Last summer, when Charles E. "Ted" Herget Jr. became chairman of the board of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, he penned a brief paean to County Executive Roger B. Hayden in the organization's annual report.
"We have a new County Executive and administration in Baltimore County . . . a County Executive with a background as a businessman . . . a County Executive who not only thinks like a businessman, but, most important, acts like a businessman," Mr. Herget wrote.
What a difference a year makes.
Since the release of that report, the Hayden administration has done little to endear itself to the county's business community. Developers have objected to the executive's proposed building moratoriums for the Honeygo area and crowded school districts. Realtors have complained about a Hayden suggestion to increase real estate transfer taxes. Business leaders in general have decried what they perceive to be an anti-growth administration that lacks a plan to boost business in Baltimore County.
The critics usually point to the administration's sluggish and confused Economic Development Commission as the symbol of local business woes.
Now the Chamber of Commerce has announced it will try to fill the vacuum by creating an Economic Development Alliance, an umbrella organization of some 25 county business associations. Alliance members, who will hold their first meeting on July 13, hope to provide the kind of business vision they feel has not been forthcoming from the executive's office.
Intent on being reactive as well as pro-active, the members say that they will aggressively lobby the county government when bills they consider unfriendly to business interests are introduced.
Mr. Herget, past chairman Michael J. Chesser and next year's chairman, William J. Crowley Jr., recently met with Mr. Hayden to discuss the workings of the Economic Development Alliance. The executive reportedly offered a positive response, along with an implication that the alliance will have the administration's ear.
Chamber leaders also say that while the Hayden administration's business record has been far from sterling, they would have found it useful to form the alliance anyway, just so the private sector could express its goals in a unified voice.
Still, we have to wonder if the chamber would have gone to all this trouble if the Economic Development Commission were doing a better job at living up to its name -- that is, developing the economy of Baltimore County.