Barry Finds an Audience

In Prince George's County

In the District, many in the business establishment have long been unhappy with Marion Barry. Many executives blame him for the District's financial troubles in the mid-1990s and were none too pleased with his return to local politics. Business leaders donated heavily to his opponent, Sandy Allen, in Barry's successful race to represent Ward 8 on the D.C. Council starting in January.

Barry has particularly angered the corporate set with his staunch opposition to public financing of a baseball stadium. In September, he said of the proposal: "Over my dead body. I don't believe we should spend one cent of taxpayer money on a stadium."

It would appear that Barry is more popular in business circles across the District line, though.

Three Prince George's business groups invited Barry to serve as featured speaker for the first annual DuBois Business Summit. The summit, named after NAACP co-founder W.E.B. DuBois, is themed "Survival and Success."

If anyone understands survival and success, conference chairman Josh Smith says, it's the man who came back from a drug conviction and six months in prison to be elected mayor.

"If you are in business, you have had your ups and downs," said Smith, who manages a business development company. "Knowledge of what not to do is so important. I want to hear the good and the bad from [Barry]. He is someone who has been on both sides of the mountain."

The Prince George's Minority Business Opportunity Commission, the Maryland/DC Suppliers Council and the Prince George's Black Chamber of Commerce helped plan the conference, to be held Thursday at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt.

"We were elated when the mayor agreed to speak," said Hubert "Petey" Green, president of the Black Chamber. "When he was mayor of D.C., he created an environment where if you had vision then you could have opportunity. A lot of people . . . got work. They got business opportunities, and there was excitement in the air. We need to have the same kind of excitement in our business community in Prince George's County."

-- Krissah Williams and Neil Irwin

Marion Berry has a message, organizers say.