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Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System unveiled a $135 million dollar expansion in employment, contracting and procurement opportunities targeted at minority, women and disadvantaged-businesses on Sept. 30. The initiative, dubbed HopkinsLocal, was announced during a teleconference hosted by Ronald J. Daniels, Johns Hopkins University President and Ronald R. Peterson, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Systems President.    

Planning for HopkinsLocal was initiated by the campus and hospital system two years prior to the widespread unrest and violence that stunned the city this past April following the death of Freddie Gray, who died of extensive injuries while in police custody. The initiative will (i) increase the number of new hires from under-served communities at both the University and the Hospital System, (ii) spend more of the institution’s purchasing dollars with minority and women owned vendors,  and (iii) expand minority, women-owned business and disadvantaged business participation on construction contracts of all sizes.  

The initial target for HopkinsLocal is to expand hiring, contracting and purchasing to “17% in the aggregate,” Daniels said. The University and Hospital system have set a total package baseline of $135 million that will include increasing hiring, contracting and purchasing to targeted populations over the next three years, said Tracey Reeves, Johns Hopkins University spokeswoman.

Daniels and Peterson said  that John Hopkins is looking to lead the drive to expand economic opportunity for under-served Baltimore residents. “We want to encourage other hospitals and businesses to create opportunities. We want to leverage our activities so that others will also participate,” Daniels said.    

The hiring portion of the HopkinsLocal initiative will focus on increasing the number of entry –level hires at the university and hospital. “There are 432 people hired each year. Of those, 26%  (or 112) get hired in the communities that we are targeting. With HopkinsLocal, that number goes up to 173 with the goal of 200,” Daniels said. HopkinsLocal will target Baltimore zip codes with 10% or greater unemployment and or poverty, Daniels added.

“We did a lot of benchmarking and spent a lot of time to make sure we developed something comprehensive and impactful. The decision that we made to target entry level hiring is not one we have seen a lot of,” said Peterson.

Daniels and Peterson also used the teleconference to discuss the Health Job Opportunity Program (HJOP), a separate but related effort in which Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, along with the city’s three other major hospitals proposed the creation of 1,000 entry level health care jobs targeted to residents of under-served Baltimore communities earlier this month. The money to create jobs through the HJOP must first be approved by the state of Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC), which is scheduled to announce it’s decision in October.   

Johns Hopkins University is asking the HSCRC to make $40 million per year available for the creation of Baltimore-based jobs for residents of communities with high poverty and unemployment rates. The funding would be generated through a small increase in regulated hospital rates, similar to funding sourcing for other programs such as the Maryland Nurse Support Program, implemented by HSCRC in 2001.    

The HSCRC, established by the Maryland legislature in 1971, has authority to establish hospital rates and control revenues. Maryland is currently the only state in the country to retain this kind of regulatory control system.  

Daniels stressed that the HopkinsLocal plan will move forward regardless of the decision made by the HSCRC in October about the creation of additional health-care jobs in Baltimore. “Our HopkinsLocal initiative is not predicated on the approval of the Health Jobs Opportunity Program,” said Daniels.  “We are hoping to leverage the good faith of all employers to respond,“ he said.

Hopkins has been criticized harshly about their non-responsiveness to community needs. David Simon, creator of the acclaimed HBO series “The Wire” and a former Baltimore Sun reporter,  lambasted Johns Hopkins University this past week saying “they care only about what directly affects their bottom line. They don’t have an interest in the community.” Simon made his comments about Hopkins at a forum sponsored by the Urban Institute on Sept. 27 in Washington D.C.  

Although University leaders did not reveal details about how they would be held accountable for the jobs, contracting and procurement opportunities promised to under-served populations and communities under the HopkinsLocal plan, Daniels, indicated there would be “internal and external accountability. “   

Civic leaders welcomed the initiative and viewed the Hopkins announcement as an opportunity to continue the city’s stabilization process. “Economic inclusion efforts are critical to revitalizing Baltimore, especially in the wake of April’s unrest,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings in a statement. “Johns Hopkins is leading by example in its efforts to provide economic opportunities for Baltimore residents and businesses.”

“Commitments like this by anchor institutions are essential to strengthening urban environments,” said Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, in  a statement. “Baltimore is primed to benefit from Johns Hopkins’ deliberate efforts to strengthen the local economy.”