Responding to the worst decline in job growth since the Great Depression by cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship is something that needs to happen, and could very well happen, in Maryland if the state can capitalize on significant strengths, three speakers at the GBC’s Sept. 26 Economic Outlook Conference agreed.
Maryland has many things it’s doing right in terms of fostering innovation and an entrepreneurial culture, but it can do much more to capitalize on those strengths, Congressman John Delaney (MD-6); Stephen Ezell, senior analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and Newt Fowler, partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP told the crowd of 250 attendees at the Economic Outlook Conference.
Delaney noted the gap between innovation and commercialization in Maryland, which he believes is a reflection on how the state thinks about commercialization.
California celebrates individuals who start companies out of their garage. New York and Boston celebrate board room heroes and big business while Maryland celebrates policy, Delaney said. “We need to celebrate entrepreneurs.”
Individuals within Maryland’s strong university system and outside it are creating products and innovative ideas that place Maryland high in national rankings for innovation, but the overall ranking for Maryland’s commercialization of those products is significantly lower.
Delaney believes this goes back to needing to have a real discussion on competitiveness, both on a national scale and a local scale. He believes the two dominant macro trends happening worldwide are globalization and technology and they are accelerating every day.
“There are winners and losers in these trends and our goal as policymakers is to look at these trends in terms of where they are going and how to make them benefit more Americans,” Delaney said. And that starts with fixing the fiscal situation, among other things. But on the state and regional level, it means fostering an entrepreneurial culture that encourages companies to live and work in Baltimore.
Ezell agreed, saying Maryland’s “greatest challenge” is putting in place a stronger environment for innovation.
Maryland must “get the framework right” for high-growth entrepreneurship, he said. Among his suggestions for accomplishing this are:
- Replacing job-creation tax credits with “incentive” tax credits.
- Putting Maryland’s technology resources to work to revitalize urban manufacturing.
- Implementing strong pilot programs for commercialization of university-developed technology.
- Better cultivating workforce talent in Maryland. He suggested creating alternative types of STEM high schools and colleges and co-investing in industry-led skills alliances.
- Collaborating. “Regions and states must stop competing with each other and collaborate to compete with global competitors for business development,” Ezell said.
Fowler presented a blueprint for Baltimore in terms of what is needed to attract the new generation of innovators that are a part of this entrepreneurial culture. He said recognizing the needs of this culture and catering to them will breed Baltimore as the innovation culture it seeks to become.
He said Baltimore needs to play off its strengths, including its identity, geography and university connections as well as figure out ways to keep more entrepreneurs here, including retaining ones that go to school in the city and rethinking how to market Baltimore as a “place to be” for innovation.
“Maryland needs more entrepreneurs,” Fowler said. “Nothing else matters. It’s that simple.”