State of the State Event Recap

March 31, 2022

State of the State

January 19, 2022

We jumped into this year’s State of the State by asking our 60 attendees a personal and a professional question. New Year’s resolutions? Almost 50% of attendees did not make one; the majority of those who did focused on wellness. Which CRE trend would most likely continue in 2022? The industrial sector will continue to thrive. And just like that, we were off and running. Led by Dr. “Toni” Frances Draper, publisher, and CEO of the Afro News and who from this point forward will be known as the Queen of Moderating, we were treated to a wonderful discussion that, despite having to switch to virtual, still gave off the vibe of a cozy fireside chat.

Michele Whelley of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore started us off with some strong points:
  • Manufacturing is not dead.
  • Logistics is a rockstar.
  • Cyber security will never plateau. “If you own a computer, you need to be concerned about cyber security.”
Whelley then shared her insights on the often-misunderstood value and benefits of careers in the trades. Kids see the trades as “dirty.” Parents are part of that problem. Both kids and parents need to be educated on the opportunities trade careers offer. Instead of only telling kids, “You need to go to college” parents should help them discover other options. While the perception of manufacturing jobs may be that they are low paying, the reality is that they are not, especially considering there has been and will continue to be an increased focus on technology. Trade careers offer a good salary, benefits, and most importantly, a career path for our youth.

Drew Jabin of the Maryland Bankers Association told us that there has been “a lot of chatter” on the legislative side about family care, childcare, paid insurance to care for an elder family member, and innovative ideas about boosting apprenticeships. The priorities, however, will be public health and the economy - - getting people back to work, strengthening families, getting food on their tables. PS: You may be interested to know that there is a multi-billion [yes, B] budget surplus.

Four areas Jabin says will be front and center as well:
  • Redistricting
  • Family Care
  • Cannabis
  • Climate
Jabin encouraged us to see the silver lining of the pandemic: “State government is more accessible and more transparent. Marylanders can get involved. This is the time to start. Set up meetings. Find out who represents you. Go say hi to them. They are happy to see you.” Her sage advice that “The best banking advocate is you” reminded us all that we have a voice and need to use it. Lastly, Jabin reminded us that this is an election year and encouraged us to get involved.

Gina Stewart, Executive Director of The BWI Partnership, touted the airport’s $9B impact and the fact it supports 106,000 jobs. The airport saw 7M passengers in 2021, which was 68% more than in 2020 but still 36% less than in 2019. Leisure travel is recovering, but business travel is still a struggle. Cargo is obviously crushing it. In fact, BWI set a record this month for 56M pounds of cargo being transported. Stewart remarked that while transportation may not be sexy enough for its own calendar like firefighters have, it certainly is holding its own during the pandemic.

Both Stewart and Whelley agree with the poll result that “industrial is going to skyrocket.” In Baltimore there are no vacant warehouses because they get “gobbled up as soon as any become vacant.” These are not just water-based warehouses; the ones near highways and rails are seeing the same thing.

Although everyone agrees that working from home is here to stay, will people return to the office? “Yes,” Stewart said. “People want to be with people. There is a value to being in the office, the camaraderie, synergy, dynamic. You can’t get that on Zoom.” Whelley mentioned talking with business leaders in the area who have staff who have literally never worked in the office because they were hired during the pandemic. Those individuals don’t see the value of the office. Like most firms are doing, there will most likely be a hybrid approach for employees moving forward.

When the discussion turned to how do we attract and – more importantly retain – people to live and work in Baltimore, Draper pointed out that although “it’s easier to find the bad news, we need to find the good.” Whelley agreed that crime “is the story” and said that the EAGB is “painfully aware of how that impacts our marketing of the region.” But then our speakers were quick to point out our area’s gems - - JHU, UMBC, vaccine development at UMD, cybersecurity at Fort Meade, research labs at APG, the community colleges, arts and culture, and Morgan State, the only designated national treasure in the US.

One question Whelley raised toward the end of the event was, “What is the personality of the new CBD going to be?” Is this a case of the chicken or the egg? Will a personality be created intentionally to entice businesses to stake their claim there, or will businesses set up camp and a personality will be created as a result of those who settle in first? Only time will tell.

CREW Baltimore wants to give a huge thanks to our panelists and attendees for the valuable and relevant information shared pertaining to what we can expect in the Baltimore area in 2022 in the realm of CRE. We all enjoyed hearing four strong, smart, successful women share their insights, opinions, and perspectives. CREW Baltimore events always involve strong, smart, and successful women leading the way, so check out our website to see what’s up next!