GBC’s Fry: Maryland needs a consensus on business climate

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR:

Maryland has many economic development strengths to build on – life sciences, health care, technology, and defense industries; its transportation resources, highly-educated workforce, and quality of life, to mention just a few.

Most corporate leaders outside Maryland are aware of the reality of these strengths, but perceptions are everything when CEOs elsewhere consider our state as a business location or existing Maryland businesses consider expansion opportunities. Unfortunately, to many, our state’s business climate is not viewed in its best light.

Granted, these comments are anecdotal and not based on scientific study. But as happens frequently – perception becomes reality. Credible observers maintain that Maryland is widely perceived as a highly-regulated, tax-aggressive state that has a tendency to bog business down with red tape.

Our state government’s tone directed toward business reinforces such perceptions, but it is not the sole driver of how potential business investors view our state’s competitiveness. Other issues include perceptions that Maryland’s business development incentives are barely adequate and that our government’s posture toward marketplace issues is unpredictable.

Accurate or not, these perceptions raise a fair policy question: Is Maryland’s business climate adequately competitive with other states that vie for the same business opportunities?

Admittedly, this is a sensitive topic in Annapolis, where leaders are often reluctant to accept the premise that the state does not enjoy the competitive advantages of neighboring jurisdictions. But recent polls show that our economy is currently the top issue on the minds of Marylanders.

At the very least, it would be a valuable exercise for our state’s elected leaders, working with business leaders, to devote some time and energy to a close examination, and development of a consensus, on exactly what constitutes a competitive business climate for Maryland.

Then we could work together to ensure that our state’s business development policies match that consensus.

To ensure economic growth, potential business investors need to feel welcomed in Maryland, not wary of our next steps.

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.

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