Job to Armstrong, mayor says Bolstered budget unlikely for new conventions head

February 28, 1996|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke confirmed yesterday that Carroll Armstrong will lead Baltimore's convention bureau, but he said the new chief would have to make do for now with a budget far below that of competitors.

A starting date had not been determined for Mr. Armstrong, the marketing director for the San Diego Convention Center, chosen to lead the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, Mr. Schmoke said.

The mayor declined to provide the salary or specific terms of the contract because the agency's governing board was to make its final recommendations on the package after a meeting last night.

Under recommendations unanimously approved by the agency's board during a closed meeting last night, the organizational structure would change so that Mr. Armstrong would be president, instead of holding the current director title, and work directly with a vice president, said the board's acting chairman, William L. Jews.

If the mayor approves, the vice president job would go to Kathleen Ratcliffe, the agency's convention marketing director and the only other finalist interviewed by Mr. Schmoke Sunday, sources said. Choosing Mr. Armstrong, the mayor heeded the recommendation of a search committee of the governing board.

Mr. Armstrong, 51, who began his career in the convention business as sales manager for the new Baltimore Convention Center in 1978, won praise from Mr. Jews last night.

"His experience, his involvement in the community, his knowledge of the bureau and convention centers, his sales and marketing experience represent what we need in order to carry our convention and tourism business into the year 2000 and beyond," Mr. Jews said.

Mr. Armstrong, who grew up here and has worked in executive positions at the New Orleans and Washington convention centers, said yesterday that he would withhold comment until an official announcement of his hiring.

Also yesterday, Mr. Schmoke expressed doubt that the agency's annual operating budget would increase sig-nificantly. The agency, business leaders and independent consultants have said the agency's budget must rise from $2.8 million to at least $5 million to avoid the risk of serious erosion of the city's $1 billion-a-year convention and tourism industry.

Just weeks ago, Mr. Schmoke had said he was confident that he would devise a way by March to increase the agency's budget to at least $5 million to narrow the gap between Baltimore and competing cities that spend two to three times as much on marketing and promotion.

But yesterday he said: "I'm not sure we can hit that number in the fiscal year beginning July 1."

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