Morfessis to resign as leader of Greater Baltimore Alliance

Six-year head of region's economic development body to do consulting

April 29, 2003|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Ioanna T. Morfessis, president and chief executive of the Greater Baltimore Alliance, said yesterday that she will resign at the end of the year to launch a consulting company.

Morfessis, 52, has led the region's economic development group for six years, arriving in May 1997 after the GBA had operated for three years under the aegis of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

"I have tremendously mixed feelings," Morfessis said. "I'm sad, and I'm excited at the same time."

Once her contract is up, on Dec. 31, Morfessis said, she plans to split her time between Baltimore and Scottsdale, Ariz. She said she will call her consulting firm IO.INC.

Before coming to Baltimore, Morfessis led the Greater Phoenix Economic Council in Arizona for seven years.

"We hate to lose Ioanna," said John MacColl, chairman of the GBA board and vice chairman and general counsel of the St. Paul Cos. Inc. "She's a talented person. But respecting her career decision, we need to turn our attention to replacing her."

MacColl said he expects that a national search will be conducted for a replacement for Morfessis, who earns a six-figure salary, but local candidates also will be considered. Ideally, he said, there would be two or three months of overlap between Morfessis and her successor. Plans for a CEO succession process are expected to be made final at a GBA executive committee meeting Thursday.

Her shoes will be hard to fill, said Jeff Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, which is based in Washington.

"They're losing one of the top economic development people in the country, and that can't be a good thing for Baltimore," he said.

Those who know Morfessis describe her as passionate - a visionary with a penchant for detail, a quick study and skilled consensus builder.

"She's one of a handful of people who have a track record of pulling together the interests of a variety of political leaders and business leaders around a common cause and helping them see the commonality of their interests," said Dan Malachuk, the New York-based senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis, the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.

During her tenure, 34 companies located, expanded or decided to remain in the Baltimore region, according to the economic development group. Among them are: The Danaher Tool Group, Sierra Military Health Systems, World Relief, Medline and Coca Cola Enterprises.

Local elected officials, together with business leaders and college and university presidents, regularly go on GBA's sales missions across the country. It said those delegations have visited the top executives of 246 companies in New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Georgia.

Relationships established during those visits have contributed to decisions by six companies to establish a presence in the region, including Bank One, World Relief, Toyota Financial Services, Master Halco and the MONY Group, according to GBA officials.

"I think she has such high energy and intensity that she has raised the bar for all of us," said Walter D. Pinkard Jr., vice chairman and treasurer of GBA and chief executive of Colliers Pinkard. "Sometimes that is seen as both a positive and a negative."

Pinkard said the economy has made it hard for the GBA to nail down flashy wins.

"Everyone would have liked to have had one or two really big wins," he said. "There hasn't been that much growth and new expansion initiative going on in corporate America in the past couple years."

Morfessis said she laments the loss of two prospects that would have brought two big-name companies - and 1,100 jobs - to the region. One, John Wiley & Sons Inc., went to New Jersey after news of its considering moving to Baltimore was leaked to The Sun, Morfessis said. The other company, which she declined to identify, has chosen Atlanta, after the Baltimore region did not offer the incentives it was seeking, she said.

"What's been very disappointing is we were able to generate as prospects two major headquarters projects that ultimately did not locate here," she said. "That would have been a huge shot in the arm for our region."

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