Selling the county

Anne Arundel: Executive Owens' presence is essential to business recruitment strategy.

April 22, 1999

ASK ECONOMIC development officials who is most responsible for selling their locale to business prospects, and they will quickly tell you it is not them. It is not modesty that evokes the response. Rather, they know that their county executive or mayor is to their locality what Bill Gates is to Microsoft -- the one person who projects the entity's image to the world.

So when Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens this week embarked on an economic development mission to Chicago with other area leaders, she was taking her rightful place as the essential player for business recruitment.

The Democratic county executive may have gotten an unfair rap as anti-business last fall after she defeated Republican incumbent John G. Gary with a lot of help from the teachers union. In truth, Mr. Gary wasn't doing the county's business climate any favor with his squabbling over education funding. Good schools, after all, are key to attracting businesses.

Ms. Owens probably stirred the negative reputation herself when she shot down plans for an auto raceway in Pasadena that neighborhood groups opposed. But the link between business growth and the county's fiscal health is evident to her, even more so now that she's drafting her first budget under the weight of the county's tax cap.

Her trip, arranged by the Greater Baltimore Alliance, allowed her to meet executives from 18 companies, including Amoco, Motorola and U.S. Can Co. Although it is unlikely they would pick up and relocate their headquarters, the firms can learn what the county has to offer companies considering regional facilities in the mid-Atlantic. Indeed, the county has plenty to sell: a major airport, a first-rate transportation system, proximity to Baltimore and Washington and a solid education system. Ms. Owens' trip should be her first of many ventures as chief saleswoman of Anne Arundel County.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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