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Report: Maryland job creation strategy inadequate

To spur job creation and economic development, Maryland must streamline regulatory policies, lower taxes and develop stronger partnerships between government and businesses, said a new report released by the Greater Baltimore Committee Monday.

The current strategy for job creation and economic growth is inadequate, the report said.

“Business must be seen as a partner to government in creating jobs and spurring economic growth,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the GBC. “An even broader communication element needs to be formed. Government should rely more on some the knowledge and expertise that business has to offer.”

The unemployment rate for Maryland rests at 7.4 percent, less than the national average of 9.8 percent, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The state added approximately 5,900 jobs in October and more than 40,000 jobs to payrolls since January.

But the GBC president said the state must do more.

The report, titled “Gaining the Competitive Edge,” recommends eight pillars the government should adopt as it considers new legislative policy. Key actions include: developing a marketing plan that lures new businesses to the state and lowering business taxes.

In October, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the GBC, the Maryland Association of CPAs and a spate of other businesses released a study on Maryland’s business tax competitiveness.

“The report determined that Maryland really isn’t competitive in that area,” said Kathleen T. Snyder, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. “We’re not saying that we should roll back taxes. We’re saying let’s not add more tax. Let’s not add any more regulations. Let’s work with the General Assembly to make Maryland more competitive.”

If Maryland is going to create jobs, its workplace regulations, business taxes and the accessibility of transportation have to be competitive with that of its surrounding states, Snyder said.

When Maryland loses a company like Northrop Grumman Corp., the opportunity to grow high-paying jobs for Marylanders is also lost, Snyder added. Northrop picked Virginia over Maryland as the location for moving its headquarters from Los Angeles.

The GBC conducted a series of discussions and focus groups with business executives and economic development experts on the topic of the Maryland’s competitiveness for business locations and growth.

“What we heard from our people is that there are so many steps in the process that don’t work hand-in-glove,” said Fry. “You never know if you are going to find a surprise or a redundancy.”

Y. Maria Welch is founder and CEO of Respira Medical Inc., a respiratory home care company based in Linthicum that employs more than 50, which was launched in 2001.

“Bureaucratic red tape can be a barrier to access, she said. “By eliminating red tape, we create more jobs and increase access to business opportunities, particularly for women and minorities.”

The past several years have brought a shift and the dialogue between business and government is improving, Welch said.

“I sit on the Maryland Economic Development Commission and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Regulatory Oversight Committee. I am able to lend my voice, knowledge and expertise to these very important committees,” Welch added.

Many of the concerns voiced in the report are being addressed, said officials at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

To address red tape and regulatory issues, the department created a task force to simplify the process of getting an access permit, said the department’s spokeswoman, Karen Glen Hood.

The department is also working to develop a centralized website that houses all the information necessary to attain a business license or permit.

“We have had an unprecedented success in bringing the business community to the table,” said Hood. “We’ve formed various boards and commissions that focus on an industry sector or a sector of the economy. We want to hear from the business community.”

While Maryland offers businesses some incentives for locating within its boundaries such as a highly educated work force, strong public schools and a large number of research facilities, these strengths are not touted effectively, Fry aid.

“Maryland needs to celebrate its success,” said Fry. “We need to talk about the great things that we have in this state like its great higher education system and natural resources like the Chesapeake Bay.”

Hood said, in the last two years, DBED has created a division of marketing and communication, launched the in-state advertising campaign MaryLand of Opportunity and redesigned its website, all as part of an effort to promote the state.

Businesses, said Hood, are benefitting from these improvements.