About those 8,000 biotech jobs we promised…. 

In 2001, when Mayor Martin O’Malley announced that an 88-acre biotech park would be part of a new $12.8 billion redevelopment project north of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, city residents had every reason to cheer. City development officials insisted that the new research park would create 8,000 high-paying jobs and help rebuild Baltimore’s dwindling middle class.

A decade later, just one lab building has opened, construction on the others are on indefinite hold, and the non-profit East Baltimore Development, Inc. admits it has not placed even one worker in a biotech job.

“Biotech is not as promising as it was 10 years ago,” explained EBDI CEO Christopher Shea. He now wants to use the site for restaurants, a grocery store, a coffee shop, and a health club to cater to the 30,000 employees at Hopkins’ medical center. All of which, it should be noted, will create low-paying service jobs, or the exact opposite of what Baltimoreans – and state and city taxpayers – were led to believe.

Cheryl Washington, EBDI’s director of community and human development, told Capital News Service that since 2004, the company did find jobs for 1,964 people. But they weren’t the biotech ones initially promised; they were at Burger King, McDonald’s, and various warehouse and construction sites with an average pay of just $10.52 an hour.

“Would it be a success if no job was created? No. But jobs have been created. A job’s a job,” Robert C. Embry, Jr. – president of the Abell Foundation, which contributed to the biotech project – was quoted as saying.

Gee, it would have been nice to know that before EBDI spent more than $103 million in federal, state and city funds (or about $52,000 each) to “create” burger flipping and warehouse security jobs that Baltimore residents quite likely could have found on their own.

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