Resources for economic growth

January 13, 1995

Ordinarily, we are not great fans of ribbon cuttings. But the opening of two unusual resource centers in downtown Baltimore is an event worth commenting on.

The goal of the new Fannie Mae Partnership Office at 1 N. Charles St. is to work with city officials, local mortgage lenders, commercial and non-profit developers and community groups to make an estimated 10,000 loans over the next five years to revitalize residential areas.

"Our objective will be very simple -- to increase homeownership in the city," explained David K. Elam, a former city housing official, who heads the new office.

This Fannie Mae office (tel. 659-1205) is a pilot in a string of resource centers the federally chartered mortgage lender hopes to open in America's cities and rural areas. To achieve its objective, it must encourage Baltimore's major employers to copy a municipal government program which helps city employees with down payments and closing costs, if they buy a home in Baltimore.

The other new office, at 3 W. Baltimore St., belongs to the Small Business Resource Center (tel. 605-0990). It is the second of 40 similar centers that are being planned throughout the nation.

A joint venture among NationsBank, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency and Bell Atlantic, the Small Business Resource Center hopes to "make the difference between success and failure," as one speaker said at the opening ceremony.

Equipped with a library, computers and data banks, the center will offer free aid to people hoping to launch a new business or improve an existing one. Eventually, the center will turn into a one-stop shop that can handle loan applications.

"There is no place in the country that has all these resources under one roof," Barry Blumberg, the center's director, boasted.

Information is power. As Baltimore begins to implement its empowerment zone plans fueled by $100 million in federal seed money, both of these centers will become handy resources that should be widely consulted.

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