The Baltimore area has seen corporate headquarters disappear before, but the loss of Black & Decker in a corporate merger could hurt more than most in terms of prestige, spinoff jobs and charitable giving, local leaders say.
Allan Tibbels, co-executive director of Sandtown Habitat for Humanity, was left wondering what the proposed deal will mean for his nonprofit, which rebuilds housing in West Baltimore.
The organization has benefited from Black & Decker's charitable contributions for years, as the manufacturer has donated power tools, employee volunteer hours and funding, Tibbels said. For the past four summers, company workers have helped with weeklong summer building projects in the neighborhood.
The nonprofit has rebuilt 275 homes, and "every single house we touched since 1992, we've used DeWalt or Black & Decker equipment," he said Monday. "They've been such a blessing to our city neighborhood for almost 20 years."
Now, Tibbels, like many others, is uncertain of the impact of a merger that would give Connecticut-based The Stanley Works control over the merged company. "You always assume the local presence is going to make a difference, but that's not always the case," he said.
Many here were stunned by Monday's merger announcement, which would create Stanley Black & Decker, based in the city where Stanley now makes its home.
Black & Decker's power tools division will remain in Towson, but some corporate jobs will disappear. Details of the merger, including how it will affect charitable giving, have not been outlined by the companies.
"It would be great if, as much as possible, they kept operations here," said state Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat. "Black & Decker has been a huge asset for Towson and a huge asset for the community. The civic work they do is off the charts. There are a lot of people who invest a lot of time in that company, and those families make up the core of this district."
Few saw any positives for the community, even though part of Black & Decker will remain here.
Cutting back on corporate functions here, such as back-office operations, will affect not only Black & Decker jobs but spinoff jobs in the community, in areas such as purchasing, marketing and legal services, said Richard Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute.
He expects Black & Decker's corporate giving and support to community groups and institutions to gradually decline, too. "They were a good corporate citizen, and one of the few corporate headquarters we have left," along with locally based companies such as McCormick, Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price Associates.
Philanthropy has been evolving, and charitable groups are having to learn to rely less on the largesse of big corporations and more on individuals and smaller businesses, said Thomas E. Wilcox, president of the Baltimore Community Foundation. "It's happening in cities across America."
Of course, there will be a loss of prestige for the Baltimore area when the headquarters leaves.
"This is a company not with regional influence and reputation; this is a company with global influence and reputation. It has also been a company that has been as innovative as any company that this region has produced in recent memory," said Anirban Basu, chief executive of the Baltimore economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group Inc.
"It is, generally speaking, a sad day for those who are stakeholders in the local business community," he added. "It may be a fine day for shareholders, but by and large this represents another in a long series of headquarters departures in the Baltimore area and Maryland, and stands to be one of the more painful headquarter losses in recent memory."
After hearing the news Monday, Christian Johansson, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said he asked Black & Decker for help in connecting with Stanley officials. "The state of Maryland's chief concern is to make sure we are a strong partner in helping them work through the merger and make the case for keeping the employees they already have."
Baltimore Sun reporter Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.