By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
Baltimore native Arnold Williams, managing director and founding partner of Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams Public Accounting (PA), on Monday received the Citizen Leadership Award from the International Economic Development Council.
The award honors a community or business leader who plays a key role in the economic development of an area although they are not an economic development practitioner, and Williams won for his contribution to the economic development of Baltimore.
“I was stunned, and I have to say I was impressed,” said Williams. “This is an international award, the membership is over 5,000 members, and then to be selected as the one to receive the award for me was just overwhelming.”
Raised in the Oliver neighborhood, Williams began his accounting career in 1972 after graduating from the University of Baltimore with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Throughout college, Williams had worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital in its medical records department, and after graduation, he saw a job posting searching for a junior accountant.
Securing the position led him to venture into hospital accounting and in 1975, Williams became a certified public accountant.
Williams considered hospital accounting to be unique from other accounting areas. He was responsible for demonstrating all of the hospital’s expenses, which is critical to passing routing audits, as well as those from insurance companies and healthcare regulators.
“For me, more than numbers, I got more intrigued by knowing how a hospital could make a difference within a community,” said Williams. “They did not always do that, but they could change the health disparities in a community.”
Williams continued his career in hospital accounting, working with an auditing company and the State of Maryland. Then, in 1983, he along with three other Black accountants established Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams PA.
At the time, Williams said Black accountants comprised a fraction of the overall industry. He believed there was a need for an accounting firm that would focus on quality and excellence while also hiring and promoting more Black accountants.
Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams PA is a full-service accounting firm, providing accounting, auditing, tax and business consulting services. With nearly 40 years in business, Williams said he thinks it’s the firm’s focus on quality advice that has led to its success.
Outside of his accounting career, Williams has always been committed to supporting nonprofit organizations in Maryland. He started by volunteering his time with the United Way of Central Maryland and the Boy Scouts of America.
But, his service for the Association of Black Charities (ABC) is what led him to pursue nonprofit organizations and positions that further the economic development of Baltimore.
He was appointed by former Mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke to the board of directors for the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), the city’s premier economic development organization, and from 2002 to 2018 he served as chairman of the board.
BDC nominated Williams for the Citizen Leadership Award.
“Arnold Williams has dedicated his career to serving the economic development community in the City of Baltimore, including more than 25 years as a member of the Baltimore Development Corporation’s board of directors, serving as BDC’s chairman for 16 of those years,” said Colin Tarbert, president and CEO of BDC. “His outstanding leadership and guidance have led to the development of numerous vital projects in the city and his work continues to fuel small business growth. Arnold Williams has been a tremendous asset to BDC’s mission and to Baltimore City’s ongoing progression.”
Aside from his work with BDC, Williams also chaired the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund (NIIF), which is dedicated to delivering capital and promoting inclusive, equitable growth in Baltimore’s historically disinvested neighborhoods, and he currently serves as the chair to Maryland Health and Higher Education Facilities Authority.
Williams said his passion for service was in part engendered by his mother, who often brought him along to community meetings. One of his early mentors, James Mclean, also told him that in order to make a difference, he needed to be at the table where decisions are being made.
He said he does not say yes to every board position he’s offered, but if he believes he can effect change, he accepts.
“I am really simple in that my goal is always to help someone else,” said Williams. “If I can help a community, an organization or an individual, that’s my overall goal.”
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