In my current position as freelance pain in the ass and media critic, I frequently am privy to all sorts of interesting information about the goings on around here. Some of it is rumor, some is insider info, some of it is sour grapes, and I try to be selective about what I report here as it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference. Today, I received a tip that was so shocking as to be unbelievable. But I’ve lived here long enough to know that “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” is a long-standing way of life in some circles, so it’s not quite as unbelievable as it first seemed, I suppose.
Every year, the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce holds an awards gala where they name, among other things, a Company of the Year. According to my information, this year, on June 18, the Chamber will bestow that previously prestigious award to none other than Chesapeake Publishing. You know, the people who put out the Cecil Whig, among other things. Certainly, the Whig does a fair job publicizing things around here in its varied publications and special sections, but Company of the Year? Exactly how many people did they lay off in 2009? And, as I’m sure you know by now, they recently started the process of shuttering the printing facility at the Whig office in Elkton, a process that effectively began with a big round of layoffs during fiscal year 2009, taking all of that commercial printing work and more than a few jobs, out of the County.
It seems to me that there used to be some criteria for the award, little things like being a growing company and actually bringing jobs into the County. Apparently, if this selection is indeed true, those criteria must have changed. A brief glimpse at the most recent Chamber newsletter on their website shows, listed highly amongst the group’s Board of Directors, an employee from (you guessed it) Chesapeake Publishing. I guess there’s no conflict of interest rules for the award, either. It would be interesting to know if this individual abstained from the selection process, or, in fact, lobbied for it. Either way, from the outside, it looks a bit unseemly for an organization dedicated to promoting business and growth in Cecil County to give its top award to a company who also happens to have an employee as a high-ranking member of their Board of Directors. Especially considering said company has engaged in a nearly two-year stream of layoffs and cutbacks after being bought out by a company from way, way outside of the County.
Of course, it could be that the economy is just so bad in Cecil County that having only a hundred or so layoffs in a year could qualify you as Company of the Year, but I’m not even that pessimistic. I, for one, would certainly appreciate an explanation for this decision, as would, I’m sure, any of the 500 or so dues-paying member businesses of the group. As always, if anyone from the Chamber would like to explain, you have an open forum here. Please.