The courtship began with flowers. Orioles games followed, then Italian dinners, and soon David Nelson broke off his flirtations with Silver Spring and the Reston-Herndon, Va., area.
Baltimore won his heart.
And the city won millions in tax revenue, scores of new jobs and a boost to downtown businesses when Nelson decided to move more than 300 employees of Sierra Military Health Services Inc. to the Inner Harbor.
For Nelson, the decision wasn't simply a business transaction driven by the bottom line.
The Las Vegas-based company, which provides health care to military personnel and their families, could have easily put its regional headquarters in any of the 13 states it covers.
But Nelson succumbed to the tantalizing charms -- a million-dollar tax incentive package dangled over angel hair pasta -- proposed by M. J. "Jay" Brodie of Baltimore Development Corp.
"I've been blown away by his commitment and diligence," Nelson said.
The company threw open the doors of its new offices in the Candler Building on Wednesday night and welcomed an eclectic mix of politicians and notable locals for an open house.
(The celebration proceeded smoothly, save for an attempt by the Orioles' mascot to eat the mayor's head.)
Many of the 400 revelers sipping champagne in the cream-and-maroon marble lobby off Market Place, however, might not have known that the relationship between Nelson's company and Baltimore has endured its share of rocky moments and near-heartbreak.
After successfully coaxing a commitment from Sierra to locate in Baltimore, the city had to hold its breath until the federal government blessed the union -- far from a sure thing.
The government was set to choose between Sierra and another company in awarding its $1.2 billion contract to improve and cut costs of military health care. If the government picked the other company -- Foundation Federal Health Services -- the deal with Baltimore was off.
The happy news was also beneficial to West Baltimore's Kim Savage, one of 82 residents hired by Sierra through the city's "Employ Baltimore" program. "I had just been laid off when I got a phone call that same day," said Savage, who is being trained to make medical appointments for military personnel and their families.
Pub Date: 4/17/98