Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes said today that although the state has lagged behind its neighbors in attracting new industry, his administration has launched a major effort to attract foreign and American corporations to Maryland.

In a speech to a business group here, Hughes noted that economic development had been a key issue in his gubernatorial campaign and that the Hughes administration has secured a 47 percent increase in funding for the state's Department of Economic and Community Development.

Further, Hughes said the most significant parts of that agency had been upgraded dramatically, including a 208 percent increase in the budget of the Office of Business and Industrial Development.

Hughes said the effort already has shown results such as the location in Maryland of 26 new companies with a combined capital investment of more than $46 million.

Nonetheless Hughes said in an interview after his speech that during the early 1970s the state government didn't do all it could have to attract business to Maryland. "It's obvious to most people that we have not been making the kind of effort a Virginia or a North Carolina has," he said.

But Hughes also said that the nation's rising interest rates and inflationary trends could have a "tendency to diminish the fruits of our work." However, he refused to criticize the Carter administration for its handling of the nation's economy. "I don't have the panacea for all the nation's problems," Hughes said.

Hughes, who hasn't endorsed President Carter for re-election, called Carter's handling of economic matters a "sincere effort" and said Carter has "not had the kind of support he should have gotten from Congress."

Hughes spoke in Baltimore at a luncheon sponsored by the Advisory Commission of the Maryland Department of Economic and Community Development.

Before his speech, Hughes presented the 1979 Bill Tate Awards for contributions to the state's economic development. Bethlehem Steel Corp., the states largest private employer, Londontown Corp. and the late Gov. J. Millard Tawes were recipients of the awards.

Hughes was received politely by a crowd of about 500 at the Baltimore Hilton, although several businessmen interviewed after his speech expressed surprise that Hughes actually had said little about the states economic picture.

Hughes said he intends to keep a campaign pledge to "take the measures necessary to stabilize and strengthen the state's economy" and said he would rely on the Department of Economic and Community Development to keep that promise.

Noting a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study which said that 84 percent of economic development comes from existing industry. Hughes said "heavy emphasis" will be placed on maintaining and encouraging businesses already located in Maryland.

Hughes also said the state is developing a program to guide local communities in attracting investors. Hughes said details of the program will be released in a few weeks.