Hayden sees sister county in Wales as a rich relation

January 19, 1992|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- Roger Hayden says he means business.

He wants a relationship with South Glamorgan County that has more to it than cultural exchanges and the sending of Christmas cards every year.

That, he says, is why he came here. He wants to do business. And so, apparently, do the people who run the Welsh county that contains the city of Cardiff, which has developed its own inner harbor project after the model set by Baltimore.

There has been a lot of traffic back and forth over the past few years between Wales and Baltimore. Last night was a kind of consummation to it all. Mr. Hayden, done up in a black tie at a dinner in Cardiff Castle, signed a sister county agreement with Lord Jack Brooks, the leader of the South Glamorgan County council.

A similar ceremony will be held in Towson, probably in April.

During his visit here at the head of a five-person delegation from Baltimore County, Mr. Hayden has met a lot of South Glamorgan's political and business leaders. Lord Brooks even had him to lunch amid the splendor of the House of Lords, here in London.

His head unturned by it all, and allowing only a small amount of time to see the sights on this, his first visit to Britain, Mr. Hayden remained all business.

"In this climate back home, with people so concerned about public funds, we have to be very careful how money is spent," he said of the trip, which was paid for by private businesses. "I said I would come here only if it would be seen as a sound event. Let me be crass about it. The agreement had to be something that would put dollars on the table. It had to have a payoff for Baltimore County."

The others in Mr. Hayden's delegation, which left Baltimore County last Monday and will return tomorrow, are the county attorney, Lee Parks; the director of economic development, Kenneth Nohe; the county communications director, Carol Hirschburg; and Mr. Hayden's chief of staff, Judy Scheper.

Generally, the Baltimore County Republican said, he is no enthusiast of sister county arrangements. He referred to the only other sister county relationship the county has, with Grosseto, Italy.

"It hasn't worked well," he said. "Basically it has been a cultural exchange. That's fine, but we want to put it on a firmer economic basis, if you will, to have business interactions between Grosseto and Baltimore County."

Roger Beaumont, the director of economic development of South Glamorgan, a smaller place than Baltimore County with only about 400,000 people in it, is of like mind.

"We have no interest in the ceremonial side of it," he said. "We are only interested in economic links."

"Baltimore's Inner Harbor is world famous," he said, and when Cardiff began to develop a similar project, "we went to Baltimore to see if we could pick up any tips to see how it should be done. We began to explore ways our economies might benefit mutually.

"We found Baltimore County was a great place, with Washington just down the road, a great climate." He spoke of tourism as an initiating activity that can lead to other business.

"We've met with a number of companies, such as McCormick. We would envisage putting staff over there, and we think Baltimore [County] might think about doing that over here. We see ourselves [with the 1992 opening of borders in the European Community] as the toehold in Europe."

The Welsh group was directed to the county by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, according to Ms. Trezise, a spokeswoman for South Glamorgan.

Mr. Hayden also believes tourism can be a catalyst. "We have a group 280 strong from South Glamorgan who will be visiting and staying in Baltimore County in the early fall," he said. "They'll use the county as the point for touring our region."

Baltimore County will send its group of tourists to Wales before the end of the year, he said.

The two sides have talked about high-tech industries, and what Mr. Hayden calls "light manufacturing." A proposal has been launched for the opening of a sales office in Baltimore County for a Welsh laser disc company. McCormick has entertained economic development and business people from South Glamorgan at its Baltimore County headquarters. Mr. Hayden says he will probably send an economic representative to take up residence in Wales.

The sister county agreement "is an opportunity to lure businesses to the county, those thinking of coming to the states," Ms. Hirschburg said.

The Welsh claim to see the same opportunities.

"We see it as a bridge," said Mr. Beaumont. "It offers scope for inward and outward investment. We've been looking at technology. We have technology centers [high-tech industrial parks] for fledgling businesses," he said.

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