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Baltimore metro area sees economic swings across sectors

Ben Birge, president and CEO of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corporation. (Submitted photo)

The extent to which COVID-19 created turmoil in the Baltimore metro area’s economy has swung wildly from sector to sector.

“Everyone has been affected by the pandemic, but not everybody’s been impacted equally,” said Brent Howard, president and CEO of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce.

While industries, such as the hospitality sector, endured what Ben Birge, president and CEO of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corporation, called “a vicious beating,” other sectors, like information technology companies, prospered.

Logistics and supply chain management has proved to be one of the most resilient portions of the local economy. By comparison, supply chain disruptions persist as one of the most intractable hindrances to the nation’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While ports in other states have failed to keep pace with shipments, causing massive kinks in the nation’s supply chain, the Port of Baltimore has continued to move cargo at or near the pre-pandemic rate.

“I still think [the business climate’s] very positive in this region for a number of reasons … cargo and other traffic at the Port of Baltimore have been seeing a great rebound, and we’ve not seen the shipping congestion at this port that we’ve seen at others,” Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee said.

The Port of Baltimore averaged more than 670,000 container tons of cargo a month since COVID-19 first hit Maryland in March 2020. During the three full years before the pandemic’s arrival, roughly 678,200 container tons of freight moved through the port a month.

The port’s capacity is also set to get a boost in the coming years.

Railroad company CSX, state, and federal governments broke ground in late 2021 on the long-sought overhaul of the 126-year-old Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.

The tunnel has capped the port’s potential for decades because it wasn’t large enough for double-stacked containers to pass through. Once work on the tunnel is complete, the number of containers moved through the port is expected to increase by 160,000 annually.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Anne Arundel County has also emerged as a prime hub in the region’s supply chain.

BWI accounted for 57% of total freight transported in the U.S. Capital Region in September and the amount of cargo passing through the airport has steadily increased during the past year. By midsummer, the amount of freight passing through the airport had increased by 10% year over year.

“One of the things we were very fortunate about is we were growing our jurisdiction’s transportation infrastructure quite a bit before the pandemic hit,” Birge said. “Air cargo … grew tremendously as everyone became addicted to Amazon and other online shopping.”

This article is featured in The Daily Record's Doing Business in Maryland 2022 that was inserted in the Thursday, December 30, 2021 issue of The Daily Record.

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