M. Ogden building his own legacy

July 13, 2008|By DAVID STEELE

Last month, when he officially retired from the NFL, Jonathan Ogden pledged his loyalty to his adopted hometown, proclaiming, "I'm a Baltimore Raven for life."

Unbeknownst to the other assembled onlookers at the Castle in Owings Mills that day, Ogden's younger brother and former Ravens teammate, Marques, had already made his own commitment to Baltimore. Starting in summer 2006, Ogden had been studying the construction business in the hopes of starting his own commercial company.

However, he had more in mind than just creating a post-career livelihood, he said recently. "My goal for all of this is to rebuild Baltimore," he said, "for the people here, with the people here."

By that, Ogden means he wants to not only help redevelop areas that desperately need it, but also to change the nature and culture of those areas, return basic services and a true neighborhood mind-set - and employ workers who either lost their chances to support themselves and their families or never learned how.

That includes, he said, everybody from former athletes with no prospects beyond playing to people who have been in and out of jail. Eventually, he wants to add a nonprofit training and education venture to his for-profit business.

"The commitment is here. It is not to just make money, it's to help people," the younger Ogden said. "It's a chance to change things for you, for your family, to take your faults, put them behind you and move on to what you're truly capable of doing, for your family and your community."

The vision is a long way off because Ogden is still establishing his own credentials in this business. What he does have now - a company called Kayden Premier Enterprises, located in East Baltimore and named after his niece and nephew (Jonathan's children), and a steadily growing list of contracts - did not come overnight. Nor, he said, did it come because of his last name, or his millionaire brother's handouts.

"He loves me, he supports me," Marques Ogden, 27, said of Jonathan, who has his own foundation that does loads of charity work in the city. "But he didn't put a dime into this. That's why it's that much more important to me."

He took no shortcuts. In the past two years, Ogden completed an internship with Doracon, Ronald Lipscomb's company; attained his city and state construction licenses; started Kayden with partner and longtime family friend Arthur Pearlman; and met (and impressed) numerous area contractors.

"He was a breath of fresh air," said Craig Wess, Manekin's senior vice president for construction, who met them at a minority contractors networking event at Morgan State in March - and did not know of the family connection. "He really has what it takes. When we met him, we wanted to help him."

Ogden also completed a 10-week course last spring at the city's Small Business Resource Center, near the former Memorial Stadium site, covering every aspect of starting a business.

With all of that groundwork laid, the jobs soon began to flow - small ones, but on prominent projects at notable sites. They got in on the rebuilding of the Center for Urban Families headquarters near Mondawmin Mall. Just last week, they reached an agreement for work at Loyola College and Lake Clifton High.

It's fitting that the aforementioned jobs tie in with Ogden's vision. He has fallen in love with Baltimore, he said, and in lieu of a big check from his older brother, he took advice: "He told me: 'If you want to live in Baltimore, if you want to make an impact, be a player. You have to go out there and let people know who you are and what you're doing.' "

That is what helped persuade Pearlman to get on board. "I see developers come in and do the shows at the stadium," Pearlman said, "and they're not really there to help the community, they're there for publicity. We're not here for the publicity. You have to build a community that will create jobs and provide the same services they get out in the counties. You can't come in and build it the same way it already was."

"I've been around to places to see what the problems are, and I know what needs to be changed," Ogden said. "We have to take an active role in not just helping, but in changing all of that."

If he can, if he brings his vision to life, Marques Ogden will end up being just as big a player in Baltimore as his big brother was.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

DAVID STEELE // POINTS AFTER

*Nothing wrong with the Tampa Bay Rays and Evan Longoria being rewarded by the fans, but Brian Roberts deserved a lot better in the American League last-man voting than fourth place out of five.

*Mayor Dixon last week, in a meeting with The Sun's editorial board, voiced the Catch-22 of the new arena and the prospect of luring the NBA. She said relying on a new arena to attract the NBA was "unrealistic." Then again, the one sure way to make sure the NBA can't and won't come is to build an arena the NBA can't play in.

*Now that he's following his trip to China last year with one to South Africa this year, Cal Ripken Jr.'s special State Department envoy position is getting more intriguing by the day.

*Give Dara Torres credit. At least she admits that she knows exactly why her swimming feats are greeted with so much skepticism - unlike certain female Olympic track and field gold medalists currently in prison for lying in the face of the same skepticism.

*This market isn't big enough to withstand a Ray Lewis Watch and a Brett Favre Watch at the same time, anyway.

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