Hannon to head economic development

Business official to manage growth fueled by Fort Meade expansion

December 01, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

Robert L. Hannon, a top business official in the Ehrlich administration, has been selected by Anne Arundel County Executive-elect John R. Leopold to run the county's economic development arm.

Leopold's appointment Wednesday of Hannon, 60, as president and chief executive of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. came a day after Aaron J. Greenfield, who has headed the quasi-governmental agency, was tapped to be chief of staff to Howard County Executive-elect Ken Ulman.

An Annapolis resident, Hannon said he would run the agency on a full-time basis starting next month. In addition to overseeing a wave of commercial growth fueled by a military expansion at Fort Meade, Hannon will also manage progress on developing the county's town centers in Parole, Odenton and Glen Burnie.

Hannon has served for the past four years as assistant secretary for the Baltimore region of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. Before that, he served for eight years as the executive director of Baltimore County's economic development department.

"Mr. Hannon shares my vision of Anne Arundel County being a regional leader, and I know he will boost the economic development potential of Anne Arundel County, as well as the region," Leopold said in a statement. "Mr. Hannon shares my goal of maximizing our ability to create full-time, family-sustaining jobs."

Leopold, a Republican, spent several weeks weighing candidates before selecting Hannon, who said he was interviewed twice.

Leopold said in a phone interview Wednesday that Hannon's broad-based business background will be an asset in enhancing Anne Arundel's profile as the county prepares for 20,000 new jobs at Fort Meade over the next five years, because of a military realignment.

The growth is expected to generate thousands of new homes and millions of square feet of office and retail space.

"There are many, many aspects of dynamic growth that someone in my business finds very exciting," Hannon said of his interest in working for the county.

In his state job, Hannon has been involved in preparing the state for growth at Fort Meade and elsewhere because of the Base Realignment and Closure process, also known as BRAC. One of the reasons Hannon is remaining with the state through the end of the month, he said, is to complete infrastructure assessments in light of BRAC growth.

Bob Burdon, president and chief executive of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, said the "greatest opportunities and some of the greatest challenges" the county faces over at least the next four years involve growth around Fort Meade and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Hannon is well-suited to steer the county in the right direction, Burdon added.

"We feel good about this selection, and it's a strong positive sign toward moving the county forward," Burdon said.

Leopold said that Hannon would push development initiatives at the county's three town-center sites, which are envisioned as high-density, pedestrian-oriented enclaves with a mix of residential, office and retail space.

Although construction has begun on the $400 million Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole and two multimillion-dollar projects have been announced in Odenton, some communities have grown frustrated by the lack of progress.

"These town centers have great potential," Leopold said. "They have really been in neutral. We are hoping to move the car out of neutral and into gear ... to fulfill their potential and to be the kind of economic development that can be healthy for the county."

A priority, Leopold said, is to further expand liquor-license laws that were significantly broadened this year by the Legislature to allow for more dining options.

A law that took effect in July raised the number of liquor licenses a restaurateur could hold from two to six.

However, the law requires those seeking additional licenses to locate in one of several designated growth and revitalization areas: the three town center sites; areas around BWI; the Route 198 corridor in Laurel; locations in Severn, Edgewater, Mayo and Pasadena; or at a shopping center containing at least 1 million square feet.

Leopold, a longtime proponent for expanding the liquor license laws, said he wants to meet with representatives of family-owned restaurants, national chains and local business chamber leaders to devise a plan to accommodate more restaurants outside of those designed areas.

"Anne Arundel County can no long afford to be a backwater, protectionist county shielding specialty interests from competition in the marketplace," Leopold said.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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