London Fog Rolls Back In

January 20, 1995

London Fog Corp.'s decision to return its headquarters to Eldersburg is welcome news for Carroll County and Maryland.

Not only will the company return a dozen or so top corporate jobs to the Free State, it may help counter the self-fulfilling notion that Maryland isn't an attractive place to conduct business.

Founded nearly nine decades ago in Baltimore City, London Fog Corp. has always had a large presence in this state, with plants located in Baltimore, Eldersburg, Hancock, Boonsboro and Williamsport.

Yet even though its name is synonymous with raincoats the world over, London Fog has struggled in recent years. Corporate reorganizations and changes in ownership, foreign competition and a weak apparel market have taken their toll.

With the exception of its Baltimore City plant, all of its manufacturing locations in Maryland are now closed.

Adding insult to injury, the new London Fog chairman decided a year ago to move the company's corporate headquarters to Connecticut -- near his own home -- and received a $1.5 million-financial relocation package from that state as an inducement. Maryland officials failed in their attempt to persuade the company to stay.

As the company's financial picture deteriorated, though, the institutional investors who own London Fog insisted on new leaders. They installed a different management team the first week of this year. One of the initial decisions of incoming chairman Robert E. Gregory Jr. was to halt construction of the new headquarters in Connecticut and announce a return to Eldersburg, where the company has maintained a large distribution center.

Mr. Gregory said nothing more than efficiency was behind his decision to move back to Maryland. With top management scattered among offices in New York, Connecticut and Maryland, he said it was impossible to easily schedule meetings. Despite a sleek, new headquarters building in Darien, Conn., Mr. Gregory thought Maryland was a better base of operations. He didn't ask for tax breaks or a special financial package.

State and county economic development officials should capitalize on London Fog's return. The company could have easily consolidated its headquarters operation in New York or Connecticut, but chose Maryland instead. It's a decision that should bolster the message that Maryland and Carroll County are indeed attractive business locations.

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