Gas Co-op Is Created

What's up in Maryland? The price of electricity and gas.

That's why the Baltimore/Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce has formed its second electric purchasing cooperative for its members, which include dozens of Howard County companies, institutions and nonprofit groups.

The cooperative is among a half-dozen in Maryland that pool non-residential users of electricity to bid on a rate for power. By buying in bulk as a group, the members try to negotiate a better rate than they could get individually.

The chamber formed its first cooperative in November and expects to save at least $2.2 million for its members during the course of the three-year contract.

The 27 members who joined the second cooperative should save from 2 to 22 percent on their electric bills, with the largest users reaping the largest savings.

The second cooperative went into effect this month and lasts through January. For both cooperatives, the chamber recruits members and then solicits bids from companies licensed to sell electricity in Maryland.

"The shorter-term contract was necessary because of the volatility of the electric market," said Walt Townshend, the chamber's president.

In September, the chamber will try to rebid the second contract for a longer period and a better rate, Townshend said.

The cooperatives were formed in response to state legislation approved in 1999 that deregulated Maryland's energy market so consumers could shop for power rates like they do for airline fares. In the mid-Maryland region, rates were frozen until July 1, 2004, to ease the transition. Once the freeze was lifted, Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. raised rates based on the bids they received from companies that supply them with electricity.

Bookstore Moves

Dan and Jan Riker sold rare and used books on the Internet for four years before opening Basset Books in the Snowden Center on Oakland Mills Road in Columbia.

"We love used-book stores ourselves," Jan Riker said. "We think there are some books that are best sold when they are seen and held and appreciated."

Recently, the Rikers moved their shop to Historic Savage Mill, into a space previously occupied by Paolo Vista men's clothing store in the Old Weave Building. This week the couple opened a warehouse less than a mile away and closed their Columbia store.

The new warehouse holds about 20,000 books.

"Our intention is to expand dramatically now that we have the space," Jan Riker said. "We have more opportunity to bring in lots more books to the store because we can rotate books in and out and constantly change our stock."

Basset specializes in rare and out-of-print books in various categories, including history, children's literature, mystery, science and art. It also appraises books.

BakeMart Building Sold

Federal Capital Partners sold the renovated BakeMart building at 8441 Dorsey Run Rd. in Jessup for $6.9 million, or $51 per square foot, to Sterling Moving and Storage.

FCP, based in Washington, bought the stand-alone 135,000-square-foot warehouse at a discount last year because of roof damage caused by snow during the previous year's harsh winter storms.

Office Leasing 'Quiet'

Activity in Howard County's office leasing market was "unusually quiet" in the first half of 2005 despite some large transactions, according to a report by Colliers Pinkard, a commercial real estate property management consulting firm.

The vacancy rate edged above 13 percent because the market could absorb only about a third of the space added, the report said.

Among the large transactions Colliers cited: GloboMax leased 30,000 square feet at the Columbia Corporate Park in Ellicott City. The company helps pharmaceutical companies expedite drug development.

-- DINA ELBOGHDADY

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