Business group picks president

December 22, 1993|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Staff Writer

A telephone company lobbyist with 18 years' experience working the nuts and bolts of the Maryland power structure will take over a key leadership job next month, with orders to help the state's troubled business community get its act together.

Champe C. McCulloch, a Maryland native and assistant vice president for human resources at Bell Atlantic's Arlington, Va., headquarters, will become president of the Maryland Business Council on Jan. 5, the council announced yesterday.

"There is a sense of frustration within the business community over a splintering of focus, a sense that the business community cannot make its voice heard or is sometimes heard discordantly, and I think Champe McCulloch is uniquely qualified to help us work on that," said Benjamin R. Civiletti, the council's board chairman and head of the search committee that chose the new president.

That frustration has been visible in the decline of membership in the once-dominant Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), from 900 a few years ago to 700 today, in the formation of a new Baltimore Chamber of Commerce by small establishments displeased with their treatment by established organizations, and in widespread grumbling among senior business executives about what is widely perceived as a lack of direction and $H coordination among the area's key business advocacy groups.

In addition, the Baltimore-oriented GBC and the statewide business council have sometimes seemed to have trouble coordinating their priorities on public issues.

Mr. Civiletti, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney general, said the three-member search committee narrowed down about 140 applicants to 30 before choosing the new president. The other two members were former Sen. J. Glenn Beall and George V. McGowan, former chairman of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Mr. McCulloch, now a resident of Davidsonville but a Baltimore native and a graduate of the McDonogh School, Princeton University and the University of Maryland Law School, will become head of an organization in which he has long been

active.

He has been a director of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, one of the council's two constituent organizations, and has served on some of the chamber's working committees.

Most of his 25 years with the telephone company has been spent as either a public relations man or a lobbyist. In the early 1970s, he interrupted his telephone company career to work as a lawyer with the firm Weinberg & Green in Baltimore for three years.

"You very rarely get to do something you love and believe in, as I believe in improving Maryland's business climate, and still get paid for it," Mr. McCulloch said yesterday by telephone from his Arlington office.

He acknowledged that he will join Maryland's business leadership at a time when dissatisfaction is widespread.

"I think business people, not just in the Baltimore area but throughout the state, feel a need to sharpen the focus of the business community," he said, especially in "defining policy and in working on public policy with the state and local and federal governments."

Mr. McCulloch's appointment completes a realignment of the city's business leadership positions that began earlier this year when Robert Keller quit as president of the Greater Baltimore Committee to accept a similar post in Detroit.

In August, the Greater Baltimore Committee filled its top post with former Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson, who had been president of the Maryland Business Council, thereby creating a new key vacancy even while filling one.

Mr. Hutchinson formerly was president of Maryland Economic Growth Associates, which was founded under GBC sponsorship. When MEGA was spun off in 1992 to join forces with the Maryland chamber, he became head of the Maryland Business Council, their umbrella organization.

"One of our problems had been a growing distance between MEGA and the GBC," Mr. Civiletti said. "With Don Hutchinson, who comes from MEGA, at the GBC, and with Champe McCulloch at the council, I think we now have an opportunity to correct some of that."

Mr. McCulloch has spent much of his career representing thtelephone company before legislative committees in Annapolis and at public utilities hearings in Baltimore. He appears to reinforce, rather than complement, the political skills and connections that have made Mr. Hutchinson attractive to the business community.

"What the search committee liked about Champe McCulloch isNo. 1, he is a businessman, and, No. 2, he has been interested for a long time in the real workings of the state, the relations between local, state and national governments and the relations between the business community and the government," Mr. Civiletti said.

"You have huge differences between the big businesses and the smaller ones, and you have distinct differences in some cases between the Washington, D.C., perimeter and the Baltimore area, and there's no point pretending it will be easy to get everyone pulling in the same direction," he said.

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