Donald Fry: The Work of the GBC -- An Update

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Hundreds of the region’s business leaders gathered Tuesday evening at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel for the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Annual Meeting. Here are the prepared remarks of Donald C. Fry, the GBC’s President & CEO:

Thank you for attending the 55th annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Your presence in this room tonight reinforces the continuing importance of the core mission of the GBC – to strengthen the business climate in the Baltimore region and the State of Maryland.

All of us here tonight – and those members who could not join us this evening -- strongly support our cause of serving as champions for free enterprise and the private-sector commitment to a strong business climate and a high quality of life …

As members of the GBC, you are members of an organization that has had a positive and truly beneficial impact on our city, region and our state over the last 55 years.

We are here this evening to celebrate the GBC’s legacy of vision and action, to look at the past year’s work, and to set forth plans to apply our remarkable mission and role to pressing challenges confronting our economic growth and prosperity.

o The Greater Baltimore Committee exists today because fifty-five years ago, 80 Baltimore business leaders – including Clarence Miles, a founding partner of Miles & Stockbridge, and a young mortgage banker -- soon to become developer named Jim Rouse -– made an extraordinary commitment to Baltimore and the region.

o They formed an “action committee” to apply private-sector vision, resources, and influence to solving pressing problems faced by a city in transition … a city experiencing deterioration that was impeding economic growth not only in the city but, by extension, in the entire region and state.

o From the beginning, GBC founders said they were “not interested in glamour, platitudes, or false promises.” What they were interested in was solutions—results --- problem solving.

o Those core principles have remained the same for 55 years

o The mission of the Greater Baltimore Committee is to improve the business climate by bringing together the corporate and civic leadership to find solutions to the problems that affect the region’s competitiveness and viability.

o Over the years, the outcomes of that commitment, and of the elected leaders who supported and fostered community support for it, have been transformational and dramatic:

 Charles Center and downtown revitalization;
 An Inner Harbor that attracts over 12 million visitors per year;
 The Baltimore Convention Center and its expansion;
 Two world-class downtown stadiums; and
 The Hippodrome Performing Arts Center; to name just a few key projects

o But these legacy projects represent only part of the story of the GBC.

o The GBC, as a leader in the business community, has many functions and serves many roles:

1) The need to be Bold and Visionary - Business leaders must present bold agendas to address problems and challenges impacting the business climate.

Creative thinking and bold and visionary ideas are often threatened by instantaneous communication via e-mail messages, talk shows, text messaging, and blogs. These instant communication vehicles tend to stifle the imagination and creative thinking needed to be problem solvers. This dynamic makes it incumbent upon the business community to step forward, provide leadership, and to strive to present bold and visionary solutions to today’s complex problems.

2) Education - Business leaders must educate the public, the business community and elected officials on the public policy problems that exist or are developing that present challenges to our future including the need to address a challenge before it evolves into a crisis.

This may, on occasion, involve discussing issues and challenges that the public, business community, or political leaders don’t necessarily want to hear about or find uncomfortable. The dialogue must be driven by the business community if only for the purpose of educating the general public and decision makers.

3) Advocate – Business leaders need to be strong advocates for problem solving at all levels of government.

Business leaders must strongly advocate about the private sector and its job creation capacity and emphasize the consequences, direct or unintended, positive or negative, real or perceived, that legislative action (or lack of legislative action) may have on the state’s economic growth and vitality.

4) Pusher, prodder, or instigator – Business leadership has to consistently push and prod government to stay on task.

Government has good intentions but the “crisis of the day” often diverts government’s attention from the ultimate goal or long term strategy it is seeking to achieve. Business must stress the importance of government to return to its original good intentions until the mission is completed.

5) Partner – Business leaders must partner with government to effect change.

One of the fundamental principles on which the GBC was founded was that public policy problems had become so complex and difficult that it was impossible to be addressed by government or the private sector alone. The complexity of the challenges demanded a public-private approach to problem solving. I would suggest that the problems of today are no less complex than those presented 55 years ago with the founding of the GBC.

This year alone the GBC was active in fulfilling these roles on many issues critical to Maryland’s fiscal climate and business competitiveness, including:

 Studying police and fire pension challenges faced by Baltimore City, and issuing recommendations for addressing them from a GBC volunteer panel of pension funding experts;
 Transportation funding and infrastructure.
 Bioscience and technology.
 Strengthening minority and women-owned businesses.
 Advocating for solutions to meet the state’s future energy needs;
 Enhancing our education and workforce development resources;
 Nurturing teamwork and a coordinated approach to addressing BRAC- related infrastructure issues;
 Strengthening teamwork with the Washington, D.C. business community on issues ranging from transportation to business taxes and regulation;

The GBC’s plate is always full. But that’s the sign of an engaged and relevant organization.

The legacy of our founders is here in this room. Your support and work with the GBC throughout the year carries forward a remarkable 55 year commitment to action and problem solving.

We sincerely thank you for your dedication. It is because of you that the Greater Baltimore Committee in 2010 remains the “go to” business organization in Maryland.
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.