Williams named chairman of BDC

He vows to press for development beyond the harbor

January 15, 2002|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

As the new chairman of the Baltimore Development Corp., Arnold Williams says he'll take on the traditional duties of retaining and recruiting businesses to the city.

The accountant and business leader said he also wants to take his voluntary position a few steps further, pushing for development beyond the city's waterfront, encouraging churches to build in neglected neighborhoods and increasing the number of minority businesses.

"We want to make certain we promote business retention as well as business recruitment," Williams said. "Not only should we look at large businesses, but small and minority businesses as well."

Mayor Martin O'Malley announced Williams' appointment yesterday morning during a news conference at City Hall. O'Malley praised Williams' strong business background and connection to the community.

"He has a lot of experience in the business world and he has also served on a variety of boards in the city," O'Malley said.

"He knows numbers, and he also knows Baltimore. He is a combination that will be an asset to the BDC's long-term goals."

Williams becomes the first African-American chairman of the BDC, succeeding Roger C. Lipitz, who stepped down in October after six years.

This is also the first time the BDC has set a two-year term limit on the position.

Williams, managing director of the Baltimore accounting firm Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams, has cultivated a number of business and political relationships over the years.

He was the head of the President's Roundtable, a group of minority business leaders that advised O'Malley after he took office. He is chairman of the board of Bon Secours Hospital and has headed the BDC's loan committee since its creation in 1995.

The BDC once had a reputation of being unresponsive, but in recent years has gained praise from business leaders as a viable economic development agency.

Some business leaders had speculated that the search for the new chairman would lead to someone from within the ranks, such as Williams.

"The best preparation for being chairman of the big board was the apprenticeship he had with the loan committee," said BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie. "This is not a new relationship, but an old one that we hope to make stronger."

Brodie said Williams has helped the BDC reach communities beyond the typical large businesses. For instance, BDC was able to help New Shiloh Baptist Church with expansion plans after Williams, the church's accountant, brought the two together.

But Williams still faces many obstacles despite his connections, some business leaders say. For one, the market has been resistance to development outside of the harbor, said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for Towson University's RESI research institute.

And, minority businesses still face obstacles in accessing capital needed to grow.

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