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No, Mr. Hogan, Baltimore is not in decline

We welcome and support Gov.-elect Larry Hogan's view that Baltimore City should be Maryland's economic engine ("Hogan says city should drive state economy," Dec. 30). But his unfortunate use of hyperbole to assert that in Baltimore City, "There's no businesses, there's no jobs," and that state investments have produced no positive outcomes is wrong and doesn't reflect the countless Baltimoreans who work hard every day to make this still imperfect city better.

First the facts. According to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, in the first quarter of 2014, there was an average of 324,818 jobs in Baltimore City, reported by 13,700 employers. In fact, Baltimore City has more jobs than all but two counties in Maryland. Downtown Baltimore ranks in the top 10 percent of U.S. cities for its total number of employees and has one of the country's highest employment densities.

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State programs like the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit, which began as an incentive to promote the redevelopment of historic buildings, revitalize communities and preserve open space, has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment and created thousands of jobs. As early as 2009, an Abell Foundation report concluded that each $1 of tax credits invested yields $8.53 in total economic output. With smart state investment, the Port of Baltimore is thriving once again.

Over the last decade, despite a debilitating national recession, Baltimore City has undergone a transformative shift in momentum. From Howard Park to Patterson Park, from Cherry Hill to Windsor Hill, the signs of investment, renewal and progress in Baltimore are real. Anirban Basu, Mr. Hogan's economic development consultant, correctly states that Baltimore City success stories like Under Armour, Amazon, T. Rowe Price, among many other small and locally-owned businesses, are choosing to locate in Baltimore because that is where their workforce wants to live. And those who live here want what Baltimore City can authentically offer — walkable communities, neighborhood main streets, unmatched cultural amenities and great parks. More than the economic engine of Maryland, Baltimore is the cultural center of our state. From the National Aquarium and Hippodrome to the Reginald F. Lewis and Great Blacks in Wax Museums, our city's institutions define the spirit of innovation and diversity of the people of this great city.

But, most importantly, we know in our core that our strength and possibilities for growth are embodied in our city's people. It is best seen in the eyes of Baltimoreans themselves, the people who refuse to allow our city's challenges to define us, and who are committed to working together to achieve our city's potential for all of its residents. Countless residents wake up each day focused on being part of something bigger than themselves. From classrooms to boardrooms, from art studios to government offices, from parks to our great institutions, we each choose our own path that collectively commits our talents to continuing the story of renaissance for one of America's greatest cities.

We are not naive to the struggles and challenges that confront us. The deteriorating effects of poverty and income inequality, not unique to Baltimore, are evident. We, too, are impatient. We welcome fresh perspectives. Our city's potential will only be achieved through constructive partnership, strategic investment, and visionary planning. There are no silver bullets in this work. Revitalizing a post-industrial American city is a noble effort; it takes time, grit, and leadership. We are proud that many cities look to Baltimore for ideas that work. Yet, we recognize that we will face tough choices ahead. We understand we must get better at assessing the effectiveness of programs and policies that work, and we must be willing to abandon those that don't. But we are ready, we are willing, and we are engaged.

Mr. Governor-Elect, as you plan to take office in just a few days, you need to know that in Baltimore City, we are leaders. We are doers. We are families. We are innovators. We are artists. We are creators. We are educators. We are caretakers. We are builders. We are the people of Baltimore. We are the strength of this city. And we are not declining, sir, we are just getting started.

Bill Ferguson, Louis Monk, Whitney Ward Birenbaum, Michael Battle and Beth Laverick, Baltimore

Mr. Ferguson is state senator for Maryland's 46th Legislative District; Mr. Monk is entrepreneur and owner/operator of Patterson Park Laundry; Ms. Birenbaum is a Baltimore City Public School Model Teacher at The Midtown Academy; Mr. Battle is a Cherry Hill community activist and founder of the Disciple Street Team; Ms. Laverick is an entrepreneur and founder of B Scene Events & Promotions.

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