New proposals offered to boost city economy

July 19, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

A mayoral task force has come up with a new round of suggestions on how to boost Baltimore's economy, ranging from directing $20 million of the city's pension investments to local development projects to increasing the marketing budget for tourism.

The Economics Incentives Task Force, created by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in 1992 to encourage business growth and job creation, also recommended that the mayor appoint an economic development coordinator to work out of his office and initiate a "Buy Baltimore" program for goods and services.

An earlier report by the task force, in 1993, recommended such initiatives as the privatization of the city's historic municipal markets and the creation of an advisory Mayor's Commission for Tourism, Entertainment and Culture.

Those recommendations have been adopted. But other proposals, such as one to provide tax relief for new rental projects, were rejected by Mr. Schmoke as too costly.

The Economics Incentives Task Force is different from a nine-member panel appointed by the mayor in April to review the much-maligned Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency. A draft copy of the report on BDC, obtained earlier this month, criticized the agency for lacking a "clear mission" and said Mr. Schmoke needed to do more to promote business publicly.

But both reports urged Mr. Schmoke to appoint a staff member to coordinate economic development activities.

"The mayor needs a high-level staff person to act as a liaison with the business community, to help resolve agency differences on development issues and to demonstrate the mayor's interest in economic development," the incentives task force report said.

In recommending that the city's pension funds invest $20 million, or 1 percent of their assets, in local economic development projects, the report said the funds should keep "fiduciary responsibilities as a top priority."

The report did not say how much more the city should spend marketing tourism, but it said the added money "will help create new jobs and additional revenue."

Last month, Mr. Schmoke pledged to increase funding for the new Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association board he appointed to replace the old tourism board he ousted in a highly publicized rift over spending and control.

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