GBC’s Fry: Taking our business climate for granted in Annapolis

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

As a former state legislator, it’s difficult for me to acknowledge this, but Maryland’s government too often acts as if it takes our state’s business climate for granted.

Many of our state’s leaders appear to presume an automatic post-recession resumption of the pre-recession economy and that businesses in Maryland can easily afford to take on extra financial burdens to achieve aggressive state goals relating to environment, health care, energy and other priorities.

So, I remain perplexed by the lack of enthusiasm in Annapolis for enacting measures to strengthen economic development and expand incentives to generate the business growth the state needs in order to regain its fiscal strength.

For example, the Fiscal Year 2010 budget – which increases overall state spending by 3.5 percent – includes cuts in funding for stem cell research, the state’s nanobiotechnology initiative, two workforce training initiatives, Maryland’s economic development assistance fund, tourism development, and the film production rebate program.

On the issue of tax credits for things like biotech investment and commercial revitalization, most lawmakers have a hard time getting beyond the notion that such credits are a pure cost to the state or corporate giveaways, rather than proven incentives that yield a return in business growth that far exceeds the state’s investment.

Legislators are fond of saying that they “care more about Main Street than Wall Street.”
Even that mantra doesn’t fully explain the now-chronic reluctance of leaders in Annapolis to address Maryland’s more than $40 billion shortfall in funding for transportation infrastructure – a key prerequisite for maintaining a good business climate and high quality of life for all citizens.

Maryland would benefit if our elected leaders could find a way to recognize, and act upon, the notion that our state’s business climate is worthy of top-priority attention. If the last several years have taught us anything, it’s that what happens on Wall Street most definitely affects Main Street.

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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