GBC, business leaders urge state to adopt ‘core pillars’ for Maryland business growth

Maryland’s environment for job creation could be strengthened by government policies that include top-down support for business growth from elected officials, a streamlined and predictable regulatory system, a more competitive tax structure, and improved support for transportation, according to a consensus of business and economic development leaders compiled by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

“The No. 1 priority of Maryland government policy makers, now and in the foreseeable future, has to be job creation and business development,” said Donald C. Fry, GBC president and CEO. The organization, comprised of more than 500 business and civic leaders in the Baltimore region, released a report entitled “Gaining the Competitive Edge” that identifies eight “core pillars” for business growth that were compiled by business leaders and economic development experts in Maryland.

“These principles constitute a policy game plan for Maryland to successfully compete for business in the post-recession economy,” Fry said. “The GBC will be urging state elected leaders to keep these foremost in the minds while considering legislation action and to use them to craft a strategic plan for statewide job creation and business growth.”

During the past year the GBC studied business climate rankings and conducted a series of discussions and focus groups with business executives and economic development experts on the topic of the Maryland’s competitiveness for business locations and growth.

Participants in the GBC study included more than 50 CEOs and business owners, seven former state secretaries of the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development and its current secretary, and local economic development directors in the region and state.

Maryland’s elected leaders generally feel that the state’s many strengths as a place to do business, including a highly-educated workforce, a major concentration of research activities, high rankings for technology development, superior location and a high quality of life, are sufficient to attract businesses and to generate economic growth, the report notes.

But business and economic development leaders contend that there is significant room for Maryland to be more competitive as a place for businesses to locate and to grow, according to the report.

The report lists the following “core pillars” for a competitive business environment and job growth:

• Government leadership that unites with business as a partner. Maryland leaders must set a welcoming tone that communicates positive support for business, respect for the private sector as a partner, not an adversary, and reflects a strategic plan for business growth and job creation.

• Workforce that is highly-educated and meets Maryland’s business needs. Maryland’s secondary and higher education institutions must offer access to quality instruction at all levels and cultivate a workforce that is well-suited to a modern economy and to the specific needs of Maryland’s business sectors.

• 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.

• Tax structure that is fair and competitive. Maryland’s tax policy must be perceived by business as being competitive and devoid of elements that unreasonably target specific businesses or business sectors.

• Competitive costs of doing business. Public policies must reflect a government predisposition to nurture business growth and to avoid arbitrarily or disproportionately imposing additional overhead upon the business sector.

• Superior transportation infrastructure with reliable funding mechanisms. An essential prerequisite of a competitive business environment includes a well-funded and maintained highway, transit, port and airport infrastructure that provides reliable and efficient options to move people, goods and services.

• Strategic and effective state investments in business growth. The state must commit to substantive strategic investments, leveraged with capital assets, to nurture business and job growth. Investments should include competitive and effective tax credits, business development incentives, and tactical initiatives to nurture private investment in industry growth.

• Business marketing strategy that is aggressive, coordinated, long-term, and well-funded. Success breeds success. Competitive states celebrate their businesses’ achievements by investing in comprehensive communication and promotion to internal and national audiences of business strengths and the state’s assets as a place to live and work.