Donald C. Fry and two economic development executives spent the better part of a recent hour-long panel discussion on Maryland’s business climate and how to bolster its competitiveness.
“It’s critically important that we maintain those big businesses that we have here,” said Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. “Big businesses provide tremendous economic benefit to the state as a whole and also they provide tremendous business opportunities for the smaller businesses that are looking to grow.”
Fry made his remarks to more than 200 members of the Maryland Economic Development Association on January 15 in Annapolis, the second day of the legislative session and six days before Governor-elect Larry Hogan’s inauguration.
In addition to Fry, James C. Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Brien Poffenberger, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, also participated in the Maryland Business Leadership panel.
“Without question, one of the things that you need to do for economic development is you want to retain and grow and expand existing companies,” Fry said. “That’s your first priority. It’s much easier to retain, grow and expand them than it is to attract somebody new.
“We also need to do whatever we can to encourage other companies to look at Maryland,” he continued. “I think some of the steps that we’ve been talking about, whether it be tax reform or regulatory reform, the tone, the attitude of the state, all those things will open up the eyes of some companies.”
Fry cited Amazon’s new distribution center in Baltimore as one of the state’s great business opportunities.
Panelists were also asked about attracting high-quality, high-paying jobs to sustain Maryland’s economy.
“The strategy has to start with leveraging the assets that we have,” Poffenberger said.
He said Maryland’s positive attributes include its education system, transportation infrastructure, a strong congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and investment in the engines to create intellectual property.
Dinegar added that it’s vital to tout what makes Maryland unique.
“We have a lot of high-paying jobs, very good jobs and we can’t find and retain enough people to fill those jobs,” Dinegar said. “I think we can tell a better story about the quality of life here. There’s a renaissance going on in Baltimore and you can still afford to live in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County and parts of the state.
“The quality of life and access to the Chesapeake Bay, access to outdoors and access to be able to get back to your home in time to enjoy little league and the time with the kids,” he said, “that’s a big, big selling point. In the future, if I’m fortunate enough to be back here in five to seven years, I think we’re going to be talking about Baltimore, Washington (D.C.), Tysons (Corner) as a mega region.”
View photos from the MEDA conference here.