In these days of post-Proposition 13 morality, people who assess the nation's mood have concentrated their focus on what sorts of goverment services may be reduced to meet a purported demand for less taxation.
Most likely, the level of goverment spending won't decrease and the services or aid to one segment of the population or another will continue. The search by goverments for revenues to spend doesn't end, primarily because Americans expect a lot from their state and federal bureaucracies.
Inevitably, more than a passing glance will be cast at the business community by goverment planners, as a potential source for new taxation, Armco Steel Corp. already has warned its stockholders, in special message, that "if taxpayers are merely rebelling against too high personal taxes, while still demanding the same goverment services, business will be the fall guy."
Corporate leaders, currently seeking a tax break, warn of failing businesses and higher unemployment if taxes are increased - creating even more demands for goverment largesse.
But there is another way for goverment to look at business as the source of new revenues. Quite simply, goverments can encourage the establishment of new enterprises within their jurisdictions.
Leaders in Howard County currently are addressing this issue, seeking to obtain the optimum level of economic development "to assist in supporting its citizens with job opportunities and public programs."
Business development by local or state goverment is nothing new but the concept has not been embraced everywhere. In Virginia and Fairfax County, there is a growing record of success. Maryland has been less aggressive and less successful. The District hasn't even tried.
For example, Virginia's Gov. John Dalton this week is following in the footsteps of his predecessors, on a four-nation European tour designed to drum up business for the commonwealth. So far, he's been able to report that one of the world's largest chemical firms, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. of Britain, will begin a $50 million expansion and add 80 jobs to its facilities in Chesterfield County by late 1980.
Howard County, likely other local jurisdictions, has been subjected to painful growth pressures. Its strategic location between Baltimore and Washington points to the possibility of virtually unlimited residential and commercial development over future decades. County residents and leaders must decide how much of the potential will be realized and how it will be controlled.
Last October, County Executive Edward Cochran appointed 12 residents and business representatives to evaluate the role local goverments should play in Howard's future industrial and commercial growth.
The panel, which conducted a second public forum last night, now has completed an initial draft of its report and recommendations to Cochran.
One of the first obstacles to future business growth that must be elimibated, the panel has concluded, is a general perception "that the county does not have the 'welcome mat' out for industry . . . that the county has a general anti-development attitude (and) there is also the belief that this attitude is a reflection of residential citizens' wishes."
As the report notes candidly, there is some reason for these business attitude about Howard County. After all it was Howard County that rejected Marriott Corp.'s plans for an investment of up to $100 million in an amusement park that would create more than 3,000 summer jobs and bring an additional $2.6 million to the county tax collectors each year. Not once, but twice, because of fears expressed by residents about crowded roads and air pollution.
Whether the anti-business image of Howard is valid or not, the panel suggests, "it means that the county must take corrective action to cause changes in order to realistically hope to sponsor significant econimic development."
While it is not necessary to reduce the quality of existing county controls," potential and existing industries should not be overly harassed by delays or layer upon layer of laws and regulations consistently interpreted as a "no growth" stance, the panel members argue.
Among specific recommendations in the draft report:
Howard should implement a series of seminars to educate employes on the value of a quality and aggressive economic development program.
Multi-family housing for low and moderate income residents must be expanded near places of employment and industrial projects should be concentrated along the Interstate 95 corridor (including land now earmarked for residences).
Future county legislation "must reflect" that the county is progressive in its attitude toward business - "and not just say it." An ombudsman should be named to act as a business advocate in goverment and an industrial development revenue bond program should be started to help finance expansions.
Economic development should be coordinated with other sectors of total community development and time limits should be established on county review of proposed projects.
Public transportation, mostly unavailable now, "is one of the most critical future problems" the county faces if it wants economic expansion. Immediate action should be taken to develop such transportation.
A broad-based task force on tourism should be named and charged with providing a detailed analysis of future travel-related industries and businesses.
Despite the bad image in the business community caused by the two rejections of Mariott, Howard has built a record of attracting new industries that other countries envy. Reflecting primarily the attractions of residential living in the new city of Columbia, Howard has added more than two dozen new firms every year since 1971, creating more than 6,000 jobs and adding more than $1 billion to the assessable tax base.
But, as the report notes, the beat of goverment goes on. Rapid urbanization of a former rural environment in the last 12 years "has resulted in the creation of new and larger programs by local goverment for the welfare of its citizens," it says.