Business and government leaders in an aging and maligned port city join together to revitalize their town and encourage development.
The story is familiar, but the setting isn't Baltimore in the 1970s. It's Liverpool, England, in the 1990s.
Yesterday, a group of Liverpool businessmen visited Baltimore -- accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra -- to explore possible trade arrangements and attract Baltimore investors to the industrial city on Britain's west coast.
"We're kind of kindred spirits, aren't we?" asked Desmond Pitcher, chief executive of The Littlewoods, a retail and financial business similar to Sears, Roebuck & Co., and chairman of the Merseyside Development Corp., an organization created by the British government in 1981 to rejuvenate Liverpool.
Merseyside provides a range of grants and financial incentives to U.S. businesses to invest in the Liverpool area.
The group has invested $380 million in Liverpool and Mr. Pitcher expects private investment in the region to reach $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.
In addition to Baltimore, the Liverpool business leaders have visited Boston, Washington, D.C., along with cities in North Carolina and South Carolina, in a search for business partners for the city that is probably best known for launching the Beatles.
The group will stop in New York today.
The group was in Baltimore for only a day but met with about 75 local business representatives. After back-to-back meetings yesterday, the group treated Baltimore business leaders to a night at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Clive Lewis, who heads a real estate development firm in Liverpool, said the group was encouraged by discussions with the Ryland Group to export prefabricated houses to Liverpool, talks with hotel chains to build a five-star hotel in Liverpool and contacts with biotechnology firms to form possible partnerships with Liverpool University.
Among the companies the delegation met with yesterday were the architecture firm RTKL Associates, PHH Corp., Black & Decker Corp. and McCormick & Co. Inc.
Mr. Pitcher said Liverpool is offering itself as a gateway to Europe by providing resources and contacts to help U.S. businesses conduct business with members of the European Community.
He said Liverpool can help those companies that are already in Europe by offering sites for expansion or alternatives to higher-priced areas in London.
Although it isn't unusual for foreign delegations to visit Baltimore to look for trade partners, Lee Tawney, director of the Baltimore Mayor's Office of International Programs, said it is unusual for a group to bring with it an orchestra to promote business opportunities.
Mr. Pitcher and Mr. Lewis said it is too early to tell whether their tour will result in tangible business deals.
"The real work isn't now. The real work is the follow-up," Mr. Lewis said.