Putting a bright face on patronage

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A pat on the back—make that a cheer—goes to Hilton Hotels Corp. for putting its money where its mouth is in Baltimore. In each of the next 15 years, Hilton plans to make $200,000 available to National Academy Foundation students in a $3-million college scholarship program designed to encourage them toward careers in hospitality and tourism. Hospitality is one of three tracks offered by National Academy, which shares a building with Digital Harbor High School in the city's Federal Hill section. The scholarships will go to graduating seniors concentrating in hospitality and tourism.

The Baltimore Sun says the stipends make good on a pledge Hilton made in 2005 after it was selected to operate the city-owned convention center hotel. A 20-story, 756-room Hilton, to be on Pratt Street adjacent to the Baltimore Convention Center, is set to open in August 2008. It should prove stiff competition for the Hyatt Regency Baltimore near the center.

The paper reports that Hilton promised to create the scholarship fund to land the deal, so the motivation wasn't altogether altruistic. The package Hilton agreed to also guaranteed that 75 percent to 85 percent of its hotel jobs would go to city residents including ex-offenders and the unemployed.

Again, the motivation for that wasn't totally altruistic, either. But that kind of guarantee is not only politically correct, it's plain smart politics, particularly in a city that, according to a recent Police Forum study, experienced a 20-percent increase in homicides and a 30-percent jump in robberies in the past two years. Anything that brightens city life and cuts unemployment is good news these days. Besides, Hilton's Baltimore actions eloquently attest to the spirit of hospitality.

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