Anne Arundel executive hits road in bid to sell businesses on county

Owens seeks to dispel unfriendly image

April 20, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

As part of an aggressive effort to reverse perceptions that Anne Arundel's political leadership is unfriendly to business, County Executive Janet S. Owens embarked yesterday on her first mission to entice out-of-state corporations to consider locating here.

Owens flew to Chicago with other leaders from the Baltimore region to meet with executives from 18 large companies, including oil giant Amoco, Motorola and U.S. Can Co. She is promoting the trip as a signal of her interest in economic development.

"When I first got elected, the business communities didn't know me from Adam," Owens said yesterday. "I've been working very hard trying to get the word out that I understand the importance of commercial development."

Owens and other county leaders said they have been wrongly identified as anti-business because they campaigned last year against Republican incumbents who were well-known boosters of economic development.

"We've got to persuade people in the business community that we're not against them," said Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Democrat and County Council chairman.

To address those perceptions, Owens and members of the council have initiated a series of meetings with local trade groups to try and broker friendships with people who, in many instances, helped finance their opponents' campaigns.

As part of that effort, Klosterman said he is proposing the formation of a committee where business concerns can be raised and discussed. He plans to discuss the concept Thursday at a lunch with the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.

Business leaders said they remain wary of the council.

"We still have some deep concerns about the level of importance the County Council has attached to the business community," said Bob Burdon, the chamber's president and chief executive officer. "On the other hand, we have been much more encouraged by the actions of the county executive."

He said Owens' mission to Chicago is the kind of effort that sends a positive signal.

Owens said attracting out-of-state companies to the county could have numerous benefits, noting the potential for job creation and expansion of the county's overall revenue base.

While some of the companies she plans to meet with have expressed an interest in investing in the Baltimore region, none has specifically looked at Anne Arundel, she said.

"Still," she said, "anything that promotes this region has enormous benefits to all of us."

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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