Bell switches jobs, certain of Baltimore's `renaissance'

April 05, 2005|By BILL ATKINSON

DIANE L. Bell, who has run Empower Baltimore Management Corp. since 1995, will join the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a senior fellow next month.

She plans to investigate ways Baltimore can attract, retain and expand its middle class.

"We need a stronger middle-class base to continue to grow the city," said Bell, 53, who will work at the foundation for two years. "We have such a large population of low-wealth individuals. We know what a career can do for a family."

Bell, whose last day is April 18, won't sever ties completely with Empower Baltimore, a nonprofit created by the city. She will remain its "volunteer" president and chairwoman, an unpaid position.

Tanya L. Terrell, who has been Bell's special assistant, becomes executive director of the organization, which will run on a smaller scale because its federal funding has run out.

"She [Bell] has really got a strong track record of producing results and is real knowledgeable about what is going on," said Tony Cipollone, vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which provides support for disadvantaged kids and families.

Under Bell, the 10-year empowerment zone revitalization project aimed to revive some of Baltimore's most blighted, crime-ridden areas with $100 million in federal grants and about $200 million in tax breaks.

It has gotten mixed reviews. Critics say it has brought little benefit to distressed neighborhoods and that change has been slow.

But Bell and others argue that progress has been made.

The empowerment zone created more than 6,000 jobs from 1995 to 2004, Bell said. More than 12,661 residents in the zone found employment. Crime has fallen 56 percent and homeownership increased by 6 percent, Bell said.

Bell leaves the position with a sense of optimism about Baltimore's future.

"I think Baltimore is clearly experiencing a renaissance," Bell said in an interview at Empower Baltimore's headquarters on Frederick Street, a short distance from The Block, Baltimore's infamous neighborhood of strip joints and X-rated bookstores.

"I don't think most [people] in Baltimore know that that is going on. It is happening, it is definitely happening."

Among her biggest accomplishments was helping Empower Baltimore's board of directors, which is made up of people from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"They have stayed together and they have stayed focused," Bell said. "We don't do enough of that in this city."

Andy Malis is a bundle of excitement. He has good reason.

The advertising and public relations firm he started at his kitchen table, MGH, celebrates its 10th anniversary today with a party at the Meyerhoff and a private concert by the irreverent Lewis Black of Comedy Central.

Malis expects as many as 2,000 people to show up, including clients, vendors and staff.

In a hard-knocks business, MGH has grown to 63 employees and $50 million in billings. Clients include Papa John's pizza, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Smyth Jewelers. Most recently, the firm launched the "Cheat on your iPod" advertisement for the BSO.

"It can be done," said Malis, 43. "We came along and grew. Who else has?"

Malis quit his job as vice president of account services at W.B. Doner & Co. in 1995 to launch the firm. He persuaded Jane Goldstrom, media director and Doner refugee, and Terra Hopson, creative director, who worked at competitor Cornerstone, to join him.

"They were crazy," Malis said. "They just quit their jobs and we opened an office."

Business wasn't easy at first. Malis swallowed hard when he pitched Eldorado Hair Replacement Center for business. But there were breakthroughs. He remembers sitting in Chicago's John Hancock Center as Merrill Lynch executives reviewed work the brokerage firm hired MGH to do.

"Am I dreaming?" Malis recalled himself telling colleagues while he was in Chicago.

From the start, Malis said he has wanted clients to respect the firm as they would their lawyer or accountant.

To that degree, MGH doesn't pepper potential clients with cold calls and rarely sends out speculative creative work. It also doesn't mark up a client's bill when the firm hires outside contractors such as photographers, printers or television producers.

Malis sees more growth ahead for MGH. He has added about five employees this year and plans to add a handful more by year's end.

"We want to grow," Malis said. "I have 15 new pieces of business working."

Joseph M. Coale, the former president of Historic Annapolis Foundation and current public information officer for the State Retirement and Pension System, will retire in June.

Coale, 61, was brought in three years ago to restore communications with the media as the pension system was engulfed by controversy, which included the scandal involving money manager Nathan A. Chapman Jr., abysmal performance and an executive purge.

Before coming to the pension agency, Coale was a spokesman at Crown Central Petroleum Corp. and a broker at Alex. Brown & Sons. He also was campaign manager for Gov. Harry Hughes in 1978 and 1982.

What will Coale do next?

"Watch Oprah," he said.

Bill Atkinson's column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 410-332-6961 or by e-mail at bill.atkinson@balt

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