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Ray Lewis kicks off Baltimore 1000 jobs initiative

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis launched Baltimore 1000, a jobs and business development among small and minority-owned businesses, on Friday.

Lewis and co-founder Lance McCarthy kicked off the initiative with a roundtable discussion with entrepreneurs and small-business owners. On Saturday, Baltimore 1000 will host a hiring event at Morgan State University with more than 50 employers, including Under Armour, Comcast, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Lyft.

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The initiative, which aims to find jobs for 1,000 people, is an extension of Ferguson 1000, started by McCarthy in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

Lewis said he worked with McCarthy to bring the initiative to Baltimore because he thinks economic development is a key to helping Baltimore recover from its own unrest.

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"We need to go back into these neighborhoods, put both our feet down and stand for something," Lewis said.

The hiring event takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Morgan State's School of Business, 4100 Hillen Road.

Baltimore 1000 is intended to do more than help city residents find jobs, Lewis said. He wants the initiative to be a call to action for local businesses that can play a role in strengthening the city by hiring locally and providing training and mentorship for those who are not yet ready to enter the workforce.

"I want our city to be all God meant it to be, but we cannot get there — we cannot get there — without jobs," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who attended the roundtable.

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Through Baltimore 1000, Lewis and McCarthy also want to bolster small and minority businesses by creating a community that entrepreneurs can turn to for connections, support and advice needed to grow their companies.

"We have a tremendous collection of assets. We don't have an ecosystem," said Michael Cryor, chair of OneBaltimore, the public-private initiative Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched after the city's unrest.

At the business roundtable, held Friday at the office of OneBaltimore, small-business owners talked about the challenges they face in raising money, scaling production and making connections with key contacts.

Rodney Dotson, a Baltimore real estate agent who is in the process of establishing a whiskey distillery, said the roundtable introduced him to others in the business community he thinks can help him and his business partners grow their company, JCT Distillery. He looks forward to the network he will be able to access through Baltimore 1000, Dotson said.

The event also attracted established businesses that want to grow.

Bruce Tyler, CEO of AttivaSoft, said he plans to participate in the job fair Saturday. Founded in 1998, AttivaSoft is an information technology company that primarily does contract work for federal agencies. The firm has 22 employees, and Tyler said he has a few openings, primarily in specialized IT work.

But beyond filling a few job openings, Tyler thinks his company can teach IT skills to Baltimore residents, to prepare them for entry-level jobs.

"I came because I want to know: What can I do?" Tyler said.

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