BBJ Podcast: GBC’s Don Fry talks minimum wage, arena studies

Editor’s note: The following podcast appeared on on February 27, 2017.

By Jonathan Munshaw, Digital Editor, Baltimore Business Journal

Much of Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO Donald C. Fry’s time these days is spent focused on bills in front of the General Assembly, as well as defeating a proposal that would increase the city’s minimum wage.

The GBC has been an outspoken opponent of a bill in the City Council that would increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022— a deadline that would be pushed back to 2026 for small businesses.

Fry said the vast majority of businesses he has spoken to have expressed opposition to the bill. On this week’s episode of the BaltBizCast, Fry speaks about why he has been resisting an increase.

“Many [businesses] have indicated that it would put Baltimore at a competitive disadvantage, and that if they had to move forward with a $15 an hour minimum wage, there’s a number of options they’d have to look at,” Fry said.

The measures could result in layoffs, reducing the number of benefits offered to employees, or businesses moving out of the city and into surrounding counties to stay profitable, Fry said.

The first public hearing about the minimum wage bill will be held Wednesday.

In addition to the minimum wage, Fry made his case for why he thinks the best option for a new arena in Baltimore is to expand the Convention Center to include an arena, rather than renovate Royal Farms Arena or build a new one at State Center. Gov. Larry Hogan recently commissioned a study to look at the feasibility of building an arena at the site.

“[The Convention Center] has virtually reached their capacity,” Fry said. “We still think, and many others think, that that is the best best alternative. That is something we still want on the table. At this time we’re looking at what is the cost … and if there’s the appetite from the state government and the city government to do this.”

Listen to the complete interview above, or over at our Soundcloud account here. You can also subscriber to the BaltBizCast on Stitcher and iTunes.

Topics discussed include:

  • Why the GBC isn’t supporting the minimum wage increase (0:33)
  • If there’s an estimate as to how many businesses have threatened to leave over the bill (1:50)
  • If the staggered increase through 2022 will help soften the blow (2:40)
  • Whether there’s a level of increase, if any, the GBC would support (3:28)
  • If the GBC has talked to the mayor about a potential veto (6:05)
  • What the GBC is doing to advocate their position at this time (6:55)
  • What his expectations are for the first public hearing on the bill (7:55)
  • If he’s still confident projects in Port Covington and the Howard Street tunnel will get approved despite changes in Washington (8:50)
  • If he supports a study that would look at potentially build an arena at State Center (10:35)
  • How the tourism industry in Baltimore is faring (12:20)
  • What legislation the GBC is watching in the General Assembly (14:10)
  • Which of the paid sick leave bills the GBC supports (16:15)

Listen to the podcast here.

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