Baltimore's Downtown Partnership has hired former Harbor Bank of Maryland President Joseph L. Aston as its new director of business development, asking the 55-year-old banker to help capital-strapped small downtown businesses and attract minority merchants to downtown.
"I've always been interested in working with small businesses," said Mr. Aston, whose appointment was not announced until yesterday, a week after he started his new job. "This was an ideal fit for me."
Mr. Aston worked at Harbor Bank of Maryland, a black-controlled institution, from 1984 to 1987. Most recently, he was a consultant to the Resolution Trust Corp., a federal agency charged with liquidating the assets of failed financial institutions.
The partnership, a hybrid public-private group that works to make the downtown business district more attractive, plans to begin a program to offer loans to small businesses, partnership President Laurie Schwartz said. It is also expanding a Downtown Minority Business Development Task Force that the partnership had worked with city political leaders to organize, she said.
"It will be Joe's responsibility to put the loan program together," Ms. Schwartz said.
Ms. Schwartz said Maryland National Bank and Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. have agreed to participate. Under current plans, the program will offer loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses, which, Ms. Schwartz said, often have trouble gaining access to capital.
Mr. Aston said the program would concentrate on helping existing businesses, but some start-up companies might be eligible for the loans.