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Port Covington developers announce construction workforce training partnership

Construction work continues in May at Port Covington as viewed from below.

Port Covington developers plan to work with Baltimore nonprofit Project JumpStart to train and place workers in construction jobs for the growing mixed-use waterfront community and elsewhere in the city.

Up to 22 students at a time will be enrolled in a 15-week construction training program that will get financial support from Sagamore Ventures, the privately held investment company of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank. Sagamore owns the Port Covington project along with investment partner Goldman Sachs and lead developers MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners, who took over earlier this year from Weller Development Co.

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With the backing of Port Covington developers, JumpStart expects to run two 15-week programs a year for the next few years and expand its reach to South Baltimore. Workers eventually could be placed at Port Covington as it ramps up the next phase of development or in the near term at other projects in South Baltimore and elsewhere in the city.

Port Covington’s first five buildings — more than 1.1 million square feet of office, apartment and retail space — are expected to come online next year, covering 60 acres of a 235-acre site along Cromwell Street south of Interstate 95. Port Covington apartment buildings will start leasing in January, while Chambers Co., a Baltimore interior design firm, has signed the first office lease. Additional leases are expected to be finalized in coming months.

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But long-range plans call for up to 14 million square feet of shops, restaurants, office space and housing, plus 40 acres of parks, across 45 new city blocks along 2.5 miles of restored waterfront. The Baltimore Sun leases its office in the Port Covington development.

Project JumpStart started in 2006 to give city residents with high school or GED diplomas opportunities in the construction trades. It offers students safety training, financial coaching, a per-class stipend and driver’s education, while giving contractors referrals for well-screened, job-ready candidates. More than 80% of graduates are placed in construction jobs and have worked on projects such as renovations at Baltimore’s Penn Station and on the Exelon building at Harbor Point.

JumpStart aims to fill gaps in the availability of skills and job training, said Jimmy Stewart, the nonprofit’s executive director.

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“Contractors are looking for a pipeline of people, particularly in this very tight labor market,” Stewart said. “It’s consistently been this way in construction for probably more than a decade.”

MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, said the development team was impressed with Project JumpStart’s history of success with hundreds of graduates.

“As we think about what we’re building in Port Covington, our vision goes far beyond physical buildings,” Gilmartin said in Tuesday’s announcement. “We’re most interested in creating a place that is welcoming, inclusive and provides opportunity for all of Baltimore.”

A group of students started classes earlier this month and will graduate in January. Job candidates typically are placed within three months of graduation, but some have been employed before graduation. Trainees get pre-apprenticeship training in electrical, plumbing and carpentry trades.

Marc Broady, vice president of community affairs for MAG Partners, said some of the trainees may complete training and apprenticeships that will enable them to work on future phases of Port Covington.

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But “this particular commitment was a citywide commitment,” Broady said. “This is really for Baltimore City residents to get them trained up for jobs wherever the jobs may be in the construction field.”

Developers said at least 51% of new construction hires at Port Covington have been city residents.


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