Malaise in City Businesses


Does Baltimore need another group of businessmen to examine the city's business climate? Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke apparently believes the current organizations are not doing the job. He appointed a 40-member group -- called the Development Incentives Task Force -- to examine what programs are needed to retain and attract business and improve the city's general business conditions. This group may be just what is needed at this time.

These are unhappy times for city companies. It may be a result of the nation's weak economy, but a sense of malaise permeates the city. Unlike the past, there is no consensus on Baltimore's future.

There is a lack of vitality. Visionary plans of making Baltimore a center of life science enterprises have not moved off the drawing boards. Dreams of having Baltimore become a regional financial center have been shattered. Some of the city's large corporations are understandably preoccupied with internal financial problems and have less interest in civic affairs. Large blocks of first-class office space are vacant, and a number of large development projects have been put on hold.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, the region's major business group, no longer appears to have the sharply focused agenda of the past nor the massive resources that used to mobilize the corporate community. The effort this spring to revive the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, while flawed, reflected the feeling that the GBC does not represent the broad spectrum of Baltimore's businesses. Despite the GBC's efforts to be inclusive, too many companies don't feel they are represented or feel excluded from the organization's deliberations.

While the ostensible purpose of the task force may be to make reality out of earlier plans, including those of the GBC, it may serve another aim. The task force may become a vehicle for a new generation and a new group of men and women to shape Baltimore's business voice. They can bring fresh ideas, perspectives and energy to a formidable task. We look forward to hearing their findings.

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