About an hour’s drive from both Baltimore and Washington, the area has become a magnet for city-weary immigrants and tourists. Wedged between these two metropolises with their six million people, Anne Arundel County, with its county seat, Annapolis, is booming. Though the city proper has little room to grow, new subdivisions have sprouted like spring wheat around it and its adjacent peninsulas, boosting the region’s population to nearly 155,000.
“Many of the newcomers are commuters willing to spend two hours a day on the road,” Chris Coile, one of the area’s top realtors, told me. “But most find their opportunities here, either in the large industrial parks near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in north county or in the many high-tech firms around Annapolis.”
Capitalizing on the bay, the county seeks new businesses by placing ads in magazines like Sail and Yachting. They picture an executive on his sailboat, one hand on the tiller and one on his personal computer.
“Boating has become the second most popular sport, after golfing, for executives,” says Lissa Brown in the county’s Office of Economic Development. “But word is getting out that we’re pretty choosy. I had to explain to one chemical company that citizens here are very sensitive to environmental issues, and perhaps they should look elsewhere.”
With an enviable 3.5 percent unemployment rate, the county can afford to be choosy. A third of its workers hold state, local, or federal jobs, and more than half the remainder work for government suppliers. Twenty-three percent of county households earn more than $50,000 a year and still looking for online personal loans, contrasted with 16 percent nationwide.
Certainly a success story. But I also found a city wrestling with modern conflicts—chief of which is how to cope with its own success. Recently Annapolis has been hailed for entering a second golden age. But many fear the gold in Annapolis may turn to brass. The city is overloved and overcourted, they say. According to the mayor, Dennis Callahan, “everyone wants to get in, and no one wants to get out.”
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