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Institutions organize to boost Baltimore's 'next economy'

The Annie E. Casey Foundation and other Baltimore institutions are organizing to help accelerate the growth of well-paying jobs and make sure more residents are qualified to land them, building on the recommendations of a new study that envisions the region's "next economy."

The report, released at a forum in Baltimore Thursday, suggests the region's leaders cooperate on efforts to encourage more entrepreneurship and exporting, as well as more growth in sectors such as manufacturing, bioscience and logistics.

The Brookings Institution study, funded by the Casey foundation, said such a focus could reverse a regional trend of low-wage jobs multiplying faster than better-paying positions. The shift has been obscured by the area's overall high median household income.

Patrice M. Cromwell, the foundation's director of economic development and integration, envisions a "consortium" of movers and shakers forming over the next few months to decide which of the study's suggestions to focus on — and then making them happen.

"We don't want this to be another report that sits on a shelf," she said.

About 120 people attended the forum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's Baltimore complex.

Ellen Janes, senior manager for community development at the Richmond Fed, called it "an unusual gathering of people who can make an impact" — business leaders, university officials, philanthropists, and workforce and economic development specialists.

The Johns Hopkins University, one of the state's largest employers, sent several representatives.

"We found the report very compelling, and we're very interested in being a part of the discussion on next steps," said Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman.

The Baltimore-based Goldseker Foundation is committing $70,000 toward the cost of launching an initiative to spur the growth Brookings suggests. Cromwell said the Casey foundation would also contribute a "significant" amount.

"The key element will be being able to marshal the right level of senior private, public-sector, civic leadership to really pay attention to this in a focused way over a relatively short period of time," said Timothy Armbruster, Goldseker's president and chief executive.

The Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, a partnership of business, government and higher education, is also on board. Tom Sadowski, chief executive of the group, said the region was already making progress in some of the areas highlighted by the Brookings study, including the commercialization of academic research, and said he was looking forward to more discussion.

"We see it as an important opportunity for a very important conversation about strengths in the region and how to leverage them," he said.

The report can be found online at brookings.edu/metro.aspx.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RealEstateWonk

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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