600 Bell Atlantic jobs coming to Baltimore

January 28, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

Downtown Baltimore, staggering after last week's defection by USF&G Corp., received a ringing affirmation yesterday as Bell Atlantic Corp. announced it will bring 600 new, mostly high-technology jobs to its Pratt Street state headquarters.

Frederick D'Alessio, president of Bell Atlantic-Maryland, said the infusion of jobs is primarily a result of the Philadelphia-based phone company's decision to consolidate its regionwide Network Planning and Engineering department in Baltimore.

The consolidation will account for about 560 jobs, most of them coming from out-of-state engineering centers, Mr. D'Alessio said. Forty employees will be added to work with small-business customers.

Along with the good news for Baltimore came soothing words for local officials, who have been stung by charges that Maryland is inhospitable to business.

"My view is the business climate is not that bad, actually," Mr. D'Alessio said. Always savvy in the art of government relations, he credited recent improvements to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Mr. Glendening disclaimed credit for Bell Atlantic's decision but said the move fits with a key economic objective he outlined in this week's State of the State message: high-paying jobs in the parts of the state that need them most.

Mayor Schmoke said the type of job is just as important as the number. "These are the jobs that look to the future and not the past," he said, adding that they fit the high-tech image the city wants to convey.

Mr. D'Alessio said other reasons for choosing Baltimore included its central location in the Bell Atlantic region and its convenient transportation links. But an internal company memo offered a more nuts-and-bolts explanation: "Baltimore was selected because it had the most space available -- and the lowest rates -- of any site selected."

The consolidated department, which will serve Bell Atlantic's entire six-state region and the District of Columbia, employs mostly well-paid professionals with advanced degrees in engineering and high technology, Mr. D'Alessio said.

He added that the move here could have beneficial spinoff effects for Baltimore as Bell Atlantic vendors who frequently deal with network engineers decide to open offices here as well.

"We're hoping this will have a domino effect of bringing more high-tech jobs into the area," he said.

Baltimore's good fortune comes at the expense of the other states in Bell Atlantic's region. According to the internal memo, the consolidation will eliminate 400 jobs in the network engineering department.

Those cuts come on top of an announcement Jan. 12 that Bell Atlantic would shed about 1,700 jobs regionwide as part of a three-year plan to cut its work force by 5,600. Several hundred of those lost jobs are in Maryland.

Although Bell Atlantic plans to move 600 jobs to its headquarters, the net gain for downtown is likely to be a bit smaller. Company spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said there are about 900 employees at 1 E. Pratt St., which has room for about 1,300 people. He said the consolidation means about 200 current occupants will move to other Bell Atlantic facilities in the area, most likely 320 St. Paul St. or the company's complex on Shawan Road in Hunt Valley.

Bell Atlantic's announcement comes as a ray of sunshine piercing the cloud that has hovered over downtown in recent months.

The announcement came a little more than a week after USF&G Corp., the Baltimore-based insurance company, said it would leave its 35-story Inner Harbor office tower and consolidate operations at its Mount Washington campus -- at a cost of 767 downtown jobs.

That move followed a series of corporate consolidations that took jobs out of Baltimore -- notably the announcement earlier last week by the Bank of Baltimore's new parent that it would lay off 500.

Last week's announcements, combined with North Carolina-based NationsBank Corp.'s 1993 acquisition of MNC Financial Inc., had torn a hole in the city's financial district.

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