All that's business isn't bad for Baltimore Reaction to change: It's time to squelch the myth that city suffers from all corporate changes.

July 31, 1998

TOO OFTEN the conventional wisdom in this town is that the mergers, acquisitions and shifts of personnel that are so much a part of modern corporate culture have been bad for Baltimore.

Many of the changes, in fact, have been positive for the city and the region, bringing people with new insights and sometimes a refreshingly upbeat approach to civic involvement.

Consider the following example of conventional wisdom: Faceless outsiders now run many of the companies that were once locally owned, and these executives are without commitment to the city.

The board memberships undertaken by relative newcomer Sherry Bellamy, Bell Atlantic Maryland's CEO, suggest otherwise. The same is true of the activities of John Morton III, the new president of NationsBank Corp. Mid-Atlantic Banking Group and a prime mover in the effort to bring the Olympics to Baltimore and Washington.

Then there's the issue of charitiable giving. Conventional wisdom has it that the firms new to Baltimore are stingy because far-away decision-makers don't care about the city.

Balderdash, say local fund-raisers. A case in point: a recent news item about the St. Paul Cos., which earlier this year acquired USF&G, a fixture in Baltimore for many years.

The St. Paul, Minn.-based insurance company has said it will commit $2.4 million in new charitable contributions to the Baltimore area this year. In addition, the St. Paul announced it will honor the USF&G Foundation's charitable commitments of $2.02 million to such organizations as the American Red Cross, Loyola College and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Those contributions, which were to be paid over six to 10 years, will be paid off this year.

Aversion to change is an all too human trait. That Baltimore and corporate America are undergoing alterations is indisputable. Beneath the conventional wisdom, though, are indications of an upside to many of the recent changes Baltimore has faced.

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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