OCEAN CITY – There’s a new, although familiar, face at the helm of Ocean City’s Economic Development Committee this week as Carousel Hotel and Resort Managing Partner Michael James takes over for long-time EDC President Dr. Leonard Berger.
James was elected president of the EDC this week by the organization’s Board of Directors. He replaces fellow Ocean City hotelier Berger, who was instrumental in the formation of the EDC several years ago at the urging of then-Governor William Donald Schaefer. There is some irony in James replacing Berger as EDC president. Berger was the long-time chairman of the Maryland Tourism Development Board, a position James also held for years although he did not directly replace Berger.
James said this week he was notified the EDC’s Board of Directors had voted him president after Berger decided to step aside.
“Dr. Berger has been the president of this organization for a long time, and he has been a good friend and mentor of mine for several years,” he said. “We’re both advocates for Ocean City and Worcester County. He has played such an integral role with the town, and I am proud to follow in his footsteps.”
James said he would work to ensure the EDC continues with its original mission to be a think-tank for the local business community as well as create a forum for open discussion and information exchanges between the business community and state, county and local governments.
“One of the most important things is keeping an open dialogue and a forum for discussion,” he said. “We will continue to work together with our elected officials, the state, county and local governments, on what is best for our business community.”
James takes over the reins at the EDC during heady times for the organization. Concerns about the economy and its impact on tourism make the organization perhaps more relevant now than it has been in the past.
“Worcester County means a lot to me,” he said. “There are some important times coming up for Ocean City and the county in the next four or five years. I’d like to see this group remain a strong voice and an advocate for Ocean City and Worcester County.”
James said Ocean City creates a huge revenue stream for Maryland, yet the state continues to cut its tourism budget.
“We’ve take a big hit on state funding for tourism marketing recently,” he said. “There’s such a great return on dollars invested in tourism marketing. If you buy into the theory, than it’s an easy call.”