Not many jurisdictions can say that. I think it’s emblematic of what can happen if we collectively come together and decide that if we can muster the will to do something, we can make it happen.”
With an enviable combination of deepwater berths, railroad, highway connections and storage space, Tradepoint Atlantic has attracted major distribution operations from more than 20 companies, including Amazon, Home Depot and Floor Décor. Volkswagen created more than 100 jobs last summer at a new port and processing facility that’s eventually to serve some 300 dealers in the mid-Atlantic. Four new tenants, including McCormick and BMW, says Tomarchio, are moving in, and Amazon is working on its third Tradepoint installation.
Tomarchio, a former municipal planning official, says the jobs being created at Tradepoint match the needs of both the new economy and workers seeking entrée into it.
“These are jobs that provide on-ramps for careers,” he says. “They provide opportunities for folks and communities that typically have a hard time accessing jobs. All too often we want to focus on figuring out who’s the next aerospace engineer or biochemist or web developer. We sometimes overlook that there are communities in our nearby cities that lack access to job opportunities. We are providing that opportunity of an on-ramp to a job where people can build from and begin to build a life for themselves.”
Believing in Baltimore
This is not to ignore Maryland’s most precious asset — its brainpower. That’s the lure of Port Covington, a 235-acre mixed-use redevelopment along prime, Baltimore riverfront.
“From a site selection standpoint, if you want access to a really deep, robust talent pool in the Mid-Atlantic, there’s really no better place to do it than here in Baltimore,” says Scooter Monroe, head of office leasing for Weller Development Company, the project’s master developer.
Maryland’s concentration of leading scientific talent — nurtured at esteemed institutions that include Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Security Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology — aligns with the development team’s vision of Port Covington as a hub of life sciences, cybersecurity, data and computer sciences supported by abundant housing and innovative amenities.
“Everybody’s chasing the talent pool,” says Monroe, “and we’re creating an environment that’s really inspiring, one that’s really a global destination to attract innovative companies.”
Port Covington, within a federal Opportunity Zone, is backed by $660 million in public financing and $400 million from the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which invests in “double bottom line” projects that benefit communities. With a commitment to 20% affordable housing, the developers have funded some $10 million to a local neighborhood coalition, as part of one of the largest Community Benefits agreements in Baltimore’s history.
An initial phase comprising five office buildings totaling 1.1 million sq. ft. is to begin delivering in late 2022. Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a leading developer in the life sciences space, is actively marketing a 170-,000-sq. ft. laboratory building to a potential anchor tenant.
“What we’re looking for now,” says Monroe, “is a partner from a tenancy standpoint who believes in what we believe, who believes in Baltimore, and who wants to be a part of this story.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Maryland Department of Commerce. For more information, please contact Karen Glenn Hood at (410) 767-6318 or email@example.com. On the web, go to https://commerce.maryland.gov/.
Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.