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Investment banker is Hogan's pick to lead business agency

Investment banker is Hogan's pick to lead business agency
Photo by Michael Dresser R. Michael Gill, Larry Hogan's choice as secretary of busines business and economic development. (Michael Dresser / Baltimore Sun)

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has chosen a prominent Baltimore-area entrepreneur and investment banker to lead the agency charged with fulfilling his core campaign promise to attract more business and jobs to Maryland.

R. Michael Gill, chairman of the Evergreen Advisors investment bank, is Hogan's pick to lead the Department of Business and Economic Development.

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At an Annapolis news conference Thursday, Hogan also announced three other Cabinet secretaries — including a former rival for the Republican nomination for governor — and said his budget proposal to the General Assembly this month would include tax cuts. He did not offer details about the budget or taxes.

The governor-elect named former Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who ran second to him in the GOP primary, as secretary of planning, a key post in the relationship between the state and local governments.

Hogan turned to Baltimore County for his secretary of housing and community development, nominating Kenneth C. Holt, a Republican former state delegate who ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 2010. Holt is a businessman and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses.

As secretary of aging, Hogan picked former state Sen. Rona E. Kramer of Montgomery County. Kramer would become the fourth former Democratic elected official to join the Hogan Cabinet. Kramer, a socially moderate, business-oriented lawmaker, served two Senate terms before losing a primary in 2010.

All four positions are subject to Senate confirmation.

Hogan has yet to fill some high-profile positions, including budget secretary, transportation secretary and state police superintendent. He said he expects to round out his Cabinet next week.

"We're saving the best for last," Hogan quipped.

Gill, founder of the technical services company Americom, is a former member of the state university system's Board of Regents and the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission. His appointment drew positive reviews from business leaders.

"He has many, many years of experience in a multitude of different industries and sectors," said Matthew Palmer, a senior vice president with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "We look forward to working closely with him to grow jobs and make Maryland the most competitive state it can be in economic development."

Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said Gill has had a distinguished career as both the founder of and an investor in high-tech companies.

"He cares deeply about Maryland being seen as having a positive climate and will work in that direction," Fry said.

Gill said he will work hard to retain such Maryland employers as Sparks-based McCormick & Co., which has been weighing in-state and Pennsylvania sites for a new headquarters, and attract major new employers such as the FBI headquarters, for which sites in Prince George's County and Northern Virginia are competing.

"I love McCormick," Gill said, recalling the company's annual reports with scents of vanilla and cinnamon.

"I never read the annual report but I smelled them all day long," he said. "McCormick wants to be a Maryland company. I'm really confident of that."

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Gill said he's prepared to offer the types of tax incentives that have become common when states compete for jobs, though some conservatives contend they distort the free market.

"It's got to be part of the formula," Gill said. "If you want to be a player and you want to compete for opportunities, you have to have an incentive strategy."

Craig has been a persistent critic of state intervention in local land-use decisions through a long career as a delegate, senator, Havre de Grace mayor and Harford County executive. He has served as president of both the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties, positions in which he was a defender of local prerogative.

But he has at times advocated positions consistent with the Smart Growth principles pushed by Democratic governors. For instance, in 2012 Craig opposed a plan by Wal-Mart to build a new store outside Bel Air, saying the company should redevelop its existing site in Abingdon.

"All too often, we are quick to abandon older facilities and communities in favor of new locations without looking at ways to revitalize what we already have," he said at the time.

Craig said Thursday he would have no qualms about working for the man who beat him. He said he met with Hogan immediately after the June 24 primary and offered his full support.

"I told him I was willing to work with his administration in any way he wanted me to do," Craig said.

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