Young work force called pivotal need

Advice: The key to Baltimore's economic future is drawing workers ages 25 to 44, FutureQuest attendees are told.

March 23, 2002|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Baltimore should consider holding an international symposium on ways to attract accomplished young people and boost economic development, Akio Matsumura, an expert who has brought together such thinkers as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Carl Sagan, said yesterday.

"You can learn from the success and failure of other cities around the world," said Matsumura, founder and executive director of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival in New York. "Diversity is richness. We should understand this."

A Tokyo native, Matsumura achieved one of his most notable successes in 1995 when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to jointly guide a world assembly on reconciliation in Jericho.

A key to Baltimore's success is involvement by young people, who make up the work force of the future, Matsumura told about 500 business and industry leaders yesterday at FutureQuest, the annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Alliance.

An international symposium would offer the chance to learn what qualities and practices have worked elsewhere to make communities more appealing, particularly to young people.

His recommendation follows a marketing effort that combined the advice of trend forecaster Faith Popcorn and work done by a division of Arthur Andersen. Completed last year, the project predicted that Baltimore would have a deficit of young workers in another decade.

The number of workers ages 25 to 44 - the age bracket most in-demand in the work force - is expected to drop from 400,000 to 292,000, a decline of 27 percent, during this decade.

"We wanted to know what we had to look like to survive the next 10 or 20 years," said John A. MacColl, chairman of the GBA board and executive vice president and general counsel for the St. Paul Cos. "We cannot expect to keep people here just because they grew up here."

Yesterday's meeting of the GBA, an economic development agency that works to promote the Baltimore region, was held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

Safe neighborhoods, superior schools and a welcoming and diverse community are among the attributes that the marketing project identified as essential to young people.

It is critical that schools and businesses stay connected so that students can be adequately prepared for the future and will know what jobs are available, said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "We face in this country, and in this city, a challenge," Hrabowski said. "What I want you to think about is what are some of the initiatives we can undertake. ... I invite you to join us for a new coalition."

Ioanna T. Morfessis, president and chief executive of the GBA, called on those attending the annual meeting to get involved to help make Baltimore a more appealing place to live and work.

"You can't separate the health of the economy from the quality of the talent, and you can't separate the quality of the talent from a healthy community," she said in an interview. "If any part of that - the people, economy and community - is not growing, flourishing and prospering, then the whole system will break down."

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