by Tim Murphy
Baltimore County Department of Economic Development
From the World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor, visitors can take in a long view of the natural waterways and man-made infrastructure leading into Baltimore. From this perch, the Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) recently gathered economic development professionals to look at how a major expansion of the Panama Canal can lead to economic expansion here at home.
In just two years, the Panama Canal will open new shipping lanes capable of handling vessels with three times the current cargo loads. These so-called “super ships” will make it cost-effective to carry goods from the Pacific Rim, through the Canal, and directly to customers along the East Coast.
A new Towson University RESI report, commissioned by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB), studied the local impact. The Port of Baltimore is one of only two Eastern seaports currently capable of handling these vessels. According to the RESI study, “the growth and investment in the supply chain will be exponential, impacting everything from shipping and rail line construction to warehousing and terminal development.”
Baltimore County Department of Economic Development’s Strategic Operations Plan, released earlier this year, intentionally aligns with these high employment clusters, including manufacturing, port-related industries, logistics, and distribution centers. Economic Development is also focusing on nine business investment areas, including Sparrows Point. A Sparrows Point Partnership advisory group is providing guidance to the County on the specific types of businesses and new jobs that will benefit from an expanded Panama Canal and Port.
Attendees at the MEDA conference agreed that “opportunity knocks,” but to take full advantage, it will take a coordinated, focused and planned effort. Baltimore County is already ahead of the game.