Skip to content

Re-igniting Baltimore

October 21, 2012

I finally spoke at Ignite Baltimore, joining the ranks of such luminaries as Kevin Griffin Moreno and Lionel Foster (or here for Lionel’s Ignite Education talk).

My five minutes focused on Baltimore’s propensity to bet on large development projects with questionable return on investment; I specifically cited a public-private plan to construct a new entertainment arena, expand the Convention Center and build an adjoining hotel. While there’s no doubt the Downtown tourism hub needs a facelift, I question whether that investment needs to be made now, particularly in contrast to the $2.45 billion in estimated school renovation needs. Moreover, a city with financial constraints should be looking for the most bang for its buck–and there’s a lot to doubt when making big projects central to economic development plans.

It’s through this lens that I examine the city’s proposed $35 million tax-increment financing deal to pay for infrastructure improvements around Under Armour’s expansion of its corporate campus. On the one hand, Under Armour appears to be a good corporate citizen and if the homegrown giant left the city, it would be a significant and embarrassing blow. On top of that, the city is largely responsible for the sort of infrastructure improvements Under Armour’s expansion plan requires. In technical and political terms, the Under Armour deal passes the “eyeball test.” Would I rather the city use TIF deals on more neighborhood and resident focused projects?

Absolutely.

And then I’m reminded of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s $350 million plan to revitalize Las Vegas and I wonder why Baltimore can’t get that kind of investment.

About these ads
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: