Like everyone else on Gov. Larry Hogan’s administrative team, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, the secretary of general services and a handful of transition team and other commission members all captured the governor’s attention by virtue of the talent they possess.
A close look at these individuals’ résumés, however, reveals that they have something else in common: All have been closely involved with the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) in some capacity.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, for example, was elected as a Chamber board member in 2013, and Anirban Basu has served for years as economic policy adviser to the BWCC.
Basu serves as chair of the Maryland Economic Development Commission, the body that establishes economic development policy in the state and oversees the Department of Business and Economic Development’s efforts to support the creation, attraction and retention of businesses and jobs.
A master of repartee, Basu’s annual economic forecast presentations for the Chamber have always attracted capacity crowds of business leaders drawn by his insightful analysis of the regional economy, delivered in a faultless, rapid-fire patter.
Helpful Regional Perspective
Sharon Pinder, a member of the governor’s transition team, and former State Sen. Marty Madden, who now serves as a senior adviser to the governor, both have experience as Chamber board members.
A 2013 inductee into the BWCC Hall of Fame, Pinder currently serves as CEO of the Capitol Region Minority Supplier Development Council in Silver Spring and previously served as special secretary of minority affairs under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Her responsibilities on the transition team included the Department of Government Services, Information Technology and the Secretary of State’s Office.
“The perspective of regionalism that the BWCC provided was particularly helpful, especially when you take a statewide outlook,” said Pinder. “Most of us are seasoned professionals, but having membership in an organization led by someone as talented as [CEO] Walt Townshend creates a wonderful environment for collaboration that follows members wherever they go.”
During his tenure on the Chamber board, Madden served on the Membership, Finance and Legislative committees. He has owned and operated a local insurance agency in his hometown of Greenbelt since 1971.
“During my BWCC service, I made hundreds of new business acquaintances and still keep in regular contact with many of them,” he said. “The feedback they provide helps me keep one foot grounded in the real world and enables me to offer Gov. Hogan the best advice I can.”
Making a Difference
Maryland Secretary of General Services Gail Bassette, another former BWCC board member, served on the Chamber’s Procurement Fair Committee in 2014.
“Shared experiences with fellow members about business challenges, successes and best practices, coupled with my 22 years as a CEO in the private sector, helped prepare me for this position in several ways,” she said, to include learning the principles of leading and managing an organization for efficiencies and effectiveness.
“Especially important, I learned how to serve, having a servant-leader mentality,” Bassette continued. “I learned that listening is sometimes more important than talking.”
Her relationship with Townshend and the BWCC membership also helped her identify capable business leaders to participate in some of Maryland’s contract opportunities as a means of expanding the pool of businesses competing for state contracts and creating opportunities for them to grow.
“I want to make a difference,” Bassette said. “I want to get things done that are tangible and measureable. I want to create more opportunities for small, local, [minority business enterprise], woman- and veteran-owned businesses … which will create more local jobs and expand the tax base. It’s a priority that reflects the governor’s theme: ‘Maryland is open for business.’”
Observing the collection of talent that is making contributions at the state level, BWCC CEO Walt Townshend said it speaks to the Chamber’s long and storied history of working collaboratively with government at the local, state and national levels to solve challenges and provide opportunities.
“We are delighted when those who have worked in the private sector — and in many cases served in leadership positions with the BWCC — are recognized and utilized for their energy, ideas and abilities,” he said. “Their work inures to the benefit of us all.”