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NationsBank and Baltimore


When NationsBank made its first move to take over Maryland National Bank, the news was greeted with mixed feelings here. While NationsBank is an aggressive, progressive financial institution in many respects, critics raised serious complaints.

Among them were charges that the giant banking institution was not interested in lending to small businesses and even less in minority customers. Concerns were raised that the bank, based in Charlotte, N.C., would drain the area of more of its dwindling local corporate leadership.

On each score, NationsBank has moved quickly and assertively to allay these concerns. The latest development is a comment by the company's top official that it will base its mid-Atlantic headquarters operation in Baltimore, instead of in the Washington suburbs. That will solidify NationsBank's corporate presence here. The attraction to Baltimore of talented executives would beef up the area's dwindling supply of business leadership for community projects.

Within the past two months, NationsBank has pledged large amounts of loan funds both for small businesses and for low-cost housing. The program could make as much as $1 billion in loans in the next three years to businesses in its entire marketing area, including as many as 59,000 companies in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The bank also has put up $100 million for low-cost housing projects that will be administered by James W. Rouse's Enterprise Foundation.

There remains some apprehension among local football fans whether NationsBank will use its considerable influence with the National Football League in favor of an expansion franchise for its hometown of Charlotte, Baltimore's most direct competitor.

There is doubtless considerable pressure on Hugh L. McColl Jr., the bank's dynamic and ambitious chief, to boost Charlotte's chances. His reported comment at a private dinner that he thinks Baltimore has the edge is heartening.

NationsBank is now a regional giant, the fourth largest banking company in the country. Its branch offices range from Maryland to Florida and west to Texas. It isn't a North Carolina bank any more. We trust NationsBank will continue to demonstrate its evenhanded commitment to all of the communities it serves.

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