Bus tour opens eyes and minds of business people

April 30, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

You could learn a thing or two riding a bus through Ann Arundel County.

Take Len Adler, for instance.

The president of Adler Development took the Anne Arundel Trade Council's second annual executive bus tour yesterday to scout potential retail sites, and discovered his own store.

His company owns Total Crafts in Annapolis, but it also runs a store on East Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie.

"I didn't realize Glen Burnie was part of Anne Arundel until today," the bemused chief executive officer said after the bus of out-of-town CEOs, chamber and county officials and representatives of county businesses rolled from City Dock in Annapolis to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the Piney Orchard development in Odenton. "You think Anne Arundel is Annapolis. There's more to it."

Chamber and county officials -- who co-sponsored the tour -- hoped all 37 executives, real estate brokers, bankers and other business people came away with the message that Anne Arundel County can offer more than sailboats and is primed for new business and investment.

"We want to make the county better-known, especially in the Washington area, for its business climate," said Mike Lofton, the county's director of Economic Development and Privatization.

He and county business people pointed out highlights as the bus took off from Annapolis Mall and crisscrossed the Bay Bridge, then traveled past businesses such as Westinghouse and ARINC and through the Naval Academy, office parks and residential neighborhoods.

Tour organizers said an improved economy and renewed interest in the Mid-Atlantic region helped draw twice the number of business people than last year.

They also changed their marketing approach from direct mailing. This year, organizers sought out high-tech firms interested in expanding or relocating by tapping real estate, accounting and law firms with national clients.

"We struggled to get people on the bus last year," Mr. Lofton said. "This year we overbooked. It was very rich with potential new businesses for the county."

Mary Blackburn, vice president of Sigma Systems, Inc., of Capitol Heights, took the tour to look for a second site for the expanding kit packaging manufacturer. Access to major roads, the airport and hotels and entertainment for visiting clients topped her list of requirements. By the end of the tour, she'd zeroed in on the airport area.

James Solit, a Frederick County landscape contractor, said he has looked to nearby counties as his company, Spring Gardens, has expanded.

"This was an opportunity to see the kind of work being done here," he said. "It was a view of the county I never had before. I didn't realize what the county was comprised of."

Several homebuilders also toured the county, assessing its housing market.

"I like the attitude of local government," said Richard Lerner, president of White Flint Builders of Bethesda. "It seems receptive to measured growth."

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