Baltimore is the largest city in the U.S. state of Maryland and the 26th largest city in the country. It is located in the central area of the state along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. The independent city is often referred to as Baltimore City to distinguish it from surrounding Baltimore County. Founded in 1729, Baltimore is the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic United States and is situated closer to Midwestern markets than any other major seaport on the East Coast. Baltimore's Inner Harbor was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants to the United States and a major manufacturing center. After a decline in manufacturing, Baltimore shifted to a service-oriented economy, with the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University serving as the city's top two employers.
At 621,342 as of July 1, 2012, the population of Baltimore increased by 1,100 residents over the previous year, ending over six decades of population loss since its peak in 1950. The Baltimore Metropolitan Area has grown steadily to approximately 2.7 million residents in 2010; the 20th largest in the country. Baltimore is also a principal city in the larger Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area of approximately 8.4 million residents.