Baltimore: Overlooked Again

April 05, 1995

A good case can be made that Baltimore was the birthplace of North American Methodism.

Francis Asbury preached in Fells Point in 1772 and the next year a Methodist meeting house was opened on nearby Strawberry Alley. This was followed in 1774 by a second meeting house on Lovely Lane. And at the 1784 Christmas conference, the American branch voted to separate itself from the Church of England.

With this rich history, one would think that the United Methodist Church would have seriously considered Baltimore for the new headquarters of its board of global ministries, which coordinates the work of 1,000 missionaries and field workers around the world.

As the Methodists are about to abandon Manhattan for a new headquarters site, Baltimore, unfortunately, is not among the finalists, which include the Greater Washington area (read Northern Virginia) and Chicago.

"Baltimore qualified in the first round; it didn't qualify in the second round," a spokesman said, explaining the finalists were required not only to be in a metropolitan area of more than one million people but also have "international non-stop air traffic outside of North America."

Granted, Baltimore-Washington International Airport's international service, albeit growing, is still limited. But isn't Dulles an area airport? Anyway, the Catholic Relief Service, which moved its headquarters to Baltimore six years ago, doesn't seem to be hampered in its ability to get its personnel quickly to trouble spots around the world.

The point here is not the relative merits of airports, but Baltimore's ability to compete in the headquarters game.

This kind of recruitment is among the many responsibilities of the Baltimore Development Corp. But that agency is not doing a very good job in promoting the city among businesses or non-profit organizations. In fact, no one in Baltimore's government seemed to know that the Methodists were thinking of moving out of New York.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has appointed a panel to review the operation and structure of BDC. The Methodists' lack of interest in Baltimore is compelling evidence of another failure of the city's official economic development agency.

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