GBC’s Fry: New state plan for growth offers sound advice

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Last month, a state commission of business leaders released a new plan for strengthening Maryland’s economic growth. It delivers important messages that our elected leaders really need to hear.

The plan was authored by the Maryland Economic Development Commission, of which I am an ex-officio member. Its more than 50 recommendations reflect many observations that business and economic development leaders also made to the Greater Baltimore Committee during its recent study of business climate issues.

Here are a few key strategic messages from the new state plan that resonate loudly within Maryland’s business community.

First, public-private partnering is crucial. Meaningful collaboration between the private sector, academic institutions, and government will take the state much further than any single economic development program ever can, the plan states.

Second, incentives are important. The plan calls for strengthening state incentives for business development that unleash private investment.

Third, cultivate a quality, homegrown workforce. Implement a strong new set of core academic standards for public schools that enables graduates to meet higher education requirements and employer needs.

Fourth, infrastructure is vitally important. Targeted investments in infrastructure, including transportation infrastructure, can have an outsized impact on growth, the plan states.

The plan also emphasizes a major issue voiced often by business owners across the state: make it easy to do business in Maryland.

Instill a “powerful culture of customer service” at government agencies. Standardize permit applications, implement electronic licensing, coordinate reviews between state and local agencies, and eliminate obstacles for businesses.

This plan reinforces the reality that Maryland’s emergence from the recession will ultimately be driven by the private sector – something that Maryland’s elected leaders instinctively know, but collectively often have difficulty translating into policy.

Speaking of reality, the best advice to state officials in the entire plan reads, and I quote: “Skillful execution is as important as soundness of strategy.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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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