Commentary: Maryland chooses to innovate for a brighter future

September 23, 2012

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Succeeding in tough times is a choice. As the economy lapsed into recession at the end of 2007 and other states hunkered down, Maryland redoubled its investments in the cornerstones of the state’s economic success. Since the start of the recovery, Maryland has re-gained almost 98,000 jobs, more than two-thirds of those lost during the recession. While some may choose to ignore the state’s recovery, Maryland’s rebound is better than all but seven other states.

Recently the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Maryland No. 1 in the nation for innovation and entrepreneurship. A champion of pro-business policies, the chamber lauded Maryland for its commitments to education, start-up companies and collaboration between business and academia.

The recipe for Maryland’s appeal is simple — we reward innovation, invest in our skilled workforce and encourage entrepreneurship through state programs and public-private partnerships. With world-class research labs, brilliant entrepreneurs and highly educated workers, Maryland is uniquely ready to take advantage of a fast-changing global economy in which sectors such as biotechnology, cybersecurity and high-tech manufacturing are keys to good jobs and bright futures.

InvestMaryland and InnovateMaryland, both created in the past 18 months, have $84 million to make venture capital investments in high-tech Maryland start-ups and $5.8 million to commercialize promising technologies from state universities. With input from the business community and Maryland residents, we have also made doing business easier by repealing or revising more than 130 outdated state regulations and streamlining state processes.

Maryland had the nation’s highest median household income in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. Marylanders also have the third-lowest state and local tax burden as a share of their incomes, according to Federal Funds Information for States.

The number of millionaires calling the Free State home has increased almost 20 percent since 2007, and by last year Maryland had the greatest concentration of millionaire households in the country, according to Phoenix Marketing International. The latest year of data available from Maryland’s Comptroller (2010) shows a 16 percent increase in the number of millionaire tax filers, following the dip during the recession. The latest IRS figures (2010) show that thousands more people are moving into Maryland than out.

Why? For the quality of life Marylanders have cultivated for decades, our abundant natural resources, our commitment to innovation, our proximity to key federal agencies — and also because Maryland has the nation’s best public school system, ranked No. 1 by Education Week for four years running. The state also boasts an affordable public university system with gems such as University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which was ranked No. 4 in undergraduate teaching last year by U.S. News and World Report. While many states cut education spending during the recession, Maryland increased its investment in the workforce of the future by 7.4 percent per student, the third-highest increase of any state.

Today, Maryland companies make solar panel arrays that power bases in Afghanistan, produce vaccines that protect against influenza and anthrax, design athletic wear for top athletes and launch satellites that power international commerce. In a world increasingly driven by technology and innovation, Maryland will continue to invest in our people, nurture their ideas, reward their entrepreneurial spirit, celebrate their achievements and abolish obstacles to their success.

Christian S. Johansson is Maryland’s secretary of business and economic development.

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