In an effort to provide a more “customer service” approach to business development in the state, the Department of Business and Economic Development is becoming part of a larger agency called the Department of Commerce, effective today.
The department’s reorganization comes after Gov. Larry Hogan signed five bills into law earlier this year based on recommendations from the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, also known as the Augustine Commission after its chairman Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin.
The legislation creates a secretary of commerce who will oversee the state’s economic development services. As had long been expected, the new department will be overseen by current Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Mike Gill, according to department spokesman Karen Glenn Hood.
State officials and business leaders have characterized the name change as a way to make Maryland more accessible to potential and existing business owners.
“This ‘super-department’ will have more reach in state government, more influence in state government and will be in a better position to advocate for businesses,” said Brein Poffenberger, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Poffenberger, whose organization represents 750 Maryland businesses, sees the new department as more than just a name -change.
“It will be the touchstone point for businesses who want to do business in Maryland. It will be a one-stop shop for anyone in the business community to come and get answers and to get whatever help the state may be able to provide.”
The new agency will mark a “cultural change” for how the state deals with businesses, officials said.
It will focus on giving business owners face time with government officials to get their questions answered, an effort marketing and communications director Allison Skipper described as “feet on the street.”
Since the Maryland General Assembly Session ended in April, Gill has been on a “listening tour” around the state, meeting business owners and touring businesses.
Officials anticipate the commerce department will also facilitate better communication among state agencies that handle business development.
The Augustine Commission was tasked by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to look at the state’s economic development policies and programs and recommend changes.
Since then, Hogan has created a regulatory reform commission to look at ways to streamline regulations. That commission will meet over the next three years.
Poffenberger sees the commission as a positive for Maryland’s business climate.
“They have been out in front on regulatory reform,” he said, adding that regulations need to be “fair and predictable.”
He also applauded Hogan for bringing “a culture of customer service within government.”
“When somebody reaches out to the government, the person on the other end is a problem solver.”