The Greater Baltimore Committee, saying it would undergo a "course correction," has decided to shift its focus toward the everyday problems of business and economic development.
The change of direction comes as the business group is poised to launch a search for a new president and just months after
being criticized for ignoring the needs of small- and mid-sized businesses. The discontent culminated in the creation of the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce in January.
The GBC said it would strengthen its service to members and expand its focus beyond long-range economic goals and concentrate more on more immediate problems in the Baltimore area.
"As we looked at this, we thought we had not done as much as we could in those areas," GBC Chairman Decatur H. Miller said last night. "It's a move towards today, rather than tomorrow," he said.
Mr. Miller, who is chairman of the Baltimore law firm of Piper & Marbury, made his comments after the GBC's annual meeting last night, during which he outlined the new direction by Baltimore's most visible business group.
"We need to seek a balance between being visionary and being practical. We can't be one or the other; we have to be both," he told the gathering at the Hyatt Regency.
In addition to several hundred business people, the affair was attended by many of Maryland's top elected officials, including Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, each of whom spoke briefly.
One of the GBC's new efforts includes improving membership services under the leadership of Joseph Haskins, chairman of Harbor Bank of Maryland.
"This will be a major initiative this year," Mr. Miller said. The goal will be to find out what can be done for members "to help their bottom line today," he said.
A committee has also been formed to select a number of immediate economic issues that the GBC can deal with effectively.
But, while the GBC is moving towards the more nitty-gritty problems of business, it would continue to pursue a goal of making the Baltimore region a mecca of biomedical business.
"We are the keepers of the life science vision," he said. "But you have to understand, this is a vision for the next century.
Along with a new emphasis, the GBC will also soon be appointing a new president. Robert Keller, who had run its day-to-day operation for the past 11 years, left the GBC earlier this month to become president of the Detroit Renaissance Inc., an economic development group in that city.
Mr. Miller said he expected a new GBC president would be named by September, following a nationwide effort by an executive search firm, which will be hired in the next few days.