A strong and sustainable 21st century economy can only be built from the bottom up. And today, as President Barack Obama visits Baltimore, it is this fact that will drive us to join with him to renew a call for Congress to focus on common-sense investments that create middle-class job opportunities now and reward America's economic future.
Here in Baltimore, when it comes to economic development and jobs, the future of our local economy is heavily dependent on three critically important areas that require continued, targeted investments: public education, infrastructure, and job skills and readiness. We understand that key investments in these areas will not only support immediate job creation but will also lay the foundation for a strong and viable economy going forward — an economy in which middle-class families can dig out and get ahead; an economy in which future generations will find opportunity.
Public education is a cornerstone of a growing city and a sustainable economy. Yesterday, I joined Gov. Martin O'Malley as he signed into law a historic $1.1 billion effort to modernize Baltimore's aging school buildings. The plan is supported by a doubling of city funding for school construction and renovation. New investment in the infrastructure of our public schools supports immediate job creation while improving the environments in which our children learn and grow. At the federal level, President Obama has proposed a budget this year that makes a significant new commitment for early childhood education and focuses new investments on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow.
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The roads, rails, bridges, ports and airports that make up the nation's transportation network are the backbone of our economy. Without reliable and efficient means to transport goods and people, our economy will be fettered. This year, Maryland made tough choices to invest dedicated funding for the improvement of our highways and public transit — including the proposed Baltimore Red Line. Now, Congress must act to support President Obama's Rebuild America Partnership and his proposed National Infrastructure Bank, which will leverage private-sector investment to bolster America's infrastructure — including transportation projects of national and regional significance. This is a bipartisan idea that deserves the support of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
As we invest in infrastructure to keep our economy moving, we must also do what we can to ensure that citizens are able to gain new skills to keep pace with the ever-changing demands of the labor market and global competition. In Baltimore, we have created four new Community Job Hubs that offer no-cost job readiness computer classes taught by professional technology trainers, as well as access to academic resources, customized skills training, employer recruitment events, job alerts and job fairs. President Obama's commitment to preparing citizens for long-term employment is captured in the Skills for America's Future initiative, which is developing partnerships between schools (such as Baltimore City Community College) and industry leaders to ensure that students are gaining the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the work force.
President Obama is visiting Baltimore today to highlight the nexus between these critical investments and creating an economy that is built to last. As mayor, I am proud that President Obama has chosen to visit Baltimore to showcase policies that can succeed and to remind Congress that the federal government has an important role to play in ensuring that our economy moves forward.
It is local Baltimore businesses like Ellicott Dredges that are on the front line of our nation's drive to become world leaders in industrial innovation. For almost 130 years, Ellicott Dredges has built the machines that allow commerce to travel by boat to every port in the world. Recently, it invested millions to retain its competitive edge and to continue providing good-paying jobs.
We need Congress to support job growth and innovation in America's cities. If Congress takes meaningful action, we can reward the future by creating better-paying and more stable middle-class jobs for all Americans.
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the mayor of Baltimore. Her email is mayor@Baltimorecity.gov. Twitter: @MayorSRB.