As the host organization for the Baltimore Integration Partnership, we applaud the Johns Hopkins BLocal effort, the impressive results and just as importantly the transparency and willingness to publish those results for measurement and accountability (“BLocal scratches the surface,” Dec. 12).
Yes, there is more to be done and opportunities to go deeper for greater results. Economic development that prioritizes inclusive local hiring, purchasing and contracting must be a persistent, long term effort that every business leads.BLocal and other collaborative economic initiatives underway are showing how it can be done and are a call to more businesses to engage in these efforts.
The Baltimore Integration Partnership, initiated by Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art seven years ago, is one of the largest collaborations of higher education and medical anchor institutions in the country. It is supported by local and national funders including The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Living Cities and has been an evolving collaboration with city leaders and sustained across three mayoral administrations. We believe the self-directed leadership and self-determined investment of each anchor has and will be critical to the staying power and resilience of these efforts to disband decades of structural inequities and implement new practices and networks supporting access to opportunities for local small businesses and residents.
The partnership currently includes 14 public and private anchor institutions deeply engaged in the essential internal analysis of their own systems, policies and processes. To date, 12 anchor partners are advancing local hiring working with area nonprofits and community organizations. Eleven are working to grow local and/or minority business purchasing, and six are leveraging capital investment power to support community needs in their immediate neighborhoods. Social enterprises like City Seeds and reinvestment strategies like the Central Baltimore Future Fund have emerged from these intentional, collaborative efforts focusing on hiring, purchasing and investment.
Every business in Baltimore can be a leader in this effort by adopting inclusionary business practices and making intentional investments that bolster their business and their community. The partnership will release a report this spring highlighting successful inclusionary practices being employed by Baltimore anchors and businesses and the potential to grow those opportunities with BGE, Towson University, LifeBridge Health, University of Maryland Baltimore, BonSecours and many others leading the way. To learn more about the collaborative work of the partnership, visit baltimorepartnership.org.
Celeste Amato, Baltimore
The writer is president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.