Baltimore region gains top research and development ranking, according to new ‘State of the Region’ data

The Baltimore region has edged past the Boston region to gain a 1st place ranking for academic research and development investment among 20 U.S. metropolitan areas studied for the “2005 State of the Region Report,” according to data released today by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The Baltimore region garnered top-five rankings in 21 of 96 benchmark categories measuring business vitality, economic health, and quality of life among the 20 U.S. metropolitan areas studied. It ranked in the bottom five in 11 categories.

Data for the report was compiled in 2005 by the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. The 2005 State of the Region Report is the fourth in a series of such reports that have been issued since 1998.

Academic research and development expenditures topped $1.6 billion in the Baltimore area in 2003, compared to almost $1.5 billion spent in the Boston region, according to the report. In 2000, Greater Baltimore had ranked second to Boston in the research and development category.

Other categories for which the Baltimore region ranks in the top five include: number of physicians, low office vacancy rate, personal income growth, entrepreneurial dynamism, average air fare, education and health services employment, and three additional health care categories.

Stemming violent crime and reducing commute times remain among the Baltimore region’s biggest challenges, according to the report.

“This report confirms our region’s accelerating momentum as a life sciences and technology center and documents a number of significant strengths relating to business development and quality of life,” said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, an organization of top business and civic leaders working to strengthen the region’s business climate. “It also serves as a reality check for business and government leaders by helping to identify issues that need our attention as we work to position our region for future growth.”

Christian S. Johansson, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, agreed with Fry, adding, “This data confirms both the economic vitality of Greater Baltimore and the investment banking approach the Alliance has adopted to strategically sell business opportunity in this region to four key industries – IT/Defense, Healthcare Services, Life Sciences, and Financial Services – for which Greater Baltimore offers unique locational advantages.” The Alliance, the region’s business development and marketing organization, has partnered with the GBC since 1998 to produce the State of the Region reports.

“An important element of these benchmarks is that they reflect measurements that are regional in nature,” said Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. The council, an organization of the elected executives of Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, conducted most of the primary research for the 2005 State of the Region Report. “It underscores the interdependence that exists among the jurisdictions in our region,” said Klimovitz.

The Baltimore region’s economy has strengthened significantly over the past few years with above average gains in employment and increases in income and home prices that were among the highest in the nation, the report notes.

Factors contributing to the strengthening economy include the positive impact on Baltimore of rapid, post 9-11 growth of the Greater Washington area and the accelerating growth and development of Baltimore’s downtown.

State of the Region data also suggests that Baltimore is emerging from the pack of so-called “rust belt” peer cities, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis and is well ahead of them in many respects, according to key indicators ranging from population growth to air traffic.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore region ranked 3rd and 4th for percentage reductions of property crime and violent crime respectively, according to State of the Region data.

However, violent crime remains among the Baltimore region’s biggest challenges despite a 4.5 percent average annual reduction in violent crime between 2001 and 2004, the data shows. With a violent crime rate of 886 per 100,000 population, Greater Baltimore ranks last among the 20 regions studied.

Meanwhile for commuters, the Baltimore region ranks 18th for average travel time to work – 32.1 minutes in 2004, according to the report.

Other categories for which the region ranks among the bottom five include: information employment, air quality, manufacturing employment and growth, housing starts, and median home prices.

Links to State of the Region data will be posted on the Greater Baltimore Committee’s web site, www.gbc.org, beginning January 4. Links to the data will also be posted on the web sites of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, www.greaterbaltimore.org; and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, www.baltometro.org. Printed editions of the new report will be published later this month.

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