Officials mull most lucrative regional name D.C.-Baltimore or Baltimore-D.C.?

October 04, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

What's in a name?

Romeo & Juliet

Act II, Scene 2

The answer, dear Juliet, is money.

Washington-Baltimore does, indeed, sound sweeter than Baltimore-Washington. At least, that's what members of the County Council say.

Howard County and the rest of the Baltimore area are expected to join Washington and parts of Virginia and West Virginia for statistical purposes later this year. The move would turn No. 8 Washington and No. 18 Baltimore into the fourth-largest market in the nation behind New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Virtually everyone agrees this is a good idea.

"When large corporations and international companies make decisions about a region, they want it to be in the top five," says Robert E. Griffiths, director of metropolitan development for the Washington Council of Governments.

The big question is: What should the new market be called?

The federal government plans to give Baltimore top billing in the new market unless persuaded otherwise.

The County Council hopes to persuade the federal government other wise.

The council wants the new consolidated statistical market, geographically centered in Savage, to be called the Washington-Baltimore market, believing the ears of potential foreign investors will perk up more quickly when they hear Washington.

Many foreign investors don't even know where Baltimore is, says County Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, who makes his living promoting the port of Baltimore.

But they do know Washington. Changing the name of Friendship Airport to Baltimore-Washington International helped increase business at the airport, he says, because it indicated to commercial haulers that the airport is close to Washington.

Leading with Washington in the naming of the consolidated metropolitan statistical area could have a similar effect here, Mr. Farragut believes.

"It is something [foreign] businesses look at," he says. "It does not have a lot of domestic applications, but it provides leverage as a marketing tool."

"It should be obvious from a marketing standpoint," says Robert T. Grow, executive director of the Washington-Baltimore Regional Association. "Literally every day you see something about Washington in the newspaper or on television. It only makes sense to make use of that exposure.

"With Washington, you have instant geographical identification," Mr. Grow says. "If you're sitting in London with a measuring stick, you might think Baltimore and Washington are a thousand miles apart."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker agrees that having a Washington-Baltimore consolidated statistical area would be good for marketing the county. But he thinks the name should remain Baltimore-Washington "for continuity in references to the region."

"We have been pushed and pulled in two directions," Mr. Ecker says. "It would be good to be one region," regardless of what it is called.

Nick Loen, one of the county's top real estate salesmen, has been watching that pushing and pulling for 17 years.

"Fifteen years ago, the county was clearly more oriented toward Washington," he said. "Five years ago, it was almost equal. Now, it's pretty close and may be leaning toward Baltimore.

"If you come from northern New Jersey like I do, then it's probably true that Washington comes first. Here, it's Baltimore-Washington International, Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Baltimore-Washington corridor. People are going to have a tough time changing."

One of the things most people don't want to change is the county's statistical affiliation with the Baltimore area subgroup. Each consolidated metropolitan statistical area is comprised of two or more subgroups that keep separate sets of statistics unique to their region.

Howard County has a choice. It can join Washington, or it can stay with Baltimore.

"We belong with Baltimore," says Earl Armiger, former president of the local Chamber of Commerce. "I can't say that strongly enough. Commuting patterns notwithstanding, our history, politics, economics, and social and cultural activities are oriented toward Baltimore. We are a major player. We are an insignificant player when lumped in with Washington."

"Small fish in a big pond and big fish in a little pond is not a good argument to get into," says County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd. "We have to look to the benefits. It could be beneficial long term" to be linked to Washington.

According to findings in the 1990 census, Howard County does, indeed, seem more attuned to Washington than to Baltimore.

The median household income in Howard County is $54,348 -- $7,464 more than $46,884 median of a Washington-area household and $17,798 more than the Baltimore region median of $36,550.

Howard County is also closer to Washington than Baltimore in the percentage of high school and college graduates.

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