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Alicia Wilson joins Johns Hopkins, leaves Port Covington team

Alicia Wilson will lead a new Office of Economic Development at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System after spearheading community outreach efforts for the development team behind the $5.5 billion Port Covington redevelopment.

Wilson takes on the newly created position of vice president for economic development on July 29, Hopkins said on Wednesday. Her new role focuses on Johns Hopkins’ investments in economic and neighborhood developments, according to an announcement, as well as in health care and education.

“I’m honored to join the leadership team of the most significant institution in our city and region dedicated to economic development,” Wilson said in a statement. “This is an incredible opportunity to help drive what has long been a signature priority for Johns Hopkins and its leadership and take it even further.”

In her role with the Port Covington development team Wilson essentially served as the face of the development’s community outreach.

Wilson worked with various south Baltimore communities, known as the “SB 7,” to hammer out a $40 million community benefits agreement. That deal, signed in July 2016, promised to provide $10 million in the first five years to neighborhoods including Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay and Westport. She also helped negotiate a citywide community benefits agreement valued at $100 million.

As leader of the Port Covington Impact Investment Team, she also led efforts to provide job training to residents so they could work at Port Covington. Those workshops ranged from prepping residents for construction, hospitality jobs to apprenticeships training for cybersecurity work.

Marc Weller, founder of Port Covington’s lead developer Weller Development Co., praised Wilson and thanked her for the work paving the way for Port Covington to happen.

“We are thrilled that she will continue to build upon her growing body of work fostering economic progress here in Baltimore and connecting local residents to career and job opportunities. Alicia has a contagious energy full of positivity and light, and Johns Hopkins couldn’t have picked a better professional to head their new Office of Economic Development,” Weller said.

Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System individually are two of the metro area’s largest private-sector employers. The organizations, however, have been targets of criticism from city activists.

The East Baltimore Development Initiative, a 20-year $1.6 billion project involving government and private funds from Johns Hopkins and others, has been criticized as gentrification. The project aims to revitalize neighborhoods surrounding the Johns Hopkins Medical campus, but involved displacing roughly 700 mostly African America residents.

Johns Hopkins recent push for the General Assembly to approve legislation as a precursor to creating a private police force also raised objections from city leaders and stirred protests that need with arrests on the university’s north Baltimore campus.

In the aftermath of the April 2015 riots, Johns Hopkins launched a handful of well-funded programs intended to benefit the city and its residents.

The entities first launched a program dubbed HopkinsLocal to steer hiring and purchasing to local firms. So far the institutions have hired more than 1,000 residents from “distressed areas” and boosted spending with city firms by $54 million.

Johns Hopkins has also partnered with 28 local companies to create more economic opportunities for residents and local and minority businesses through an initiative called BLocal.

Those partners are buying $50 million more in goods and services from those businesses, and hired more than 1,700 city residents in the last three years, according to the most recent update on BLocal released in May.

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