Schmoke names business leaders to BDC board Key step in city's efforts to revamp troubled agency

To be announced today

New panel faces uphill battle to keep firms in Baltimore

November 02, 1995|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is expected to announce today a newly created board of directors for the Baltimore Development Corp., the second step in a process to revamp the troubled city economic development agency.

Unlike past BDC boards, the new 11-member board will contain a wide cross-section of business leaders. The current board has been dominated by city officials and agency department heads.

Business leaders joining the new board are Frank P. Bramble, president and chief executive of First Maryland Bancorp; Bruce D. Alexander, a Rouse Co. senior vice president and its director of new business development; Richard O. Berndt, a partner in the law firm of Gallagher, Evelius & Jones; Theo Rodgers, president of A&R Development Corp.; Anthony T. Hawkins, a Rouse Co. vice president; S. A. "Skip" Brown III, chief executive of Belt's Corp.; Elinor R. Bacon, president of Bacon & Co. Inc.; and Arnold Williams, a certified public accountant with a private practice and chair of the BDC's finance committee.

"We've got very talented, smart people who are really going to make a difference in the city's economic development," said Roger C. Lipitz, the former chairman of Meridian Healthcare Inc. who the mayor appointed to chair the BDC board last month.

The revamped board also will include Daniel P. Henson III, secretary of the city's Housing & Community Development agency, and William R. Brown Jr., the city's finance director. Both are current members of BDC's board.

"Historically, it's not been a working board, but it was never intended to be," said one source with close ties to the BDC, who asked not to be named. "It was set up for legal purposes."

The naming of the board represents the next vital step -- after Mr. Lipitz's appointment -- in a plan to overhaul BDC, which has been skewered by critics for a lack of responsiveness and an inability to retain longtime city business. The city has lost more than 65,000 jobs in the last decades, 20,000 of those since 1991, when the BDC was created.

"That BDC will be managed by a private-sector board means that it will be much like every other economic development agency in the country," said John R. Sundergill, BDC's acting president since May. "It will help the staff because it gives them the ability to tap into the board's resources."

Even with the new board, though, most city analysts predict Baltimore's economic future will be somewhat dire. Most recently, a Lehman Bros. survey ranked Baltimore as the third-worst metropolitan area in terms of job growth, behind only Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

"We have our work cut out for us," said Belt's Corp.'s Mr. Brown. "Employment and growth have not been great in the past few years. But Baltimore has tremendous assets, and a board of business people, I believe, is exactly what's needed at this time."

Said Mr. Rodgers: "We're going to have a clean slate. We all recognize the agency could use some improvement."

Mr. Lipitz said he and the mayor selected the board members because their diverse backgrounds included banking and finance, law and accounting.

But a majority of the business people are involved with real estate development: Mr. Rodgers, Ms. Bacon, Mr. Brown, Mr. Alexander and Mr. Hawkins.

And in Mr. Bramble, the BDC board is also expected to gain a strong bridge to the Greater Baltimore Committee, a prominent business group that he will soon chair.

"I was mainly looking for people who understand business, and who are good strategic thinkers," Mr. Lipitz said.

With the volunteer board in place, Mr. Lipitz expects to turn to the job of permanently filling the post of BDC president. Mr. Sundergill, a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. executive on loan whose last day had been scheduled for Tuesday, has agreed to remain until a president is in place.

Interviews for the job begin next week, and the BDC board chair hopes to have a recommendation to the mayor in early December.

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