Struever is Entrepreneur of Year in Maryland

Ernst & Young event notes his renovation efforts in old Baltimore

Business honors

June 22, 2000|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Since he started a small real estate company in his mother's basement more than a quarter of a century ago, Bill Struever has racked up praise for renovating old Baltimore.

Last night, the president and chief executive officer of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse picked up another honor when he was named Ernst & Young's Master Entrepreneur of the Year in Maryland.

The awards honor business people who have transformed their ideas into successful enterprises. A panel of nine judges chose 33 finalists from 63 nominees. In all, 12 people were honored, and each will compete in Ernst & Young's national competition in Palm Springs in November.

This year's winners were heavy on the technology side, and many were based in Baltimore. As master entrepreneur, Struever was honored for his longtime dedication to Baltimore and his charitable work, which includes serving as a Baltimore City school commissioner.

"He's weathered the storm through recessions and boom periods," said Bill Cole, a partner with Ernst & Young in Baltimore. "He developed areas other people weren't interested in developing."

In Canton, Struever's firm resuscitated the empty American Can plant, now home to corporate offices, restaurants and shops. It also was involved in turning a former tin can plant into the Tindeco Wharf apartments. Its latest project is Tide Point, a $53 million conversion of the former Procter & Gamble plant in Locust Point into an incubator for high-tech start-ups.

"He's a guy who puts his money where his mouth is," said Earl S. Wellschlager, a partner at Piper Marbury Rudnick and Wolfe who judged this year's competition.

Also weighing heavily with Wellschlager was Struever's persistence. Reinventing industrial buildings didn't always have the acceptance - and the financing - that it has today.

"In the 70s, when Bill started, he'd have to be on the vanguard for some of this," Wellschlager said.

When Struever, his brother, Fred Struever, and his college friend, Cobber Eccles, came to Baltimore in 1974, their default office was a bright orange pick-up truck. Their first project was renovating the Struevers' mother's Tuscany Road home. They took advantage of the city's dollar-house program, aimed at luring the middle class back to Federal Hill. Eventually, they purchased 40 vacant storefronts on Cross Street to start several small businesses.

Cole said he thinks Struever has a chance to win the national competition. In 1998, the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the emerging category was Jeong H. Kim, founder of Yurie Systems Inc., which Kim sold to Lucent Technologies Inc. for $1 billion. Patrick H. Nettles, president and chief executive of Ciena Corp. in Linthicum, won a national award in 1997.

Last night's other award winners:

e-Business Entrepreneurs: Scott Ferber and John Ferber, chief executive officer and chief Internet officer, in Baltimore, a new media direct marketing company.

e-Software Entrepreneur: Christopher R. McCleary, chairman and chief executive officer, US Internetworking, an e-commerce application service provider company in Annapolis.

Health Care/Life Services Entrepreneur: David R. Nelson, president of Sierra Military Health Services Inc. in Baltimore, a managed care support contractor for the U.S Department of Defense's Military Health Systems.

Real Estate Entrepreneur: John C. Erickson, chief executive officer, Erickson Retirement Communities in Baltimore, which operates eight retirement communities.

Retail Entrepreneur: Stephen Phillips, chief executive officer, Phillips Foods Inc. in Baltimore, a restaurant operator and crab supplier.

Services Entrepreneur: Chris Taylor, Philip Privitere, Michael D. LoPrete Jr. and Paul Hetzel, co-founders, International Postal Consultants Inc., a mail-distribution company in Hanover.

Systems Integration and Consulting Entrepreneur: Pamela W. Hopkins, president and chief executive officer, DataSource Inc. in Silver Spring, a software development firm.

Technology Entrepreneur: David S. Oros, chairman and chief executive officer, Aether Systems in Owings Mills., a provider of wireless and data mobile services.

Turnaround Entrepreneur: Joseph W. Cowan, president and chief executive officer, Cowan Systems Inc., in Baltimore a short-haul trucking company.

Emerging Entrepreneur: Kenneth P. Barksdale, president and chief executive officer, RewardsPlus in Baltimore, an Internet benefits Web site.

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