The Daily Record: How to gain a competitive edge

Editor’s note: The following commentary appeared on on January 18, 2018.

Gov. Larry Hogan provided some glad tidings to the business community just after the Christmas holiday by announcing that his administration had identified more than 650 state regulations that are outdated and would be repealed, streamlined or otherwise updated.

The Maryland Regulatory Reform Commission, appointed by the governor in 2015, did the heavy lifting, analyzing the state’s large volume of regulations and delivering on a promise the governor made when he took office to look for ways to make Maryland more business friendly.

The commission tackled its work mindful of the burden regulations can present to large and small businesses, including startups, and even recommended that any new regulations being proposed include an estimated financial impact on small businesses. This is an important consideration as small businesses frequently lack the ability to manage, much less understand, all that is required to stay within the law.

In acknowledging the work of the commission, the governor proclaimed:

“These common sense reforms to cut red tape and bring state government into the 21st century will help Maryland job creators – especially our small businesses – grow, thrive and put even more people back to work.”

The governor is certainly to be commended by the business community for following through on his promise to ease the onus that state regulations and bureaucratic red tape can impose on businesses and their ability to make efficiently operate, create jobs and thrive.

Keys to economic growth

It is interesting to note that in 2010 — five years before the governor formed the regulatory reform commission — the Greater Baltimore Committee recognized the importance of regulatory policy reform and was out in front of this very issue with its report, “Gaining a Competitive Edge: Keys to Economic Growth and Job Creation in Maryland.”

In the report, the result of 12 months of research and meetings with former state and county economic development professionals and CEOs,  the GBC laid out eight “core pillars for a competitive business environment and job creation” including:

“Regulatory policies that are streamlined, stable and predictable:
Maryland must project to businesses within and outside the state that its government regulatory policies are reasonable, relevant, free of surprises or redundancy, and considerate of businesses’ sense of urgency.”

A key point in this pillar is that government should be “considerate of businesses’ sense of urgency.”

Scientific and technological advances often move at a pace that far exceeds that of the wheels of government, which means bureaucracies and regulatory policies are often well behind the curve of progress. That seems especially true today with the rapid pace of the digital revolution, which is touching every aspect of owning and operating a business.

Granted, advanced technologies bring more opportunities. But the economy is now global and more competitive than ever. Successful business owners and leaders today demand an intense sense of urgency. Without it, they can’t be viable.

Regulations that protect the public’s or worker’s health, safety and welfare must not be compromised.

But regulations, or the interpretation of regulations, that create unexpected delays or uncertainties affecting business decisions and operations impede a business’s viability and should be eliminated. The key, as the GBC report underscores, is to have a regulatory environment that is “streamlined, stable and predictable.”

While advances in technology have exploded and the markets have become more global since “Gaining a Competitive Edge” was issued, one conclusion included in the report has not changed: “…the private-sector – not government –is the engine that drives business growth, job creation and ultimately Maryland’s economic future.”

The other pillars

With that in mind, the GBC’s seven other pillars for economic growth and job creation  remain as relevant as ever and deserve serious consideration as our elected officials begin the arduous work of considering hundreds of pieces of legislation that will be introduced in the 90-day Maryland General Assembly session:

  • Government leadership that unites with business as a partner.
  • Workforce that is highly-educated and meets Maryland’s business needs.
  • Tax structure that is fair and competitive.
  • Competitive costs of doing business.
  • Superior transportation infrastructure with reliable funding mechanisms.
  • Strategic and effective state investments in business growth.
  • Business marketing strategy that is aggressive, coordinated, long-term, and well-funded.

You have to wonder how much more “business friendly” our state would be perceived if every legislator kept these eight pillars for economic growth and job creation foremost in their mind during the remaining of the legislative session. Now that would be worth cheering about.

Read the Gaining a Competitive Edge Report

See the GBC’s 2018 Legislative Priorities

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a frequent contributor to The Daily Record. 

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