A Q&A with Barak Hermann, Chairman of the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable
Barak Hermann is the Chairman of the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable, as well as the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore (JCC). Nevins & Associates President David Nevins recently spoke with Barak about the exciting developments happening at the JCC and the growth of the Owings Mills area.
David Nevins: Tell us a little bit about the Owings Mills Corporate Roundtable. What are its goals and objectives?
Barak Hermann: It is an organization that focuses on the larger employers within Owings Mills to really advance the sustainability and economic viability of Owings Mills. So, we’re all stakeholders - of course, the JCC, non-profits like Irvine Nature Center, Maryland Public Television, Stevenson University and big employers like T. Rowe Price and CareFirst, and the developers of Mill Station, Foundry Row, and DSB Enterprises. Our job as a small organization is to provide our members with continued awareness and access to information about what’s happening in the Owings Mills area, including regular contact with elected officials and other people representing Baltimore County development. Our mission is to facilitate a sense of community amongst major employers that have invested in Owings Mills, and we collaborate to support a diverse and inclusive community. Our goal is to create a premier destination to live, work and play.
DN: What would your view be of the state of community of Owings Mills today?
BH: I think Owings Mills is a wonderful community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. There are many choices here with public and private schools and a lot of new businesses and economic development. The shopping areas have the most up to date retailers and dining destinations. With new development comes new landscaping and roadways. Owings Mills is very relevant – you can dine, shop, and play all within minutes of each other. I think we have a strong roadmap, both for the present and future of Baltimore County.
DN: All of the new retail development is not mall-based, it’s outside. In the era of the pandemic that turned out to be a wise move.
BH: We’re fortunate that these shopping experiences are outdoors, it has worked out well. The whole environment now with outdoor programming and the outdoor experience overall is more engaging for the community, while also being safer.
DN: You touched upon the inclusive nature of Owings Mills – talk a little about that.
BH: Our high schools are very diverse with cultures and races. Our neighborhoods are much more integrated than other areas. Owings Mills is a good microcosm of what we want for our larger society – it feels right.
DN: Switching gears to your role as CEO of the JCC - You’ve had your hands full in recent years, this is not your father’s JCC, right?
BH: No, I like to say its not your grandparent’s old Jewish Y. We’ve had to modernize and understand what people today need and how to serve community now. We are the oldest JCC in North America, founded in 1854. That was a long time ago. We’ve had to position the JCC to serve not only the Jewish community but also the larger community with our Jewish values and our mission. We’re not just a community institution with two different locations - the J is a brand and a platform. We leverage our history to demonstrate our enduring commitment to the community, while also advancing our vision through dynamic, strategic partnerships - with Lifebridge Health or The Associated, for example. Our organization is organized around three distinct centers–Center for Arts & Culture, Center or Youth & Families, and Center for Sports & Wellness. We use the three program platforms to engage our community at our campuses and around town. Fundamentally, we help people find their people and their community.
DN: I was fascinated to read about your new outdoor programming and development, including the launch of Gordon Outdoors, a drive-in movie theatre.
BH: It’s been great to create Gordon Outdoors. My son came home from college and told me a lot of his friends were going to drive-ins, which made me think about how that would be a good idea for the Gordon Center. It started as just a movie theatre, but we realized it’s a great way to partner with other organizations and serve our community. Now, it has turned into an outdoor entertainment venue. The ideas are endless. We’re hosting an outdoor PurpleTailgate. We can do weddings, town halls, and corporate events. We can have an event or a speaker in the Gordon Center and people can pull up in their cars and watch whatever is happening inside on our outdoor screen. This idea started during the pandemic, but we now have something phenomenal beyond Covid that will engage the community safely for years to come.
DN: To finish, is there anything you want to add about the JCC and your goals?
BH: Overall, we need community centers, especially in times like these, to bring people together – the JCC is one of the few places, no matter your religion or political views or race, where people can feel safe and included. We lead with kindness and excellent hospitality and it really is a microcosm of a healthy, joyful, diverse community.