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City, Atlanta bid for CARE offices


Baltimore's bid to attract the new headquarters of the international relief agency CARE is entering its final weeks, and CARE is saying that the decision probably will hinge on whether Baltimore is able to come up with a richer package of relocation subsidies than Atlanta.

"It sounds cold, but that's the way it is," says William D. Novelli, executive vice president of CARE, now based in New York City. "Our business is helping people in the developing world. We're not like a big corporation that can spend millions of dollars on a move."

The relief agency is considering leaving New York in hopes of cutting its operating costs, improving its employees' quality of life, productivity and living costs, and boosting CARE's endowment by selling its current headquarters building near Manhattan's United Nations complex, Mr. Novelli says.

Those factors are also the criteria for choosing CARE's next home town, Mr. Novelli says, with New York still in the running as well. Judged on these factors, he says, Baltimore and Atlanta are close to a dead heat.

"They're very close. They each have real quality-of-life features that would be very attractive," Mr. Novelli says. He says CARE staffers are supposed to make a recommendation to a committee of the non-profit agency's board Sept. 11, with a final decision coming later in the month.

CARE needs about $6 million to finance its move, Mr. Novelli says. He stoutly defends the agency's stance that it deserves help in footing that bill.

"CARE is one hell of a good international citizen," he says. "Baltimore sees itself as being more and more international and CARE fits into that vision."

Officials both in Maryland and in Atlanta refuse to say how much assistance -- or in what form -- they plan to offer CARE.

"All I can tell you is, negotiations are going on and there's nothing new to report," says Mary Lou Baker, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Ms. Baker says state and city officials are working with each other and with business leaders to put together a package for CARE.

"I'm at absolutely no liberty to discuss with you any particulars of the Atlanta [proposal]," says Nancy Nolan, senior project manager for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

"It's an economic development mortal sin."

Mr. Novelli says CARE wants to own its new headquarters, and hints that help in buying the Shillman Building at 500 N. Calvert St. may be part of the Maryland package.

"We're waiting to hear from the state on that," he says. "That's the building of choice."

Mr. Novelli says the assistance could range from money to help CARE buy and renovate a building to a public bond offering that would help CARE borrow money at low cost, to in-kind contributions of goods and services.

Ms. Nolan says she expects Maryland's proposal to include more aid from government sources than Atlanta's, with a higher proportion of the Atlanta package coming from the business community.

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