Mar 14, 2011 08:40PM
● By Anonymous
The first four members of the AEDC were confirmed in June and are: A. Reza Jafari, James “Chip” DiPaula, Michael Lofton, and Midgett S. Parker, Jr. Additionally, the AEDC has three voting ex-officio Board members: President of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce (Robert Burdon); President of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau (Connie DelSignor); and Annapolis City Manager (Mike Mallinoff). From there, the seven board members elected four board members to constitute an eleven-member board of directors. The four elected to the Board are: Richard Franyo (a business owner in Eastport), Chuck Walsh (a property owner and community leader), Cardie Templeton (a property owner and business owner in Eastport), and Stewart Cohen (a business owner in the Historic Downtown commercial district). The AEDC has also hired Lara Fritts as its first President and CEO.
Chaired by accomplished lawyer Midgett S. Parker, Jr., the AEDC board faces many challenges but, as Parker notes, “Annapolis is an authentic historic town. We want all of Annapolis to work harder to create a culture of being ‘business friendly,’ ‘customer service oriented,’ and ‘experience driven.’”
Parker elaborates in a discussion about the AEDC’s ambitions for the City of Annapolis.
What’s Up?: What is the primary economic development concern that the AEDC plans to address immediately?
Midgett Parker: The challenges Annapolis faces are too great and numerous to limit the AEDC effort to a single, primary concern. While we are still in our formative stage, we are looking into issues such as adoption by the City of the international building code, licensing concerns, parking concerns, and numerous other perceived and real impediments to the retention, expansion, and attraction of businesses in Annapolis’ six commercial districts.
WU: What will be the benchmarks of the AEDC for fiscal years 2011-12?
MP: Benchmarks to measure our progress include broadening the commercial tax base, which would include more revenue being generated by prosperous businesses, thereby providing relief to the City’s residential taxpayers; setting into place indices to track and measure current conditions and hopefully improvement in areas such as City revenue from taxes, public transportation, reduced commercial property vacancy rates, improved employment, more businesses focused on 21st century technologies, investments in infrastructure and other “business-attracting strategies” to name a few.
WU: Will the AEDC report directly to the Mayor's office? And who will be held accountable for its proposals and results?
MP: The AEDC replaces the City’s Department of Economic Affairs and is patterned after the very successful Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation. While the AEDC has started with $400,000 per year from the City, we are set up as a 501(c)(3) independent corporation in order to generate tax advantaged investments from the private sector. The hope is that a mature AEDC will be able to exist without much financial help from the City. With maturity, a broader business community will hold the AEDC accountable.
WU: Part of the charm of the City is its unique local businesses. With so many chain and franchise businesses setting up shop, how do you plan to attract and sustain unique businesses that will draw visitors and shoppers into the city?
MP: We plan to listen to the needs of the various stakeholders regarding the mix of businesses in Downtown, on Outer West Street, along Forest Drive, and in West Annapolis. We are planning a series of “Business Forums” across all six commercial districts to gather the input from residents, landowners, business owners and customers.
WU: What marketing strategy does the AEDC foresee implementing to attract new business to the City despite concerns that residential/market growth hit a plateau years ago (or has it)?
MP: In my mind, we need to change the perception about Annapolis. Annapolis must be perceived, by us, as the most desirable place in Maryland to set-up a business, live, worship, raise a family, and retire because of the rich and authentic cultural and historic aspects of our town.
WU: What alternative industries/markets do you foresee the AEDC promoting/pursuing to encourage overall economic development and growth within the city?
MP: We first need to implement a business retention and expansion program that will establish a baseline of the industries that currently exist in Annapolis. Such a program will provide us with data to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our local economy and guide our efforts toward identifying the appropriate mix of industries we want to attract and retain now and into the future.
WU: And finally, what role, if any, will the AEDC have in ensuring the Market House will be occupied and used to the best of its location, utilities, and marketability?
MP: We are encouraging the City to make the most of past experiences to bring forth leadership in attracting what works best at that location. Once that is identified the City should move forward with a fully thought out plan to see this resource achieve its fullest potential. Leadership includes a vision larger than the Market House itself—the streetscape, transportation flow, land uses, and pedestrian-friendly environment around Market House as well. The Market House is not an island onto itself, but an integral part of the solution for the Annapolis waterfront.
The Annapolis Economic Development Corporation’s office is located at 93 Main Street, Suite 3B, Annapolis, MD 21401. For more information visit AnnapolisEDC.org or call 443-534-0817.