The Greater Baltimore Committee on Wednesday night approved a merger with another regional advocacy group, said farewell to its longtime CEO and appointed an interim leader amid its national search for a permanent chief.
The merger between the GBC and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore is designed to create a single resource to accelerate local business leaders’ efforts to improve the region’s competitive position and expand economic opportunity.
The merger approval came at the GBC’s annual meeting in the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.
“The Greater Baltimore region needs one, comprehensive organization with a clear, inclusive vision to increase economic opportunity, get people more engaged, and invest in lasting, equitable growth in our communities,” said Calvin Butler, the senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Exelon and chair of GBC’s Board of Directors. “By working together, and through public-private partnerships, we can optimize the region’s assets and collectively drive meaningful change.”
The evening also was a salute to Donald C. Fry, GBC’s current CEO and president, who plans to retire June 1 after more than two decades leading the group.
In his farewell speech, Fry said, “I have worked with six mayors of Baltimore, nine GBC board chairs, more than 600 business CEOs that have served on the GBC Board of Directors, been a part of over 200 meetings of the board of directors, countless GBC policy committee meetings and have collaborated with leaders in business and government statewide and many committed community leaders throughout the region.”
While a national search continues, Sharon Markley Schreiber, former COO of EAGB, will steer the organization as COO of the merged entity. In addition to her work at the economic alliance, Schreiber previously was a senior official with the state Department of Commerce and Stevenson University.
The merger approval marks the next milestone in work that began months ago to combine the groups. Leaders from both organizations said the opportunity was ripe to align the business, civic, community and marketing aspects the GBC and EAGB individually pursue. Privately, area business leaders have questioned for years whether a single organization would be more fruitful than two that sometimes seemed to be in competition.
Also announced at the annual meeting were plans for GBC and its business members to take on a greater role in ensuring Baltimore successively addresses its continuing challenges with violent crime.
The organization plans to hire a public safety advocate to track and assess the safety and law enforcement strategies already announced by Baltimore city government and the Baltimore Police Department. The GBC would then weigh how the business community could support these efforts and partner to drive crime down and improve public safety.
“When we announced our intent to merge in January, we promised that our approach and the role of business would be different and we would make consistent and important progress,” said Brian D. Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, GBC board member and former chair of EAGB.