CI VIEW: Baltimore’s small business leading way for post-riot economic Renaissance

BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON (BBN) – Small business leaders have already started to take the lead to transform Baltimore into the new economic hub of the Eastern United States after rioting forced Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to call up the National Guard and a near week long curfew.

[Siemens AG chief executive Joe Kaeser speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass at Export-Import Bank Annual Conference in Washington, DC. April 23, 2015]

The recent images of a rioting, National Guard soldiers carrying M-16 machines guns through the city’s financial and tourism district have so distorted the reality of Baltimore that small business leaders took it onto themselves to get out the message that Baltimore is an already successful city destined for greatness as a financial, logistics, healthcare, energy and IT hub.

At the same time Time Warner(NYSE: TWX) owned CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was broadcasting around the nation and the world images of petty unrest, local Gospel music entrepreneur Fred Newsome was out in front of Baltimore City Hall swatting down the perception that the city is merely an impoverished and violent ghetto.

[Newsome Gospel Music founder Fred Newsome speaks with Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass at Baltimore City Hall. April 29, 2015]

Newsome grabbed the opportunity to speak up about his city in which he holds an annual Gospel Music Awards that will be hosted this year will by upcoming actress Yosaris Rodriguez from the “The Hills” fame.

Other Baltimore-based companies include the family-owned food packaging group VacPac, Inc. that on May 18 won the highly prestigious The President’s “E” Star Award for continued superior performance in increasing exports from US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

During an interview with Capitol Intelligence, VacPac CEO Hessa Perlman Tary said her company is aggressively seeking to expand in both Africa and the Gulf and has made recent trips to both Dubai and South Africa.

Because of the company’s export driven growth, Ms. Tary said she is now experiencing some difficulty in hiring semi-skilled workers in her printing and manufacturing plant.

[Baltimore, MD-based Vac Pac, Inc CEO Hessa Perlman Tary speaks with Capitol Intelligence/CI MENA using CI Glass after winning US President’s “E” Star Award for Exports from US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker at Department of Commerce. Washington,  DC. May 18, 2015]

However, VacPac symbolizes the continuity of great Baltimore businesses as her company was awarded The President’s “E” Award for Excellence in Exporting in 1996, only five years after the award was instituted by US President John F. Kennedy.

Another local business owner, Jeffery L. Gordon, of the Flash Crabcrake Co., also used the opportunity to set-up his moving Crab cake catering business that he hopes will become a national, and possibly global business, right across from Baltimore City Hall.

Baltimore natives Gordon and his wife said they have invested all the proceeds of their last restaurant to start-up Flash Crab cake as a new business and decided to meet the needs of the hundreds of hungry and bored news media and police contingent staked out at the City Hall square.

[Flash Crabcake Co. owner Jeffrey L. Gordon speaks with Capitol Intelligence/BBN in front of Baltimore War Memorial. May 1, 2015]

While Gordon was speaking to Capitol Intelligence, Baltimore City’s States Attorney Marilyn Mosby was holding a news conference announcing murder and other charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, the incident that sparked citywide protests and riots.

Small business leaders struggled to purvey that the national and international news media was not accurately reporting that the Baltimore protest date back to decades of hostility between city residents — and a perceived out of control, and unaccountable, Baltimore City Police force combined with the sentiment of missing out in the city’s just burgeoning prosperity.

[Maryland National Guardsmen Ben Messmer and Milos Johnson speak to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass about Baltimore riots at Baltimore City Hall. April 29, 2015]

While Baltimore has made huge strides since the financial crisis of 2008 — when major financial services companies almost overnight shuttered their secondary operations — the word of regained lost ground and flourishing new businesses has not spread to the city’s residents.

A Baltimore corporate consultant, Adrian Harpool, said there is a lot of frustration in the Baltimore community that the visible wealth at the city’s Inner Harbor marked by the skyscrapers of giant US asset managers such as Baltimore headquartered Legg Mason (NYSE: LM), Amsterdam-based Aegon NV (NYSE:AEG) owned San Francisco-based Transamerica Corporation and New York’s Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) will never translate into opportunities for the residents in East and West Baltimore.

[National Urban League President Marc H. Morial speaks to Capitol Intelligence BBN using CI Glass (Google Glass) at National Urban League Save Our Cities conference at Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore. August 4, 2016]

The city with a population of a mere 620,000, down from nearly 1m in the 1960s, is already at the beginning of what will be one of the most significant economic booms with its deep sea Panamex container port, the listed Under Armour (NYSE:UA) clothing group, a health care sector led by Johns Hopkins Medicine and the soon to be listed, KKR private equity-backed Laureate Education.

Even in “impoverished” East Baltimore, one can visibly see the major influx of new investment by Chinese and sovereign wealth funds based in Abu Dhabi and Doha.

[Truth Organization for Youths Inc worker Joseph Brown speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass on East Baltimore outlook following the city’s riot. May 1, 2015]

This is confirmed by Joseph Brown, a facilitator at the Truth Organization for Youths Inc.  community youth study and recreation center in the heart of East Baltimore. Brown said while the houses in the immediate areas around Greenmount Avenue and 24th Street still suffer urban blight, new communities such as Charles Village are popping up just blocks away with USD 100,000 plus homes.

However, Baltimore-based founder and CEO of Baltimore-based Smart CEO Media, Craig Burris, is working hard to get the message out of the dynamic and growing small-to-medium size companies based in Baltimore and the booming Mid-Atlantic region through his magazine and CEO award ceremonies.

Most of the companies who appear in SmartCEO magazine or the company events in Washington, DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia are experiencing doubt digit growth and continue to expand and seek growth opportunities.

[SmartCEO Media Founder and CEO Craig Burris speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass at SmartCEO’s Baltimore/Washington Skyline Awards. Bethesda, Maryland. May 4, 2015]

US Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), US House Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance Ranking Member, said that the issue of fair access to capital and over regulation of minority-owned and other community owned banks is having a devastating impact on communities across the country.

Many of the reforms that are hitting disadvantaged communities the hardest were pushed in by than Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head and now US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

However, the issue of access of capital and over regulation of local banks is not only being pursued by the likes of Congressman Cleaver and House Financial Services Ranking Members Maxine Waters (D-Ca) but also by powerful Republican heavyweights such as the Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala).

Shelby, who was involved in every step of Dodd-Frank, told Capitol Intelligence that he was fully aware of the problems facing inner city and rural communities and that he pushing through legislation to address the small business lending crisis.

Senator Shelby said he would not mandate big New York financial service firms move their investment banking operations to regional centers such as Birmingham or Baltimore but hopes that the big New York banks would do so on their own as a good business decision.

In the case of Baltimore, the many smug bankers in Manhattan who took glee at the city’s perceived problems on national TV could soon be house hunting in the city as major US investment bank CEO such as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein and Morgan Stanley’s  James P. Gorman will be tempted to follow the example of Metlife Inc (NYSE:MET) and move their core operations South of the Mason-Dixie where commercial real estate cost a fourth of that of Manhattan and where one can find four times better staff.  

Also the fiercely proud city has some very heavy hitters on the global financial services stage.  The Carlyle Group co-founder and Chief Executive David Rubenstein never hesitates to highlight his Baltimore roots and it would not be a stretch to speculate that one of the world’s largest private equity funds would prefer to have its bankers based in Baltimore, a short 45 minute drive or train ride from its Washington, DC headquarters.

[The Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein speaks to Capitol Intelligence/BBN using CI Glass at SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor, Maryland on March 23, 2015]

Baltimore’s ideal location and mix of logistics, energy, healthcare and financial services makes the city an ideal candidate for Munich, Germany-based industrial giant Siemens AG (XETRA:SIE) has already moved its US headquarters to Washington, DC from New York City and the company is expected to transfer other operations such as growing Wind Power and Renewables Division from Orlando, Florida to the DC-Baltimore area.

In an brief interview with Capitol Intelligence, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said the company has already invested already USD 25bn in the United States over the past decade in healthcare and infrastructure and is looking to uses its US US operations for expansion opportunities in the important growth markets in Africa, Middle East  and Asia.

By PK Semler in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC

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