GBC’s Fry: Mind-boggling business climate surveys

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Every year, news organizations, academic institutions, and policy-related nonprofits across the country publish dozens of widely-read surveys and reports ranking business climates of the states.

But, for anybody seeking to resolve the question of whether Maryland has a good business climate, a run through the various published rankings can be mind boggling. For example, on recent “Best States for Business” surveys Maryland ranks 12th on the Forbes list, 27th on Chief Executive magazine’s list, and 42nd on, a popular source of board room intelligence.

Business climate rankings vary so much because no two sets of criteria used by any of the surveys are alike. However, collectively the rankings tend to identify Maryland’s growth prospects, technology, innovation, workforce, and education as key strengths. Areas of concern for Maryland often include comparatively high tax rates (though other states are catching up), utility costs, crime rates and business costs.

Maryland probably can’t do anything to ensure high rankings on all of the surveys. But what Maryland can, and should, do is decide specifically what we want to be as a competitor for business location and expansion. Business leaders and policy makers in Annapolis should work to achieve a consensus on what business development policies are important to making Maryland the best possible competitor for economic growth.

Then, we must enact policies that reflect our consensus and that deliver a strong, expanding economy. Our ultimate goal isn’t to score well on national surveys. It’s to nurture job growth, business vitality and a high quality of life.

We can take a lesson from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, whose motto was “if we do what we do well, then no one will beat us.” That’s what Maryland needs to do – decide what it wants to be as a business location, implement the vision, and do it well.

If we accomplish that, the survey rankings will take care of themselves.

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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