Terry Butler has crossed the border from Upper Marlboro into Anne Arundel County many times over the past several years. But yesterday, he felt as though he was seeing the county for the first time.
A seat on a tour bus that crisscrossed Anne Arundel, stretching from Annapolis' City Dock to the business hub south of BWI, gave Butler a new vantage point.
"It had me look at things I hadn't seen before," said Butler, whoregularly travels through five counties for Buck Distributing Co., abeer wholesaler.
Butler, whose distributorship has outgrown 200,000 square feet of warehouse space in Prince George's County, was among a group of business executives from 15 companies taking the Anne Arundel Trade Council's first executive tour -- designed as an annual event to draw new business and boost economic development.
Several executives, such as Fred A. Hightower Jr. of Tri-Star Publishing, said they're considering relocating or opening a branch in the county. Hightower, who publishes regional construction reports for suppliers and subcontractors and plans one geared for the Baltimore/Washington area, said he had considered moving the corporate headquarters from Niantic, Conn., to either Atlanta, Ga,. or somewhere near Baltimore or Washington.
"I've been very impressed with the quality of the whole program," Hightower said after the county tour. "They're aggressively going after new companies. They're sending a message that they want business here."
Others, such as Deborah Drucker, a business development director for Associates Relocation Management Co. Inc. of Iselin, N.J., toured to become familiar with the county and make business contacts.
"Companies thinking about relocating may need the assistance we provide," she said.
The tour began at the Conte Building, on Defense Highway in Annapolis, with a short address by County Executive Robert R. Neall, then proceeded past Annapolis Mall, Anne Arundel Medical Center and Riva Road businesses. The bus stopped at City Dock and at the Oceanic Division of Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group, then wound through the Naval Academy.
Visitors got a glimpseof the tourist industry from Thomas Negri, general manager of Loews Annapolis Hotel, and of the marine industry from Mick Blackistone, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland.
Other highlights included Baltimore-Washington International Airport; Russett Center, the 613-acre planned community at Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 198 near Laurel; West County industrial parks, suchas National Business Park; Fort Meade; and Piney Orchard, a planned community in Odenton.
Narrators spoke about everything from available housing to shopping, stressing the county's quality of life, transportation systems and location near the water and between Washingtonand Baltimore.
Linda Jones, vice president of Vienna, Va.-based Tradeways, an export marketing firm, said she took the tour to survey available office space. Tradeways is considering moving its offices because "the president lives in Annapolis," she said.
County Economic Development Director Michael S. Lofton, whose office helped organize the tour, said he was encouraged by the response.
"The fact that people gave half a day says a lot about their interest," Lofton said.