For the ancient Greeks, the agora was the center of social activity — a marketplace where people went to buy and sell goods, and exchange ideas and information. Literally translating to "gathering place" or "assembly," the agora was the spiritual, athletic, political and retail center of the city.
In 1978, the founder of a small Washington publishing company decided to relocate to Baltimore and create his own agora. Starting from a single newsletter, "International Living," Agora Inc. evolved into an international publisher of financial, health, travel and special-interest books and newsletters. Agora publishes more than 300 books and 40 newsletters and websites, reaching 1 million readers from offices around the world. It also hosts conferences, seminars and group meetings.
True to its name, the company sees itself as a modern marketplace for opinions and breakthrough ideas. Each business segment was founded on the idea of delivering ideas and insights to a niche market. Whether the topic is natural healing, investment advice, travel tips or retirement, the goal is for Agora's publications to "celebrate the virtue of thinking independently and taking responsibility for your own life," according to the company website.
The thread of individual thinking and exchange of ideas is woven into the organization's fabric, extending from its founding philosophy through the products it offers to its employees, who are a critical part of the tapestry.
Agora CEO Myles Norin said that the success of the business is founded on the success of its employees.
"The business is made up of the employees that work here," he said. "We appreciate their efforts and we want them to stay and to continue to learn and grow so that we can continue to grow as a company."
Six hundred of the company's 800 employees work in the Baltimore area, many of them at Agora's Mount Vernon campus. The campus consists of nine 19th-century mansions, and the beauty and history of the buildings helps create a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. As one employee acknowledges: "Having an office in a 19th-century mansion with beautiful decor, including a chandelier and fireplace, doesn't hurt."
Agora has invested heavily in these historic buildings and in the Mount Vernon community because the company strives to mirror in publishing what the buildings have accomplished in architecture: Protect a historical legacy and demonstrate its value to the present day.
The spirited work environment extends into the community as Agora remains a vital part of the Baltimore community. In addition to supporting the annual Flower Mart in Mount Vernon, the company recently expanded its philanthropy program to provide support for the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Tyanna Foundation, which works to eradicate breast cancer.
Agora invests in the health of its employees with an on-site gym as well as off-site health and exercise options, including personal trainers. Recognizing that social activities also foster good health, the company funds regular employee-only gatherings.
Employees report that Agora is a place where ideas flourish and initiative is rewarded.
"I focus on areas that interest me and am rewarded for it," one employee said. "I am given the freedom to excel in areas I choose."
Agora leadership says the company encourages knowledge, energy and the growth of new ideas from employees at all levels. Supporting that notion, one employee said, "I am learning new things, my skills and talents are appreciated and encouraged. I feel supported and enjoy being a part of this team."
In its mission to foster a marketplace for ideas, Agora continues to hire "bright minds with fresh creativity."
At A Glance
Local employees: 600