Does Baltimore Need a Minority-Focused Incubator?
It seems like an odd question given that Baltimore is 65 percent African American with a growing Hispanic population, but we’re only reminded of Baltimore’s majority-minority status when politicos discuss “black youth mobs,” or you step inside of most public schools (not Hampden Elementary/Middle, as I was reminded after speaking at the school’s career day) or you take some form of public transit.
On the other hand, if you were to take a snapshot of Baltimore’s emerging creative and entrepreneurial community, you might conclude that the city’s black population was largely nonexistent. Some might argue this is because there aren’t many minority entrepreneurs or creatives in the city. Others would balk at this and suggest that the current ecosystem unwittingly overlooks minority creatives and entrepreneurs.
Pick your poison. I lean toward the latter but am sensitive to the former’s perspective. Wherever you land on this topic, however, we can probably all agree that enough is not done in Baltimore to recruit, encourage and cultivate minority entrepreneurs and minority-owned enterprises (including women, lest we forget).
Which is why the stalled redevelopment of the Jonestown Entrepreneurial Center is disappointing, particularly given the entrepreneurial renaissance underway in the city. The center was to be a 10,000 square foot incubator focused on minority-owned business enterprises and completed three years ago. It never was and the innovation community evolves and grows without it. The center would have been even larger than the privately funded Betamore innovation campus.
While the innovation ecosystem evolves and grows to fill numerous voids, there is one significant void that needs to be filled: genuinely connecting the city’s majority population to all of the exciting technological and entrepreneurial activities happening.