Jay’s Baltimore Business Problem
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Jay Steinmetz is the CEO of Barcoding, Incorporated. Since 1998, Barcoding, Inc. has provided barcoding and data capture solutions to businesses on an enterprise scale. The company has designed and implements warehouse management systems, mobility systems, inventory control, asset tracking, and more elements of the supply chain. Headquartered in Baltimore, Barcoding, Inc. also has major offices in Chicago, St. Louis, and San Diego; as well as additional locations nationwide. Each year, the company hosts an Executive Forum: a one-day conference aimed at educating organizations in the use of mobile technology.
Q. You received a lot of attention for an editorial you wrote recently for TheWall Street Journal. Could you tell us about that, and the response you received?
JAY STEINMETZ: When I initially submitted the article called “My Baltimore Problem” to The Wall Street Journal, I wasn’t expecting that they would actually publish it. But they did, and I had to make some changes. It was overwhelming. I had a lot of people say, “You’re spot on, I agree.” I had very few people say that I wasn’t on track with my editorial. Let’s face it: the issues that a mayor has in the city of Baltimore aren’t easy. There are systemic issues that have happened over 50 years: the poverty, the lack of opportunity, the lack of role models, the lack of a father in many circumstances—those are very complicated and very difficult challenges. To accomplish that you’re going to need to do multiple things, and you’re going to need federal and state help, probably above and beyond anything that’s been able to be given. But this isn’t about just giving money to a city, this is about changing the whole paradigm of how a city operates—for instance making all of Baltimore an empowerment zone.
Q. What ideas would you like to see implemented in the city?
A. The empowerment zone idea is actually a great idea: lowering property taxes, which would be part of that for the entire city, making it subsidize property taxes, setting up limits to the types of issues and how easy it is for people to find ways to create difficulties for corporations. I feel that we could modify how workers’ compensation works. I think we could modify how unemployment works. If somebody was to get fired and then they come up and they dispute, and then they lose, there should be limited capabilities for them to re-up and reinitiate an unemployment hearing, because all these things take time and resources. I mean, I looked at the numbers on the Baltimore city budget and the number of people annually who work for the city who are on workers compensation is one in seven—one in eight. It was less than the numbers that I pulled up. Also it’s impossible to get permitting. It’s very difficult to get permitting in the city. It’s very difficult to try to build something and to renovate and to do something. There are just a lot of obstacles that need to change.
Q. How does being an entrepreneur in Baltimore compare to doing the same elsewhere?
A. The entrepreneur in the city of Baltimore is overwhelmed and they’re going to be overwhelmed and okay with it as long as they’re selling to the population of Baltimore, but you need businesses that want to come to Baltimore—and not just to sell to the people of Baltimore, but to utilize the people of Baltimore as a resource. My perception, after 17 years of business, is that there are more challenges than there are perceived benefits. Now, the benefits do exist: we have a great number of universities that I pull critical resources from—young, talented, interested resources—but that’s in jeopardy, with things like the riots, and I worry that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
That’s a problem for me for my business. We don’t sell locally: our biggest clients are around the world. We’re providing mobile device management application, lifecycle support, for all the mobile devices for some of the leading corporations in North America. And I have to worry that I’m in an area that has a high crime, that’s in an area that maybe I have a less trust than I should. And because of that, I have to keep an environment that is highly tracked and traceable—of course that’s what we do—and full of security and cameras. My stuff is not highly fenceable, however people’s perceptions could lead to circumstances that could impact my business.
Q. With all the issues you just mentioned in mind, do you think you’ll stay in Baltimore?
A. I am committed to the city. I’ve been committed to the city. I’m not the kind of person who just runs. I fight and I’ve been fighting. I have a vision that there are ways to solve this problem and it’s just going to take a lot of time, a lot of resources, and a lot of unpalatable guts from political leaders to step forward and not be as concerned about their own reputation and their own success in front of their peers. Then, people will step out of their comfort zone and take on interesting new challenges in terms of how to run the city in order to stay.
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