It's no time to stand still

A mission: Michael Gaines is making sure the "Digital Village" includes all Americans.

September 04, 2001|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

It's been eight months since the Maryland Center for Arts and Technology Inc. moved into a new space in downtown Baltimore, but its president and chief executive officer, Michael A. Gaines Sr., hasn't had time to dress up his stark, white office or even unpack the cardboard boxes stacked against the wall.

But there are a few decorations that have made their way out on display: two framed photographs that include Mayor Martin O'Malley and executives from Hewlett-Packard Co. There's also a letter from Hewlett-Packard congratulating the center for winning a $5 million grant to help Baltimore.

In February, Hewlett-Packard announced that Baltimore would become part of its "Digital Village" program, which awards $5 million in money and equipment to each of three underprivileged U.S. neighborhoods.

The Maryland Center for Arts and Technology - a nonprofit agency that trains underprivileged adults and at-risk children for technical jobs - applied for the grant for the East Baltimore empowerment zone, an area around Johns Hopkins Hospital.

At its annual meeting this month, the Downtown Partnership will honor Gaines and the center with an award that recognizes their roles in helping bring the money to Baltimore.

"Michael, since taking over the directorship of MCAT, has ratcheted up the profile and the visibility of that organization as an organization that can really provide some much needed services in the way of trained personnel," said Michele Whelley, president of the nonprofit Downtown Partnership.

Gaines, 50, joined the center in July 2000 after careers in the public and private sector. A native of Baltimore, he went to college on a football scholarship and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1973 with a degree in business administration.

After graduation, Gaines worked for about two years at the Council for Economic and Business Opportunity (CEBO), as a business counselor for small, minority companies.

He would later return to head the same council. But in the interim, Gaines had jobs ranging from the owner of Subway sandwich shop franchises to working at the Baltimore Economic Development Corp., now the Baltimore Development Corp.

"I remember when he was there that I encouraged Michael to the point of pushing him to apply for the CEBO job, which was the executive director position there, and Michael was hesitant to do it," said David Gillece, who was Gaines' boss at the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. and is now an executive vice president at Colliers Pinkard, a Baltimore commercial real estate company.

Gillece said it was natural and honest modesty that nearly held Gaines back from applying for the CEBO job, which he landed in 1990. After five years at CEBO, Gaines left in 1995 to work for the Rouse Co. as vice president and manager of Harborplace and the Gallery.

"He was the ambassador or mayor of Harborplace," said Jody Clark, a vice president at Rouse and Gaines' boss for two years.

Mike Durham owns the Sport Shop and Stadium Sports, both in Harborplace, and was president of the merchants' association for Harborplace and the Gallery while Gaines managed the two shopping centers.

"Michael was sort of the caretaker through the renovation of Light Street and the transition when they renovated that," Durham recalled. "It was hard on the people who stayed there, and he just did a really good job of maintaining tranquillity."

But Gaines left Rouse last year to work for the Maryland Center for Arts and Technology. Gaines also sits on the Downtown Partnership's board of directors.

The Hewlett-Packard grant that the center won for Baltimore will be used for job training and to put computer equipment in schools, community centers and libraries in the East Baltimore empowerment zone.

Gaines said 80 percent of the grant comes in the form of equipment and consulting services.

Some funds have started to trickle in and are covering administrative costs, and the equipment has been ordered, Gaines said. And as the center continues to work on a plan for the grant money, the organization is also broadening its services.

"It's been very busy because we are in the midst of trying to expand our training program, while at the same time working on our Digital Village program," Gaines said.

In fact, it's been so busy that Gaines hasn't had time to finish unpacking since the organization moved from an office on Johns Hopkins' Bayview Campus to a downtown office in January.

"Most of my time is spent building ... this organization," he said.

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