Baltimore region became more diverse and educated in past 20 years, report finds

The Baltimore region has become more diverse and educated in the past two decades and the economy is more driven by technology, medicine, higher education and professional services.

Those are the findings of a report to be released Monday night by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council at the GBC’s 63rd annual meeting.

The report will be highlighted during the event at the Hyatt Regency in the Inner Harbor that also will honor the CollegeBound Foundation, which helps disadvantaged kids go to college, and Michael Hankin, president and CEO of Brown Advisory. Hallie Jackson, NBC chief White House correspondent and Johns Hopkins University alum, will be the featured speaker.

This is the seventh time the GBC and others have produced such a report in the past two decades. It looks at the demographics and other changes that have shaped the region that includes Baltimore City and six surrounding counties, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Annes. It compares dozens of indicators in the region to those in 19 other metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Austin, Texas.

The analysis highlights all the changes that have occurred over the past 20 years, including the addition of residential buildings in Baltimore and investments in many other counties that include large planned developments in Towson and Columbia, hotels near BWI Marshall Airport and defense contractors near Aberdeen Proving Ground. Along with these developments have come jobs that have evolved in nature from the region’s manufacturing and industrial roots.

The report identifies the positives as well as the challenges, such as declining home ownership levels and increased commuter times, in addition to local logistical barriers such as moving rail freight through the Howard Street Tunnel and large national shifts including the retail transition online.

All of this information will help the business and civic community that makes up the GBC to formulate policy recommendations and measures to improve conditions in the region that now includes about 2.8 million people, the report sponsors say.

“On the whole, the report found that the Baltimore region has many positive trends that the private sector will be working to support and nurture to ensure the region retains a highly attractive business climate,” said Donald Fry, president and CEO of the GBC.

“The region’s strong shift to technology, medicine and the digital economy is particularly promising and shows the innovation and drive of our business community and major educational institutions,” he said. “Some findings in the report remind us that the GBC and private sector must continue to explore how we can continue to work with elected officials and others to ensure that the increased wealth and education that some segments of society have experienced helps lift those struggling with rising costs of living and the skill demands of the modern labor market.”

The GBC highlighted several changes over the last 20 years, as compared to its metro peers:

  • The region’s income picture improved, ranking fourth among the 20 peer metro areas, up from seventh. Baltimore had the second-highest growth rate for per capita personal income, up 52 percent to $38,406. The region had the third-highest growth in median household income, which more than doubled to $76,788.
  • Baltimore’s ranking for educational attainment climbed to seventh from 13th, as more than 37 percent of the region’s population held a college degree, up from 25 percent.
  • The region’s population grew to 2.8 million from less than 2.5 million, but dropped in ranking from ninth to 12th most populated among peer cities.
  • Baltimore diversified faster than its peers, as the black population grew by 130 percent and the Hispanic population grew by 125 percent.
  • In the area of quality of life, the region’s rank for cost of living dropped to 14th from second. Baltimore’s home ownership rank slipped to eighth from fifth as the rate fell to just over 65 percent from almost 72 percent; commuting time rank moved from 15th to 17th, with average time commuting per auto growing to 31 minutes from 26 minutes; and, on violent crime, the region 16th, up from 20th.

“On the one hand, the regions we analyze in this report are a benchmark for our own success. On the other, these regions represent our competition for attracting and retaining talented people and top employers,” said Mike Kelly, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. “We must work cooperatively across sectors and political boundaries to advance our competitive position among our peers.”

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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