What Lessons Can Baltimore’s Prior Economic Inclusion Efforts Offer Us?

 

Economic inclusion efforts in Baltimore have been occurring in the Baltimore area for decades, although they have grown substantially in both number and scope in recent years. These efforts offer a wealth of insights into common challenges and successful approaches for addressing them. To inform future efforts, both in Baltimore and elsewhere, this chapter (below is chapter 4 of Collectively We Rise: The Business Case for Economic Inclusion in Baltimore) highlights some of the key lessons from these prior efforts. It does this by first describing common challenges and then presenting strategies that Baltimore businesses and anchor institutions have utilized to overcome them.

CHALLENGE: To get a business or anchor institution to be fully committed to economic inclusion efforts, it is often necessary to change the internal institutional culture

Full Report and Appendices

According to Ashley Valis, Executive Director for Community Initiatives and Engagement at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, a business or anchor institution needs to “understand the value of using [one’s] hiring and buying power to promote the greater good … and also needs to understand how to achieve economic inclusion while also paying attention to the bottom line.” The business and anchor institution representatives interviewed for this report identified three strategies for promoting a necessary cultural shift within their organizations.

Provide education on structural racism and equity:

Businesses and anchors emphasized the importance of educating those within their organizations about implicit bias and how the status quo contributes to structural barriers and discrimination. Anchor institutions, including Loyola University Maryland, MICA, Notre Dame of Maryland University, and Towson University, have brought in consultants to hold formal training sessions on structural racism and implicit bias for their staff, particularly for purchasing managers and Human Resources and other staff who are making hiring decisions.

Individuals attending such trainings generally believe they do not act in an intentionally discriminatory manner. However, the training sessions demonstrate how individuals’ unconscious biases, and institutions’ historic practices, can nonetheless result in discriminatory outcomes. BIP also hired a consultant who assessed the procurement protocols and hiring procedures of the individual anchor institutions to identify specific features of those processes that may create barriers to opportunity for local and minority-owned businesses and residents.  Representatives of those anchors commented on the value of that information as a catalyst in “changing the lens” that the institutions’ staff applied to their activities and in creating the moral imperative for the economic inclusion efforts.

Ensure leadership’s commitment for economic inclusion efforts:

Interviews made clear that economic inclusion efforts require the explicit and continuing commitment of the leadership of the business or anchor institution. Accordingly, organizational leaders need to be visibly and actively engaged in promoting and monitoring those efforts to reinforce their importance. Calvin Butler of BGE explained: “These sorts of efforts have to be led from the top. I’m directly involved [in the Focus 25/Focus Forward economic inclusion initiative], and the vice-presidents know I’m measuring results by department—I know who is contributing to the results … The initiative is run [on a day-to-day basis] by BGE’s Office of Business Empowerment and my Chief of Staff because we want the team to know that I’m ‘eyes on.’”

Baltimore-area business and anchor institution leaders have communicated their commitment to community engagement and economic inclusion efforts in a variety of ways. For example, President Kim Schatzel of Towson University articulated eight priorities for strengthening Towson University over the next three to five years. Prominently featured as one of the eight is BTU: Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore. BTU (which stands for Baltimore-Towson University) is a community engagement framework to enhance and strengthen the university’s partnerships in Greater Baltimore through coordinating resources, data sharing, determining impacts and outcomes, and rewarding those doing the work.

MICA has had a commitment to community engagement for 20 years. However, when Samuel Hoi became president in July 2014, he believed it was crucial for the college to do more and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in all facets of the college’s operations. President Hoi views those actions as central to MICA’s ability to be a diverse, global leader in design and arts education and a responsible member of the larger Baltimore community. In 2015, President Hoi established a Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Globalization (DEIG) to study the issues and led a two-year strategic planning process that sought input from a wide range of college and community stakeholders.

Tanya Edelin, Director, Community Health Strategy at Kaiser Permanente, also emphasized the need for both institutional leadership and organization-wide accountability relative to any economic inclusion activities: “The path for introducing the concept [of economic inclusion] starts at the top with the president and chief purchasing officers. But the commitment has to cascade down the ranks, [because] if leadership is engaged but not [people] below that level, the effort is not going anywhere. You need continuing [institutional] commitment to do that hard work, and [for everyone] to be held accountable.”

Even with leadership’s commitment, moving the economic inclusion work forward requires a thoughtful approach by a business or anchor institution. According to Kurt Sommer, BIP Director, leaders of a business or anchor institution should consider beginning the economic inclusion work by focusing on one facet of the organization’s operations, piloting a strategy, and then building out from there based on the experience with the initial efforts.

Based on the experience of the business representatives interviewed for this report, it is also important for leaders of a business or anchor institutions to create an ongoing dialogue with employees that encourages their efforts to change their business processes to foster economic inclusion. Leaders need to recognize that the economic inclusion strategies may not initially work out as intended and may require rounds of refinements to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Because there may be some initial setbacks, leaders of a business or anchor institution need to work with its employees and partners in the economic inclusion activities to manage expectations. It is crucial to avoid a situation where if something initially goes wrong, the individuals involved become discouraged and walk away from future efforts. It is also essential to celebrate when there are successes and innovations and recognize the efforts of the business’s employees and partners.

Establish explicit performance measures:

The business representatives also indicated that the establishment of concrete performance measures and targets for the economic inclusion activities was key for creating focus and accountability. As the old adage says, “what gets measured, gets done.” The business representatives also cautioned that it was important to have active monitoring of those measures. That means assessing progress on a frequent basis—quarterly if not more frequently—rather than just at the end of each year.

Several businesses reported that when they began their economic inclusion efforts, they lacked the necessary data infrastructure for tracking results. For example, several of the anchor institutions indicated that they had decentralized procurement systems, so it was difficult to know what was being purchased by the institution’s various departments from different vendors. It therefore became pivotal to those anchors’ economic inclusion efforts to develop thedata capacity to be able to determine on an institution-wide basis which contractors and suppliers were MBEs, WBEs, and/or local firms, and how much (and what types of) goods and services were being procured through those firms. Similarly, for their economic inclusion efforts, the businesses needed the ability to track which new hires were Baltimore residents (and, in some cases, residents from particular neighborhoods). Although developing those data capacities took time and effort, the institutions understood them to be vital.

CHALLENGE: Community engagement and input are crucial elements of any economic inclusion activities. However, many businesses don’t know how to engage with the community or worry about unrealistic expectations.

When asked about recommendations for addressing this challenge, the interviewed businesses suggested the following:

Find community partners to facilitate the engagement process:

Community engagement has been an indispensable factor in Baltimore’s economic inclusion activities, according to businesses and anchors interviewed.

Because resources for economic inclusion activities are inevitably limited, it is essential that they be focused on strategies and services that will have the most impact. The businesses and anchor representatives interviewed readily admitted that, no matter how well-intentioned they are, they cannot understand the challenges as well as the affected neighborhoods and residents do. The best way to determine the right approach is to consult the affected community stakeholders. According to George Kleb of Bon Secours: “We need to understand the barriers which people face in Baltimore’s neighborhoods, and [outsiders] cannot presume to fully understand the issues. [Consequently] there’s no substitute for direct communications with the community, and particularly segments [of the community] that are typically underrepresented, in developing solutions …”

Tanya Edelin of Kaiser Permanente offered advice on finding facilitators to assist in the community engagement process: “Some people [in businesses and/or anchor institutions] may be hesitant to engage directly with the community, because of fears that the conversations will derail. But the process can be managed through having a good facilitator. The [facilitator] has to be a community champion, who is focused on the greater good for the community—somebody who is trusted and who has influence in the community.”

For those concerned about the dynamics of community engagement, Dr. S. Todd Yeary, who is Senior Pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church and has been active in advocating for community benefits agreements for recent development projects, described a more collaborative process that he and other community advocates have tried to follow in their discussions with developers and the private sector.

Dr. Yeary acknowledges that, in the past, developers may have felt “put upon” by what they viewed as unreasonable demands from advocates, while for their part, the advocates felt the community’s needs were often being ignored. These conflicting perspectives created an unproductive dynamic in the discussions between the various parties. However, in more recent conversations, Dr. Yeary indicates that he and the faith-based community advocates with whom he has worked have tried to “find the place of ‘overlap’ where everybody involved in the conversations [i.e., the developer, the community representatives, and the public officials] all feel they are making a positive contribution
to the development project and the community.” In these conversations around economic inclusion and community benefits, the emphasis is on encouraging flexibility among the parties to “meet in the middle,” find a “win-win” situation, and through that process, reach agreement on economic inclusion and community benefits activities that “raises all the boats.”

The types of community partners or other intermediaries to be engaged will depend on the economic inclusion efforts being pursued and the populations they target. In the case of a broader neighborhood revitalization initiative, for example, the effort should involve a wide range of community partners, including local elected officials, other recognized community leaders, resident and local business associations, faith-based groups, local service providers, and other community-based organizations. Similarly, a variety of community engagement approaches may be appropriate, including public meetings, community advisory groups, surveys and focus groups, as well as community representatives on any governance board established for the initiative.

If an economic inclusion effort is more narrowly focused, a more narrow set of community partners may be relevant. For example, with a focus on local hiring, the BIP has encouraged its participating anchors institutions and other businesses to build partnerships with Baltimore’s strong nonprofit workforce development providers. These workforce providers can collaborate in recruiting local residents, providing hard and soft skills training for individuals if necessary, and offering ongoing mentoring and coaching to promote job retention.

CHALLENGE: Most anchor institutions and businesses have concerns they lack the staffing to undertake economic inclusion activities.

Suggestions for addressing this issue include:

Recognize that a lot can be accomplished with limited resources:

The experiences of the Baltimore businesses and anchors institutions involved in economic inclusion activities have demonstrated that a motivated organization can accomplish much with existing resources. Pursuing these activities relies less on additional staffing and more on the commitment and energy an organization generates. In a few cases, the businesses or anchor institutions have added a staff position (generally focused on overseeing centralized procurement). But for the most part, the Baltimore businesses and anchor institutions have carried out their economic inclusion activities to date with their pre-existing staff levels. They have done this, in part, by re-orienting their procurement and hiring managers to incorporate additional factors relative to economic inclusion into their processes. This approach is consistent with the idea that such considerations are part of the business’s model for achieving overall success and therefore should be viewed as a core business function.

Some business representatives noted that economic inclusion activities can eventually make an organization more efficient or reduce costs. For example, if a business’s employees reflect the local community, the business may be able to attract more customers or provide better customer services or patient care. The business representatives pointed out that they generally don’t undertake these economic inclusion activities all on their own. Instead, they leverage relationships with other organizations to avoid duplication and increase the efficiency of their efforts, an approach which leads to our next recommendation.

Engage in partnerships and collaborative efforts:

Baltimore’s businesses and anchor institutions have found they can increase their impact with limited resources by collaborating with others or as a member in a larger partnership. Such collaborative efforts allow businesses and anchor institutions to learn from their peers about what has worked for others. For example, Neil M. Meltzer of LifeBridge Health commented: “Working with the Baltimore Integration Partnership provides us the guidance and peer interaction that helps us to build both our hiring and procurement processes. We are grateful to our colleagues and to the Partnership’s sponsors for investing in [Baltimore] this way.”

Likewise, Mike Molla of MICA commented on the value the interactions among BIP’s partners: “The [economic inclusion] work of others informs our work and moves it forward—although we may have to adapt their approaches to fit our own institution. The information that we gain through the collaboration also validates that our struggles at MICA are not dissimilar … and what we learn from others helps us to set better aspirations.”

Collaborations also promote reflective learning and collective brainstorming about new ideas and innovative practices. The coordination among organizations that occurs in a consortium or larger partnership also helps to ensure that collective resources are used efficiently, which increases their effectiveness and the scale which can be achieved. Working in a consortium or partnership can also permit a business or anchor institution to engage in key activities—such as supporting efforts to mentor start-ups or minority-owned firms—that it would not have the resources to do in a meaningful way on its own. Collaborations are also frequently able to attract supplementary resources for the economic inclusion activities, such as grants or consultant assistance.

CHALLENGE: Businesses report that they experience difficulties in finding qualified local firms and/or minority-owned businesses to provide goods and services.

Some businesses report that they are not sure where to go to identify qualified local and/or minority-owned firms, or how to find out what the specific capacities and track record of those firms are. The latter information is crucial because, in the absence of reliable data on a potential vendor’s capacity, a business may be reluctant to assume the risks associated with using an untested firm as a supplier of goods or services. Other businesses say that there are not necessarily local vendors for the specific goods and services that the businesses need. This observation was repeatedly made by representatives of Baltimore healthcare providers and research facilities, which require specialized equipment.

Based on their experiences, the Baltimore business and anchors involved in economic inclusion efforts offered suggestions for addressing the challenge of finding qualified local and minority-owned vendors:

Connect with entities that can identify, and ideally vet, local and/or MBE/WBE firms:

Both the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland maintain lists of certified MBEs and WBEs. A number of the businesses interviewed for this report indicated that they have had good experiences in securing reliable vendors and subcontractors directly from those lists.

However, some business entities seeking local or minority vendors may want additional assistance and assurances in finding qualified firms. In such cases, one way to do this is to find an entity that has relationships with groups of firms that might meet the business’s or anchor institution’s procurement requirements. In its Focus 25 initiative, for example, BGE partnered with the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors Association to identify diverse suppliers. Another example is the collaboration between City Seeds/School of Food and a group of Baltimore anchor institutions, in which the former has assisted the latter in finding local food vendors (small businesses, start-ups, MBEs) with whom the anchors could locally source some of their food services purchases. In addition, the BIP has assembled a list of intermediaries who can assist businesses and anchors in identifying local firms and MBEs/ WBEs that provide the goods and services being sought.

Work collaboratively with partners to build the capacity of small local firms and MBEs/WBEs:

Research has shown that small businesses are the leading source of new job creation and jobs for local residents. Such companies, as well as MBEs and WBEs, also have a strong track record of providing jobs and advancement opportunities for persons of color and women. Therefore, it is logical that building the capacity of local small businesses and MBEs/WBEs should be a priority of any economic inclusion efforts in Baltimore.

But as we’ve already noted, Baltimore businesses and anchor institutions may feel that, individually, they lack the resources necessary for mentoring a small business or an MBE/WBE, or at least more than one or two such companies. However, the anchor institutions and other Baltimore businesses have found that by taking a collaborative approach to this task, they can assist more small firms and MBEs/WBEs in building their respective businesses.

The text box below identifies several small business development initiatives that Baltimore’s anchor institutions have recently helped to launch.

Recent Small Business Development Initiatives Supported by Anchor Institutions
In addition to increasing their local and minority business purchasing, Baltimore anchor institutions have worked to significantly boost the capacity of small and minority-owned businesses. Over the last four years, six new business development initiatives have been launched that are expected to serve over 130 businesses in 2018. They include:

    1. • Local Food Connections (UMB/UMMC—2015): Supports the economy of neighboring communities in West Baltimore through institutional food purchasing from local businesses.
      • School of Food (Humanim with BIP Anchor Institutions— 2016): Includes a year-long educational curriculum and classes for food and beverage entrepreneurs.
      • BLocal’s BUILD College (BLocal Initiative, with Johns Hopkins and others—2016): Provides training and mentoring for businesses in the design and construction industries.
      • Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses (with Johns Hopkins/Morgan State and Community College of Baltimore County—2017): Helps local entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital, and business support services.
      • Baltimore Creative Acceleration Network (MICA—2017): Provides strategic and entrepreneurship support for creative businesses of all disciplines and backgrounds.
      • Inner City Capital Connections (with Kaiser Permanente—2018): Helps small businesses in economically distressed areas build capacity for sustainable growth in revenue, profitability, and employment.

    In addition to these initiatives, Morgan State University, the University of Baltimore, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Towson State University, Loyola University Maryland, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Coppin State University, and Johns Hopkins University also all play ongoing roles in supporting entrepreneurship, business accelerators, and/or expanding small business lending resources.

Encourage suppliers and businesses from outside of the region to establish a local facility:

Because of the level of effort and time involved in nurturing a start-up or a small firm, a business or anchor institution may be reluctant to use that approach to create a local source to meet procurement needs. However, if the Baltimore business or anchor institution is already securing goods or services from a supplier from outside the region, it could encourage the outside supplier to establish a facility in Baltimore.

Convincing an outside supplier of goods or services that were previously unavailable in Baltimore to establish a local facility could potentially provide many benefits to the economy of the area, including jobs, expanded local purchasing, and real estate development. Relative to such efforts, Ken Grant of JHHS described some of Johns Hopkins’ work to attract firms from outside the region to locate in the city: “… Right now we’re trying to convince small, women-owned, and minority firms to come to Baltimore—we tell them that ‘we can direct a volume of work to you if you come to the city.’ We’re city-focused, [and looking to] create jobs through minority-owned firms, but the outside firms [which we’re appealing to] need a level of assurance that the business would be here if they came. Therefore, we’re crafting efforts around that premise—so [the businesses that come to Baltimore] will be successful.”

Require one’s existing vendors and contractors to pursue economic inclusion activities:

Baltimore businesses and anchor institutions can apply economic inclusion standards more broadly to their vendors, including those located in the region. As part of its procurement processes, the Baltimore business or anchor institution can ask prospective vendors to take steps, to the extent feasible, to hire local residents, to source locally and/or through MBEs/WBEs when possible, and to mentor local small businesses and MBEs/WBEs. The business or anchor will get the goods and services it desires, and in the process, will also help to strengthen and grow the network of local and MBEs/WBE firms and local job opportunities. For anchor institutions, encouraging larger vendors to partner or subcontract with smaller local firms or MBEs can help ensure that smaller businesses can participate in the anchor institution’s procurements, since the anchor’s volume requirements may be such that a smaller company cannot satisfy them on its own.

Several of the business representatives interviewed for this report mentioned activities in which they were requiring their vendors or contractors from outside Baltimore to engage in economic inclusion efforts to benefit local firms and job seekers. For example, Alicia Wilson described some of Sagamore Development’s efforts: “No local firm could perform a very technical scope of work that we needed for an aspect of our project—so as part of pre-engagement, we asked outside firms [interested in bidding on the work] whether they would be willing to mentor and/or partner with a local firm. The reality was that the firm that was eventually selected was happy to assist. We’re looking to scale up this approach in other projects.”

In addition, at the time this report was being prepared, Johns Hopkins was in the process of working with two dozen non-local suppliers to create explicit plans for how those suppliers will hire, procure, or invest in Baltimore City over a three-year period.

CHALLENGE: Baltimore businesses report difficulties in finding qualified local labor.

This issue largely relates to employers’ ability to find job candidates with the skills they seek—both hard and soft skills. Some businesses also have problems with employee retention—that is, the willingness (or ability) of workers to stick with a job. The business and anchor institution representatives who were consulted on these topics suggested a variety of strategies:

Partner with community-based organizations (CBOs) and workforce development providers:

To paraphrase how one business owner framed the issue of finding qualified labor: “There’s talent in every zip code— the difficulty is in finding that talent.” One approach is to develop partnerships with CBOs and workforce development service providers that can both identify and help prepare local residents for job openings. Depending on the workforce development provider or CBO, they may also be able to offer ongoing supports and wrap-around services to the local residents placed in jobs, which can be crucial in promoting job retention and advancement.

Dana Farrakhan described how UMMC works with CBOs in recruiting and supporting local job applicants: “[The Medical Center] does outreach through local workforce development partners … we cultivate those relationships to create a steady pipeline for job-ready candidates. Our community partners team up with our in-house Workforce and Community Coordinators to shepherd candidates through the job application and on-boarding process at UMMC. The Workforce and Community Coordinators also serve as coaches to the new hires from the community during their first year. And we also provide tuition reimbursement funding for ongoing education and career development after the employee’s first year.”

Similarly, Southway Builders gets a considerable number of its local job candidates through its partnerships with Baltimore workforce training providers like JumpStart, which offers a 14-week construction training program. In addition to providing entry-level construction jobs for the qualified candidates referred from JumpStart, Southway also encourages its subcontractors to consider those individuals for more permanent positions. Willy Moore of Southway Builders outlined the process: “We hire JumpStart candidates for construction laborer positions on our jobsites … At every one of our [project sites], we hold weekly meetings with all of the subcontractors… Ideally, we hope those subs who are looking for more employees will hire those JumpStart candidates. We suggest they observe the workers, and if the subcontractors like the work ethic of an individual [from JumpStart], then we encourage them to hire that laborer. Those subs who are looking to hire new people are always appreciative of having the opportunity to gauge someone’s performance prior to making them an offer and bringing them into their fold.

Regarding formerly incarcerated individuals seeking employment, the assurances a community program or a previous employer can offer can be especially important.  According to Gregory Carpenter of 2AM Bakery: “Employers are understandably reluctant to take risks, but when they see someone else [i.e., another employer] has taken the chance and made an investment in a person, they’re more likely to do likewise. We have been able to direct dependable, dedicated, and determined workers [who were previously incarcerated] to other employers, based on those workers’ experience at 2AM Bakery.”

Review job requirements and recruitment and application procedures to remove unnecessary barriers:

The representatives of businesses and anchor institutions who were interviewed noted that many qualified candidates from the local community may not be coming forward because they are unaware of position openings. They also recognize that local residents may not be applying for the available positions due unnecessarily stringent job qualifications or because the business’s application procedures create unintentional barriers.

Relative to hiring local job candidates, the business representatives emphasized that it is not a matter of hiring unqualified individuals, but one of removing barriers that prevent otherwise qualified individuals from applying and competing for a position. For example, Jennifer Stano, the Employment, Classification, and Compensation Manager at Towson University, noted that: “Many local residents are qualified [for the university’s available positions], but do not have it reflected in their application or resume. At Towson University, our outreach includes working with Baltimore residents on ways to tailor their resumes to reflect the value they bring to the job and to our organization.”

Businesses and anchor institution described a variety of actions taken to make it easier for local residents to seek employment with them. For instance, noting that many Baltimore residents may not have access to a computer but do have smart phones, some businesses have taken steps to ensure their online application processes are smart phone-accessible. Some of the anchor institutions are revisiting the qualifications for their entry-level positions, and at least one institution is considering shifting from academic requirements to competency-based qualifications for those positions. Several anchor institutions, including UMMC, Towson University, and Loyola University Maryland, have also created positions specifically targeted to local job candidates.

The experiences of the Baltimore businesses and anchors institutions involved in economic inclusion activities have demonstrated that a motivated organization can accomplish much with existing resources. Pursuing these activities relies less on additional staffing and more on the commitment and energy an organization generates. In a few cases, the businesses or anchor institutions have added a staff position (generally focused on overseeing centralized procurement). But for the most part, the Baltimore businesses and anchor institutions have carried out their economic inclusion activities to date with their pre-existing staff levels. They have done this, in part, by re-orienting their procurement and hiring managers to incorporate additional factors relative to economic inclusion into their processes. This approach is consistent with the idea that such considerations are part of the business’s model for achieving overall success and therefore should be viewed as a core business function.

Invest in entry-level workers:

The vast majority of money spent on the training of workers is provided by the business community itself. However, those monies tend to be spent on higher-skilled or more senior level incumbent employees. To a great extent, employers look to the public sector—to the public school system and publicly funded workforce development training programs—to provide training that prepares individuals for entry-level positions. Yet employers often express dissatisfaction with the availability, coordination, or adequacy of that training.

According to business and community stakeholders, if employers want better and more coordinated workforce development services for entry-level workers, they “need to have more skin in the game,” in terms of involvement in designing and financing the training efforts. Also, to create incentives for residents to participate in those training programs, employers need to provide some assurances to the graduates of those training programs. This means at a minimum the opportunity for an interview, if not priority consideration for selected job openings.

Provide explicit career pathways and advancement opportunities for entry-level employees:

Although motivated to find good workers, some Baltimore employers still may be failing to provide incentives to attract and retain workers. In addition to offering decent starting wages and benefits, employers can create clear pathways through which their entry-level employees can advance.

Jeremiah Jones, whose firm SewLab USA offers its employees an opportunity to work on developing their own spin-off businesses, offered thoughts on this approach: “In the meeting I just left—I was talking to a uniform manufacturer—talking to the floor manager and getting a feel for the business’s hiring [efforts] and what they’re looking for, to find out whether my students [from SewLab’s associated training program] would be a good fit. The manufacturer is having a hard time finding young people who want to come and commit to a job. They’re desperate for help, but not finding people who want to be there … But for most young people it cannot be just a job, the employers have to put a ‘carrot’ out there. I feel everyone in [SewLab’s training program] has an entrepreneurial pathway in mind, so with this uniform company, I will strike up a conversation about one of our students, and say, ‘if you like her, offer her a contract that says if she commits to a three-year contract, in return you’ll give her access to your equipment on her own time’ [to develop her own sewn products].”

ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES: It is important to acknowledge some challenges have not yet been overcome by economic inclusion efforts in the Baltimore area. These include:

Continuing transportation barriers:

A large percentage of the employment opportunities in the region are in the suburbs, and this will continue to be true in the future. For example, data provided by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s finds that 83.4% of jobs over the next 10 years in the Baltimore region will be created in the suburbs.

With limited public transportation options, however, job seekers from Baltimore City (particularly those who do not have access to a reliable car) experience serious barriers pursuing employment options outside of the city.

As shown in the chart below, Baltimore City’s low-income African-American population is much more dependent on public transportation to get to work than their white counterparts. Fully 34% of low-income Baltimore City African-American residents take the bus to work compared to just 10% of white residents.Finding ways to address and remove transportation barriers that prevent Baltimore City residents from accessing wider employment opportunities is a key element of efforts in the region to promote greater economic inclusion. To date, however, no consensus has been reached on the best approach for addressing the transportation barriers.

The difficulty of taking promising practices to scale:

The Baltimore region has a historic problem with scaling-up effective demonstration programs. The funders and other stakeholders in the region have a strong track record of launching pilot efforts that test innovative practices. But even if the preliminary results from these demonstrations are positive, once initial funding for these efforts ends, the efforts often struggle to find entities willing to come forward and sustain the new practices over time and expand them.

A lack of visibility and coordination of economic inclusion efforts: There are a wide range of economic inclusion activities and initiatives occurring in the region. Some of the business sector stakeholders interviewed for this report, however, feel that these efforts remain somewhat isolated and are not being effectively communicated to the public. In their view, this results in reduced impact.

This report is one step in providing more visibility to the Baltimore economic inclusion efforts taking place. It’s important to emphasize that a key focus of the BIP from its inception has been the promotion of coordination and collaboration among participating institutions and organizations in their economic inclusion activities. However, BIP’s stakeholders recognize that more still needs to be done to establish mechanisms to promote greater coordination among the array of economic inclusion initiatives underway.

A lack of visibility and coordination of economic inclusion efforts:

There are a wide range of economic inclusion activities and initiatives occurring in the region. Some of the business sector stakeholders interviewed for this report, however, feel that these efforts remain somewhat isolated and are not being effectively communicated to the public. In their view, this results in reduced impact.

This report is one step in providing more visibility to the Baltimore economic inclusion efforts taking place. It’s important to emphasize that a key focus of the BIP from its inception has been the promotion of coordination and collaboration among participating institutions and organizations in their economic inclusion activities. However, BIP’s stakeholders recognize that more still needs to be done to establish mechanisms to promote greater coordination among the array of economic inclusion initiatives underway.

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The section above is from “Chapter 4: What Lessons Can Baltimore’s Prior Economic Inclusion Efforts Offer Us?” of Collectively We Rise: The Business Case for Economic Inclusion in Baltimore.  The full report incorporates any necessary sources and footnotes.

bipabagWhat Lessons Can Baltimore’s Prior Economic Inclusion Efforts Offer Us?