Balancing the Scales of Investment in Baltimore

By Jared Brey, 1/3/19, originally published on

“According to James “Mac” McComas, the program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative, the neighborhood-by-neighborhood disparity is stark: In the last five years, private banks have invested $780 million in the fund’s eligible neighborhoods, which cover two thirds of the city, while investing more than $860 million in the remaining third.

In 2017, the 21st Century Cities Initiative released a report monitoring changes in public and private lending practices in the city over the previous decade, which Next City covered previously. That report showed a marked drop off in investment from local lending sources inside Baltimore. Last year, the researchers released two follow-up reports, focused on improving bank lending and venture capital available for small businesses in Baltimore.

Previous efforts in Baltimore and at the state and federal level have zeroed in on specific investment strategies for housing or commercial development, McComas says, but the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund is unique to the city in its flexibility, with the potential to make targeted investments for a range of financing and operational needs for businesses.

“I think if you do all of these things at the same time in these communities, you have a much greater chance of success,” McComas says. “And from what I know of the NIIF, I think that’s what they’re doing.””

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