Minimum wage change impacting census migration patterns a concern for Baltimore County

For many residents, the decision to move into Baltimore County from Baltimore City falls on two things:

Taxes and Schools.

That’s what changed for former city resident Amy Menrad.

After learning her Baltimore City middle school could not accommodate the needs of her son, she decided to move to the county.

Menrad isn’t alone.

Between 2007 and 2011, more than 16,000 city residents made the jump from Baltimore City into Baltimore County, making the migration one of the largest moves in the United States, based on data released last month from the U.S. Census.

County business leaders are concerned the movement could stop, given the recent approval to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Keith Scott, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, said the county is experiencing a flourishing growth in entrepreneurs who want to open small businesses.

An increase in the wage, he said, could stop that.

“This was something we didn’t support,” he said. “We fear these businesses will close or move away altogether.”

Scott said the city/county move has a lot to do with government stability.

When opening his own communications business, he thought about opening in the city, but saw more opportunity over the line.

“I found Baltimore County to be more fiscally sound and responsible,” he said. “There was a better chance to connect and network here, which is a big part of my job.”

Every month, the chamber meets with at least 70 people, all interested in starting businesses in Baltimore County.

“A year ago it was not that many,” he said. “We continually are meeting with first-time entrepreneurs who are interested in opening up shop here -- our membership is reporting record growth.”

Scott said he’s also hearing of more growth in the smaller chambers, including Pikesville and Dundalk.

The city to county migration ranks in the top 25 in the country for residents opting to pick up from a major city and move to another part of the state.

Check out the other migration flows here: 2007-2011 U.S. Census migration flows (pdf)

Menrad, who works in real estate, regularly helps young couples make the transition. She’s been doing it for more than 20 years.

Baltimore County continues to be a top choice for her clients.

“The city is targeted for the younger population -- those who want to be close to the bars,” she said. “Once you get married have kids, it all changes.”

Megan Benetsky, a statistician with the U.S. Census, said the move outranks about 90 percent of move patterns in other cities.

She was also surprised to see how many people were coming from Asia and Central America to settle in the U.S.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this,” she said. “It’s something we anticipate will grow.”

Benetsky said the reasons for the flow vary from state-to-state.

“What might be happening in Maryland might be different in California,” she said. “There is more than one reason for the changes.”

City's population is growing

Despite the migration between the city/county line, city leaders are concentrating efforts to increase residents.

Last year, after nearly four decades of population decline, Baltimore City grew by 1,100 residents in 12 months. According to the U.S. Census, there were about 621,342 people in Baltimore as of July 1, 2012, up 0.2 percent from 2011.

The increase is not out of the ordinary. After becoming mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched a city initiative to bring more residents to the city. Her goal is to add 10,000 more residents in the next ten years.

To do this, Rawlings-Blake is focusing on growing the city’s immigrant population. She’s also taken step to reduce the property tax by 2020 and securing $1 billion in new school construction.

“Progress on these fronts is what attracts new residents to Baltimore and makes those who called our city home for decades want to stay longer,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

Nicolas Ramos, owners of Arcos Restaurant in East Baltimore, said Baltimore is much different than it was ten years ago.

“You have all cultures living together- Chinese, Caucasian and Middle Eastern,” he said. “Still the biggest growth is with the Hispanic population.”

Ramos, who also serves on the Baltimore Hispanic Commission,  said much of the immigrant population comes for job opportunities, which include construction, restaurant and grocery store work.

“We have seen job opportunities in these fields grow by 20 percent,” he said. “That leads many people to come here and settle.”

Ramos knows the story well. After coming to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s, he received amnesty.

After coming to Baltimore, he opened two restaurants and a construction company. He then moved to Baltimore County.

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