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Why Baltimore is Burning

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 4/29/15


Baltimore is burning because of jobs, or more accurately, a severe lack of jobs. JOBS: Jobs, Outsourcing and Brutality, is what Baltimore's outburst is all about. And Baltimore is symptomatic of the nation. It is a lot like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and many other rust-belt cities that have been hollowed out by outsourcing and the Great Recession. As one who lived through the riots of 1968, we must strive to repair the underlying reasons for Americans who are angry, hungry, frustrated and desperately searching for something to do about their plight. Everyone needs to have a reasonable chance at economic success and many of the citizens of Baltimore feel that they have no future, so they burn baby, burn.

Losing a Job is Brutal Too

Brutality is not just police brutality but also economic brutality. Losing a job can destroy a family, diminish a career and end the dreams of a comfortable retirement. The General Motors factory in Baltimore, the Solo Cup plant in Owings Mills and the massive steel mill at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point all manufactured products in Maryland for decades. And all of these plants closed within the past 10 years. In the 1950s, Sparrows Point was the largest steel mill in the world with more than 31,000 workers: It closed in 2012. How many lives were brutalized by these job losses?

Maryland's manufacturing job losses are among the nation's worst. Maryland, a small state with about 6 million residents, has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade alone. GM's Baltimore Assembly Plant opened in 1935 to produce Chevrolets and closed its doors in 2005. More than one thousand workers produced 3.2 million Astro and Safari vans at the Baltimore plant.

The Under Armour company was founded in 1996 by Kevin Plank, a 23-year old University of Maryland football player. Plank initially began the business from his grandmother's basement. When sales starting rising, Plank moved production to Baltimore. Under Armour took over as the main uniform and equipment provider for the University of Maryland. Now, Under Armour makes most of its athletic clothing overseas but manufactures a limited number of products in its quick turn, Special Make-Up Shop in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Under Armour has grown dramatically in eighteen years from zero to $3 billion in sales in 2014. Dan Rodericks of the Baltimore Sun suggested that Under Armour take some of the $280 million it offered NBA star Kevin Durant to endorse its athletic shoes and instead, use this money to build a factory in Maryland. (Durant declined Under Armour's offer and went with Nike.)

For over 100 years, Black and Decker was headquartered in Maryland. B&D invented the portable power drill in 1917 and built millions of them in Towson, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. Black and Decker closed its last manufacturing plant in Maryland in 2004 thus cutting 1,300 jobs. Chairman Nolan Archibald, noted for his outsourcing of tool manufacturing to China and Mexico, recently got excessive compensation and made substantial gains from stock and options valued at more than $130 million, including an obscene $51.7 million bonus. This bonus could have been used to reopen a Black and Decker plant in Maryland.

Dewalt, Black and Decker's high-end power tool brand, began production of its American-built cordless power tools in a 75,000-square-foot Charlotte, North Carolina factory in 2013 creating 250 jobs. This demonstrates that new competitive factories can be built in the United States. Black and Decker can and should to bring more factories back to the State of Maryland.

Clothier Joseph A. Bank, headquartered in Maryland for over one hundred years, no longer manufactures apparel in the state. In 1995, Bank officials announced the closing of its Hampstead, Maryland sewing factory resulting in the loss of 100 jobs. Three years later, Bank Clothiers sold its last manufacturing plant and now outsources all its production, mostly to China.

What Should Be Done?

As demonstrated by the new Dewalt plant, the private sector can brings jobs back to Maryland and to Baltimore. A trio of Baltimore companies with a long Maryland heritage, Black and Decker, Joseph A. Bank and Under Armour can build new factories in the city or in nearby areas. Instead of burning down buildings, Marylanders can stop buying Black and Decker tools, Jos. A. Bank and Under Armour clothing. They can also picket these stores and send them a message: we need jobs, here and now.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of souvenirs are purchased at Oriole and Raven games in Baltimore and online. The Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens can require their vendors to purchase souvenirs with their logos on them from Maryland factories. The University of Maryland, owned by the State of Maryland, can mandate that Under Armour to make its souvenirs and uniforms in Maryland. If we do not bring jobs back to Baltimore, we can expect many more eruptions from the ranks of the frustrated and unemployed residents of this great city.

 

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Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation, economist and lawyer, author of ten books and hundreds of articles.

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