After a presence in Annapolis of nearly four decades, the annual PACE reception seems to carry as much vitality today as it did when it was created.
In fact, the 2013 PACE, held last month, was the largest in the last eight years, with more than 500 people attending, according to Bob Smith, co-chairman of the event. More importantly, those attending included 130 Maryland General Assembly members or their representatives as well as some federal officials.
The PACE acronym stands for Positive Attitudes Change Everything and was selected in the 1970s to highlight the many positives of our region. It also was created to lobby those in power in Annapolis for help on local projects and needs. The first several years focused on completion of the “missing link” between Cumberland and Hancock on what was then U.S. Route 48. The road was completed several years after the first PACE, enabling designation of the highway as an Interstate, I-68.
The 2013 version included a number of talking points, including the North/South highway, an energy corridor and support for Allegany College of Maryland, Frostburg State University and Garrett College. The proposed energy corridor would take advantage of the coal, natural gas, wind and water energy available in Western Maryland. Those resources could help Maryland become a leader in helping the U.S. gain energy independence, officials have said.
In recent years the Cumberland/Allegany County Industrial Foundation and the Garrett County Development Corp. have combined efforts and made the PACE reception a two-county event, followed by a breakfast the following morning. The breakfast has been a long-standing practice started by Garrett County as a followup to the PACE reception the previous evening.
Sixty-one corporate sponsors supported this year’s reception and breakfast and 26 displays — the most ever — greeted reception visitors.
The distance between Annapolis and Cumberland/Oakland doesn’t make it easy to personally lobby state lawmakers throughout the 90-day legislative session. PACE bridges that gap at the beginning of the session, enabling local officials to tell the Western Maryland story to legislators from all parts of the state.
It’s an effort that has often yielded leads on funding for local projects while at the same time allowing local leaders to make important contacts with state government and federal officials.