Baltimore's Business Leadership

November 22, 1990

With the changing of the guard at MNC Financial Corp. and USF&G Corp., who will assume the mantle of civic leadership now that Alan Hoblitzell and Jack Moseley have stepped down from their respective corporate posts? There are no ready answers.

Despite their ideological and stylistic dissimilarities, these two corporate leaders saw their roles stretching beyond making a profit to making a difference in the Baltimore community.

Mr. Hoblitzell's sense of social responsibility led him to the chairmanship of the United Way of Central Maryland, chairmanship of a gubernatorial panel on higher education and efforts to promote minority entrepreneurs. Mr. Moseley put USF&G's clout behind diverse initiatives ranging from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to state economic development programs.

Now, beset by strategic missteps of their own making at MNC and USF&G, both men have been pushed into early retirement, effectively decapitating the region's corporate civic leadership. The MNC and USF&G sagas are full of textbook lessons about unchecked expansion, but there's another caution for Baltimore: relying too heavily on a handful of corporate citizens to carry the ball of civic responsibility. For years, Mr. Hoblitzell and Mr. Moseley stood tall among a small group of leaders willing to devote considerable time and company resources to make the region a better place in which to live.

Their absence creates a vacuum both noticeable and alarming. The victories of the past -- Charles Center and the Inner Harbor, for instance -- were about bricks, mortar and revitalization. Today's challenges revolve around work-force development and economic viability, elusive goals in a city plagued by a declining revenue base and mounting social ills.

Certainly, the region is not without innovative and community-minded leaders, such as the Rouse Co.'s Mathias DeVito, C&P's Henry Butta and BG&E's George McGowan. But at a time when the need for corporate involvement in the community is greater than ever, there should be many more players on the Baltimore scene.

Many local companies loom large as regional or national powerhouses. Their executives now have an opportunity to take on important civic activities. These are difficult times: the burden can no longer be shouldered by a conscientious corporate few. The time has come for a new generation of business leaders to do their part.

Whether the region's future matches its renaissance of recent decades depends in large measure on a new crop of visionary leaders stepping forward from corporate ranks to take up where the men who led MNC and USF&G left off.

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