Speaker: Diane Bell, President and CEO, EBMC
Established in 1994 to administer the $100 million Empowerment Zone block grant awarded to Baltimore by the Federal government, EBMC is governed by a 30-member Board of Directors. EBMC will dissolve in 16 months, having completed its designated operating period.
Baltimore's Empowerment Zone is comprised of three non-contiguous areas in East, West and South Baltimore. Operating within those areas are 6 village centers located in the East Harbor, Harlem Park/Lafayette Square, Poppleton, Washington Village/Pigtown and Fairfield neighborhoods, as well as in neighborhoods represented by the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC).
EBMC accomplishments include:
- As of April 2001, 4,152 jobs have been created in the Empowerment Zone through expansion and start-ups.
- As of April 2001, 5,197 Zone residents have been placed in jobs throughout the Baltimore area.
- Four loan funds (including a grant for Brownfields clean-up) and an Equity Investment Fund have been established to stimulate business development.
- Six community-based career centers provide access to employment services in locations that are within easy access of Zone residents. The Mayor's Office of Employment Development (OED) is a major partner in this endeavor.
- Between 1994 and 1999, the crime rate in the Zone decreased by 38%, compared to a 20% drop citywide in the same period.
- Three community development corporations have been "seeded" with funds and technical assistance for capacity development.
- Through its "Choice Matters" initiative, EBMC provides employable Zone residents with a stipend for employer-subsidized customized training.
- EBMC provides residents with up to $5,000 for home ownership closing costs.
- EBMC provides funding and beds for substance abuse treatment.
- In partnership with the Division of Correction, EBMC has established a unit dedicated to employment and self-sufficiency for ex-offenders.
EBMC has faced the following challenges since 1994:
- There has been very low participation among prospective entrepreneurs in the business development initiatives developed by EBMC.
- Village Center employment efforts have met with mixed success, as residents who have accessed workforce services to date have been self-referred.
- To date, EBMC has not engaged in community organizing activities to a sufficient degree.
- Growth has been inhibited by limited land and infrastructure.
Asked about the lessons she had learned from her tenure at EBMC, Ms. Bell listed the following:
- The awarding of Empowerment Zone funding should not establish a sense of entitlement among Zone residents.
- Job creation does not necessarily result in the linkage of job seekers with employment opportunities. The most successful job development and placement model involves partnerships in which the employer provides customized, subsidized training with a guarantee of placement (i.e. HEBCAC's partnerships with Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical system for surgical and laboratory technician training).
- Community organizations such as churches and nonprofits need to be engaged on a citywide level.
- Even $100 million will not solve all the issues faced by Empowerment Zone residents.
- EBMC has laid the foundation, but growth and development must be ongoing processes.
- "Capital does make a difference." Emphasis must be placed on attracting new businesses to the Zone, in addition to fostering entrepreneurship among Zone residents.
- In order for tax incentives to truly attract businesses, other conditions (i.e. crime) must be equal.