WASHINGTON – Cheaper property, a better quality of life and proximity to Washington helped lure Lutheran World Relief and its 40 employees to Baltimore after 55 years in Manhattan.
But it was the aggressive package of grants and loans that local development officials put together that sealed the deal, leading the group to choose Baltimore over Philadelphia and Minneapolis.
“The city was very welcoming,” said Mike Malewicki, vice president for finance and administration of the relief organization that aids refugees fleeing earthquakes, floods or war.
The deal offered a bonus for Baltimore as well: Lutheran World Relief’s sister organization, Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services, also was planning to move. That meant another 70 jobs, which city and state officials also courted with a promise of loans and grants.
The message from economic development officials to the Lutheran organizations was clear: Baltimore and state officials wanted the nonprofits just as much as they want to woo for-profit businesses and manufacturers.
Malewicki said that compared to New York, Baltimore’s traffic is a welcome relief and Baltimore-Washington International Airport is easily accessible. Baltimore also is close to Washington, D.C., making it easier for the organization to lobby for foreign relief aid after disasters such as the recent earthquake in India.
Baltimore offered another plus: the availability of prime Inner Harbor real estate next to a Lutheran-owned apartment for senior citizens.
But Baltimore Development Corp. was willing to sweeten the pot, helping Lutheran World Relief secure a $145,000 private grant to help defray relocation costs. It also helped the organization acquire a $20,000 state workforce training grant.
The city’s development office helped get another $20,000 workforce training grant for the group’s sister organization, Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services, and helped it get a $290,000 grant.
And state and local officials offered to help both organizations obtain $650,000 in low-interest loans, although the Lutheran organizations eventually passed on the loans.
Once the decision was made to move to Baltimore, Malewicki said the city’s economic development agency helped Lutheran World Relief “weave the way through the myriad of city agencies” when it built a five-story blond-brick and metal building on the Lutheran property it leases for $1 a year.
That five-story building, near the Inner Harbor and next to the Maryland Science Center, now houses both Lutheran charities.