Health care industry has been eating its spinach

Health care is the only major industry in Maryland with a workforce that increased consistently every year for the past 12 years (with the exception of a few quarters in which employment was steady or dipped by a nearly undetectable amount).

The December special publication “Doing Business in Maryland: Outlook 2014” features snapshots of 13 major industries, such as manufacturing, information technology and construction. For each industry, it provides a graph showing employment levels and rate of growth over time.

The information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and was compiled by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.

Health CareThe report also includes essays by Maryland’s business leaders, stories about up-and-coming business trends and in-depth analyses of the sectors driving the state economy.

Of the 13 industries featured, education looks the most similar to health care —perhaps unsurprising, given the close relationship between universities and medical systems.

The size of the education workforce increased steadily over time. There were no major fluctuations but there were plenty of visible blips in both directions. On the health care graph, there is only one visible (though small) decrease in employment: the first quarter of 2010.

I do want to differentiate between the rate of growth and the increase in the employment level. The dotted line on the graph shows the percent change in employment during a given quarter compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

Some fluctuation occurred in the rate of growth in health care employment. Between the fourth quarters of 2011 and 2012, the industry grew at a rate of 2.0 percent, adding 6,848 employees to payrolls, primarily in ambulatory care services.

For the past dozen years, the growth rate always stayed somewhere between about 1.3 percent and 3.8 percent.

That means that at any given point, there were always more health care jobs than there were at that time during the previous year.

The other 12 industries featured in the publication experienced contraction at some point during the last 12 years.

Even bioscience, a hot field in Maryland, is more volatile. Employment exploded in this industry around the turn of the millennium but has since leveled off, and numbers continue to dip up and down.

To examine employment trends in your industry, check out “Doing Business in Maryland.” Let me know which trends you found most intriguing — post in the Comments section or find me on Twitter @TDRAlissa.

Perry’s visit to Bethesda coincides with ‘Pitch Across Maryland’ stop

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas)Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s visit to Maryland on Wednesday had him crossing paths with Startup Maryland’s “Pitch Across Maryland.”

The two tours have similar goals — Perry is crisscrossing the country to promote his state’s economy and business climate, while “Pitch Across Maryland” celebrates entrepreneurs and business opportunities here.

Perry held a late lunch at Morton’s in Bethesda, the same area where the Startup Maryland bus was scheduled to stop Wednesday. The Maryland group took advantage, swinging by the restaurant with the bus.

“Maryland really shines not just against Texas, but in any geography,” said Mike Binko, Startup Maryland’s co-chair, adding that he would invite Perry to board the “Pitch Across Maryland” bus and pitch the state of Texas to businesspeople in Maryland.

Perry did not acknowledge the bus when he arrived for lunch but he has already made his pitch, releasing television and radio ads bashing Maryland as “the tax and fee state.”

“When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas, where we’ve created more jobs than all the other states combined,” Perry says in the ads.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley responded to Perry’s advertisement in a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday, writing that Maryland’s business focus is middle-class, sustainable jobs. He added a reminder of Maryland’s first-place ranking for innovation and entrepreneurship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Sitting there with my family and seeing that ad on TV… I think the approach and tactic [by Perry] was something lax in forethought,” said Binko. “He’ll probably want to forget this day next time he does a presidential debate.”

O’Malley’s op-ed also pointed out that Texas leads the nation in its number of minimum-wage workers and has poor rankings for high school graduation rates, poverty levels and health insurance coverage among residents.

O’Malley and Perry will appear on CNN’s “Crossfire” tonight to debate a range of issues. Both are considering running in the 2016 presidential election.

Survey of businesses shows expectations of growth

Mid-Atlantic job-seekers down on their luck may see a rise in opportunity over the next half year if a study from the M&T Commercial Banking Division proves correct.

The semi-annual study, by M&T regional economist Gary Keith, showed increased optimism about the economy among mid-size companies and real estate investors across the mid-Atlantic region, New York and Pennsylvania.

Of the mid-size companies surveyed, 45 percent said they think the economy has improved in the last six months, up from 18 percent a year ago and the highest percentage since 2009.

Commercial real estate firms surveyed were even more optimistic — 58 percent said the economy was better in the last half-year, while only 4 percent said it was worse. That’s a big change from this time last year, when those numbers were 25 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Overall, significantly more of the companies surveyed expect the national economy to improve in the coming months, representing a drastic change from their outlook in 2012.

When it came to hiring, one-third of the mid-size businesses said that they expect to add workers in the next six months, up six percentage points from one year ago and the highest percentage in the four-year history of this survey. Almost half of the businesses also expect to increase their capital spending modestly.

A majority of both the mid-market and commercial real estate firms surveyed tend to expect a slight increase in demand over the next six months.

Any number of factors could change the realities as those months play out, but the study refers to these responses as the start of a “modest momentum” and a more positive outlook on recovery from the Great Recession.

‘I heard the Grand Prix…’ Part I

Baltimoreans love to talk about the Grand Prix. Some spout off about the traffic, the detours, the inconvenience and so forth. But most just muse over how the event is going – you know, whether it will be a success, whether “they’re” making money.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore is an easy conversation starter, even for people who don’t know or care about the details. Still, these conversations are a gold mine of information about how residents feel about the massive street race that has begun taking over their city.

Throughout the weekend, I will post snippets of random conversations I hear about the Grand Prix of Baltimore. I’ll flesh out what I think each comment reveals about public attitudes and knowledge (or maybe lack thereof) about the event.

Pedestrian No. 1: “…Well, the city is just interested in making a profit. Otherwise, why would they bother doing it…?”

This woman seems to have gotten her players mixed up. She said “the city” but the city isn’t the entity putting on the event; they’re not the big investor here hoping to turn a profit. That role falls to Race On LLC, the private ownership group.

The city is banking on revenue from taxes (on sales, hotel rooms, tickets, etc) and financial compensation from Race On in exchange for lending its police, fire, traffic and sanitation departments and helping in other ways to pull off the event.

But make a profit? No. At least, not at first. Last year, Race On paid Baltimore $350,000 up front for its troubles but city officials estimated they actually spent more like $800,000 in worker overtime pay, cleanup and other costs.

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Runners rev up for Baltimore Marathon

RunningFestivalJC5Attention runners of Charm City: If you haven’t already registered for the Baltimore Running Festival, the Oct. 12 event that includes the marathon, you better get to it.

There are 15 percent more runners registered for the race than there were at this time last year, according to Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the sports marketing and event management firm that organizes the festival.

Now in its 13th year, the Baltimore Running Festival was honored earlier this week as one of the top 15 fall marathons in the country by workout website Dailyburn.com.

Additionally, all available vendor booths for the event’s Health & Fitness Expo — which is Oct. 10 and 11 in the Baltimore Convention Center — have sold out. (The news comes on the heels of the city tourism agency’s annual report, which found that tourism continues to rebound and boost the local economy.)

“We’ve worked hard to put on a world-class event in Baltimore, so it’s great to be recognized right alongside other industry giants as a top destination for runners,” Lee Corrigan, president of CSE, said in a statement. “This event offers tremendous value and our sales for both runner registration and expo booths reflect that.”

The Baltimore Running Festival offers something for runners of all walks, including those who don’t have those “26.2” stickers on their cars. There’s the signature event, of course, the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon, but there’s also a half-marathon, a team relay, a 5K and a kids’ fun run.

Registration costs between $90 and $110 for the marathon and between $15 and $100 for the other events.

The 2012 BRF had an economic impact of $38.6 million and raised $1.7 million for charity, according to a study by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.

(For a behind-the-scenes look at how a tiny, local firm like Corrigan Sports Enterprises plans the massive event, check out my story leading up to last year’s race and my blog post with anecdotes about the company’s formation and stats about the race)

Why medical researchers believe they’re in more trouble than we think

Earlier this month, I wrote a story about increased competition among medical researchers for grants from the National Institutes of Health at a time of declining federal funding of the Bethesda-based agency.

Many of the numbers speak for themselves, but other statistics aren’t so clear. For example, according to NIH data, 18 percent of grant applications were funded in 2012, the same percentage as in 2011. Prior to that, the success rate hovered around 20 percent to 22 percent for a few years, after dropping from above 30 percent a decade ago.

While those are not encouraging numbers, they don’t seem catastrophic. That is, they don’t seem to match the doomsday scenario described by many in the research community. But I kept hearing the same references to “less than 10 percent” of research projects being funded, including at a symposium where 200 state government, business and academic leaders discussed, among other things, the problem of fewer NIH grants and the need to protect our research institutions).

So I’m digging a little deeper. It turns out success rates aren’t the whole story. In fact, many scientists say they’re deceptive.

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‘House of Cards’ returns to Maryland

House of CardsHollywood is back on the Chesapeake.

The Netflix series “House of Cards” commenced filming its second season Monday in Maryland. Its first season created more than 2,200 jobs and an economic engine of $140 million, state economic development officials said. Much of the filming takes place in Baltimore and Harford County, where the production stage is located.

The second-season of the political-based drama, filmed by Media Rights Capital, will feature 13 installments. The series stars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kata Mara and Michael Kelly and is produced by Beau Willimon.

The General Assembly recently extended the state’s film production activity tax credit to lure the production back to Maryland.

“We’re grateful to Gov. O’Malley and the state legislature for encouraging film and TV production in Maryland,” said Willimon in a statement. “The state’s vendors, crews, diverse locations and government support make it an ideal place to film.”

Restaurant rendezvous

Baltimore county Restaurant WeekJust when you thought you’d prevailed through the diet-sabotaging holiday season (Pumpkin pie! Christmas cookies! Champagne!) and actually made progress on that health-related New Year’s resolution, there’s another temptress in town.

That’s right, it’s Restaurant Week — the irresistible combination of great food and great deals. But Restaurant “Week” is really a misnomer because diners don’t have just a mere seven days to partake. With prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants, it’s the ultimate opportunity to sample new options on the dining scene or finally make a reservation somewhere pricier than your budget usually allows.

First up in the 2013 Winter Restaurant Week season is Baltimore County, where the promotion begins Friday and runs through Jan. 27 with about 45 restaurants offering one, two or three courses for between $10.13 and $35.13. Among this year’s participants are McFaul’s Ironhorse Tavern, The Peppermill Restaurant & Lounge, Mari Luna Latin Grille, Friendly Farm Restaurant and Artful Gourmet Bistro.

If none of Baltimore County’s offerings pique your interest, head on down to Howard County, where about 20 restaurants are participating in their own promotion from Jan. 14 through Jan. 28.

Howard County Tourism & Promotion chose a global theme for the event, asking restaurateurs to incorporate international flavors into their special menus, which may include one to four courses, priced from $10.13 to $40.13.

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Payroll tax hike worries small business

After months of incessant droning about ‘the fiscal cliff this, the fiscal cliff that,’ the phrase alone is almost enough to make one just go ahead and jump off.

Because a long-term deal still eludes lawmakers, the quick-fix deal pushed through in the eleventh hour provided no relief — but its effects will be felt immediately.

Sure, the income tax provisions in the agreement won’t affect most people — higher rates were installed only for those earning $400,000 or more ($450,000 for couples) — but every working American will receive smaller paychecks in 2013 than they did last month.

For that, they can thank the expiration of a payroll tax cut. Rates are now 6.2 percent, up from 4.2 percent for the past two years.

About 77 percent of Americans will be have emptier pockets after handing over a collective $115 billion, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

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Tech Night 2012: A blast from the past?

Lexington MarketWhen I learned Lexington Market would play host to the Greater Baltimore Technology Council’s annual Tech Night on Thursday, I have to admit I was a bit puzzled.

Why, I wondered, did Lexington Market — the 230-year-old tribute to Baltimore’s mercantile past — strike organizers as the ideal site for celebrating the latest technological innovations?

Those troublemakers over at gb.tc must have something up their sleeve, I thought. With an executive director who also goes by the title of “chief instigator,” how could they not?

Well, they couldn’t — of course. So, once the 750 attendees (almost double the number expected) had sufficiently noshed and networked Thursday night, Executive Director Jason Hardebeck and his team, joined by Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings-Blake, took to the makeshift stage.

They applauded the tech community’s achievements, reflected on the growing scene in Baltimore and roused excitement for the future of tech innovation here.

They also delivered a little news nugget that shed partial light on their curious choice of location: Lexington Market will soon offer customers free wireless Internet.

Gb.tc came up with the idea, and Believe Wireless LLC, an Owings-Mills based Internet provider, will donate the necessary equipment and bandwidth.

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