Bally high

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Economic development officials in Annapolis and in Towson have good reason to feel ecstatic. They convinced Bally's Health & Tennis Corp. this week to retain its regional operations center in Towson and expand its staff rather than shut down and move to Michigan.

The bottom-line: Retention of a $13 million payroll; the addition of another $2 million in salaried jobs; $150,000 more in income-tax receipts, and an untold number of spinoffs, such as the $3 million Bally's plans to spend on computer and telecommunications equipment and job training.

This boost of the state and regional economies is the kind of development effort Maryland desperately needs. The cost is relatively modest -- a $1.5 million low-interest loan and a $200,000 grant. Given the added tax receipts and economic stimulus from this deal, the state and its citizens wind up as big winners.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening wants to make economic development the centerpiece of his administration. To date, he has lived up to his promise. The Bally's negotiation showed that the governor has chosen the right man to lead the jobs search -- James T. Brady, a prominent Baltimore accountant and business heavyweight who understands the concerns of the corporate community and speaks its language.

One of the keys to the governor's early successes has been his eagerness to work closely and cooperatively with local officials to save jobs. This occurred in the successful bid to retain McCormick's spice distribution plant in Maryland. In the Bally's discussions, Baltimore County executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and his economic development team formed a strong partnership with Mr. Brady's state team.

Another positive was the help from a key private-sector player, Baltimore businessman Willard Hackerman. He owns the office building where Bally's has its regional center. His cooperation proved instrumental in sealing the deal. That's the sort of private-sector spirit and determination that needs to be magnified many times if Maryland is to compete in the quest for jobs against strong and aggressive states in the region.

Too much has been made of Maryland's past reputation as a state with a bad business climate. That is no longer true. The governor and to a lesser extent the General Assembly have demonstrated a new attitude toward the corporate world. Local officials have displayed considerable sympathy with business problems, too. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to unite behind a strong and concerted effort to bring more jobs to Maryland and to help companies thrive and flourish here.

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