GBC’s Fry: The Baltimore region�s 2007 business climate report card

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The Greater Baltimore Committee, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the University of Baltimore, have just finished compiling a “report card” on the region’s business climate.

The 2007 State of the Region report ranks the Baltimore region and 19 competing U.S. regions on more than 100 key benchmarks that relate to business climate and quality of life.

We’ve been compiling these reports every two years since 1997. Measuring the same set of benchmarks over time provides quantifiable insight into the economic nature of our region.

Many of the trends we’ve identified are noteworthy. Since 1997, the Baltimore region – defined as Baltimore City and six surrounding counties – has grown by 180,000 people. The region has become significantly more affluent, but it’s also a more costly place to live. For instance, median household income has increased 59 percent, but the median price of a home has more than doubled.

Nevertheless, our region has numerous economic strengths. Of 105 benchmarks measured in the 2007 study, Greater Baltimore ranks in the Top Five in 24 categories, including academic research funding, quality of hospitals, entrepreneurial dynamism, and home ownership rates, to name just a few.

Potential yellow flags for our region in this report include an employment growth rate slightly below the national average, and lower employment growth rankings in financial services, professional and business services, and information employment.

The Baltimore region, however, continues to shed its “rust belt” image. Our region’s growth in employment, population, and other key measurements significantly outpace other former manufacturing centers in the Midwest.

But we clearly can’t relax in the Baltimore region when it comes to job development. Our region ranks below the national average in six of eight regional employment growth rates measured. This serves as a reminder that the competition among regions for jobs is fierce.

It also underscores a compelling truth that policy makers in our region and state need to always keep in mind – a good business climate is an essential, yet delicate asset to maintain.

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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