Following a warm welcome by CREWBaltimore President Nikkia Fitch, our annual sponsors were thanked, including the event sponsor Miles & Stockbridge. Michele Cohen, Principal at Miles & Stockbridge spoke on behalf of her firm.
To kick off the discussion Adrienne Jones, Speaker Pro Tem/Delegate of the Maryland House of Delegates – 10th District, provided highlights of the 2019 session. She noted that the House and Senate have 61 new members this year and several standing committees. The 2019 focus has been on education through the Kirwan Commission, and on balancing the budget. Speaker Pro Tem Jones encouraged CREWBaltimore members to visit the House Floor and participate in dialog with the policy committees. She stated that “women play a critical role in this assembly this year” and noted that several current committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs are women.
Spencer Levy, Chairman of Americas Research and Senior Economic Advisor at CBRE then led a lively discussion about the economic state of Maryland, and specifically the Baltimore region. After stating that he believes the three pillars of a region’s success are money, talent, and infrastructure, the discussion focused on these areas.
Economically, Speaker Pro Tem Jones noted a vast divergence in the Baltimore region with drastic highs and lows. The region boasts strengths in urbanization, revitalization based on historical manufacturing origins, and added suburban revitalization in areas such as Columbia, Annapolis and Towson. A discussion that began with the struggles surrounding employment and hiring quickly turned the topic from economics to education.
Mary Ann Scully, CEO of Howard Bank, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, and Levy all leaned toward support and services for families as having the greatest impact on education reform. While college is not for everyone, the Kirwan Commission aims for every student to be college or career ready by 10th grade, and not lacking in fundamental skills such as literacy and math. Scully noted that Howard Bank is currently putting funds into work-force development, and skills that are not on a resume, such as curiosity, are also important. Levy suggested that economic integration within our public-school systems is the answer, stating that “we should do everything possible to give every kid a shot”. This sentiment was backed by both the panelists and the audience.
While infrastructure was a lesser discussed topic, transportation seemed to be the key. Neither Scully or Speaker Pro Tem Jones backed the idea of a hyperloop between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Scully stated that there are too many other mass transit issues that need to be addressed first. Ultimately, the region needs to prepare for behavioral changes in how and where people want to live and work.
Levy, a consummate moderator, added light-hearted banter to the discussion by encouraging Speaker Pro Tem Jones and Scully to share their music and television preferences (Speaker Pro Tem Jones prefers R&B music and T.V. mysteries, while Scully likes Aretha Franklin and the band Chicago and watches Game of Thrones and Midsomer Murders with her family). With predictions from both panelists for a recession and a woman in Presidential power in the near future, the discussion came to a close and was opened for a series of questions and answers.