OPINION: While Annapolis sleeps, another business leaves

| June 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

out of businessOn Monday, The Capital reported that the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF) would leave their longtime headquarters for smaller space in Baltimore City.

Apparently this was surprise to everyone in Annapolis, but a poorly kept secret outside the City.

According to The Capital

MAIF discussed a possible move with the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp. close to two years ago.

Lara Fritts, the CEO of the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation stated that she had been in talks with the realtor representing MAIF to keep them in the City.  Yet MAIF claims there were no such discussions.

Lara Fritts, CEO of the Annapolis Economic Development Corp., said she had recently been in touch with Murphy and was trying to get MAIF to stay in the area.

Although MAIF said it contacted the Anne Arundel County Economic Development close to two years ago, the company did not discuss a possible relocation with either the city or its economic development arm.

Even the Anne Arundel County Executive, Laura Neuman was aware of the move..for nearly two years! And one of her top advisors is the Annapolis City Mayor’s father–John Pantelides, a well known lobbyist for developers.

County Executive Laura Neuman said she was told early in her administration that the company wanted to move, but that her impression was that this had been in the works for some time.

Neuman said she was disappointed a large employer is moving out of the county, but that “this is something that is longstanding.”

The Annapolis City Alderwoman representing the section of the City where MAIF is located was unaware.

Pindell Charles said she was unaware of MAIF’s plans to move to Baltimore until Monday morning.

“I don’t know who was aware of it,” she said. “I know I wasn’t.”

Even the City’s Mayor who campaigned on a business friendly platform said he was unaware. But somehow tried to defend this dropped ball by reiterating that he lowered the parking meters for a few months and did not raise property taxes.

There is obviously a giant gap in communication in the City. Lara Fritts from the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation says she had been talking to the realtor. Does it not make more sense to talk to the tenant?  The realtor have everything to gain from them moving out. And why did she not pass this information onto the Mayor and City Council?  We asked Fritts if there was a misquote in the Capital and she replied via email “the move was confirmed on Monday when the Mayor of Baltimore announced a press conference.  The CEO and majority of employees live in Baltimore.” Not really answering the question we asked if The Capital was incorrect when they stated she had been in talks with the realtor. “No that is correct – but it was confirmed shortly before the Mayor of Baltimore announced her press conference.”

The Annapolis Economic Development Corporation was established under former Mayor Joshua Cohen and is majority funded by the City at a cost of nearly $500,000 per year.

Yet MAIF, never spoke to the City.

This is an embarrassment for the City. Annapolis is still struggling with its image of an anti-business city. Gumpert Printing is also leaving the City. Piccola Roma has closed. WRNR relocated to the County. There are dozens of vacant storefronts downtown–an area often dubbed “the gem of Annapolis.”

If the City is serious about attracting business, they need to get on the ball.

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Category: OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.