Region faces major loss of young talent by 2010

108,000 to leave area unless something is done, study says

January 17, 2001|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore region must reach out to younger people who are the future of the work force, an official involved with a marketing study commissioned by the Greater Baltimore Alliance said yesterday at the group's annual meeting.

In a decade, those who are now 15 to 34 are going to be the key group in the work force - and Baltimore will have a deficit, said John A. MacColl, executive vice president and general counsel for the St. Paul Cos. Inc., who also serves on the GBA's board of directors.

"We are a net exporter of talent," said MacColl, who made a presentation on the GBA's effort to "brand" Baltimore - that is, to create an alluring image that will make it easier to pervasively market the region.

Yesterday's meeting of the GBA, an economic development organization that works to promote the Baltimore region, was held at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore on Light Street. The meeting also featured a review of the GBA's activities during 2000, success stories of companies drawn to the region by GBA efforts and a keynote address by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

In terms of the branding campaign, the GBA has two groups at work on the project: BrainReserve, the company headed by trend-analyst Faith Popcorn, and the business location services unit of Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting.

BrainReserve was charged with searching out key trends that can either be capitalized upon, or used as a rallying point for a regional self-improvement project. With that done, Acenture will then try and weave BrainReserve's findings into useful site-selection strategies.

So far, this marketing program has only gone through its first phase, which essentially means some of the self-improvement points have been identified.

Perhaps the most important point was the lack of young workers.

In 10 years, those who are now 15 to 34 years of age are going to be 25 to 44 - and the most in-demand part of the work force. Members of this group have shown themselves to be technology savvy and quick to relocate as they pursue opportunities.

And in many cases, their presence, or lack thereof, helps a company decide whether or not to set up shop in an area.

"They are your future," said Eugene H. Fram, the J. Warren McClure marketing research professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology College of Business. "They are the first completely computer literate group to go into the work force."

Baltimore will face a dearth of workers in this age group, the marketing report found. A decade from now, the area's population of this group will have dropped by 108,000 from a starting point of 400,000 - a decline of 27 percent.

That shortfall of young technology workers could cost the region dearly in terms of economic development. What Baltimore will have to do is market the features of the region that are sure to appeal to this age group, said MacColl of the St. Paul Cos.

The Baltimore region must be portrayed as safe, with a great public education system, lots of amenities such as parks, hiking trails and the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay - not to mention the kinds of high-tech career opportunities members of this group have shown themselves willing to relocate for, MacColl said.

Clearly, he said, to make some of those claims, improvements are required.

In other business, GBA officials detailed some of the organization's successes during 2000, when it helped induce seven companies to come to the region and two resident companies to expand. One success was the Danaher Corp., which relocated its professional tools division to Hunt Valley from Pennsylvania.

Such additions are said to be making a big economic splash.

An economic-impact analysis done by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that, over the 10-year stretch between 2000 and 2009, eight other companies that either located or expanded here in 1999 because of the GBA would have a spinoff impact of $2.8 billion, would create nearly 2,300 jobs and would contribute $121 million in taxes.

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