In response to a Fox & Friends report on Saturday, which compared living conditions in Representative Elijah E. Cummings' (D., Md.) district in Baltimore to those at the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump slammed the city as a "disgusting, rat and rodent-infested" place where "no human being would want to live." Cummings has widely criticized the conditions for detainees at the border.
Local entrepreneurs wasted little time in speaking up about the city where they live and have built their livelihoods.
By Sunday night, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank had posted an Instagram video about the city that houses his company's headquarters. While the video acknowledges the challenges Baltimore faces it also promotes the idea of unity to overcome them. A voiceover declares "the world knows better than to count us out, because no matter the challenge, we both will rise." Though it doesn't mention Trump by name, the timing of its publication and the depiction of the city and residents suggest it is a response to the President's words. By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been viewed nearly 35,000 times.
Other local business owners took to Twitter to reject the president's comments more directly. They shared pride for Baltimore and lauded the newly minted #WeAreBaltimore social campaign designed to showcase "all that's right" with the city.
Among the companies speaking out is Volo (No. 976 on last year's Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.), which organizes adult sports leagues throughout the country and uses revenue from that arm of the business to fund free youth sports programs. About 3,000 children in Baltimore participate in Volo's free programs, which founder Giovanni Marcantoni launched when he saw the city couldn't afford to host similar activities.
"Baltimore pushed us to figure out this solution for youth programs," Marcantoni said in an email to Inc. "If we had our headquarters in San Francisco this wouldn't have happened."
While it may be true that Baltimore has been plagued by high poverty and crime rates, the city's startup ecosystem has been growing in recent years. Baltimore ranked No. 38 on Inc.'s list of the 50 best places in the U.S. and Maryland has the highest per capita rate of women and minority business ownership in the U.S., according to a 2018 study by the human resources company Paychex.
David Trapp, the founder of screen printing company Mojo, Art & Image (No. 383 on 2018's Inc. 5000 list), told Inc. he produced T-shirts on Monday in response to the president's tweets with the Maryland flag in the background, a rat in the foreground, and the words "Don't tread on us." He's sold about 100 shirts so far.
"The entrepreneur community is extremely close-knit here," Marcantoni added. "We push each other to build companies and do it in a way that also helps our community."