City loses courtship of CARE Atlanta wins bid to be headquarters

September 19, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

The international relief agency CARE chose Atlanta over Baltimore as its new headquarters city yesterday, bringing a months-long campaign by city and state officials to a disappointing end.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and private businessmen working on the city-state bid said the agency will move to Atlanta, the site of the 1996 Olympic Games. But CARE itself would not confirm the decision, saying it would delay the announcement until today to give agency officials time to notify the cities before they read the decision in the paper.

"We have to gear it up in a way that no one feels insulted because they learned it secondhand," CARE spokesman John Mohrbacher said after the agency's board made its decision yesterday. It wasn't immediately clear why the board chose Atlanta over its two other options, moving to Baltimore and remaining in New York. But Maryland officials believe it boiled down to money.

"The answer is simple and measurable," said Mark L. Wasserman, Maryland's secretary of economic and employment development. "It all came down to the ability of the Atlanta business community to put up a very substantial amount of money and a free building."

Roy Cooper, vice president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which helped organize that city's proposal, said he didn't have any word from CARE on why his city won. He wouldn't say how much money Atlanta offered.

CARE officials had indicated that they expected about $6 million in relocation costs, and that a city's ability to pay that amount was going to be a major factor in the decision. "It sounds cold, but that's the way it is," the agency's executive vice president, William Novelli, said last month.

Mr. Wasserman said Maryland's proposal called for a free building, the Shillman Building at 500 N. Calvert St., and a "modest amount of cash" he said was "substantially short" of $6 million.

He also said that the state's budget problems were not a factor in determining how much the city, the state and Baltimore-area businesses and foundations could offer CARE. Maryland officials were limited not by how much money they could find to offer CARE, he said, but by how much they were willing to offer.

"There are a number of loan and grant programs we have at our disposal," Mr. Wasserman said. "If you're in my shoes, you look at the deal and take the measure of the resources you have to deal with. . . . You factor that into what you think you can commit to any single project."

Walter D. Pinkard Jr., president of the real estate firm of W. C. Pinkard & Co. and a businessman who was involved in putting together Baltimore's bid, offered the same view.

"The financial package we ended up putting on the table was terrific," Mr. Pinkard said. "Frankly, we shouldn't have gone any further than we did."

CARE would have brought 150 to 175 jobs to Baltimore and offered the city the prestige of being home to a world-known charitable organization.

Maryland officials were disappointed yesterday.

"We're very disappointed that CARE has decided to locate its headquarters in Atlanta," Mr. Schaefer said through a spokeswoman. "We made an extraordinary effort, offered a competitive proposal and did everything possible to convince CARE that Maryland would be a great headquarters location."

Mr. Wasserman said the consolation is that the city and state worked closely with each other and with foundation and business leaders on the bid. "My hope would be that this coalition of foundations that came together on this would continue to be available to pursue this kind of project and others," he said.

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