Tough task in tough times

April 29, 1992

The topic recently was the possible revival of a chamber of commerce in Baltimore City. Addressing some 30 people interested in the idea, William M. Hesson Jr., of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, said: "If it is a bad idea, let's stop it. If it is a good idea, let's do it."

In the end, a steering committee was set up. It has no fixed membership nor a timetable. The future will show whether a new chamber of commerce is in the cards.

Re-establishing a chamber of commerce is not an easy task in these economic times even though a number of Baltimore businessmen seems to have had it with the Greater Baltimore Committee. That organization gobbled up the previous chamber in 1977 and now speaks for the city's business interests as well as for the region's. This duality does not seem to satisfy some business operators and politicians, who talk wistfully about a more energetic cheerleader for the city.

"There is a need to sell the city that we have gotten away from," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer who was present at the recent organizational meeting. He would welcome a chamber, if that resulted in more action. But he also warned: "You are walking on dangerous ground. If you are going to do it, you can't go halfway and stop. If you are going to do it, it's got to be for the long haul."

What the governor was really wondering about was whether the city's business community -- so often divided in the past -- has the clearly focused agenda and resources to make a revived chamber of commerce work.

We have been asking that question ourselves and have come to the conclusion that improving the Greater Baltimore Committee is a better option. For the past several months, the GBC has quietly been conducting a review of its operations. We urge its leaders to use the GBC's annual meeting next month to address the concerns of its critics.

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