September 11, 2013 By Tanya Roscorla
A Baltimore nonprofit is transforming an old city rec center into a tech center for students that will prepare them for the science, technology, engineering and math jobs of today's economy.
This year, the Digital Harbor Foundation opened a tech center in the same space where the South Baltimore Recreation Center used to operate. The tech center will teach students both technical and soft skills so that they will be prepared for the jobs that await them in Baltimore's tech industry.
"If you're in inner city Baltimore, they see a lot of problems, a lot of people who don't have jobs," said Andrew Coy, executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation. "They, however, know that in the tech world, there is so much opportunity, and they're saying, I want to be part of that."
Two years ago, the city's 55 recreation centers were slated to be closed or consolidated under a plan approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The city could no longer afford to operate these centers, which at their heyday, numbered 150, Coy said. In the Industrial Era, the city opened these centers to keep kids fit for future jobs in manufacturing and provide a safe place for children whose parents worked second shifts at nearby factories.
But in today's knowledge economy, the rec centers no longer made economic sense for the city to run, Coy said. That's why the Digital Harbor Foundation decided to match the centers up with the economic needs of today.
The foundation is working with the Baltimore City Public School System and local organizations including FutureMakers and Code in the Schools to make learning exciting for students after school. These partnerships now allow students from first through 12th grade to take charge of their own learning.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.