GBC’s Fry: A ‘Plan B’ needed for job creation in Baltimore region, state

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

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How could the Baltimore region experience job losses in six of eight major employment sectors since 2008, yet rank in the top five for employment performance when compared to 19 other key competing U.S. regions?

The answer lies in our region’s only two job growth industries over the last several years: the government sector and the educational and health services sector.

Employment increases in these two sectors enabled Greater Baltimore to weather the recession better than most, according to the recent State of the Region report issued by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

Overall, our region lost 1.6 percent of its job between 2008 and 2010, ranking Greater Baltimore fifth best during a time when all regions studied for the report lost jobs. The Baltimore region’s 2 percent growth in education and health services jobs and 1.4 percent growth in government jobs cushioned its overall job losses. These two sectors comprised 36 percent of the Baltimore region’s workforce.

What can we learn from statistics like this?

First, a disproportionate share of the workforce in our region and state are employees and jobs related to government. Largely federal government, leaving us exposed to any looming government belt-tightening. Maryland needs a Plan B for business growth beyond its traditional strength in government-related businesses, says Towson University economist Daraius Irani, who analyzed the State of the Region data.

What should Plan B look like?

Policymakers need move existing barriers to new businesses and provide incentives to create a more welcoming business environment. Without such a strategy, the road to economic recovery will be longer and more difficult, says Irani.

Competition for business growth is fierce among U.S. states and globally. Our elected leaders in Annapolis must make strengthening our region’s and state’s competitiveness their top priority.

Ultimately, our future economic success boils down to one thing: job creation.

This is Don Fry, president & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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