Promoting Westminster's Economy CARROLL COUNTY

August 23, 1993

The renewed proposal to form a marketing and development board to promote Westminster's downtown is a good idea that deserves support -- even if the money is not yet available.

The idea of a private, non-profit advisory board to stimulate the city's economy was among the recommendations of the 1990 Advisory Task Force on Downtown Renaissance. While other task force plans to revive the downtown were addressed, the promotion board got lost in the shuffle. The economy's downturn and city budget squeeze also helped to dampen interest.

City councilmen Stephen Chapin and Damian Halstad resurrected the idea and are talking with other communities with similar economic development boards. Mr. Halstad won election this year promising to promote the task force proposals.

Although it would be a non-governmental body, the marketing board will probably need public funding to get started. That's one hurdle. Another is the potential for overlap with the Chamber of Commerce. The rivalry between downtown merchants and Route 140 businesses is yet another.

But the board could prove useful in attracting more tourists, shoppers, jobs and businesses to the historic county seat. A similar promotion agency has worked well in Frederick, drawing on public and private donations to strengthen that city's business economy. With renewed council interest, the Westminster project should be able to get off the ground soon.

HAPPY ENDING: Realizing its public relations and human relations gaffe, the Payless Shoe Stores chain has compensated two Carroll teen-agers it fired last month for being younger than 18 years old, the company's minimum hiring age.

Payless issued apologies and $1,500 paychecks to the two girls for the missed summer employment. Local managers hired the under-18 students to get the new Carrolltown Center store up and operating, then cited company policy when firing them a week later.

The resolution helps the girls and rescues the discount retailer's local reputation. Public and media attention played a big role, hopefully sending a message to all businesses about ethical conduct.

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