Baltimore: The life sciences city


The Greater Baltimore Committee yesterday issued a report, "Baltimore: Where Science Comes to Life," which recommended making the city "a global life sciences community." Following are excerpts from the report. BALTIMORE boasts a diverse economy dominated by a large number of small- and medium-sized employers. The region has an outstanding strategic location close to the nation's capital and in the middle of the prosperous mid-Atlantic region. The area contains a solid physical infrastructure with strong transportation and communication networks. Most notably, the Baltimore region is home to some of the strongest research and higher education institutions in the nation, with world-class specialties in the life sciences.

On the liability side, Greater Baltimore has an economy with few corporation headquarters or large, private employers. The region's excellent higher education system is offset by weak elementary and secondary school systems. Finally, Baltimore emerges as a region torn by severe economic, social and education disparities across its jurisdictional and demographic groups. These disparities are manifested by the sad fact that the region is among the highest in the U.S. in infant mortality and teen-age pregnancy.

Greater Baltimore's future direction needs to be guided by principles of community economic development that make sense for a technology age. Other regions across America and around the world also are seeking to replace stagnating or declining economic engines from agricultural and mass production pasts with new sources of economic growth. Leading communities also are dealing with new forces of international competition and technological change.

Successful regional economies are developing specialized strengths in knowledge-based industries which will be the source for virtually all new, good job growth. And, in almost all of these future-oriented economies, the emphasis is on creating an educated and skilled work force. Unskilled jobs made up 65 percent of all employment in the U.S. in 1950 and 35 percent of today's total. But unskilled jobs will constitute only 15 percent of jobs in the U.S. by the year 2000 . . .

The life sciences clearly are already Baltimore's strongest foothold in the future and the most promising new economic engine for future job growth.

The challenge [is] transforming this obvious competitive advantage into a compelling and inclusive economic vision around which to mobilize Greater Baltimore's people and resources.

[We] see Greater Baltimore as an internationally recognized global life sciences community within 10 years. It is a future-oriented and inclusive economy, in which Baltimore capitalizes on its world-class scientific, university and medical resources to bring the entire community into the high wage/high skill information age.

In this new economy, not all, or even a majority, of jobs will be in medical or bio-related sectors. The Baltimore region of 2001 will still be home to many traditional industries such as manufacturing, distribution and professional services. The new Greater Baltimore economy will still develop non-life science technologies, such as information systems and defense electronics.

But in this new vision, the life sciences will emerge as the major new engine for the region's economy. The life sciences will drive the creation of new medical and bio-related jobs, as well as related jobs in manufacturing, business services, construction, tourism and a host of diverse industries.

Most important, the GBC envisions a community that comes together to create the education, training and family-support systems that offer every adult and child, regardless of race or income, the bridges they need to achieve the good-paying jobs and high quality of life a global life science community can provide. . .

The emergence of a fast growing life sciences economy would give rise to a host of related activities: construction of hospitals and lab facilities; printing and publishing of medical and other sience-related materials; creation of law firms specializing in scientific patents; growth in convention business connected to the region's status as a medical and bio-science leader; and expanded tourism business built around attractions such as the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore Zoo and the planned Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration.

Most important, a life sciences economy provides jobs that draw on a broad range of interests and skills. Research requires everything from blood chemists, to lab technicians, to registered nurses, to computer programmers. A marine biology center requires everything from marine biologists, to maintenance engineers, to accountants, to community education specialists, to specially trained plumbers. Firms manufacturing everything from medical textbooks, to home pregnancy tests, to medical instruments, will rely on employees as diverse as production technicians, technical sales people and office managers who can operate the latest information technology.

This is an economy in which all of Greater Baltimore's people must see a place for themselves and their children in the years ahead.

Both the success and inclusiveness of this vision are tied to the same overriding fact: All jobs in this new life sciences economy require some skill and training. This will distinguish Baltimore's new economy from its past mass production economy. Providing education and training to all of the region's citizens also defines the central challenge in making this vision of Baltimore as a global life sciences community a reality.

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