By Special to the AFRO
Baltimore Together is a public-private initiative led by the city’s economic development arm, Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), to support inclusive economic growth in our city.
Over a 2-year period, a range of business leaders, community residents and stakeholders studied the challenges small businesses and especially BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color)-owned businesses face and developed strategies to address them.
Of Baltimore’s 12,500 business establishments, 94 percent (11,700) have fewer than 50 employees; and 6,550 (52 percent) of these businesses have fewer than five employees. There are also 39,600 sole proprietors – businesses with no employees. Despite a large number of small businesses, 97 percent of net new jobs were created by employers with more than 500 employees, indicating that small companies are not growing at a sufficient pace.
In addition, census data indicates that well over half of Baltimore’s privately held businesses are BIPOC-owned, these businesses generate only 12 percent of the city’s total business revenue.
BIPOC businesses also had more difficulty accessing pandemic-related relief programs at the federal and state level such as the payroll protection program (PPP). In order to grow the city’s economy inclusively, there needs to be a program in place to help these businesses grow and build wealth.
Through funding from the American Rescues Plan Act (ARPA), BDC recently established a business technical assistance network, known as the Baltimore BASE (Business Assistance and Support for Equity) Network (www.baltimorebasenetwork.org).
The BASE Network is a partnership of entrepreneurial support organizations led by BDC and the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development is committed to helping BIPOC-owned small businesses located in Baltimore City access a range of small business assistance.
The network was launched in April 2020 and has helped more than 3,000 Baltimore businesses access upwards of $40 million in recovery assistance. The BASE Network has expanded its reach and scope, with a goal of assisting 7,000 businesses over the next two years in a wide range of business development areas to help businesses stabilize, pivot, and grow. The BASE Network recently closed its first round of business assistance grants and will announce another round of grants in the coming weeks.
In addition to COVID-related assistance, BDC offers a wide range of services to assist businesses.
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