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Early Charm is expanding its Pigtown manufacturing operations

The investment and tech commercialization firm's move is backed by state and industry. Here's why CEO Ken Malone deems that support especially important for the manufacturing industry.

1300 Bayard St. in Baltimore, where Early Charm is expanding. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

Seed stage investment and tech commercialization firm Early Charm is expanding in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood.

The 1100 Wicomico-based firm’s new production shop will help it reach the goal of creating 115 new job opportunities within Baltimore by 2027. The forthcoming hub, focused on expanding manufacturing operations, will be situated within a sprawling 26,000-square-foot space at 1300 Bayard St.

“Baltimore’s incredible,” CEO Ken Malone told Technical.ly. “The core of what we do is we create sustainable businesses from the science that is created by universities here in Baltimore. And we believe that that science ought to turn into real jobs for people and manufacturing jobs are a really great way of creating equitable growth in the community. And we’re deeply committed to having it all happen here in Baltimore. It’s my home. I want to see the bigger, better, brighter place to live.”

This expansion follows the recent launch of the $1 million Maryland Manufacturing 4.0 program, an initiative Malone views as pivotal. This program from the Maryland Department of Commerce will dedicate grants to small and mid-sized manufacturers using Industry 4.0 technologies like Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and automation.

Man in glasses and black shirt smiles in front of grey room

Ken Malone. (Courtesy photo)

“The biggest challenge with anything manufacturing in the United States is the cost of capital,” Malone said. “In other words, the amount that it costs you to raise the money to buy the equipment for manufacturing is very high, meaning that the interest rates on loans or the venture capital or how are we raising that money is very high, relative to the incredibly high subsidies that exist in China for that same type of equipment.”

That’s where government funding programs, including the federal CHIPS and Science Act — launched in 2022 to help American manufacturers compete globally — can make “a really big, serious impact,” he said.

Malone also noted the evolving landscape of manufacturing.

“Maybe 20 years ago, we were competing with low cost of labor in China,” he said. “That’s just really not the case anymore. It’s really the fact that for the overwhelming majority of manufactured products, the cost isn’t in the labor, the cost is in the capital, the equipment to make it. There are businesses where the cost of labor is much much heavier than others, but the vast majority of manufactured products are capital intensive.”

Amanda Winters, assistant director in the state commerce department’s Office of Communications, underscored the collaborative efforts behind Early Charm’s expansion.

“Our organization and Baltimore Development Corporation have been working with Early Charm on its expansion plans for over a year,” she said. “Early Charm also participated in Commerce’s delegation to European Water Technology Week last year in the Netherlands.”

The support continues as the Maryland Department of Commerce offers the firm a $460,000 conditional loan via Advantage Maryland, and the Baltimore Development Corporation contributes a $100,000 conditional loan.

Companies: Early Charm Ventures

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