GBC plays key role in gaining city support for BioTechnical Institute of Maryland

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates recently awarded a $250,000 economic development grant to the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc. (BTI), culminating a year-long effort by the Greater Baltimore Committee to gain government support for the nonprofit that trains city residents who are high school graduates and places them in biotech industry jobs.

The grant will enable BTI, which was founded in 1998 by Johns Hopkins geneticist Margaret B. Penno, to ratchet up its tuition-free workforce development efforts by recruiting 36 participants for a new 12-week pre-training program. Named BioSTART, the new preparatory program will provide bright, motivated prospects with academic reinforcement and orientation to the bioscience industry.

BioSTART graduates will then take BTI’s 12-week, tuition-free Laboratory Associates Program. Since BTI’s founding, 176 of its students have earned certificates as lab technicians – 80 percent of whom landed biotech industry jobs within four months.

“The workers that the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland trains are steady, long-term skilled employees with a desire to succeed,” said GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry. “This program richly deserves to be supported by the City, to which it returns strong, reliable workers capable of buying homes and paying taxes.”

The city grant is largest single award the institute has received, said Kathleen Weiss, executive director. “This training provides city residents, who have experienced limited opportunities and education, a bridge to career-oriented jobs being created in the area’s fast-growing bioscience industry.”

The GBC’s Fry began pitching O’Malley administration officials in early 2006 for grant funding to help the organization. BTI has operated for eight years with funding from a handful of foundations.

BTI’s funding was initiated by The Abell Foundation, a GBC member that continues to fund BTI. Other GBC members who are major supporters include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, East Baltimore Development Inc., and the Goldseker Foundation.

Fry cited a recent University of Baltimore report on workforce requirements in the region’s emerging biotech industry. There is market for three times the number of lab technician graduates than BTI is able to train each year, the report concluded.

O’Malley committed to the city grant for BTI in August, but details had not been finalized before he left office to become governor. Mayor Sheila Dixon followed through with the award, which was formally approved on January 31 by the Board of Estimates.

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