New faces in economic development Anne Arundel County: Challenges face new development officials, who must cooperate.

March 29, 1996

ROB YOUNGBLOOD is not a household name. But in May, when the 6-foot-4 South Carolinian assumes his duties as the new executive director of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, he should not be difficult to miss.

The 38-year-old Mr. Youngblood, who currently is vice president of operations for the Rock Hill (S.C.) Area Chamber of Commerce, will arrive here at a time when many new faces have appeared on the Anne Arundel development scene. Just a few months ago, Susan Zellers, 36, became the new economic development director for Annapolis, one of the highest-profile jobs in the city.

Mr. Youngblood was selected from among about 100 applicants and knows little about Annapolis. That may be a blessing. As an outsider he can take a fresh look at his job and his group and mold both according to his wishes.

Some of Mr. Youngblood's agenda already has been defined. He should aggressively lobby for improvements in the city's governance. The chamber's recommendation that the day-to-day operations of Annapolis be handled by professional city manager was right on target when it was made a year ago. Since then, the departure of Michael Mallinoff, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' capable administrator, has only underscored the need for this change.

The Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce does not exist in a vacuum. It has to forge a good working relationship with various layers of local and state governments. It also must pay attention to several rival organizations. Chief among them is the larger Anne Arundel Trade Council, a countywide association.

Over the past several years, these two organizations have occasionally talked about merging, but nothing has come of the idea. Yet with the increasing focus of Annapolis businesses on such suburban sites as Parole, the question must be asked whether the time has come to end this duplication and join these two advocacy groups. This, of course, is primarily a decision that has to be made by the two groups' respective members. Yet executive directors will play a major role in any recommendation.

We welcome Mr. Youngblood to the area. He will find out that his work will be far easier if he seeks cooperation from the very first day.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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