Maryland is a state known to be friendly to highly educated, white-collar, government employees. But as that reputation has solidified in recent decades, so has the state’s unfriendliness to the businesses that hire most people in the state. It is time that changed.
The state’s political leaders on both sides seem to implicitly understand the difficulties faced by middle-class Marylanders. Unfortunately, their primary solutions have been to increase state government employment.
Last year, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state government would begin eliminating degree requirements for state jobs. And Gov. Wes Moore has continued that effort in his own way by attempting to go on a hiring spree for unionized state government employees. But the state only employs approximately 4 percent of the Maryland workforce. And when combined with local and federal agencies, approximately 16.5 percent of the workforce is employed by government. So, what about the other 83.5 percent?
Right now, the policies set in Annapolis are unsupportive for the rest of us. According to the Tax Foundation, Maryland’s business tax system ranks near the bottom at 46th overall. And the Maryland Chamber of Commerce said in its 2023 Competitiveness Redbook that the state’s competitiveness is at “a critical juncture.” Maryland is “struggling with issues including high rates of taxation, burdensome economic, fiscal and regulatory policies, high energy costs, significant transportation and education challenges, and more,” it said.
The consequences of these high taxes and regulatory burdens are plain. Maryland has unfortunately become a state from which thousands of citizens leave every year. And businesses have joined the rush out of state.
In Montgomery County alone companies like Amentum, Amazon, Northrop Grumman, Volkswagen, Lidl, Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Corporate Executive Board, Nestle, Lego, and Gerber have all moved to Virginia.
Nevertheless, Moore is continuing state government’s focus on economic policies that are aggressively unhelpful. In June, for example, he announced an ambitious climate agenda that will only hurt businesses that are essential to communities across the state.
A major private sector player in one such community that employs more traditional blue-collar workers is CSX Railroad with their export terminal in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay. In 2022, the 6.6 million tons of export coal from the Curtis Bay coal pier generated an impressive 1,404 direct and indirect jobs. And the average salary of those who are directly employed by CSX at the facility is $73,769—a respectable wage.
Climate activists and those opposed to the traditional work that helped to build Baltimore and the state pose a dire threat to these jobs and the thousands of families who depend on them.
Rather than focusing on such unconstructive agendas that pretend lost Maryland-based companies and jobs are the superfluous collateral damage of a progressive left-wing agenda, we need to ensure that that the state is a friendly place for business. It may sound elementary, but the first step in making that happen is to simply acknowledge and commend the commitment made to our state by the businesses we’ve been able to hold on to.
Along with CSX, which traces its roots back nearly 200 years to the original Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, we can look at another Maryland success story in McCormick & Company. It’s headquartered in Cockeysville and has been in the state for more than 125 years. Growing from a basement startup to a global spice leader, the company has an extensive footprint in Maryland with a 320,000-square-foot campus where approximately 14,000 people work.
Another example is Under Armour, whose founder, Kevin Plank, is deeply dedicated to Baltimore City. At a moderated chat at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in October, Plank said bigger ideas are needed to revive Baltimore. Developing the South Baltimore peninsula has been one of Plank’s big ideas, “With Under Armour as its anchor, Baltimore Peninsula can be a place people are proud of.”
It’s clear that the people at companies like these have made a commitment to Maryland and the local communities in which they operate, and their employees live. Unfortunately, they are faced with a state government that does not reciprocate that commitment, making it only a matter of time until even businesses deeply rooted in our communities look elsewhere. It’s time for lawmakers in Annapolis to recognize that businesses are vital to our economy – both state and local —and to work together to mold Maryland into a more business-friendly state for generations of growth.
Christopher B. Summers is president and CEO of the Maryland Public Policy Institute ([email protected]).