Here’s a little advice for Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R). I’m starting a business, itself a high-risk and challenging venture. The most pressing issue I faced this summer centered on whether to keep my business in Maryland.
I was born and raised in Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay flows through my veins. Moving my business out of the state was not an easy decision. Yet I plan to move it to Austin within a few months.
Last year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had a little feud about whose state was better for business. If my experience is any guide, Maryland must become friendlier to innovative start-ups if it wants to compete.
I founded a health information technology business. The implications of the business are national in scope. The potential for job creation exists within the company and perhaps in a network of related businesses that may develop around the use of health data.
In the past year, I’ve reached out to Maryland agencies tasked with helping businesses start and grow. My primary interaction was with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, which employs more than 200 people. While start-ups always need money, my proposition was simple: Establish Maryland as a hub of digital health innovation. Let’s showcase the state’s many health resources and position Maryland at the forefront of an industry that represents almost 20 percent of the nation’s economy.
I asked the state to bring together groups that could participate in a health data marketplace, a test market that would serve as the basis for a nationwide network. Despite many meetings, the potential impact on the state never registered.
I took my idea to other states, including Texas, for consideration.
In Texas, the opportunity was immediately recognized and valued. It was presented directly to Perry, who wanted to know what Texas could do to help. The energy and enthusiasm were palpable. I heard about the many innovations occurring in health care throughout the state and the organization of an Austin Innovation District focused on health care that is adjacent to the first research-oriented teaching hospital built in the United States in 30 years.
I sat with a top economic development official and heard about the steps the state was willing to take to drive innovation. We listed the steps necessary so that my business could hit the ground running. This was no bureaucracy; it had all the energy of a start-up business.
It is for these reasons, and Texas’s low taxes, that a Federal Reserve report found that Texas experienced more job growth at all pay levels than any other state from 2000 to 2013. In Maryland, the state reported, job growth slowed. Texas recently was ranked for the sixth consecutive year by Development Counsellors International as having the best business climate in the United States. Maryland ranked in the mid-30s among the states and the District.
We won’t be able to fund all of the things that keep Maryland Maryland unless the state becomes more supportive of businesses.
I’ll always consider myself a Marylander — O’s and Ravens forever! We all know Maryland is a unique, beautiful state. But economic sustainability must be on the agenda of our elected officials. Until then, it seems my company is Austin-bound.