Back in Business

September 04, 1992

Last spring, Baltimore County's economic development office was in dismal shape. Its director at the time, Kenneth C. Nohe, generated far more controversy than business growth. Local politicians and business people, already jittery over Mr. Nohe's misadventures, were disturbed even more by County Executive Roger B. Hayden's apparent blindness to this calamitous state of affairs.

Mr. Hayden wasn't oblivious, his defenders explain, he was simply preoccupied with the county budget. In any case, the office started undergoing a major shake-up about a month after the budget was passed. Mr. Nohe resigned in late June. Then, the executive appointed respected banker H. Grant Hathaway to head the 25-seat economic development commission and began interviewing candidates for the 13 commission vacancies.

The new commission members were named two weeks ago, and this week Mr. Hayden announced that E. Neil Jacobs, a former banking associate of Mr. Hathaway's and also highly regarded, would become the new director. That Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Hathaway have a history together should help the office operate more smoothly than it did when Mr. Nohe, a dinner theater owner, was clashing with A. Samuel Cook, the Towson lawyer who preceded Mr. Hathaway as commission chairman.

Nor should it hurt that the two bankers bring with them the kind of networking skills that put business deals in motion -- which the Nohe regime sorely lacked.

Foremost in the new team's game plan is to improve conditions for existing county businesses, instead of trying to lure big outside companies to the jurisdiction. Developing better communications between local businesses and the government is another key priority of the revamped development office. This is good news for county business people who complained that their needs and wishes previously went unheeded by the administration.

Give Roger Hayden credit for turning what had been the biggest embarrassment of his administration into something that has public and private county leaders optimistic about the prospects for economic growth. It took some time, but Baltimore County is poised to be back in business.

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