Baltimore wants to be a manufacturing center once again.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake believes that manufacturing jobs, because of rising costs overseas and innovation in the United States, will mean the industry will see a resurgence in this country. So she wants to put Baltimore in a place where it can capitalize on the anticipated renaissance.
“But what we don’t know is exactly where [manufacturing jobs are] going to go, you know, who’s going to take advantage of that resurgence, and it’s important for me to make sure that Baltimore is a city where people in the manufacturing business believe they can do business and they can thrive,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Getting Baltimore prepared for the return of manufacturing will be a topic of discussion during a forum scheduled for Tuesday at the Baltimore Hilton, being put on in conjunction with the Baltimore Development Corp., that will focus on the industry.
But Baltimore isn’t expecting to lure back steel mills. It’s focused on what is being dubbed advanced manufacturing, which the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development defined as “[dependent] on the use and coordination of information, automation, computation, software, sensing, and networking, and/or (b) make use of cutting-edge materials and emerging capabilities enabled by the physical and biological sciences, for example nanotechnology, chemistry, and biology,” in a report released on Friday.
But to be in a position to attract those kinds of businesses, and the accompanying jobs, the city needs to address two of its most prominent and persistent problems: schools and crime.
Drew Greenblatt, president of South Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, said the advantage his company has over manufacturers in China, Vietnam and Mexico is innovation, and that he’s dependent on local schools to produce the workers that will continue to give his company an edge.
“All my talent is from Baltimore. So, when I compete I need to have smarter people than my competition in these very aggressive countries,” Greenblatt said.
He said he believes the city is safer than it was, but that Baltimore needs to create an atmosphere where women shift workers feel safe walking to their cars at night, where business aren’t worried about materials disappearing or having parts stolen from trucks and buildings.
“We’ve even taken pictures of the license plates, and pictures of the guys stealing [materials] with the license plate, and we’re not getting guys arrested,” Greenblatt said.
Last week Baltimore announced a program aimed at helping city schools produce the kind workers manufacturers look to hire. The mayor and Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Gregory Thornton announced a new Computer Numerical Control Manufacturing track in the school system, and within the Maryland High School Career and Technology Education Programs of Study, at Carver Vocational-Technical High School.
“We want to make sure we have a workforce that can meet the needs of manufacturers that do the new kind of manufacturing,” said MacKenzie Garvin, a special assistant in the mayor’s office of Neighborhood and Economic Development.
But both the mayor and Greenblatt agreed that Baltimore is in a great position, in large part because of its location and assets, to take advantage of an expanding advanced manufacturing field.
“I think there’s definitely opportunities for growth. We have strong assets when it comes to transportation, logistics, including roads, airport, rail and the port is certainly an asset,” Rawlings-Blake said.