Champe C. McCulloch, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for more than five years, will step down next month to become chief executive of an Annapolis lobbying firm run by his wife.
McCulloch, an attorney, joined the chamber as president in 1994 after a 24-year career with Bell Atlantic Corp., where he held various executive positions.
"We've concluded a successful legislative session, so the timing was good," McCulloch said yesterday. "I'm 53 years old, and I wanted to strike while the iron is hot."
He will join McCulloch and Associates, an association management and lobbying firm founded by his wife, Mary Jo McCulloch, five years ago.
The firm provides executive services for trade groups such as the Maryland Hotel and Motel Association, the Maryland Tourism Council and the National Spa and Pool Institute.
The firm also lobbies for those groups and other clients, including individual businesses, McCulloch said.
The chamber's executive committee will form a search committee and possibly hire a new president by July, said Arthur D. Ebersberger, chamber vice chairman.
Business group leaders said they regret seeing an ally leave the economic development arena.
"Champe's leaving is a loss for the chamber," said Neil M. Shpritz, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership Inc. "He's good at lobbying, and he's an effective representative of the business community.
"His style isn't my style, but he's good at what he does," Shpritz said. "He's fairly strident and fairly firm."
During his tenure, McCulloch has garnered a reputation for being a sharp critic of the state's business climate, Shpritz said.
McCulloch said he's aware of that reputation, but said he was doing his duty as chamber president. "I've always tried to be straightforward and direct about things," he said. "The role of the chamber is twofold. Certainly it is to boost the state, but also to identify areas where the state should be stronger.
"We have assets that most states can only envy because they can never duplicate them," McCulloch said. "Because Maryland has so much going for it, we have to work to improve it so the state is second to none."
Dyan Brasington, president of the High Technology Council of Maryland, said McCulloch did his best to represent the business community and the chamber.
"Champe has been quite effective at integrating the chamber with a lot of other organizations," Brasington said. "We had a very good working relationship."
Citing progress the state has made in improving the business climate, McCulloch included a reduction in the state's personal income tax rate, brownfields legislation to encourage development of contaminated sites, and lower costs for worker compensation and unemployment insurance.
Unfinished business, he said, includes changes to simplify the state's regulatory processes. While there have been some, he said, there's plenty more to be done.
Pub Date: 4/20/99