Chamber's businessman of the year means a great deal in local economy


Richard H. Pettingill, senior vice president and partner at Casey and Associates commercial real estate firm in Columbia, is a self-described mover and shaker.

Federal Express and the Columbia Medical Plan are two big-name businesses that agreed to locate in Howard County in deals put together by Pettingill.

"I understand . . . commercial real estate and can make deals happen even in tough economic times," Pettingill said.

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce shares his opinion.

Earlier this month, the 940-member chamber named Pettingill businessman of the year.

"Mr. Pettingill is a strong leader in the business community and certainly has done a great deal" for the county, said Carol K. Baily, executive director of the chamber. "We thought he was very outstanding."

He served as president of the chamber in 1990-1991.

Baily said that while Pettingill was head of the chamber, he helped the county hire Dyan L. Brasington, "a well-qualified" director of the county's economic development office.

Pettingill also was responsible for getting the chamber to take an active role in the county's economic development plan and establishing its monthly meetings with the county executive, she said.

Pettingill, who received the most nominations by the chamber's members, said he was surprised by the announcement, which was made at the group's annual meeting June 8 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Years ago, his father, a women's clothing retailer, was named businessman of the year in Clyde, N.Y., so the honor and plaque he received from the local chamber were "extra special," he said.

The New York native moved to Columbia in 1971 to become dean of administrative services at Howard Community College. He left the school in 1977, and subsequently entered the real estate business.

Since 1986, Pettingill, who lists his age as "at least 39," has served on the chamber's board of directors. He's the chamber's representative to the Economic Development Advisory Committee.

Pettingill also is on the board of directors for the Columbia Foundation and is a member of the National Association of Commercial Officers of Real Estate.

He has been with Casey and Associates for three years.

Through all his business experiences, he said, "I think I have crystallized the notion that economic development should be a top priority for the business community."

Also on June 8, the chamber named Boca Raton, Fla.-based W. R. Grace as business of the year for its community involvement. The company manufactures specialty chemicals and health care products and employs 2,250 Maryland workers, including 559 in Columbia.

In 1991, the company generated $1.48 billion in revenue.

Since 1988, the company has donated $400,000 to Atholton High School to help pay for computers and other high-tech equipment. The company and its employees have also participated in the county's high school's mentor program, Hospice Services of Howard County and the Howard County Arts Council.

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