Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7th), best captured the tenor of this week’s BLocal Year One Progress Report and BUILD College Graduation Program. Cummings, who originally helped inspire the 25 Baltimore area companies that came together to create B-Local in April 2016, called the celebration at The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture “a destiny event.”
“BLocal started with broad commitments form a diverse group of Baltimore area businesses that believe in this city,” said Ronald Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University and one of three B-Local co-chairs along with outgoing Johns Hopkins Health System President, Ronald R. Peterson and Calvin Butler, Jr. CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric.
In its first year BLocal companies set combined goals to increase spending in design and construction contracts with minority owned businesses, expand the number of outright minority hires, add to the percentage of overall contracts and vending with women and minority-owned businesses. BLocal companies also pledged to make direct investments in Baltimore’s underserved communities. All BLocal companies were required to commit to at least one of the four goals, but could choose the individual goal for which they were best suited.
According to B-Local, the partnership has produced 470 new hires in its first year along with the creation of job readiness programs for high school students. Six BLocal partners increased their spending for goods and services with women and minority owned businesses by $12.3 million. Finally, Four B-Local Partners including Whiting-Turner Construction Company, Brown Advisory, first Mariner Bank and the Cordish Companies committed a total of $73.3 million in spending with local/diverse suppliers in construction projects.
The BLocal companies committed to direct investments in Baltimore City, reported an increase of $12.2 million investment in programs and services that directly benefited Baltimore residents, including a renovation of UA House, serving the Perkins Homes public housing community in East Baltimore. The renovation project was underwritten by Under Armour.
“When we get together and become very intentional about our efforts, we have a broader and deeper impact,” Butler said.
Cummings emphasized the role of mentoring by BLocal partners to encourage people of color and women owned businesses. “Through this partnership, people are meeting people they never would have crossed paths with right here in this city,” Cummings said. He encouraged the audience to continue connecting Baltimoreans with relationships and partnerships that can fuel their aspirations. “You’ve got people with dreams, but they don’t know how to get there,” Cummings said. “We’ve created a marriage in BLocal to help people meet their destiny.”