Chamber of Commerce returns to Baltimore New group holds inaugural meeting

January 06, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

With the goal of creating a group to promote the interest o Baltimore businesses exclusively, local businesspeople launched the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce last night with an organizational meeting that doubled as a rally.

"If there wasn't a need for this organization, I wouldn't be here," Gov. William Donald Schaefer told the 50 people at the meeting, held at the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors headquarters on West Mount Royal Avenue. "There is a need. Are you going to fill the void?"

Several months in the making, the new Chamber of Commerce was created in reaction to the increasing sentiment among Baltimore companies that the city's main business organization -- the Greater Baltimore Committee -- was more involved in regional issues and failed to address city problems.

The city's former chamber merged in 1977 with the Greater Baltimore Committee, which represents business interests in the city and suburbs. GBC officials were unavailable for comment late yesterday.

Baltimore particularly needs a booster, Mr. Schaefer said. "We have a Greater Baltimore Committee that did not see this as their role," he said. "Maybe they were right. They were not only interested in Baltimore City; they were interested in the metropolitan region.

"They were not doing the job of promoting Baltimore, and I am a strong proponent of promoting Baltimore," the governor said, adding that he supported promoting other parts of the state as well.

Also attending was Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who said the organization could supplement the city's efforts to develop business, particularly in light of federal funding cutbacks in recent years.

"I do believe this Chamber of Commerce will be very helpful for the city of Baltimore. It will help us in terms of dealing with small- and medium-sized businesses," he said.

H. Russell Frisby Jr., the interim chairman of the group and a partner at the law firm of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, said the group would hold three or four "town meetings" in various sections of Baltimore over the next six months. Based on those meetings and the work of the group's policy committee, the group would decide its goals.

"We're going to be a bottom-up organization, rather than a top-down organization," he said.

Mr. Frisby said the chamber plans to establish an office and hire a staff in the next six months.

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