The State of Urban Manufacturing: Baltimore City Snapshot

June 2018 / Abell-Supported Research / Community Development
Made in Baltimore
The Baltimore City Planning Department, with funding by the Abell Foundation, partnered with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance to better understand recent shifts in local manufacturing and help improve economic development services.

The State of Urban Manufacturing: Baltimore City Snapshot is the first study to explore the challenges and opportunities facing Baltimore City’s ‘maker economy.’ Based on a survey of nearly 100 business owners in Baltimore’s light-manufacturing sector, the report seeks to characterize the sector by company size, ownership, revenue, product types, and more. It also explores the barriers to growth as identified by the business owners themselves, and provides recommendations to address those barriers.

The State of Urban Manufacturing Study (SUM) is a project of the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA), a national non-profit dedicated to advancing urban manufacturing in U.S. cities. In addition to Baltimore, SUM includes snapshots of five other U.S. cities: Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, OR, and Cincinnati. The same survey tool was deployed in all six cities, allowing for comparison across them. In Baltimore, UMA partnered with Made In Baltimore to develop and distribute the survey tool, convene focus groups of business owners and service providers, and author the final report. The Abell Foundation supported that work.

Some key findings of this report include:

  • Small, emerging firms are not accessing available resources, creating a perceived gap in services. A clearer roadmap is needed for services available to small manufacturers.
  • There is a need for affordable production space into which smaller manufacturing businesses can grow. Such space is threatened by down-zoning light-industrial areas in favor of residential development.
  • There is strong entrepreneurial interest in Baltimore’s apparel and jewelry sectors, but businesses in these sectors tend to be small, home-based operations. Supports are needed to help these entrepreneurs expand.
  • Women-owned businesses comprised over half of survey respondents, indicating a strong presence of female entrepreneurs in the light-manufacturing sector.

The report will be a tool to guide Made in Baltimore programs and recommendations in the coming months and years. It will serve as a baseline for Baltimore’s maker economy and enable stakeholders to track key ‘vital signs’ of this sector in the years to come.

You can download the Baltimore City Snapshot here.

Photo courtesy of Andy Cook. A trainee at Made in Bmore Clothing operates a computer-controlled embroidery machine at their facility in Port Covington.