A bill aims to boost the growth of alternative energy companies in Maryland by giving them tax breaks if they locate in “green business” zones around the state.
The legislation, if signed into law, could make Maryland as big a home to companies in wind, solar and other forms of alternative fuels as California’s Silicon Valley is to the computer software industry, said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Michael Summers, D-Prince George’s.
The newly elected delegate sees renewable energy companies as a steady source of new jobs and non-polluting energy.
“There’s a need to spur the industry,” Summers said of House Bill 795.
The bill would authorize the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development to establish green business incentive zones around the state. Companies that locate in those areas would be eligible for credits on their state income and real property taxes.
Under the bill, companies that hire unemployed workers, or low-income people, could be eligible for a tax break of up to $3,000 for each worker they hire. They could also get a break on their property taxes that would start at 80 percent and shrink to 30 percent after 10 years.
The program would be open to manufacturers, installers of renewable energy systems and firms that do research in the field.
Alternative energy company executives say they are interested in the legislation but want to learn more.
“A company locates based on a number of factors, and a tax credit would have to be pretty substantial to get them to relocate to a particular area,” said Jim Maguire, president of Baltimore’s WindCurrent. The company provides wind energy to large commercial customers, nonprofits and federal agencies.
Maguire said a tax break would be only one factor he would look at in weighing a move. Staying near customers and being convenient to where his employees live are more important considerations, he said.
For Andrew Maus, the president of Soleil Solar in Baltimore, a tax credit is just one thing to consider in deciding where to locate a business. Depending on where the incentive zones are established, location could trump a tax credit, Maus said. He said he would want to keep his company in Baltimore, near venture capital firms and other sources or funding, or in Annapolis, near lawmakers and state government.
Michael Haug, the CEO of SavWatt USA, is already moving his company from Eastern Avenue to larger quarters on Wicomico Street in South Baltimore. The company makes energy-efficient LED lighting. Haug said the availability of green business tax credits would have been something he would have considered in deciding where to move.
Tax credits are a major factor for young companies like his, Haug said. They were one reason his company made the move to the new space, which is located in an enterprise zone and comes with its own tax break.
“It could be a very big incentive for us,” he said. “It could be the difference between moving to Pittsburgh and staying in Maryland.”
House Bill 795 is scheduled for a hearing March 1 before the House Ways and Means committee. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 646, was assigned to the Senate Budget and Taxation and Finance committees. No date has been set for a hearing in the Senate. The bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Victor Ramirez, D-Prince George’s.
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