GBC to address nonbusiness issues Regional panel to include drug abuse on its agenda

Development

October 02, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Using its recent report on the health of the region as a springboard, the Greater Baltimore Committee held a symposium yesterday to discuss ways of linking jurisdictions and improving the area's business climate.

The GBC's State of the Region report, conducted in conjunction with the Greater Baltimore Alliance and released in the summer, identified several strengths and weaknesses of the Baltimore metropolitan area in comparison to 19 other regions.

Some of the identified strengths included quality of higher education and health care, low cost of living and an impressive cultural life. Relatively high crime, unemployment and poverty were among the weaknesses.

"We see new directions that warrant discussion," GBC Chairman Frank Bramble told the group of about 150 civic and business leaders. "Our moral responsibilities are inextricably linked to our economic performance."

That means the committee is taking on issues that are sometimes seen as the purview of social and governmental agencies, such as drug addiction.

"Drug treatment is absolutely going to be on our agenda," GBC President Donald P. Hutchinson said after the meeting. "We will ask the General Assembly for $6 million to be distributed in Baltimore City and the counties for drug treatment programs. County and city agencies will determine which programs get supported."

Hutchinson said the GBC will bring the bill, via an as-of-yet unnamed sponsor, to the General Assembly in January.

"Any investment from the GBC or the state or foundations is welcome," said Stuart Simms, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, who attended the meeting. "The question is how it is linked in terms of delivery that's going to be of service to the public so it's not squandered in any way."

Another key item on the GBC's agenda has been shared tax revenue, although that is still in the early stages and is often met with apprehension by governmental entities.

The idea is to get the city and six surrounding counties working together to attract business instead of clinging to an every-jurisdiction-for-itself mentality. To that end, the GBC will at some point ask the General Assembly to support its proposal that a portion of additional tax earned from new business be spread among the entire region.

"If a company comes to Baltimore City and says, 'We're looking for the following things,' and the city can't accommodate them, it may or may not take it to its counterparts in the county, and often it will not," Hutchinson said. "What we want them to understand is that they will have a net gain if the company locates in a nearby subdivision."

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region, for example, 40 percent of the additional taxes garnered from a new business is spread among all jurisdictions, Hutchinson said.

As the GBC proceeds with its plans, it will continue to monitor the region's progress, using its report as a benchmark to measure its progress. The study will likely be repeated every two or three years.

"We think that this work, at the risk of sounding self-serving, should be well read," Bramble said. "It creates a good baseline for us to begin to prioritize what we need to do."

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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