Tech firm Stripe picks Baltimore for new office; city approves $150K loan for business

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The Banner Building at 1215 E. Fort Ave. Photo via Google Street View.

Stripe, the online payment platform with the stated mission “to increase the GDP of the internet,” is opening an office in Locust Point.

Helm Services Inc., a subsidiary of Stripe, is leasing 44,000 square feet at 1215 E. Fort Ave., for its first-ever office where it will provide support services for the payment infrastructure firm, according to this week’s Board of Estimates agenda. According to state business records, the company changed its name from Tamarancho, Inc., which is how it’s referred to in the agenda, to Helm Services, Inc. on July 24.

Here’s where the city spending board comes in: Helm Services received a $150,000 convertible loan to buy equipment for the space. The company also received a $600,000 loan from the Maryland Department of Commerce.

If Helm has at least 200 employees by 2022, and for each successive year until 2029, the annual payments of $18,750, plus any accrued interest, will be forgiven. That covers the full cost of the loan.

Should Helm fail to meet the 200-employee threshold, it will owe $750 times the difference between 200 and the actual size of the staff. The balance would have to be paid back to the city by March 31, 2030, with 3 percent interest tacked on per year.

The city loan unlocked access to the state loan, officials said. That cash advance is similarly tied to employment, Karen Glen Hood, a spokesperson with the Maryland Department of Commerce, confirmed. Helm must have 200 employees by 2022 and maintain that level of employment over the 10-year life of the loan.

If Helm falls short of the hiring goal, it will have to pay back a pro-rated portion of the loan, and if it’s below 100 employees, it will have to pay the entire advance back.

Conditions also require Helm to spend at least $3.6 million on the project–either by outfitting the space to fit the company’s needs or buying equipment–by 2022. If both requirements are met, the loan is forgiven.

Susan Yum, a spokesperson for the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corporation, said the jobs will have livable wages and benefits, and not require four-year college degrees. The BDC has connected the tech firm with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development about setting up training initiatives for local residents.

At the beginning of 2019, Stripe was valued at $22.5 billion just after receiving a $100 million investment from Tiger Global Management, per CNBC. According to a company profile, Stripe, which launched in 2011, employs more than 1,500 employees at 13 offices around the world and provides its online payment service to “millions” of users.

It’s not immediately clear what equipment the company would purchase with the loans. A representative from Stripe did not return a request for comment.

Helm president Patrick Mahoney said in a statement: “We considered a number of cities across the country for Helm’s inaugural location and Baltimore stood out for its unique combination of world-class educational institutions, talented and diverse workforce and entrepreneurial spirit. We look forward to forming strong ties with the community and contributing to its culture of excellence and innovation.”

Both Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young provided statements hailing the deal as a win for the city.

“We welcome such an innovative company that will invest in our city, create livable wage jobs for our residents and contribute to the continued economic growth of Baltimore,” Young said.

This story has been updated.

Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore Business Journal, b and others. Prior to joining Baltimore Fishbowl, he was an editor at City Paper from 2012 to 2017. He can be reached at [email protected]
Brandon Weigel


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