Invest Maryland board takes shape

Gov. Martin O’Malley installed a nine-member board Wednesday to oversee the state’s planned venture capital fund that, if all goes as planned, will pump at least $70 million into young, high-tech companies.

“For a modern economy to create jobs we need to make modern investments,” O’Malley said before swearing in the Maryland Venture Fund Authority board members.

Invest Maryland was O’Malley’s top economic initiative in the past legislative session and, according to the Department of Business and Economic Development, is the largest economic development program in Maryland’s history. It is designed to enable entrepreneurs to capitalize on the research done at government and university labs in the state.

“It will get venture funding flowing again,” O’Malley said.

Peter Greenleaf, the president of MedIummune Inc. in Gaithersburg and the chairman of the authority board, called Invest Maryland “a progressive opportunity and one that not every state is capitalizing on.”

MedImmune is touted by state officials as a modern Maryland success story to be emulated by beneficiaries of Invest Maryland. The company was started with a venture investment in the early 1980s and has grown to 3,500 employees worldwide, with the vast majority in Frederick and Montgomery counties. Continue reading

O’Malley not satisfied with power restoration in Maryland

Four days after Hurricane Irene blew through Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley said there remains much work to be done to clean up in the aftermath of the storm.

“Some of those streets looked like the Jolly Green Giant came by and pushed over oak trees and hickory trees on to houses,” the governor said Wednesday during a quick briefing with reporters in Baltimore.

Some 140,000 households remained without power at about noon Wednesday.

“I think we won’t be satisfied until everyone’s turned on,” O’Malley said. “It’s been a long, long time for central Maryland.”

He did not criticize any utilities outright but pointed to different regions of the state as examples of how some areas are faring better than others. (Check out county-by-county outage figures here.)

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Dinegar talks Maryland, Virginia competition

Jim Dinegar, the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, has a unique point of view on the Maryland vs. Virginia economic development battle because his constituency hails from Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and the city in between.

He briefed the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Tuesday about a range of business issues, including the differences between Maryland and Virginia with a frankness that one doesn’t often see from business representatives.

One of the key factors that separates the states is the degree to which businesses can predict what action lawmakers will take in statehouses in Annapolis and Richmond, Dinegar said.

“You don’t have a reputation for being business friendly,” he told the committee. “The certainty, you don’t want people [in Annapolis] trying to battle on taxes. Decide. There’s a higher degree of certainty in Virginia.” Continue reading

Maryland Dems hit Virginia’s McDonnell

The sniping across the Potomac intensified Wednesday, with Maryland’s Democratic Party attacking the record of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

This comes in response to the Virginia GOP’s attack on Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday. Nice symmetry, no?

The inter-state kerfuffle centers on budgets and taxes and the records of O’Malley, who heads the Democratic Governors Association, and McDonnell, who heads the Republican Governors Association, on both of those topics. The two men were on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, their first joint television appearance while leading their partisan governor’s groups.

David Sloan, executive director of the Maryland Democrats, wrote Wednesday: “McDonnell’s illusionary ‘surplus’ is the result of deferred bills, dismantled programs important to the middle class, budgetary obfuscation and federal stimulus spending. Rather than investing in Virginia’s future, McDonnell has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from schools, colleges and universities, and cut funding by a third for EMTs, police officers and firefighters. No wonder Virginia has one of the worst track records on funding education and ranks 44th in job creation in 2011.”

That came after Virginia Republicans hit O’Malley using a blog post on the National Review Online.

“So of all those Virginia Democrats who might be considering a run for governor in 2013 – like Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner and Ward Armstrong – we ask a simple question: Do you support the O’Malley model of governance, or the McDonnell model of governance?”

Manufacturing, housing, defense lifting some areas of Maryland, sinking others

Just look at the stock market over the last few weeks, jobless figures, unemployment insurance claims or really any metric you can think of and you won’t need much, if any, convincing the post-recession recovery has been anything but smooth sailing.

The state adds jobs one month and loses them the next. Big stock market gains are erased the next day. Governments in Europe and the United States seem to be taking turns doling out dire economic news.

The unevenness, doesn’t come just over days, weeks, months and years. It’s geographical, too. And that’s what you’ll find in the story today about Western Maryland, the first piece of The Daily Record’s “Help Wanted” series.

In Western Maryland, job losses in manufacturing and logistics have slowed the recovery. Washington County, with less than 3 percent of the state’s population, has accounted for 15 percent of the manufacturing jobs the state has lost since 2006. In raw numbers, that’s 3,500 jobs lost in Washington, a county of 147,000.

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Md. planning department releases new sprawl statistics

Gov. Martin O’Malley will renew his call for a statewide growth plan Friday at the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City.

Plan Maryland, as the administration calls it, would steer population growth into already developed areas while seeking to stop the seemingly-endless rings of suburbs radiating out from the state’s urban centers into forests and farmlands.

O’Malley will be armed with a new map and new statistics. The land-use map, updated for the first time since 2002, shows 128,650 acres of land were developed in the state over those nine years, according to the state Department of Planning. That’s good for 8.4 percent growth, or about twice as fast as the state has added population during that time.

“The need for a state growth plan is made evident by the latest analysis,” said Planning Secretary Richard E. Hall. “The data shows that Maryland has now developed more than 1.6 million acres, or about 27 percent of the total land area, in total.”

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Bowling shoes and bridal gowns, get’em tax free

Maryland’s much ballyhooed tax-free shopping week starts Sunday, and with all the coverage leading up to its kickoff, I had assumed it was all about back-to-school shopping.

Then I stumbled across the list of exempt items. You can find it here, on the comptroller’s website. And if you want to full story on the tax free week, check out Alissa Gulin’s piece here.

The tax free stuff includes the following items, as long as they’re under $100:

  • Antique clothing
  • Arm warmers
  • Belts, with or without buckles (buckles sold separately are not exempt)
  • Bowling shirts and shoes (not rented)
  • Bridal gowns, sold or rented
  • Costumes
  • Cowboy boots
  • Dry cleaning services
  • Fishing vests
  • Fur coats
  • Golf clothing
  • Lingerie
  • Tuxedos

Maryland credit rating, day three

The credit rating front has been quieter Wednesday with Maryland officials believing any Standard & Poor’s rating action will not come soon, if at all.

Here are some of the things that didn’t quite make the stories in the dead-tree editions as the state held its breath, waiting for an S&P downgrade and then when it seemed Maryland was in the clear, at least for now.

On pensions…

The stock market volatility is not good news for Maryland’s pension fund. At the end of June, there was $37.5 billion socked away for retirees, and about half of that was in stocks. If those stocks took the same 6.3 percent loss the Dow took from Friday to Tuesday, that equates to a loss of $1.18 billion

Melissa Moye, the State Retirement and Pension System’s interim CIO, said the system looks at performance longer term, over months rather than days.

But, if stocks do keep losing value and, therefore, make up a smaller share of the system’s portfolio, it could prompt the system to buy more in the stock market.

“We will continue to look for opportunities to rebalance,” Moye said.

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