The following appeared in the U.S. Economic and Development Administration (EDA) May 2017 Success Story series.
Small businesses in Baltimore are getting a boost as a result of a $110,000 EDA Local Technical Assistance Program grant that was awarded in 2016 to help the Baltimore City Department of Planning launch its Made in Baltimore program.
Made in Baltimore aims to spur re-investment in Baltimore City by growing the market for locally-produced goods. They do this by supporting makers and manufacturers through the local-brand certification program, promotion and marketing events, and business development services. Local craft shops, breweries, manufacturers and many other companies that make products in the “Charm City” are proud to stamp that Made in Baltimore seal on each and every one of their products signifying that honorable hometown pride.
“The Made in Baltimore program helps to elevate the presence of maker and manufacturing companies in Baltimore,” said Andy Cook, coordinator of the Made in Baltimore program at the Baltimore City Planning Department’s Office of Sustainability. “Makers and manufactures in the city are selling products, hiring people, and staying open for business and creating a renewed sense of pride for our local economy.”
Baltimore city has been hit hard with a struggling economy due to decades of population losses and poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 23.7 percent of city residents were living in poverty in 2015. But despite the odds, according to Glassdoor.com, Baltimore ranked 17 out of 25 last year as one of America’s top cities for job opportunities.
Made in Baltimore’s sprawling efforts are a big part of helping the city to rev up its economic engine! The program has spearheaded a series of five Pop-Up Shops at different locations throughout the city. These Pop-Up shops allow Made in Baltimore associated companies an opportunity to showcase their products, promote entrepreneurship and engage networking opportunities. The first Pop-Up Shop opened in 2015 featuring more than 80 local vendors with a wide variety of products ranging from furniture to clothing and beauty products, to food and beverages. In 24 days of operation, the shop collected more than $20,000 in sales and connected several vendors to large purchasers and substantial contracts.
The most recent Pop-Up Shop took place last holiday season from November to December with 50 local businesses that generated more than $30,000 in sales. This holiday shop was so successful that the concept is being replicated by a local retailer on an ongoing basis. Made in Baltimore has plans for two additional Pop-Up Shops this summer.
“The Made in Baltimore program is helping to bring a 'farmer's market mentality' (such as 'farm to table') through educating our consumers,” said Jeremiah Jones, co-owner of SewLab USA, a Baltimore based soft goods manufacturing company that participated in the Made in Baltimore program. “With the Made in Baltimore seal, we as consumers can make a well-informed decision to buy locally made products that help create jobs and pave the way to local sustainable manufacturing.”
The program has also launched a series of workshops that will help small business owners with startup support services including access to capital, marketing strategies, and best practices. The program is just one of countless examples how EDA helps business to grow and thrive.
“We are proud to elevate the presence of these Baltimore companies,” adds Cook. “These are the kinds of businesses that give Baltimore its character, and create meaningful, living-wage jobs for our city’s residents.”