Hearing called on business recruiting

DBED's Preakness budget focus of Busch's concerns

March 09, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said yesterday he plans to hold a hearing to ask Department of Business and Economic Development officials about spending to recruit companies to move to or expand in Maryland.

"We're going to call these people from DBED down here and find out where the money went," Busch said yesterday. Asked when, he said: "Immediately, if not sooner."

Busch's call for a hearing follows a report yesterday in The Washington Post regarding the agency's entertainment and recruitment activities during last year's Preakness Stakes.

The newspaper reported that the agency had invited top executives from virtually every Fortune 500 company to attend the Preakness at the state's expense, giving officials a chance to sell Maryland as a place to relocate or expand. The executives from seven companies accepted the offer, including the chief executive of the hotel and casino company MGM Mirage.

Other companies that also participated in the state's Preakness-related activities include Southwest Airlines, Lockheed Martin and Discovery Communications.

Busch said he was concerned about a state agency paying to entertain the head of a gambling-related company as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pushes to legalize slot machines in Maryland. He also questioned how much money DBED spent on the Preakness-related activities while Maryland cuts other areas of the budget to make up for its large revenue shortfall.

Andrea Harrison, a spokeswoman for DBED, said the department had no comment yesterday.

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