Baltimore Region Inc.

September 25, 1993

The leaders of Baltimore City and its suburbs just accomplished something that, on a global scale, the United States and Mexico, with a vanishing NAFTA, probably won't: A consensus that neighboring political entities can succeed more by working together against their joint competitors than by wrestling against one another.

The city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Carroll and Howard counties this week formed the Greater Baltimore

Development Alliance. Its purpose is to market the entire region to the outside world. As state economic development secretary Mark Wasserman put it, companies looking to make a move from elsewhere in the U.S. or from abroad have heard of Baltimore but haven't the foggiest notion what is Anne Arundel.

By pooling $250,000 from themselves and other sources, including the France and Merrick foundations and the Greater Baltimore Committee, the jurisdictions can craft a more sophisticated marketing message than could each of them alone. In short, one big piece of bait is likely to attract larger fish than lots of little hooks. The "Six Sisters" also are having their economic development directors meet monthly to further discourage the notion that each jurisdiction is an island unto itself.

This initiative makes sense because the city and counties bring different strengths to the table. While some projects may be up ** for grabs between a couple of the counties, in most cases the members of the Baltimore market aren't competitive: If an outside firm seeks an upscale market close to Washington, it's going to look at Howard or Anne Arundel. If it wants a more urban location, the city or Baltimore County would rise to the top. Cheaper land and quick access? Harford County. Small town quality-of-life? A strong suit of Carroll's. Besides, other metropolitan markets -- the true competition -- have long acted in concert.

Ironically, on the same day that Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall met with the media to announce this venture, another Maryland contingent was in Chicago seeking to convince the National Football League that a new Baltimore football team would not infringe on Redskin turf, that Baltimore is in no way part of Washington's market. The unfortunate fact is that the federal government's recent statistical union of the Baltimore and D.C. markets is still very much a shotgun marriage.

But in this area, at least, it is heartening to see walls coming down between the political subdivisions. As we enter a time in which more divisive issues -- solid waste disposal, transportation congestion and dirty air -- must soon be addressed on a regional basis, this alliance is a giant step in the right direction.

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