By Donald C. Fry
An axiom about life is: in order to know how to get somewhere, you need to know where you are in the first place.
The Baltimore Development Corporation, Baltimore City’s economic development agency, is seeking a consultant to help it do just that in order to craft a much-needed strategic plan for strengthening the city’s business climate and economic development.
BDC President & CEO Brenda McKenzie issued an RFP last Tuesday seeking a consultant to develop a “fact base” of the city’s economic development landscape and resources. The consultant will be expected to ultimately produce a comprehensive analysis of business climate strengths, challenges and opportunities and to make recommendations to grow the city’s economy.
The successful consultant should also focus on developing a strategic plan with key priorities, options for growing the city’s economy and metrics by which to measure the success of initiatives for job growth and private sector investment in the city.
Ultimately, the strategic plan developed through the current BDC initiative will serve as a guide for growing the city’s economy – a “key determiner” in reaching Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s goal of attracting 10,000 new families to the city in the next 10 years, according to the RFP.
This project signals a significant and constructive new focus on strategy for the BDC, which has been viewed by many as being driven more by tactics than by a bigger overarching plan.
“BDC is overwhelmingly more project based rather than strategic based,” the Transition Team for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reported in March 2010. Among other things, the Transition Team recommended a greater emphasis on the business development aspect of the BDC, called for a “value-analysis” of impactful opportunities for economic growth, and suggested the development of metrics to measure the success of BDC initiatives.
The findings and recommendations from this BDC project will be integrated with the ongoing update of a larger Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy being managed by the city’s Planning Department.
One of the basic needs the consultant will be asked to address is to develop a wide range of economic and business-climate data that pertains just to the city. “Baltimore has struggled to identify City-centric data, as most analyses of economic activity are done on a regional scale,” according to the RFP.
Data to be sought will include demographic and socioeconomic trends, industry sectors, and current trends and forecasts for employment and job-growth, workforce, income, population and diversity.
In analyzing city business climate assets and opportunities, BDC is seeking a specific focus on how to accelerate the pace of job creation and the potential to attract new residents through enhanced retail and commercial assets.
Other deliverables the BDC is seeking from a consultant include identification of successful economic development models elsewhere that could potentially be adopted by the city. The BDC is also seeking recommendations for strengthening small business growth, engaging the city’s corporate and civic institutions in developing strategies, analyzing the city’s competitiveness for business growth, and an overview of public and private funding options that could support business and real estate development in the city.
Copies of the RFP for this project can be obtained online from the BDC. The deadline for proposals is June 10, while a pre-proposal conference will be held on May 15.
This is only one project, but it’s good to see the city focusing on the issue of its competitiveness for business expansion and growth. The ability of cities and states to embrace the notion of competitiveness and to craft business development strategies around it will play a decisive role in their future economic growth and job creation.
Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He co-chaired the Mayor’s Transition Team’s committee on economic development and jobs. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.
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