Baltimore business and civic leaders gathered Monday to celebrate the resounding success of a collaborative effort to strengthen the city by creating economic opportunities, an effort that in its first year has already surpassed the three-year goal laid out when the program launched.
In April 2016, the 25 Baltimore-area partner companies that are part of the BLocal initiative announced their intention to collectively spend more on design and construction contracts with local and minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses and vendors. The stated goal of those efforts was to infuse at least $69 million into these businesses over a three-year period. In BLocal's first year alone, partner companies invested more than $86 million locally. Four partner companies combined to hire 470 city residents, nearly three times their three-year goal.
"It turns out that this program has been much bigger than we had dared hope," said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels at an event noting BLocal's year-one progress held at Baltimore's Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture on Monday afternoon.
"We are emboldened by the early progress of BLocal, and yet we know well that our work is far from done. We are, more than ever, determined to redouble our efforts, to raise our goals, to increase our impact. And we will continue to hold ourselves accountable for helping to bend the trajectory of this great city and to support its talented citizens."
Daniels kicked off the event, which also featured remarks by his fellow BLocal co-chairs—Calvin G. Butler Jr., chief executive officer of BGE; and Ronald R. Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine—as well as Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, and Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.
"Every time I see collaborations like this happening around our city, I know that our city is moving forward," Pugh said.
"We talk about the creation of 470 jobs; imagine the continued growth of this particular effort, what that's going to mean to Baltimore."
BLocal—which includes the commitments of HopkinsLocal, the broad economic inclusion plan launched in 2015 by Johns Hopkins—is made up of both large and small companies ranging from banking and construction to real estate and professional services. The progress made in the first year was driven in part by several significant construction projects and increases in overall spending.
In a review of progress from the first year, formally released today, the BLocal partners reported that:
- They committed a combined $73.8 million to contracts with local and/or minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses and vendors on construction projects
- They increased non-construction-related purchasing with minority- and women-owned or local businesses by $12.3 million
- Four BLocal partners with specific hiring goals hired 470 Baltimoreans for specific positions, 308 more than they pledged to employ over three years
- Some BLocal partners expanded their internship and mentoring programs
"The results are a direct reflection of the intentionality of everything that we've done," Butler said, noting that the number of BLocal partners has grown from 25 to 27 since the program's launch. "What we didn't know was how quickly the business community would respond and how immediate the impact would be."
In addition to the millions the partners put towards construction and procurement, they also contributed $12.2 million by investing directly in programs and organizations that serve the Baltimore community as well as made significant donations of in-kind services.
"This has been a group effort all along," Peterson said. "What we've seen this first year is that the goal we set for BLocal was ambitious, but not as ambitious as the desire these companies have to help this city and its people."
Among those in attendance at Monday's event were a number of Baltimore small business owners who recently completed BLocal's BUILD College, a free 13-week educational program designed to help businesses excel. A graduation ceremony for the program's third cohort was scheduled for later Monday.
Renard Gardner, president of Vessel Electric and a spring 2017 graduate of the BUILD College program, spoke at the conclusion of Monday's event and noted the impact BLocal has made in the trajectory of his growing company. Gardner said he has added seven new employees—five of them Baltimore City residents—in the past year.
"We're primed next year to meet new milestones with revenue," Gardner added. "And the exciting part is, we're prepared for it. We're not going at it with a hope and a guess—we actually have solid principles. We have plans written out that show how we're going to handle these opportunities and how we can bring extra value to our customers."