Business development is essential to a thriving community. This fact is too often ignored in political debates about how to revive Baltimore, and it’s time to recognize such efforts.
Despite population loss, a struggling school system, rising crime and a host of other issues plaguing the city, companies such as Under Armour, CSX and T. Rowe Price continue to invest in their community. Their resolve offers a dose of positivity and are examples that leaders and residents of the city should encourage others to follow.
In 2021, Under Armour announced that Port Covington would be the home of its global headquarters. The company began construction on the 50-acre site in December and is replacing the empty, blighted shopping center there with a state-of-the art sports facility and massive office complex. Along with bringing well-paying jobs to the area now known as Baltimore Peninsula, this investment will provide publicly accessible sports recreation areas to South Baltimore the likes of which the city has never seen.
And Under Armour is reaching beyond its development projects to help children throughout the city by partnering with Baltimore City Public Schools. The company has a six-year partnership with the district called Project Rampart, which aims to improve athletic facilities and provide resources to student athletes and coaches. Students are getting new uniforms. School gyms are being renovated. This kind of project can help to instill a sense of pride for students in a school district whose troubles are so often scrutinized.
Meanwhile, underground, CSX is providing $113 million toward a public-private partnership initiative focused on expanding the economically vital Howard Street Tunnel through Baltimore. The construction project alone is expected to generate 13,000 jobs, 7,300 of them permanent. But the real benefit to the community will come after the public-private effort is completed. The tunnel will allow significantly larger cargo loads to be transported out of the Port of Baltimore, making it more competitive. This project has already resulted in several shipping companies announcing plans to offer new service to Baltimore.
CSX’s existing Baltimore-based facility, the Curtis Bay Terminal, is already responsible for a huge portion of the city’s economy and tax base, with more than $335 million in total economic value coming to the state as a result of activity there. The Curtis Bay Coal Pier generates more than $3.3 billion in income for the more than 1,400 workers who have jobs either directly or indirectly dependent on the port. CSX also hosts days of service in the community and donates millions to local charitable projects. Most recently, the company donated $5 million to the B&O Railroad Museum, which will go toward building the CSX Bicentennial Garden amphitheater and multiuse space.
T. Rowe Price, one of the nation’s largest investment firms, is spending a yet-to-be-finalized sum to build a 550,000-square-foot headquarters at Harbor Point, which will mean more jobs.
During the past 10 years, the T. Rowe Price Foundation has awarded more than $20 million to local nonprofits that aim to improve education. It also helps to support small businesses in the city through its BLocal Business Mentoring program. The program provides no-interest loans to local entrepreneurs along with mentorship on marketing, technology, finance, communications and legal services.
These three examples represent the immense advantages that a thriving and growing business community can bring to a city. Their successes underscore the need for a greater focus in Baltimore on creating a positive business environment.
For further proof, look to Detroit. After decades of decline, the Rust Belt city has set itself as an example of how public-private partnerships can help a city turn around. Companies such as Quicken Loans and Capital Impact Partners, along with numerous others, have joined with city leaders to revive communities. Thankfully, the city is beginning to flourish again.
Baltimore has experienced a significant decline in recent years, facing numerous challenges that have caused thousands of residents to move away. To write a more positive next chapter in Baltimore’s future, a prosperous and engaged businesses sector will be essential.
Christopher B. Summers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.