Johns Hopkins among 25 businesses teaming up to expand economic opportunities in Baltimore

BLocal initiative will invest $69M in programs to build, hire, buy locally

Video: Len Turner and Dave Schmelick

Johns Hopkins and 24 other Baltimore-area businesses unveiled a sweeping plan today, pledging to harness their collective influence to help strengthen the city by creating more economic opportunities.

Group photo of speakers at BLocal event: From left: Ronald J. Daniels, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Bishop Douglas Miles, Diane Bell McKoy, Michael Cryor, Calvin J. Butler Jr, Ronald R. Peterson

Image caption: From left: Ronald J. Daniels, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Bishop Douglas Miles, Diane Bell McKoy, Michael Cryor, Calvin J. Butler Jr., and Ronald R. Peterson

Image credit: Jim Burger

With the launch of the BLocal initiative—announced this morning at a news conference at Zion Baptist Church in East Baltimore—the founding companies are pledging to expand existing programs or launch new ones to build, hire, invest, and buy locally. They will spend more on design and construction contracts with local and minority- and women-owned businesses, hire residents from Baltimore's most distressed communities, and spend more purchasing dollars with local vendors and women- and minority-owned businesses.

Taken together, these commitments—which include the HopkinsLocal initiative launched in September—will infuse at least $69 million into local and minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses over the next three years. Specific commitments are outlined on the BLocal website.

"HopkinsLocal is our comprehensive approach to leverage Johns Hopkins' economic power to do more to build, buy, and hire locally," says Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University. "Building on that promise, BLocal aims to help bolster a local economy, not on a project-by-project basis, but through a collective, deep-seated change approach."

Following the launch of HopkinsLocal, the idea for BLocal began to take shape when a group of Johns Hopkins trustees led by Mike Hankin, president and CEO of Brown Advisory, asked how they could join in Johns Hopkins' efforts.

"As Mike reached out to other Hopkins trustees leading major companies in Baltimore," says Ronald R. Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, "it quickly became apparent that many businesses in the city are committed to expanding opportunities and looking for ways to provide an even stronger economic engine for the people of Baltimore."

Added Daniels: "As we reached out, business leaders across the city immediately understood the urgency of this work and jumped with alacrity to join our coalition. As we have truly seen time and time again, Baltimore is a city with a very big heart. Through BLocal, we aim to unleash the unrealized opportunities and untapped potential that we see and feel right here at home."

Daniels and Peterson are co-chairs of BLocal with Calvin J. Butler Jr., chief executive officer of BGE.

"BGE's roots in Baltimore go back 200 years, and we are committed to the city's stability, economic vitality, and community spirit," Butler says. "Our commitment is made stronger by joining with others who care deeply for Baltimore to share knowledge and help direct resources where they make the biggest difference. BLocal gives us a platform to make important and meaningful connections."

Image credit: Johns Hopkins University

As a group, the BLocal companies expect to invest an initial $53 million in renovation and construction projects, and $16 million in goods and services purchased from businesses headed by local and minority- and women-owned businesses through 2019. That investment is expected to grow as more of the BLocal partners determine exactly how much they will invest in the initiative and in what areas.

In one of the most promising commitments, a number of the BLocal partner companies have come together to offer a Contractors College that will provide construction and business training for small, Baltimore-based businesses. This program is intended to help these firms grow the key competencies and relationships necessary to drive future growth.

"I applaud the leadership of Johns Hopkins and the companies who have committed to the BLocal initiative," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said. "This innovative partnership will help rebuild Baltimore by providing real economic opportunity to our residents.

"You cannot have a healthy community and a safe community unless you have jobs. That's real," he added. "And that's why the BLocal effort is so very very important. ... I'm grateful to all the companies that have come together."

Added Diane Bell McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities of Maryland: "Today's announcement of BLocal demonstrates a business community not focused on business as usual, but an enlightened business community that clearly understands the linkage between their success and the success of citizens who have not always had access to opportunities."

Daniels and Cummings both said they hoped more companies would join the BLocal effort. Those interested in joining the BLocal effort can get more information on the BLocal website.

The 25 companies launching BLocal are: