New economic development group begins its task


A hybrid of the public and private sectors is the best solution for solving Westminster's economic development woes, Stephen R. Chapin Jr. told the charter members of the Greater Westminster Development Corp. on Thursday night.

"Westminster is a city in transition, undergoing great growth in different areas," said Mr. Chapin, a management consultant for McKinsey & Co. Inc. of Washington. "The outskirts are different than downtown and the question is, how do we deal with this?"

Mr. Chapin, a Westminster native, has volunteered his time to help form the Greater Westminster Development Corp., which will support existing businesses and attract new ones, much like the county Economic Development Commission.

The idea for the corporation came from the 1990 Advisory Task Force on Downtown Renaissance. Council members Rebecca A. Orenstein and Kenneth A. Yowan served on the task force.

Recently, council members Damian Halstad and Stephen R. Chapin Sr. and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown picked up the recommendation and organized a planning committee for the corporation. Planning members, with input from the council, invited 40 Westminster business leaders and residents to serve as the corporation's charter members. Thirty people have agreed to serve.

Economic development problems cannot be solved by either the public or private sector alone because each has limitations, the younger Mr. Chapin said.

Government may have the ability to dictate zoning, set tax rates and provide services, but cannot move quickly and leadership ++ can change with each new administration. Businesses have money and expertise in economic decision-making, but usually cannot finance risky ventures and often are concerned with profit rather than the public good, he said.

"This is an oversimplification," Mr. Chapin said. "But it is intended to look at each group's different missions."

A community development corporation can best solve economic development problems because it has the tools of the public and private sectors, he said. The group would provide suggestions to the mayor and City Council, who act on those recommendations as they see fit.

"A community development corporation usually has influence with the city," Mr. Chapin said. "It also has impact on the businesses such as the banks. It has the tools of both groups." Throughout his presentation, Mr. Chapin stressed that he was there to give suggestions, not solutions, to the group's concerns.

"My job is to approach the problems, not to provide answers," he said. "Everyone here in this room is to provide the answers."

Members' concerns ranged from whether the younger Mr. Chapin had studied other transition periods in Westminster's history to how the group might help pay for business renovations.

"There are lots of what we call levers," Mr. Chapin said, noting that cities such as Cleveland have used tax incentives to pay for renovations, while other community development corporations have used matching funds.

"There's a whole list of things we can use."

Group members were confident that the organization will be incorporated and running by the end of February.

"I will not be at all surprised if they need more time," Mayor Brown said. "I say that only because these are very busy people already."

But Chairman Thomas K. Ferguson, president of Carroll County Bank & Trust, felt the tight time frame will motivate members to work harder.

"I think it is a good idea to throw out aggressive goals," he said. "People can be faced with something and put it off and put it off. But if you give people a challenge, they rise to it."

Westminster's city attorney, John B. Walsh Jr., has drafted articles of incorporation and bylaws for the new organization based on those of the nonprofit Greater Frederick Development Corp., Mr. Halstad said.

Frederick's group is funded by the city, county and local businesses. Westminster's group could adopt or alter the articles and bylaws in any way it chose, Mr. Halstad said.

The group's steering committee, chosen Thursday night, is: Mr. Ferguson; Joseph Beaver, president of Union National Bank; Roy Chiavacci, a retired Maryland State Police trooper and facilities management director for Carroll Lutheran Village; James Dulany, Westminster real estate appraiser; Patricia Keener, a Westminster antique dealer; Westminster real estate lawyer Robert Lennon; David Max, owner of the Winchester Exchange office building; and Eileen Shields, marketing manager for the Carroll County Office of Economic Development.

Other committee members are: R. Wayne Barnes, owner of Barnes-Bollinger Insurance; James H. Billingslea Sr., owner of the Billingslea Corp.; Timothy S. Bryson, owner of Locust Books; Paul Dukehart, owner of Duke's Brushless Car Wash; James F. Erb Jr., owner of J. F. Erb Inc.; Jackie Finch; Westminster attorney Charles O. Fisher Jr.; Larry E. Haines, state senator and owner of Haines Realty; and Samuel C. Hoff, owner of Samuel C. Hoff Real Estate and Insurance.

Also: Heinz H. Luesse, owner of Heinz Cake and Gift Haus; Hank Majewski, owner of Wakefield Valley Golf Club; R. Douglas Mathias; Jerome B. Monfred, owner of 140 Village Shopping Center; Frank Neubauer, executive vice president of Taneytown Bank & Trust; Gregory Pecoraro, chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee; Randy Rager; F. A. Ruppel Jr., president of Westminster Bank & Trust; Robin Saul, publisher of the Carroll County Times; George O. Sparks Jr.; Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis, owner of Tevis Oil Inc.; Jerry L. Toadvine; and Helen C. Utz, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce.

Committee members agreed to serve with the understanding that they would be the corporation's charter members, said Mr. Brown, who hired photographer Dick Myers to take a portrait of the group Thursday night.

"This is a historic moment that I'd like to have recorded for posterity," Mr. Brown said. "Whenever I've seen pictures of the Chamber of Commerce's first meeting or some legislative body, I've always been grateful that someone was considerate enough to record it."

L The city will pay Mr. Myers $62 for the photograph, he said.

"If we don't earn that back through the efforts of this committee, I'll be surprised," Mr. Brown said.

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