County executives stress importance of regionalism Area's economic future tied to cooperation, says BWI Business Partnership

January 29, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

In the gray, rainy early hours of yesterday morning, the National Security Agency's obscure Fort Meade headquarters was abuzz with arrivals.

About 175 people showed up about 7: 30 a.m., breezed past security checkpoints and were ushered through harshly lighted hallways to a large meeting room. They included three county executives, a handful of state and county politicians, representatives from the area's top businesses and a former governor.

The agenda was the economic future of Maryland.

The BWI Business Partnership held its regular breakfast meeting at the NSA yesterday, with Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard county executives speaking on a panel about the importance of regionalism in boosting economic development in the Baltimore area.

Neil M. Shpritz, partnership executive director, began the discussion with, "Welcome to everybody in here. You all passed the security checks."

He said it was important for Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties to market the area cooperatively.

"When a [prospective business] looks at an area, the prospect doesn't look to see what's Anne Arundel County like, what's Howard County like," Shpritz said. "They're looking at the region as a whole."

Counties work together

The county executives said they work together and confer with each other on certain issues.

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary said that when the Middle River Racing Association approached him about building an auto racetrack, he immediately called Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who he knew was negotiating with the association.

Ruppersberger said the counties also work together on police matters.

"Crime has no geographical boundaries," he said.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said thought should be given to making permit processing and regulations in the counties uniform and easy to understand. He also said residents should be persuaded to think beyond their own communities.

"Our constituents couldn't care less about regionalism," Ecker said. "But we have to articulate to our constituents that it's in our best interests."

The executives said they need to emphasize regionalism's importance to young county politicians who might run for their positions.

Turnout larger than usual

Shpritz said yesterday's turnout -- which also included Anne Arundel Councilmen George Bachman and Ed DeGrange, and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- was much larger than the usual 125 and that 60 people were turned away during pre-registration.

The pull "was the county executives and the site, too," he said. "People were very excited to see the NSA. They said this is really neat."

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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