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The Tentacle


November 4, 2009

Pulling the Plug on Maryland

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Word spread quickly through Maryland early Monday evening that the Black and Decker Manufacturing Company is “merging” with The Stanley Works. Black and Decker employees were notified by email at 4:30 P.M. of the $4.5 billion all-stock acquisition of the venerable old Maryland manufacturer.

 

The tool manufacturer, whose world headquarters are located in Towson, has employed generations of workers at the Hampstead plant in Carroll County and in other facilities throughout Maryland - including various members of two generations of my family.

 

Black and Decker has always had a profound strong presence in Maryland simply by way of the fact that it was founded by two industrial engineers, S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker, with a $1,200 loan and $600 obtained from the sale of Mr. Black’s second-hand car, in September 1910, on Calvert Street in Baltimore.

 

According to an article in The Baltimore Business Journal (BBJ) by Gary Haber, the merger means Greater Baltimore will lose one of its last remaining Fortune 500 companies. In addition to Black & Decker, Constellation Energy Group Inc., and Legg Mason Inc., are the Baltimore region's only Fortune 500 companies.

 

Several published reports indicate that the new headquarters for the newly formed “Stanley Black & Decker,” will be in New Britain, CT.

 

Black & Decker, which employs approximately 20,000 worldwide, provides jobs for about 1,500 in Maryland according to the Journal article. It quoted Roger A. Young, a company spokesman, who said that “about 1,250 in the Power Tools group and about 250 in the corporate headquarters” work in Maryland.

 

“Most of the 1,250 people who work in the Power Tools group will retain their jobs,” according to the Journal article, “but most of the people who work at the corporate headquarters ‘will not have positions with the new company,’ Young said.”

 

The sale is yet another blow to Maryland’s prestige, business and economic stature, and reputation. Not only is there an economic impact on Maryland, but the loss of the relatively well-paid, highly skilled and well-educated white collar workers in the Towson offices certainly has a chilling psychological impact in the midst of a horrid economy, far beyond the numbers.

 

This comes on the heels of the sale of what was then Maryland’s largest independent bank, Mercantile Bankshares Corporation, in the wee hours of Columbus Day 2006, when PNC, a $94.9 billion bank based in Pittsburgh, PA announced that an agreement had been reached to purchase the locally highly-prized institution in a $6 billion deal.

 

Not to be overlooked is the bruising and bitter relationship between Maryland’s legislature and Constellation Energy and its French partner, Electricite de France; which has attracted worldwide negative attention to our state.

 

In the case of all the examples above, and countless others not mentioned, the political leadership, economists, and analysts crunch the numbers, spin the results, and compete in happy-talk.

 

However, the continued cultural and intellectual brain drain in the Maryland region has gone from an insidious drip to a flood of deleterious impacts.

 

Certainly not to be overlooked are the disastrous results of the special taxing session of the Maryland General Assembly in November 2007 in which that august legislative body enacted an historic $1.3 billion in taxes in 19 days flat.

 

The resulting flight of retail business to other states and the number of wealthier Marylanders who – according to anecdotal accounts – have simply left the state, has resulted in an additional paradoxical loss of tax revenues.

 

Of course, the economics matter is one thing, coupled with the insidious accompanying combination of the number of better paid, well-educated business executives who have been transferred out of Maryland is all beginning to snowball into a profound sociological, cultural, and societal impact on our communities and our personal quality of life.

 

Yes, to be certain, in all of the cases above, promises were made that the level of corporate charitable giving and personal philanthropy will continue and support of the non-profit social-welfare safety nets will go unabated.

 

However the reality is that those of us left behind see a drop in financial and intellectual support that is difficult to overcome, long after the memory of the promises fade.

 

Then there is the not-so-small matter of all the spin-off jobs that are lost. The local suppliers, the vendors, the restaurant down the street and the professional support services are left with fewer customers.

 

The empty shops and buildings are only matched by the empty feelings left in communities across the state that are left with fewer resources, higher demands for services, and a lot less brain-power to address the challenges.

 

But the press releases always tout greater shareholder value and the stronger companies that can fight the good fight in a global economy – in order to serve you better.

 

The problem is that most of the people in global places like New Britain and Pittsburgh have no clue as to where Frederick, or Westminster, or Towson is, much less the names of the local churches and synagogues that lose congregational leaders, or the names of the local Girl Scout troops left with unsold cookies.

 

Not to be overlooked is the lost support of the coaches of the children’s softball and soccer teams who are no longer available, or the contributions to the local school band, art center, and park or community improvement project.

 

Slowly but surely not only is the rug being pulled out from under families across Maryland, but the social and intellectual fabric of communities is fraying and now the plug is being pulled from the toaster-oven that feeds us and the power tools that drive the local engines of our economy – in order to serve us better.

 

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

 



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