From large corporations to start-up technology companies, as well as the hub of all federally contracted work and a leader in the healthcare industry, the region has become a business corridor. Located in the heart of it all is Baltimore.
Baltimore, like many former industrial cities in the US, is struggling to overcome its past and has been in the press most notably for the recent Freddie Grey riots in West Baltimore. At the same time, the city grew in population for the first time in 60 years starting in 2011 and is ranked fourth in the nation in attracting millennials.
The "fifth city" in the chain of Boston, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia, Baltimore shares with its neighbours an urban culture, architecture and feel. Yet it is more manageable – and much more affordable – than its neighbours, and for these reasons is attracting young people who want to live in an urban centre and feel they can make a difference. Millennials who want to ditch their cars, walk to work and the local bar, and feel a sense of community have been drawn to Baltimore. Ranked ninth in Forbes’ 2015 "best cities for new college grads", the number of college-educated people aged 25-34 living within three miles of Baltimore’s central business district increased 92 per cent from 2000 to 2010.
It is this influx that has driven the growth of digital marketing in Baltimore. In the past, the agencies were primarily satellite outposts of larger agencies. Today, young, creative newcomers looking to make their mark have helped fuel the expansion of independent digital shops such as Jellyfish, not to mention the growth of larger independents such as the marketing agency Merkle and the sportswear giant Under Armour.
The same desire to make a difference that is bringing the next generation to Baltimore is transforming the workplace. It is helping to create cultures of collaboration, innovation and authenticity. They are pushing the technology boundaries and driving innovation. And it is these values that are so significant in an industry that is vying to connect data and content across the consumer journey in completely new ways.
Discussions about Baltimore’s overall future rightly include the topics of income inequality, racial equality, investment in infrastructure and public safety. Yet as important to the city’s future and its growing digital community are these young people – and whether they continue to decide that Baltimore is a place they can call home.
Jim Hamilton is the managing director, head of US agency, Jellyfish