Local companies see short-term stall


From crisis teams dispatched to do counseling, to canceled conventions, to freezers filling with viruses, to a grounded hot air balloon, Tuesday's terrorism sent ripples through local businesses.

Overall, business activity was slowed, said David S. Iannucci, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

"In talking to business leaders ... the consensus is that there will clearly be a short-term effect on the Maryland economy akin to a bad snowstorm" that effectively shuts down the state for several days, Iannucci said.

Things were hardly shut down at Magellan Health Services Inc. With headquarters in Columbia, Magellan provides mental health and employee assistance to 70 million people, and any crisis means calls for its "critical incident" teams.

By yesterday afternoon, Magellan had received requests for 322 counseling sessions around the country and had conducted 188 - including one Tuesday night where a New York therapist walked 40 blocks to meet in a hotel with World Trade Center survivors.

The first session was not in New York or Washington, but for a group of workers in Oklahoma City anxious about reliving the terror there.

"People aren't ready to process all of this," said Bill Barr, senior vice president of Magellan's behavioral health division, so Magellan expects to schedule more counseling over the next few weeks.

While Magellan is busier than usual, tourism-related businesses are seeing a drop in activity.

Several meetings scheduled for the Baltimore Convention Center in coming days have been canceled, according to convention center officials. Among them were: Pump Users Expo, scheduled to bring about 1,600 people to Baltimore Sept. 16-20, and The Baltimore Sun Dollars & Sense Finance Seminar scheduled for Sept. 21-22.

Another that canceled was the LifeBuilders Men's Conference, which had been expected to attract at least 2,000 representatives of the Church of God from across the United States and Canada.

"We have some of our church constituents who have been touched in both locations," said Michael L. Baker, director of communication for the Church of God, which has its international headquarters in Cleveland, Tenn. "We have decided to devote our attention to calling our churches to prayer for those who have been lost and injured by this horrific disaster."

The Hi Flyer, the tethered hot-air balloon next to Port Discovery in Market Place that is capable of lifting people 340 feet above street level, was grounded yesterday and will remain so at least until Baltimore-Washington International Airport reopens, based on Federal Aviation Administration regulations, according to a spokeswoman for Port Discovery.

The Top of the World, the sightseeing attraction on the 27th floor of Baltimore's World Trade Center, remains closed indefinitely.

With a Coast Guard-ordered shutdown of boat traffic in the Inner Harbor, the paddleboats and water taxis were not running yesterday morning. The harbor reopened about 2 p.m., but at least some of those businesses remained closed since crews had already been given the day off. Most were expected to reopen today.

Though most of the area's malls that had closed early Tuesday reopened yesterday, consumers might have decided to stay home rather than go shopping.

"Traffic is slower than usual, which is certainly to be expected and not any type of surprise," said Steven A. Sless, a spokesman for Baltimore-based Prime Retail Inc., the owner of outlet malls in Hagerstown, Queenstown and Perryville.

The Columbia-based Rouse Co., which had shut its 49 malls and shopping centers across the country Tuesday, reopened all but its South Street Seaport, in Lower Manhattan.

Disruption of air and train travel meant extra business for Yellow Transportation Inc.

Mark L. Joseph, president of the company that operates more than 600 taxis in Baltimore, said that customers, unable to travel by train Tuesday, jumped into cabs at Baltimore's Penn Station and rode as far as Philadelphia, New York and Albany, N.Y.

Similarly, Joseph said Yellow's Carey Limousine division "took clients all over" when flights or train trips were canceled.

The grounding of airplanes means freezers are filling up at Advanced Biotechnologies Inc. The Columbia-based company that produces viruses and other living material for scientists to use in research depends on air freight companies such as FedEx Corp. to ship its products, sales and marketing Manager William McKay said.

Scientists' experiments will have to wait. "Eighty percent of our business requires an air freight shipment," McKay said, "so we are 80 percent dead in the water."

Guilford Pharmaceuticals Corp. also is on ice. The Baltimore company is waiting to find out whether an expert panel backs expanding the approved uses for its only drug on the market, a brain cancer therapy called Gliadel.

The Food and Drug Administration's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee called off a Tuesday afternoon hearing on the matter in the wake of the morning's attack.

Other businesses, not affected directly, found the office mood somber. "People are walking into each others' offices, just kind of talking about what happened," said Glenn Jasper of Linthicum-based Ciena Corp., a telecommunications equipment company.

Steve Crawford, chief executive and founder of 0280 Inc., an e-business consulting and development firm in the Emerging Technology Center incubator in Canton, said many appointments and deadlines were postponed.

Staff writers June Arney, Julie Bell, Stacey Hirsh, Lorraine Mirabella, William Patalon III and Andrea K. Walker contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad