RWD Technologies Inc. said yesterday that it plans to keep its headquarters in Columbia until the end of next year but still may move its workforce of about 600 out of Howard County.

The technology services and consulting firm's chief financial officer, Beth M. Buck, said some employees will remain in Columbia until RWD's lease expires in December 2003. But the company may move about 100 of its corporate support employees next year to RWD's new Applied Technology Laboratory next to the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

RWD has not ruled out moving its headquarters entirely out of Howard County, where it is one of the 25 largest employers. The company is negotiating with its landlord, Columbia Management Inc., an affiliate of Rouse Co., a Columbia-based real estate development firm, she said.

"We're looking at different options," Buck said. "There's not any major offer on the table."

RWD on Tuesday announced a third-quarter loss of $5.7 million, compared with a loss of $3.6 million for the third quarter of 2001. The company's charges for the quarter included restructuring costs related to severance payments and vacant office space, totaling $1.7 million.

"RWD Technologies' 2002 financial results are a big disappointment to management," said company chief executive Robert W. Deutsch. The company's sales have been hurt by cutbacks in information technology spending. RWD's workforce fell to 900 people in the third quarter, down from 1,025 a year earlier, through layoffs and attrition, officials said.

Wayne Christmann, senior asset manager for Columbia Management Inc., said RWD occupies about 108,000 square feet in an office building in Columbia Town Center, where it has been for about a decade. The company said earlier that it wanted a new location with fewer floors and more space.

In 1997, RWD was approved for a loan of about $1.3 million from Maryland's Sunny Day Fund, said Alicia Moran, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. To date, the state has forgiven about $740,000 of the loan because the company met certain conditions. RWD is repaying $532,120, she said.

Richard W. Story, chief executive of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said he hopes RWD will remain in the county.

"Obviously, that would be good news," Story said. "They're a good homegrown Howard County company."