Baltimore City has a comprehensive economic development strategy, and leaders are seeking feedback before it goes into final form.
The plan, called “Baltimore Together: A Platform for Inclusive Prosperity,” is open until Sept. 30 for public comment.
Helmed by the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), which is the City’s economic development agency, the plan counts creating an equitable economy and building an innovation ecosystem among its main objectives for the economy.
Like many government documents, there’s a technical process behind how this plan came to be. This particular flavor of report is called the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. It’s a plan that’s completed every five years for the U.S. Economic Development Administration to serve as a guide as the City seeks federal grants and other funding.
But the approach has been updated in recent years, BDC CEO Colin Tabert told Technical.ly. For one, the plan is being completed by BDC instead of the City planning department, as it was seven years ago.
When Tarbert took the helm of BDC two years ago, he wanted to open it up the process to partners around the city. So BDC formed over a dozen working committees for specific categories of the report. It resulted in more than 30 meetings, plus more conversations in between.
For the first time, the report specifically centers work to fight systemic racism, as well as equity in the economy, Tarbert said.
“I’m really viewing this as creating a coalition of people who care about Baltimore’s economic future in a way of wanting to drive more equity and inclusion in our economy,” Tarbert said. “It’s going to be this living, breathing thing that will continue over the next five years and evolve.”
On the whole, the document serves as a summary of what’s happening in Baltimore’s economy now. That involves a look at what needs improvement. It discusses the city’s economic disparities, and how job growth and economic development have been oriented around bigger companies, rather than small businesses.
A big part of that is entrepreneurship. The report also contains profiles of 24 people working on efforts at the intersection of innovation and social impact.
Moving forward won’t be just about starting new stuff, but the dynamics that help the community bring them to fruition. So the plan also offers goals that will be key for bringing the plan to fruition. Those are:
- Work together. Entities working in the city too often work separately, the plan states, so it wants to foster more collaboration
- Invest in people and places. This means creating new opportunities for wealth building and mobility in BIPOC communities.The tech workforce coalition Baltimore Tracks and startup R3 Score are specifically mentioned as examples.
- Build from strength. The plan calls for working toward “audacious goals” in areas where the city already has strengths. There are plenty of tech and innovation-based examples here. Social innovation is a particular area where the city has opportunity. Cancer diagnostics and cyber show particular industry leadership in life sciences and technology. And the city can be a welcoming home for BIPOC and immigrant entrepreneurs, the report states.
- Compete to succeed. When it comes to stacking up with other cities, the City must work on challenges like lowering taxes and fees, growing population, increasing broadband access and digital equity.
The idea is that it’s an umbrella plan over all of the economic development happening in the city. While it includes tech and innovation — which have their own umbrella groups — the report also goes broader on economic development strategy. Being organized by BDC allows the report to be an umbrella, and for the city to be a convener, and connect across the different groups.
After the report is finalized, the next step, Tarbert said, is to take action.
“This plan is not a BDC plan. This plan is the city’s plan, meaning all of us,” Tarbert said. “Our hope and our goal to make this successful is that we’ll find people or organizations that want to take on some of the action items.”