embers of Startup Maryland gathered on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 outside Morton’s Steakhouse in Bethesda, where Texas Gov. Rick Perry was having lunch. (Mike Venezia /With the Film)

A group of Maryland entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to mess with Texas.

A bus loaded with entrepreneurs participating in Startup Maryland’s Pitch Across Maryland tour to promote young companies rolled into Bethesda earlier today for a scheduled business competition.

They weren’t alone.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry had lunch at a Morton’s Steakhouse in Bethesda. (Mike Venezia/With the Film)

Also in Bethesda was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, dining with local political and business officials at Morton’s Steakhouse as part of his own tour aimed at recruiting businesses to the Lone Star State.

“If you want to live in a state where you have high taxes and a relatively burdensome regulatory climate, if you want to live in a state where the litigation is relatively easy to get into, then go live in those states,” Perry told Bethesda Now.

“But if you want to be free, if you want to live free, free from overtaxation and over litigation, free from overregulation, in a place that’s got a great, skilled workforce, move to Texas.”

The dozen or so entrepreneurs from Startup Maryland won’t be packing suitcases anytime soon. Though they did not get to speak with Perry directly as hoped, organizers still voiced concern with his sales pitch.

“The messaging from Governor Perry is laser focused on the tax environment,” said Startup Maryland co-chair Michael Binko. “If businesses are only looking at the tax environment for where they should go to succeed, we think that’s shortsighted as entrepreneurs and probably a recipe for disaster.”

Binko suggests businesses also look at the caliber of schools, available tax credits and access to venture capital — areas where he asserts Maryland has more to offer than Texas.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) penned an op-ed for The Washington Post waging a counterargument of his own in which he decries that “Perry and like-minded Republican governors subscribe to the slash-and-burn economic philosophy.”

“We brought the bus out here just so we could educate him on another view of Maryland and what it offers,” Startup Maryland co-chair Julie Lenzer Kirk said in an interview after the encounter.

The group’s tour, which began Sept. 9 on the Ocean City boardwark, included five stops along the Eastern Shore, as well as visits to Garrett, Howard and Montgomery counties. It will travel to Baltimore, Annapolis and several other counties before it concludes on Sept. 27.

“ The bus tour is really about celebrating entrepreneurs,” Kirk said, “getting them to share their stories in their own words and getting them the resources to grow.”

Roughly 150 start-ups will present their ventures over the course of the tour and two finalists will be chosen to compete for investment capital as part of the state’s InvestMaryland initiative, Kirk said.

“We did invite [Perry] to come on the bus and pitch Texas and we would have put him in the Pitch Across Maryland tour,” Binko said. “We did talk to his press team. But we think he had a schedule he wanted to stay on.”

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