Sixteen months after its creation, the Mason Dixon Business Association is going strong.
"The association has really taken off. It has filled a need that was here and we keep gaining membership," said Robert A. Schwalenberg, a founder of the group and regional manager for Forest Hill Bank's northern territory.
The business association, which first met in June 1994, is trying to unite the businesses scattered along the Maryland-Pennsylvania line in northern Harford and southern York County, Pa.
It also is trying to increase the political clout of businesses in the two counties that frequently have felt ignored by politicians.
County Council member Barry T. Glassman, who represents northern Harford County, said the business owners' concerns are valid.
"The county has only a limited amount of resources and they are concentrated in the major population centers around Bel Air and along the Route 40 corridor," he said.
Now, Harford and York politicians are frequent speakers at the association's meetings, Mr. Schwalenberg said.
About 130 businesses, representing more than 2,700 employees, belong to the group, said Melvin Fifer, president of the association.
He owns and operates Sleepy Hollow Enterprises in Peachbottom Township in Pennsylvania.
His company distributes fertilizers and other lawn-care products for golf courses.
The association gets about 75 members at its meeting every other month, said Mr. Fifer.
"The first time we met, it was a success. The association filled a need that had been in a lot of people's minds for a long time," he said.
Mr. Fifer said the association encourages members to do business with each other whenever possible. In addition, it has initiated a youth organization to provide weekend activities for teen-agers.
"We are compiling information about youth programs on both sides of the line and printing schedules so young people will know what's going on in their community," said Mr. Schwalenberg.
Originally, the business association searched for a way to punish teens who were vandalizing property. "We decided it would be much more constructive to stop the vandalism than punishing it," he said.
The association plans to hire a part-time employee to run the youth program, he said, and it is funding most of the program's costs.
Meetings already have been held to gather information on what youth activities are available.
Teens have difficulty finding things to do on weekends because there's no mall, roller-skating rink or movie theater in the area, Mr. Schwalenberg said.