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“We have become such an integral part of the community here in Baltimore that this was something we wanted to participate in,” said Augie Chiasera, ‎president of the Baltimore-Chesapeake region at M&T Bank, about BLocal, an initiative that brings together 25 area businesses and organizations to direct more resources toward helping Baltimore residents and small businesses.

Md. financial institutions pledge time and money to BLocal

A handful of financial institutions have signed on to be part of BLocal, an initiative that brings together 25 area businesses and organizations to direct more resources toward helping Baltimore residents and small businesses.

Companies including T. Rowe Price, Legg Mason, M&T Bank, 1st Mariner Bank and ABS Capital Partners have pledged a range of resources as part of the three-year, $69 million initiative. The assistance will also take the form of counseling services to mentoring programs to outreach to local suppliers.

“This initiative has helped us take the step back and re-frame our thinking,” said Patty Lattin, head of human resources at Legg Mason.

The asset management company is looking to contribute in many ways, including hiring 50 percent of its interns from Baltimore high schools and colleges. Those interns may eventually become full-time employees. The company is also looking to attract talent in unique ways instead of traditional careers fairs, such as by sponsoring panel discussions and other events.

Legg Mason is partnering with Morgan State’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management to host a camp where high school students can learn about a career in financial services.

As part of BLocal, the company is looking at how much money it spends on goods and services with an eye to redirecting more funding toward hiring local suppliers.

“We are committed to moving more of those dollars into the city,” said Lattin.

To do so, Legg Mason wants to make it easier for minority, women and veteran-owned business to be potential suppliers by creating an online portal that will also give the company a better understanding of who its suppliers are. Its requests for proposals process will also include specific questions about suppliers’ ties to Baltimore, said Lattin.

While Lattin couldn’t give a lot of details, she also said the Legg Mason is making “a significant financial commitment” to create a neighborhood-focused initiative that will help people in underserved Baltimore communities get access to certain services.

Given its presence in Baltimore, M&T Bank is also getting involved on several fronts.

“We have become such an integral part of the community here in Baltimore that this was something we wanted to participate in,” said Augie Chiasera, ‎president of the Baltimore-Chesapeake region at M&T Bank.

Like Legg Mason, M&T is also focusing on hiring more people from Baltimore for teller, operations and administrative positions by reaching out through job fairs and print advertising.

The bank is increasing its commitment to the Healthy Neighborhood initiative, which helps undervalued Baltimore neighborhoods increase their property values by providing mortgages. M&T already gives between $20 million and $30 million to the program and plans to increase its contribution by $2 million as part of BLocal.

Chiasera said he was impressed by the grassroots effort that has gone into BLocal.

“This is going to have some legs to it.”

T. Rowe Price says it is putting forth the best asset it can give the community, a breadth of knowledge about money.

The company is working with Kiva and the Small Business Resource Center at the Baltimore Development Corporation to identify small businesses that are looking for advice on budgeting, finances or marketing, among other aspects of building a business.

“If their organization can last longer and be more sustained, they can hire more people within the community,” said Renee Christoff, T. Rowe Price’s head of corporate social responsibility.

The company is meeting with the BDC on Friday and Kiva has started making business loans that are funded by T. Rowe Price. The counseling services will begin in a few months, said Christoff.

1st Mariner Bank is also looking to lend its expertise by participating in a BLocal program called “Contractors College” that will provide construction and business training for women- and minority-owned businesses.

“I think the biggest role 1st Mariner can play is on the education side,” said Rob Kunisch, Chief Operating Officer at 1st Mariner Bank.

The bank will offer additional financial education programs on top of programs that it already offers. 1st Mariner will also put together a formal intern program for college students.

As part of the BLocal, 1st Mariner is looking at what percentage of its vendor spending takes place in the city. As the bank gears up for the renovation of its Canton headquarters, 1st Mariner will require its contractor to solicit bids from women- and minority-owned firms for subcontracting work.