Yesterday The Capital published a positive editorial that affirms the approach we are taking with the new Annapolis Economic Development Corporation. We owe this progress to the tremendous amount of time and hard work that the AEDC’s talented board and staff have given to retain, expand and attract businesses in our city. I thank them for their continuing efforts.
Our Say: Nonprofit economic development outfit proving its worth
There was a lot of skepticism when Mayor Josh Cohen shifted $400,000 from the city’s Department of Economic Affairs to a nonprofit Annapolis Economic Development Corp. The allocation came earlier in the city’s current round of financial trouble, as constituents’ calls for less government were getting louder.
Obviously, this was a chance to save a lot of money. But the mayor saw, as we did, that Annapolis needed a quasi-independent agency to encourage business development in a city that had a reputation for discouraging it – what Cohen described as a “culture of no.” He knew that growth in the retail sector would help the struggling economy and make the whole business community more competitive.
After a half-year of operation, the AEDC has proven that it can do its job and that only good things lie ahead.
The initiative to form a development corporation similar to the one operating in the county came from the mayor’s economic transition committee, which was made up of respected business leaders, including Chuck Walsh and Dick Franyo.
Having themselves struggled with the slow-moving city administration and heard the horror stories of others, they knew the bureaucracy alone could not solve the problem. Several of these pioneers earned a place on the corporation’s 12-member board, chaired by local attorney Midgett Parker, and implemented the strategies they had sketched out.
Much of the work so far has been gathering data to be used for marketing and for gauging the depth of the discontent. Forums have helped promote the city’s six commercial districts, representatives have attended trade shows, and education sessions were set up to help businesses.
Most importantly, though, the committee and President Lara L. Fritts became advocates for the business community. They listened to complaints and ran interference with city offices that were impeding the permit process. In many cases, they were able to reach compromises.
In a letter elsewhere on this page, Gavin Buckley lavishes praise on the city for an expedited process for reopening one of his West Street restaurants. Most of the letters we get on this subject condemn the city for imposing mind-numbing demands. How refreshing to read something different.
The AEDC has managed to help the city create a one-stop desk to help entrepreneurs get their ventures launched. It has worked with more than 60 companies and has seen more than 15 recruited.
Perhaps less known is the work the AEDC has done in keeping businesses from leaving the city – the corporation estimates it has been essential to retaining four of them. Given the number of vacant storefronts on Main Street, there is much work ahead.
The AEDC has encouraged development and given hope to the local business community. We congratulate the AEDC board, the mayor and the City Council for having the foresight to see how important this would be.
Copyright © Capital Gazette Communications LLC, 2011.