Premature reporting of relocation plan sabotages the move...


August 31, 1999

Premature reporting of relocation plan sabotages the move

While it was good to see that Baltimore is being considered as a new location for the headquarters of John Wiley & Sons Inc., the apparently premature release of this story by The Sun reduces the chances that this 900-employee publishing headquarters will actually relocate to our area (Firm weighs move to city," Aug. 17).

Outside of state, regional and city economic development officials, and perhaps some real estate developers, few people know whether this move is a real prospect or not.

But assuming it is real, I would like to outline the problems The Sun's article has likely created.

Having worked as a site selection consultant for Deloitte Touche/Fantus, the nation's largest site-selection consulting firm, and working now as an independent economic development consultant, I believe I can offer the perspective on the situation of the company that is considering relocating.

First, The Sun's article has likely forced John Wiley into damage-control mode. Given the uncertainty of the situation, its workers will begin to either look for new employment or pressure John Wiley to remain in New York City.

The company is likely very angry with Baltimore, which reduces any good will the region may have had before the leak. This and employee pressure to remain in New York represent strike one against Baltimore.

Second, with the heads-up that a major headquarters may be seriously considering leaving, New York will launch a full-court press of aggressive marketing and incentives.

In the same way that Maryland fought aggressively to save Marriott International Inc., New York will fight to save John Wiley.

The home team, in my experience, has a great advantage in this type of battle. And the earlier New York knows about it, the better organized it's effort will be. That's another strike against Baltimore.

Third, now that The Sun has leaked this prospect to the public, many other states, cities and counties will market themselves to John Wiley. The company will be bombarded with calls, letters and requests for visits.

Undoubtedly, company officials will place the blame for this distraction on Baltimore. Even worse, some city out there may just catch John Wiley's attention -- and thus further diminish Baltimore's chances.

For the longer term, greater Baltimore may be stigmatized as an area whose media do not understand the nuances of economic development.

Consultants and businesses will be concerned that their projects will be exposed if they consider this market. Confidentiality is very highly valued and honored in this business.

Having consulted and worked in a variety of capacities with Maryland state and local organizations in the past few years, I can vouch that economic development marketing and business climate improvements at the state, regional and local levels are finally beginning to show signs of paying off. However, developing high-quality prospects is only a major step forward: The goal is to actually land companies.

It is encouraging that Baltimore is starting to show up on the radar screens of major corporate decision-makers. But with each step forward and each new opportunity, some stumbling block seems to come between hope and true success.

Only time will tell if Baltimore can overcome the black eye it will receive in the marketplace as a result of recent events.

But the individual(s) who leaked information to The Sun have done Baltimore a major disservice.

I urge insiders and those privy to highly sensitive information about relocation to keep it confidential until a project is officially announced.

In turn, The Sun should seriously consider the impact its stories have on the welfare of this community.

Prematurely reporting that a firm's relocation is likely to happen almost surely means that it won't.

Brad McDearman, Baltimore

The writer is president of McDearman Associates.

On Cuba and abortion, old policies are outdated

Recent reports of secret negotiations between the Kennedy administration and Castro and Cuban officials about normalizing diplomatic relations point up the tragedy of a line held too long ("Kennedy and Castro: What might have been," Aug. 21).

Official U.S. policy toward Cuba has been virtually unchanged since the Kennedy-Johnson era, even when it appears that most Americans have moved away from support of that position.

This situation reminds me of another leader's parallel position on a different matter.

While the pope and Catholic officialdom stubbornly maintain their stance against personal choice on abortion, most American and European Catholics disagree and support the notion that a woman has the right to choose.

In both cases, the hierarchies are out-of-step with the constituencies they claim to lead and represent.

In the case of U.S. policy toward Cuba, the Clinton administration has an opportunity to correct a very old and costly mistake in foreign relations.

One can only guess how long it will take the pope to come around.

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