Private Help for This City

ROBERT C. EMBRY JR.

April 15, 1993|By ROBERT C. EMBRY Jr.

Often lost in the deluge of ideas on how to create new jobs, and in particular unskilled jobs in areas where unemployment is high, is this easily overlooked one: Have the leading institutions within a city bring their power and influence to the task of attracting job-creating businesses.

A recent case in point is the experience of Baxter International. This company is the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of health care products and services for use in health care settings.

Only recently, with the help of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, Baxter chose to locate a plant, a sterilization and processing facility, in Baltimore City.

As a result, 80 new jobs -- and not sophisticated, high level research jobs that critics of the city's aspirations to promote Baltimore as a center for life sciences had originally predicted for such a vision. But 80 entry level, unskilled jobs the day Baxter International opens here, and another 60 by 1994.

If Baxter International had followed the conventional route, it probably would have wound up in an affluent jurisdiction that has a minimum unemployment rate.

As a matter of fact, Baxter was going the conventional route. In doing its location search, it was following the established pattern in such searches. Corporate decision makers looking to develop a new facility tend to favor new construction over rehabilitated facilities. This approach leads to sites in land-rich areas with low unemployment rates.

Enter a leading institution in the Baltimore community, the University of Maryland Medical Systems (UMMS) represented by President Morton Rapoport, M.D., and his staff. The hospital is a large customer of Baxter; it had the firm's ear, and Baltimore's interest at heart.

Dr. Rapoport and Co. had developed a policy which makes clear that, all things being equal, UMMS prefers to work with vendors who have a presence in the community. UMMS implements this policy by favoring community vendors with their share of the $80 million that UMMS spends annually on non-construction supplies and services.

Officials of UMMS met with their counterparts at Baxter. Baxter got the idea. Together, both sides explored how they might help each other reach their respective objectives.

The result: a state-of-the-art, high-tech facility soon to be located in the southwest section of Baltimore City.

The model of UMMS using its purchasing power leverage to influence the decision of a major supplier to locate here in Baltimore City is one that should be followed by other medical facilities in the community.

The total of such spending that could be leveraged just by Baltimore hospitals totals in excess of $500 million annually.

In 1991, city leaders announced plans to promote Baltimore City as a center for life sciences.

Critics promptly challenged such a strategy as one concerned more with sophisticated research positions than with unskilled, entry level jobs; and futile because little could be done to implement such a strategy.

The UMMS-Baxter experience is a significant answer to the critics.

Robert C. Embry Jr. is president of the Abell Foundation.

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