By Melody Simmons
May 27, 2020
How would you go about wooing a big-league business to take a chance and invest in a move to Baltimore?
That was one of several questions posed by Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Donald C. Fry to six leading Democratic mayoral candidates during an online debate May 27 sponsored by the organization and WBAL Radio.
It crystalized how business leaders are gearing up to push the city forward in the coming year under a new administration at City Hall charged with reversing Baltimore’s bad mojo and decline.
The city’s tattered image and constant crime problems — magnified by the shooting of a police officer May 26 in Federal Hill and a bloody weekend with nine homicides — were front and center during the hour-long debate. It was held six days before the June 2 primary that has traditionally produced the city’s new leader because of the heavily Democratic voter base.
Moderators Fry and WBAL’s Bryan Nehman asked repeated questions about the good, bad and ugly of the city and how the candidates would fix some of its image problems like aggressive panhandlers and squeegee kids, as well as tackle issues like high property taxes and getting suburbanites to return to downtown.
Fry wanted to know, “why should a major economic investment be made in Baltimore considering its political scandals and violent crime?”
The candidates — Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Thiru Vignarajah, Sheila Dixon, T.J. Smith, Mary Miller and City Council President Brandon Scott — all said to have a little faith.
“We’re doing all the right things in Baltimore, we’re a city with great pride and we’re resilient,” Young said. “We’re the comeback city and your business will thrive right here.”
Scott and Vignarajah said that the city still has to work its way out of its crime and image woes. Miller said she would lobby potential big businesses to move to Baltimore and set up shop, offering services and an alliance with City Hall.
“I want to roll out the red carpet in Baltimore,” she said. “Influence and growth are the keys to restoring the city.”
Former mayor Dixon said she would sell the city’s strengths.
“We have a great city with all the amenities and great attractions. We have some disconnects going on right now and we have people in leadership roles who just don’t understand how to connect the dots,” Dixon said.
She added that many of the city’s problems need to be triaged in the first year of a new administration: “We cannot birth a baby while we try to get business opportunities here.”
Nehman asked what it would take to lure suburban dwellers back to some of the top Baltimore restaurants, businesses and attractions.
“We have to really increase our capacity to have an inclusive Baltimore and stop building walls up around the city,” Smith said.
Vignarajah predicted that should a child with a squeegee get run over or shot, it could cause “the city to burn in ways we have not seen in decades.”
Miller advocated for stronger partnerships with the leaders of the suburban counties and improved transportation links to help people get around.
“As Baltimore goes, so goes the region,” she said.
To read the complete story, visit the Baltimore Business Journal’s website.
Source: Baltimore Business Journal