Lidl distribution center

Maryland Economic Development Assistance and Authority Fund (MEDAAF) loans will help fund construction of the Lidl distribution center, seen here, and the unknown business behind “Project Melo.”

ELKTON — Cecil County Council unanimously approved two business incentive loans during a meeting Tuesday night — with little fanfare and with the public still in the dark on the intended recipient for one.

The resolutions authorize the approval of Maryland Economic Development Assistance and Authority Fund (MEDAAF) loans to two Principio Business Park tenants: Lidl and an as-yet-unnamed company dubbed Project Melo — pronounced “mellow” after the former University of Maryland Terrapins basketball player.

The decision comes several months after the council approved a similar business incentive loan to Amazon, a move which some locals criticized, saying the company shouldn’t require government assistance.

These latest resolutions ask for a $170,000 forgivable loan over 10 years for Project Melo, and a $36,000 forgivable loan for Lidl, which is split into $20,000 in a conditional workforce training grant and $16,000 in a forgivable loan over 10 years.

MEDAAF loans are a common tool in Maryland for counties, cities and towns to attract new major employers and require a 10 percent county match, which Cecil County would pay out of the county’s Business Incentive Fund that draws from video terminal lottery (slots) revenue from Hollywood Casino Perryville.

At the council meeting Tuesday, both resolutions passed quickly and without questions from council members. Chris Moyer, county economic development director, did, however, comment on each before voting took place.

“I just want to point out once again that this project is very exciting for the future of Cecil County’s economy,” Moyer said of the Lidl loan. “It doesn’t include any general funds or taxpayer money, it’s coming out of the business assistance fund, related to the Hollywood Casino, and these jobs are very important and we want to see Lidl grow here in the county.”

As previously reported, the Lidl project, which aims to open in December, will have cost an estimated $105 million for the land acquisition and site construction and $45 million in additional costs for equipment and interior needs. The company expects to hire 100 permanent full-time employees by December 2018, and could eventually employ up to 400.

“Similar to Lidl, Project Melo is an extremely important project,” Moyer told the council.

The undisclosed company will be purchasing 100 acres at Principio Business Park, and plans on expanding Cecil County’s economy by 450 jobs, Moyer said.

In a previous council meeting, Moyer promised more details prior to the final vote later this month, but on Tuesday night he more or less echoed information already reported. During Tuesday morning’s council work session, Moyer told the council that the company associated with Project Melo had not yet closed on the property but expected to do so by the end of October or early November, at which time the name would be announced.

“So we’re still not in a position to publicly disclose who the company is per their request,” Moyer said.

Moyer has called the mystery company “the largest privately held manufacturer in its industry.” He previously told the Whig the company is not headquartered in Maryland, although it has a presence in the state, and that Cecil County competed against one other Maryland county for the project.

“We’re very excited about them selecting in Cecil County,” Moyer said.

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