Baltimore’s homegrown producers and stores will soon have a new decal to showcase their local appeal.
The Baltimore Business Journal first reported the City Department of Planning is rolling out a program that lets businesses apply for a special “Made in Baltimore” certification. The local marketing campaign, which emulates a similar effort already developed by the City of San Francisco, could begin as early as this March.
The city regularly champions buying and producing locally, especially during the holidays. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a point of encouraging local shopping on Small Business Saturdays (after Black Friday) during her administration. Even just this morning, Mayor Catherine Pugh held an event in City Hall featuring local merchants to encourage shopping from Baltimore stores for Valentine’s Day.
The Made in Baltimore campaign aims for something more permanent — “supporting and promoting makers and light manufacturers here in Baltimore, trying to help grow that industry sector and create living-wage, full-time jobs for Baltimore city residents,” according to its coordinator, Andy Cook, an environmental planner with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.
The city has already hosted five “Made in Baltimore” pop-up shops, the first of which was held in summer of 2015. For the most recent one this past December, dozens of vendors sold goods at a pop-up store above Doubledutch Boutique on the Avenue in Hampden.
Starting next month, at no extra cost, firms that produce goods here in Baltimore or sell at least three locally made items can receive a seal to place on their storefront and print on their packaging. They’ll also get access to future pop-up shops and can have their businesses listed on the city’s Made in Baltimore website or a map of certified retailers.
Cook said he spent two years assembling the program. It began as a side project stemming from a survey of vacant areas that could potentially be revitalized, but morphed into an initiative to promote Baltimore’s local economy, he said.
Last year, the city applied for funding from the U.S. Economic Development Agency, and in the fall, it received a $110,000 grant for the Made in Baltimore project. The campaign also got financial backing from the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation, the City Department of Planning, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the Abell Foundation, Cook said.
Cook said generating more exposure for local businesses is a chief goal of Made in Baltimore. He sees the seal as functioning similarly to an “organic” label on food in grocery stores. “We imagine this will tell people the same thing, that it’s made locally,” he said.
Hopefully, he said, it was also “create community among these businesses,” giving them opportunities to network and collaborate with one another.
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