The hidden benefits of the Grand Prix

The time has come for Baltimore to enjoy a well-earned victory lap.

Attending the Grand Prix of Baltimore over Labor Day weekend, I and tens of thousands of other spectators at the Inner Harbor shared in a world-class entertainment experience.

With Sunday's announcement that the race will return for a third year, I urge everyone in the Greater Baltimore area to consider what a profoundly positive statement the Grand Prix makes on behalf of our region. Very few cities anywhere in the world are capable of hosting an event of this scope and scale. Even fewer enjoy the kind of vibrant and picturesque downtown setting that can attract visitors from around the country (and impress television viewers around the world). Fewer still can demonstrate the resolve it takes to produce such an exceptional expression of civic pride.

This year, the Grand Prix was, as we all know, under new management. J.P. Grant and Greg O'Neill, the managers of Race On LLC, deserve enormous credit for stepping in to ensure the long-term economic viability of the race. Messrs. Grant and O'Neil recognize that a professionally run event like this benefits all involved — the race itself, the city in general, and local businesses. And that benefit extends beyond the city borders — Howard County hotels and businesses saw more activity that weekend as well.

The Grand Prix reinforces what we all know but sometimes need reminding: that the city of Baltimore is not an island, and that the health and vibrancy of the city has a direct link to her surrounding neighbors.

Residents of Howard County, as well as Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, swell with pride when "our" city receives positive attention. And our local economies also benefit from large regional celebrations.

And there's another sector that reaps rewards and should not be overlooked: our region's non-profit organizations.

As one of the founders of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a leader in specialized support for young adults affected by cancer, I saw first-hand how a well-run national event like the Grand Prix can directly benefit a non-profit like ours.

IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, this year's eventual Grand Prix winner, hosted a fund-raising party for the Ulman Cancer Fund prior to the race weekend. The Yellow Party was founded by Hunter-Reay in honor of his mother Lydia, who battled cancer, and is aimed at raising awareness and donations for the prevention, early detection, and the fight against this disease.

But the Ulman Cancer Fund wasn't the only one that benefited, far from it. Many other non-profit groups used the Grand Prix as an opportunity to thank or cultivate donors and raise awareness of their causes.

It is clear to me that the Grand Prix is becoming more than just a race. It is an event that allows Baltimore to shine on an international stage while providing opportunities for organizations that do so much good for our community to capitalize on the excitement and activity of race weekend.

Yes, it is important to pay attention to attendance, television viewership and direct economic impact of the race. But through the din of the debate over those numbers, we should also realize that the visibility of a world-class event in our region can produce philanthropic benefits that help us all.

Ken Ulman, a Democrat, is Howard County executive. His email is

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