Baltimore County Business Advisory Council

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Mission: The Baltimore County Business Advisory Council allows members to participate in a regionally-focused approach toward business climate issues, by engaging with local business, institutional, and government leaders.. The BCBAC also gives members an opportunity to advocate on behalf of the business community to local and state elected officials and key figures. The council also promotes economic development opportunities and quality of life in the county.

Chair: This committee is chaired by John B. Chessare, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.H.E., President and CEO of the GBMC HealthCare system. The Greater Baltimore Medical Health Care System includes the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), a 270-bed acute care not-for-profit hospital, as well as a group of multi-specialty physician practices across the region.

Membership: The Baltimore County Business Advisory Council include the following member companies: GBMC, Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC, Comcast, Merritt Properties, LifeBridge Health, Trane, EMR, PSA Insurance, KOFA Public Affairs, the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, and Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association.

What does the committee do? The council provides the GBC with regional input, on issues related to strengthening Maryland’s business climate. In addition, the council often invites speakers to meetings in order to keep informed about developments in key areas, such as, higher education developments, including four year universities as well as community colleges, mega economic development projects in the county, public safety, transportation and workforce.

Staff: Sophia Silbergeld, 410-727-2820

Baltimore County Business Advisory Council meetings are from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), 6701 N. Charles St., Towson, MD 21204, unless otherwise noted. Directions and a campus map can be found here.

2018 Baltimore County Business Advisory Council news:

At the April 30, 2018 meeting of the GBC’s Baltimore County Business Advisory Council, members heard from Don Mohler who has had a long and unique career in Baltimore County government. He has served as Chief of Staff to two County Executives, Kevin Kamenetz and Jim Smith, as well as a long career with Baltimore County Public Schools, serving as a teacher, principal and area superintendent.

Mohler spoke at length about the unique success that the County has achieved and its unique challenges in the years ahead.

Baltimore County is one of only 47 counties in the United States with a AAA bond rating, which has made it possible for County government to address and stay ahead of the issues that are the major concerns of residents in every part of the county: education, public safety, the environment and infrastructure. The $1.6 billion school construction program that the County has undertaken has seen 16 new schools, 12 schools with major additions and 90 schools that have received upgrades to existing facilities. Because of the County’s good financial standing, it has been able to advance the money for every project while awaiting funding, which will come from the State in several chunks. Good fiscal stewardship has also allowed for the proposal of County Executive Kamenetz’s College Promise program, which will provide free tuition at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) for all students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a household income less than $69,000 (the median in Baltimore County).

The next County Executive will have to address issues of enrollment stabilization throughout several areas of the county — both under-enrollment and overcrowding — which Mohler said can be solved by strategic investment in schools in specific communities where growth is possible or expected. This will be key to stabilizing not just the schools in those districts, but the communities themselves that are served by them.

The next County Executive will likely have to increase property and/or income taxes, which has not been done in Baltimore County in decades but will be necessary to maintain the County’s bond rating. In addition, Mohler advised that the next County Executive should look to push for the allocation of the millions of federal dollars that have been designated for upgrades and renovations to the Social Security Administration’s headquarters in Woodlawn. Social Security is one of the county’s largest employers, with 15,000 employees.

Another major employer and project Mohler cited as key to the future of Baltimore County is Tradepoint Atlantic, which has a potential 17,000 jobs. In a county that is Maryland’s second largest employer, and has the same size geographically as San Francisco, Tradepoint’s impact on the local and state economy cannot be overestimated. Mohler cited the College Promise program as a way to feed Baltimore County’s young people into a direct pipeline for employment at Tradepoint.

The Baltimore County Business Advisory Council’s first meeting of 2018, held on January 22, 2018 featured Yolanda Winkler, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Winkler gave an in-depth analysis of the County Executive’s priorities and requests to the State for the 2018 Maryland Legislative Session. These priorities are led by Kamenetz’s commitment to:

  • Education funding, including $122 million for school construction projects
  • Transportation, with a request for $60 million in project funds and the mission to create a regional transportation authority to fund something similar to the defunct Red Line project

Other legislation and funding the County Executive’s Office is aggressively backing or pursuing includes the paid sick leave bill, the veto of which was overridden by the legislature in the first week of the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly, and renewable energy policies and projects.

Winkler also mentioned that other County priorities for this, the last year of Kamenetz’s final term, include getting a major economic develop project off the ground on the east side of the County, funding free community college for County residents and completing a study into Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and how it can increase revenue by attracting businesses to Baltimore County, and thereby growing the tax base.

Following a question and answer session between Winkler and Council members, GBC Presient and CEO Don Fry spoke briefly about several upcoming GBC events, information on which can be found here.

2017 Baltimore County Business Advisory Council news:

GBC President and CEO Don Fry began the Baltimore County Business Advisory Council’s November 29, 2017 meeting with an update of GBC events, activities and plans for 2018. Activities include the GBC’s Coalition For A Second Chance Implementation Taskforce, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center’s Stop The Bleed campaign and the GBC’s newly-formed policy committees that will address Public Safety and Culture, Entertainment & Tourism issues and needs in the Baltimore region. These committees are open to all GBC members as well as any of the GBC’s other policy and regional advisory committees.

Fry also solicited ideas for topics and issues for the council to address in 2018. Suggestions from members included school construction and the workforce pipeline and preparation by Baltimore County Public Schools.

The committee then heard from Aaron Tomarchio, Senior Vice President of Administration & Corporate Affairs for Tradepoint Atlantic, then provided an update about Tradepoint Atlantic’s project, including the latest master plan for the site. Tomarchio discussed that Tradepoint’s project echoes many of the policy initiatives and proposals that the GBC has been pushing as it will be a center for middle-skill jobs and a workforce opportunity network.

Tomarchio also informed the council that Tradepoint is exploring a request for tax increment financing (TIF) from the Baltimore County Council and that Tradepoint has worked with the Maryland Transit Authority to create a newly-announced and implemented Baltimore Link bus route to the Tradepoint site. He noted that Tradepoint has had requests for and is open to working with nearby communities on transportation partnerships such as shuttles for employees.

Tomarchio’s presentation can be found here.

After a welcome and introduction by BCBAC Chair, Dr. John Chessare, President and CEO of GBMC, the Council heard from Baltimore County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Verletta White at its September 29, 2017 meeting.

White began her teaching career in 1992 as an elementary school teacher in Baltimore City and transitioned to a teaching position in Baltimore County in 1995. She has risen through the ranks of BCPS’ superintendent’s senior and executive staffs since 2007, as Executive Director of Professional Development, Area Assistant Superintendent for the Northeast Area, and Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools.

White previously served as Chief Academic Officer for BCPS, the instructional leader responsible for defining and communicating the vision of the school system while motivating a division of more than 500 curriculum and student support staff.

White’s presentation focused on the current strengths of BCPS, such as its zero percent gap in graduation rate between black and white students and the 90 percent parent satisfaction rate, and how to sustain those statistics, and areas with room for growth and where challenges are faced. Examples of challenges given by White include the fact that half of the system’s students live at or below the poverty line.

Under her leadership, BCPS’s primary focus is preparing students for the jobs and the workforce of tomorrow. In three years, it is estimated that 69 percent of all jobs in Maryland will require at least some college. BCPS is working to ensure that the education it provides ensures graduates are not just locally but globally competitive. Strategies to achieve this goal include the digital learning environment that has been built and is growing in the school system, and the focus on second-language acquisition that now beings as early as the fourth grade.

White said that successful graduates must be literate across all disciplines to succeed in the workforce of the future. She also discussed various ways in which the business community can partner with BCPS to support and prepare students. Opportunities range from internships and mentoring to participating in the BCPS Education Foundation.

Baltimore County Business Advisory Council Chair Dr. John Chessare, President of Greater Baltimore Medical Center, opened the council’s May 3, 2017 meeting by introducing Baltimore County Council President Tom Quirk. Quirk then discussed his thoughts on the current state of Baltimore County and the direction the county is headed. He described Baltimore County as having “a lot of opportunity—and exceptional challenge.”

Quirk discussed the opportunities that the county enjoys, particularly in the areas of private and government investment. Baltimore County government is investing $1.3 billion to update and replace aging infrastructure, including schools and roads. Private real estate investment, such as the Towson Row project and others, are injecting millions more into the county.

Quirk also recognized the challenges that the county faces, including an increase in residents who live at or below the poverty line, which means an increased need for county services such as free and reduced-price school lunches. Quirk said Baltimore County must keep expanding its tax base in order to continue to meet all of the service and infrastructure needs of its residents while remaining fiscally sound. The next county executive, Quirk said, will most likely need to raise taxes, which have not been increased in Baltimore County in more than a generation.

Councilman Quirk also discussed the need for individuals with a background or current experience in business to run for and hold elected office in Baltimore County and said there is opportunity for pro-business candidates to pick up at least the open District 3 seat, which is being vacated in 2018 by Councilman Wade Kach.

Goucher College President Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen, Director, PhD, FRSA, presented to the Baltimore County Business Advisory Council at its February 28, 2017 meeting.

Dr. Bowen provided an overview of the new teaching and curriculum approach he is launching at the Towson institution to adequately prepare students for jobs and the workforce needs of employers.

He noted that the focus of the college’s academic programs are to ensure that no matter what field of study a student chooses, he or she will learn the “three Rs.” Dr. Bowen said they are:

  • Relationships, so students learn to build strong social networks and develop mentors to guide them. This skill is essential in the rapidly evolving economy to ensure success finding and obtaining jobs, as well as working in team environments.
  • Resilience, so they can overcome and learn from failure and setbacks. This skill helps build persistence, a valuable skill for success in taking on challenges in the workplace.
  • Reflection, so students learn to take the time to think about their personal cognitive styles and can become adept at learning in the workplace and adapting to change and challenges.

Dr. Bowen said he views these as core skills for success in the workplace. He outlined other changes in the college’s academic programs, such as requiring that all students take three years of writing courses and are exposed to analyzing data as these skills are now essential in many jobs.

He said the college is also committed to working with the community and others to ensuring Towson is an attractive place for students and parents since location is one of the many assets prospective students and their parents consider when choosing a school.

Several advisory council members at the meeting raised concerns about public school systems not adequately preparing students for the needs of today’s employers and workforce. Dr. Bowen noted that Goucher is trying to address this issue by teaching students to be able to work in teams that have a diversity of backgrounds, think for themselves and become “change management experts.”

In addition, Donald C. Fry, President and CEO of the GBC, provided the advisory council with an overview of recent GBC activities, including the effort to dissuade the Baltimore City Council from passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour. Fry also provided highlights from a February 27, 2017 GBC event that featured experts on a new study detailing estimated costs to renovate Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and their perspective on efforts to keep the Preakness from potentially being moved from Pimlico to Laurel Park.