Mayoral hopeful and Democratic state Sen. Catherine Pugh says fostering small business growth is a cornerstone of her economic development plan that is designed to bring jobs, healthy food choices and amenities to underserved communities.
Pugh outlined her strategy for creating more jobs Tuesday in a 10-page plan that she said will help eliminate poverty, keep more college graduates in the city and create a year-round youth works program. She said she wants to train people to work in growing industries, rely on public-private partnerships and better use the port as an economic engine.
Many efforts are underway in Baltimore to reduce poverty and create more jobs, but Pugh said more coordination is needed to fully address "the depth and urgency" of the problems.
"My vision over the next four years will be to bring a singular focus to reducing unemployment substantially," Pugh wrote in her plan. "If well coordinated, Baltimore could experience at minimum a 25 percent reduction in unemployment and the possibility, if all efforts point in one direction, of driving our rate of unemployment down to the lowest in the region.
"We can do this in Baltimore, but it will require all resources: businesses, philanthropies, nonprofits, NGO's, as well as city, state and federal governments working together."
The jobs plan is the first component of her larger economic development plan that will be released over the next several weeks.
Pugh notes the wide discrepancies in unemployment rates from one city neighborhood to another. Communities such as Oldtown and Upton are nearing 30 percent unemployment compared to 2 percent in Federal Hill and Hampden, according to her data.
She also noted that "study after study and story after story" highlight the disproportionate number of African-Americans in Baltimore who are unemployed — which Pugh said qualifies as a "state of emergency." She said income disparities between black and white communities also are unacceptable.
"These startling statistics should raise concerns among us all and serve as a call to action in an effort to equalize opportunities and create a more inclusive effort in disseminating jobs," Pugh said.
Economic development in struggling communities must include community engagement, efforts to empower residents and an office that helps connect ex-offenders to services, according to Pugh's plan.
Pugh said the city needs to use labor agreements that provide paid on-the-job training with companies, a central database for all jobs and contracts available in Baltimore and the surrounding areas and mobile employment centers to travel to college campuses to recruit graduates as well as to communities with high unemployment rates to help people find work. She wants to find new jobs for at least 10 people a day.
The plan also calls for a special fund to invest in local entrepreneurs to help them start businesses and open second locations and use ex-offenders to rehabilitate vacant houses through a jobs training program with the private sector.