Editor’s note: The following commentary aired on wbal.com on September 10, 2018.
On September 12 a major event will roll into the Baltimore Convention Center, drawing 30,000 visitors and $17 million in estimated spending.
The organizers of the event, Natural Products Expo East, say they love Baltimore. But they’ve decided to move after 20 years to Philadelphia. Why?
The expo is growing and the Baltimore Convention Center isn’t large enough to allow for more growth.
It’s the latest blow to Baltimore’s vital convention center business. Other events also have moved to cities with larger centers. These losses serve as a warning that an expanded Baltimore Convention Center is badly needed.
It supports a tourism and convention industry that is a vibrant economic engine for Maryland – not just Baltimore. Fortunately, the Maryland Stadium Authority recently recommended a major expansion of the center with a new 500-room hotel. A study determining project costs is underway. Once the project cost is determined, the political will must be found to move this critical tourism asset forward.
To do otherwise would miss an economic growth opportunity, while risking more damage to an economic engine that does so much for the city and state.
I’m Donald C. Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.