Entrepreneur momentum in Baltimore
There is a shift taking place in Baltimore, and it is gaining momentum. The city that produced the steel that built Liberty Ships, girders for the Golden Gate Bridge and pumped out millions of Chevy Astros and GMC Safari minivans is gaining recognition across the country as a hub for technology and entrepreneurship.
In July, CBRE, a global commercial real estate services and investment company, ranked Baltimore one of the nation’s 10 top momentum markets in the country for attracting technology talent.
Entrepreneur Magazine recently dubbed Baltimore the second-hottest start-up city in the country. And Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” ranks Baltimore seventh in the country for attracting creative talent — highly educated individuals, often involved in technology, who command high wages.
But Baltimore and the state of Maryland must continue to work together to make even greater strides. Here are steps we can take in certain areas to keep the momentum going.
Maryland gets high marks for attracting and growing investment capital. Baltimore area companies accounted for eight of the10 biggest venture capital deals in the state in the first quarter of 2016, and Maryland completed 46 deals through the third quarter, according to the PWC Moneytree Report. While we are not Silicon Valley, New York or Massachusetts, we are in an area that promises even more growth. Why? Start-ups have room to expand here because our market is not oversaturated with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. This means our start-ups and entrepreneurs have a better opportunity of not only standing out with their product or service but of attracting investment and talent and ultimately growing. What is more, Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the nation with 9 percent of individuals making more than $200,000 a year. Ideally, this continued growth and investment will entice individuals to invest in early stage businesses that create jobs and drive economic development. So, like attracts like, or in other words; the more successful businesses we build, the more investment we will see.
Baltimore is home to some of the best universities in the country. Maryland ranked No. 2 for talent pipeline in 2015, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While the combination of access to top talent and concentration of STEM jobs makes Baltimore an ideal location to work and build a company, we must continue to improve the city’s image in the face of high crime and poverty. At the same time, we must work to retain talented college graduates by not only connecting them with opportunities that exist here, but by building new ones. It sounds so simple, but companies offering internships and programs like Baltimore Corps, Venture for America and Baltimore Collegetown are a handful of initiatives that are effective at keeping talent here. We must find more ways to fill the gap between talented students and paid internship opportunities. Giving college graduates the opportunity to participate in Baltimore’s economic transformation enables us to better compete for talent. Supporting these efforts should be a key focus for large and small organizations alike.
When we look to build and support growing companies, one of the biggest challenges is the size and depth of their network. Who do they know? Who can offer advice? Baltimore and the region have incredible resources ranging from government, incubators, universities and investors. But support organizations must do a better job helping businesses expand their networks. Connections, or breaking down the Smalltimore image, can create a social multiplier effect that adds fuel to a start-up. Baltimore and the state are uniquely positioned to take on this charge. The more we continue to break down silos, support each other and drive meaningful connections, the stronger our network capital will become.
To be sure, investment, talent and collaboration are growing in Baltimore. Our strong base of government, military, higher education and health care has proven to be fertile ground for start-ups fueled in part by a surge in college-educated millennials moving to the city.
While we have success stories, Baltimore is just beginning to realize its potential. We are already witnessing sparks of brilliance, but the mission is to transform Baltimore and the region into a destination for entrepreneurs who will lead the way in developing the businesses of the future. These businesses, we hope, will be so resilient, creative and nimble they will be able to withstand global changes the industries of the past could not.