Capital looks toward future Annapolis names economic director

February 26, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

The man who masterminded last year's return visit of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria has been hired to chart a plan for Annapolis' economic future and lure more businesses to its historic port.

Miguel A. Ferrer Roig, a 33-year-old Annapolis resident who directed the tour of three replicas of the ships Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World, has been appointed the city's director of economic development.

The tour was canceled before the final leg because of delays and shortage of money.

Mr. Ferrer's one-year contract, which pays $36,000, begins Monday.

"More than anything, what attracted me to this was the fact that I'm a resident of this city," he said yesterday. "As a resident with very good business skills, I think I can be very sensitive and cognizant about what is going on in our business community."

A native of Madrid, Spain, Mr. Ferrer has lived in the United States since 1975. He has run an international consulting business out of his home for the last eight years and coordinated a number of sailing events, including Spain's first America's Cup Challenge in 1991.

From 1988 to 1992, Mr. Ferrer mapped out a tour for three authentic replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

The tiny caravels sailed from Spain in October 1991 and visited cities in the Caribbean and southern United States. But the Spain '92 Foundation ran short of money, and the vessels never reached the West Coast.

By the time they came to Baltimore last May, the caravels were two weeks behind schedule, and the sponsoring organization was scrambling for funds.

"The whole commemoration ran into some troubles," Mr. Ferrer said. "A lot of people didn't know how to handle the whole Christopher Columbus thing. Was it good? Was it bad? There were a lot of uncertainties."

But even as historians and schoolchildren debated the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, crowds flocked to see the caravels.

The tour was successful at every stop, he said, even though it was cut short after corporate funding dried up and the cost of transporting the ships to the West Coast proved prohibitive.

City business leaders have long wanted an economic development director to promote and market Annapolis.

A decade ago, when Maryland's capital was transformed into a tourist-choked vacation spot that became known as "Camelot on the Bay," vacant stores were rare. But the city has been struggling through the recession.

Penny Chandler, executive director of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, said Annapolis has to market itself better, provide incentives for businesses and streamline some of the bureaucratic hurdles they face.

"We indicated some time back that we really felt we had to have somebody who was working to promote Annapolis as a place to do business," she said.

"We think that the existing business base is declining, particularly in the downtown. We need to help keep existing businesses and attract new ones."

She expressed concern that the job description calls for immediately starting another study.

The city already has completed several long-range plans, including a three-year study of the historic downtown.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said he wants the director to determine the best path for the city's economic health. Part of the job will involve marketing Annapolis, he said.

"We chose the best person for the job, and we're going to do all we can to promote the city," he said.

Mr. Ferrer is a graduate of Towson State University and has a bachelor's degree in business from The Kogod College of

Business Administration at The American University. He enjoys sailing.

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