Don Fry Commentary on WYPR
Last July 1, 14 Maryland bioscience executives lined up at dawn – some had camped overnight – to be among the first to apply for available state biotechnology tax credits.
The 50 percent tax credit of up to a $500,000 investment in a Maryland bioscience start-up company is an efficient and powerful incentive. As a Sun reporter wrote, the tax credit “makes the difference between finding funding and failing.”
Since its inception in 2006, the biotech tax credit has leveraged more than $24 million in private bioscience investment. It addresses one of the most critical needs in Maryland’s bioscience industry – the need to nurture investment in early-stage companies.
Which is why the line for tax credit applications began forming 19 hours before they were to become available.
The state currently limits total biotech tax credits to $6 million per year. Last year, Governor O’Malley said he wanted to double it to $12 million this year and to double it again in July 2012 as part of a 10-year state plan to invest $1 billion in bioscience development.
Now, facing a recession, the governor has included $6 million for the tax credit in his proposed FY2010 budget, but is holding off on increasing it – for now.
His reason for delaying the biotech tax credit expansion is understandable. But I hope the governor and lawmakers get this highly productive incentive back on track as soon as possible.
It’s all about timing. As last year’s executive camp-out shows, bioscience start-ups are beginning to percolate in our state. This is something bioscience advocates here have been working hard for more than nine years to kindle.
It’s also about competition. Many other states are working aggressively to attract and nurture their own bioscience growth.
But above all, it’s about opportunity. In Maryland, the bioscience start-up momentum is clearly underway. But we must provide the key tax-credit catalyst that will jump-start our state’s next big private-sector economic engine while it is primed to grow and to drive Maryland’s emergence as a national bioscience leader.
For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.