Drive to revive chamber of commerce gains steam

April 10, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

City business representatives are pushing ahead with a move to revive the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce.

Fletcher Hall, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, said a meeting would be held this month to consider whether a chamber is viable, what form it should take and how to proceed in forming it.

The meeting would come less than a month after City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge introduced a resolution, which has not yet been acted upon, calling for reactivation of a Baltimore Chamber of Commerce.

Baltimore's former chamber merged with the Greater Baltimore Committee in 1977. The GBC, which represents business interests in the city and surrounding counties, has a Chamber Division that holds educational seminars and gives awards, but Mr. Ambridge and others said the city's businesses need their own organization.

One idea being considered is to expand the duties of the Downtown Business Partnership to take on the role of a citywide chamber of commerce. The partnership, financed by the city and private donations, serves businesses in an area bounded by Martin Luther King Boulevard, the Jones Falls Expressway, the Inner Harbor and Mount Royal Avenue.

Laurie Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership, said that before the organization could agree to an expanded role, the businesses would have to be more precise about their needs.

Jim McLean, owner of the Four Seas Seven Winds Travel Agency, and husband of city Comptroller Jacqueline McLean, said he supports a new chamber because the GBC hasn't been active enough in lobbying on Baltimore business issues.

Milt Rosenbaum, president of the Market Center Association, a group of about 400 merchants near Lexington Market, said a Chamber of Commerce is needed to pull together a number of disparate neighborhood business groups. "I think it's been generally acknowledged that the GBC speaks for big business. We need more representatives for the little people," he said.

GBC Director Robert Keller agreed that his organization does not perform all of the functions of a Chamber of Commerce and that it does not serve the city's smallest businesses. But the GBC tries to be responsive, he said, and constantly seeks advice on how to improve programs.

The organizational meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. April 21 at the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors offices at 1501 W. Mount Royal Ave.

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