A business leader who has steered economic development efforts in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles will head the Greater Baltimore Committee, the business advocacy group announced Friday.
Mark Anthony Thomas, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, was selected as the GBC’s president and CEO after a national search.
Thomas will become the first CEO since the GBC merged in the spring with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, a move to link two key regional business advocacy groups and take a unified approach to boosting economic opportunity and solving long-entrenched problems.
“At the outset of this process, we merged two organizations to work together intentionally, strengthening our communities and the region’s economy,” Calvin Butler, GBC’s board chair and senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Exelon, said in Friday’s announcement.
“Our next milestone was to secure a dynamic leader to define a new vision for inclusive economic development and growth,” he said.
In an interview Friday, Butler said the newly merged group, with new leadership, has a chance to be seen as more than a business organization.
“We have an opportunity now with the merged organization to show we care about the community as a whole, and we want more voices at the table to help drive solutions,” he said. “What you will see immediately is we will have a broader outreach and a collaborative nature.”
Thomas has more than two decades of experience leading cities’ economic development strategies and public-private partnerships, most recently heading the Pittsburgh alliance, a 10-county regional business investment and talent attraction group for southwestern Pennsylvania.
Butler said Thomas’ proven experience, leadership and collaboration with stakeholders across business, government, nonprofit groups, academia and the broader community will be critical to advancing the GBC’s goals.
He will likely start by mid-December, taking over from Sharon Markley Schreiber, the group’s chief operating officer and leader since June, when longtime CEO Donald Fry retired after two decades. The regional group of business and civic leaders considers itself a leading voice for the private sector on issues such as economic growth, job creation, racial inclusion, workforce development, transportation and quality of life.
The search committee was headed by Mary Ann Scully, former vice chair of GBC’s board of directors and dean of the Joseph A. Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University Maryland. The committee, made up of 14 regional leaders, including some GBC and Economic Alliance board members, worked with international recruiting firm Korn Ferry.
Starting with some 400 potential candidates, they narrowed the field to 60, then to six for rounds of interviews.
They sought someone with experience in private and public sector economic development and in working with multiple stakeholders across diverse communities, GBC said.
“The committee was impressed with Thomas’ consistent commitment to collaborative leadership that moved every economy that he touched forward in both growth and inclusion,” Scully said in a statement.
Out of a diverse slate of candidates, Thomas proved “the best person with the credentials to lead this organization,” Butler said in an interview, adding he was impressed with Thomas’ “collaborative nature and his view on including the entire community in driving solutions.”
Under Thomas’ leadership, the Pittsburgh alliance worked with public officials, developers and other partners to position the region for more than $2 billion in capital investment, with more than 100 business expansion and development projects, the GBC said.
The Pittsburgh alliance, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, launched the Next is Now regional brand, which established a unified approach to support local business expansions and attractions. Thomas chairs the board for the Power of 32 Site Development Fund, which deploys low-cost capital for regional development projects. And he co-chaired a public partnership to reposition Pittsburgh’s downtown for the post-pandemic impact of remote and hybrid work.
Thomas previously served as a senior vice president of partnerships with the New York City Economic Development Corp., helping to establish teams to foster and manage industry, international relationships and business attraction, GBC said.
The Evening Sun
In one initiative, he helped launch New York City’s $1.3 billion cluster investment strategy to spark creation of more than 100,000 jobs through emerging growth sectors and neighborhood developments.
Thomas also had worked for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, leading efforts to reform that city’s public works, real estate and risk reduction operations.
“The last decade has challenged the resiliency of cities and regions and disrupted any historical playbooks for how public-private partnerships tackle issues of economic inclusion and competitiveness,” Thomas said in the announcement.
He pledged that every community in Baltimore as well as the surrounding counties “will feel represented in our work and agenda.”
Thomas has a master of business administration degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a masters in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia.
“With Mark’s leadership, we can begin to advance the next phase behind this merger,” said Brian D. Pieninck, former chair of the Economic Alliance and president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, in the announcement.
He said he envisioned that phase as leveraging partnerships, optimizing the region’s assets and maintaining an inclusive vision to get people more engaged and achieve lasting, equitable growth.