BLocal, a commitment by Johns Hopkins University and businesses in Baltimore to "build, hire, and buy locally," will invest about $69 million in minority-owned, female-owned, and businesses in disadvantaged neighborhoods over the next three years, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Nearly a year ago, the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American, led to several days of protests and civil unrest in the city. The BLocal initiative came out of an effort by Johns Hopkins to encourage support of local businesses and create a sustained source of support for jobs for residents of Baltimore's most distressed neighborhoods — an effort that quickly received additional pledges from corporate board members and culminated in pledges from twenty-five companies.
Modeled after a Hopkins-initiated program called HopkinsLocal, which included an effort by Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System to hire a hundred and seventy-four ex-offenders last year, the BLocal initiative had to develop a system to help companies learn where to find local contractors and service providers as well as potential workers, including ex-offenders, from poor neighborhoods like Gilmor Homes, where Gray lived. To date, the companies involved expect to invest $53 million in renovation and construction projects and $16 million for the purchase of goods and services from minority- and women-owned over the next three years. To facilitate those efforts, the companies are coordinating with Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, a group of civic and church leaders and community members that has developed its own jobs program.
"My job is to make a difference in the communities we serve," said Baltimore Gas and Electric CEO Calvin G. Butler, Jr., one of three co-chairs of the effort. "Our commitment is made stronger by joining with others who care deeply for Baltimore to share knowledge and help direct resources where they make the biggest difference. BLocal gives us a platform to make important and meaningful connections."