Commentary by Ron Miller
With the state hemorrhaging jobs and suffering from the highest unemployment rate in 26 years, Governor Martin O'Malley's Subcabinet on International Affairs convened a meeting of public and private sector representatives to find ways to attract more foreign investment to Maryland. What makes him think foreign firms would be amenable to relocating to Maryland when the state doesn't respect American businesses?
What do businesses look for when deciding to relocate? A talented workforce, low taxes, limited regulation, quality of life and cost of living are all key factors. Forbes Magazine ranked Maryland 12th overall in its annual Best States for Business rankings. Sounds good, right? The ranking doesn't tell the whole story, however.
Maryland's strengths are its workforce, ranked 8th nationally, its quality of life, ranked 14th, its economic climate, ranked 18th, and its prospects for growth, ranked 7th. These factors reflect Maryland's potential for expanded business opportunities - if the government doesn't screw things up.
Unfortunately, we have O'Malley, Miller and Busch running things, and that's where Maryland's prospects start to go south. In terms of the cost of doing business, determined by the costs of labor, energy and taxes, Maryland is 42nd, worse than all but eight states. Maryland is also in the bottom half of the states when it comes to the regulatory environment, ranking 29th. These are the factors determined primarily by the state's policy decisions, and it's clear that compared to other states, our leaders in Annapolis haven't made the right choices to attract new businesses or grow existing ones.
Maryland's business unfriendliness stands out when compared with its neighbor across the Potomac. Forbes ranked Virginia #1 in overall business climate for the fourth straight year. While Virginia has struggled during the recession like every other state, they are the only state ranked in the top 20 in all six categories measured by Forbes, and their regulatory environment is 2nd best in the country.
Their energy costs are 30% below the national average, their tort environment is the nation's fifth best (Maryland ranks 35th), and Pollina Corporate Real Estate, a top business relocation firm, ranked Virginia's economic development department at the top this year after ranking them 2nd last year.
Forbes declares that, despite the recession, when compared to the rest of the nation, "Virginia is booming. Its 6.5% unemployment rate is fifth lowest in the country with the four states ahead of it all having dramatically smaller economies and employment bases." Its economy is expected to be the 10th largest in the U.S. this year.
Forbes isn't the only institution that recognizes Virginia's top pro-business climate. CNBC and Pollina Corporate Real Estate also ranked Virginia #1. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership rightfully brags, "Never before has a state held top business climate rankings by all three of these reputable business brands at one time."
Given Maryland's burdensome business tax and regulatory environment, and our proximity to business-friendly Virginia, Dr. Ronald R. Pollina, the president of Pollina Corporate Real Estate, puts it best when he says, "Many states are doing such a poor job of creating a pro-business environment that they can't even come close to competing with each other, much less compete globally."
Were I invited to the governor's meeting, I'd advise him that before he goes a'courting overseas, he might want to reexamine, among other things, his record tax increases, his anti-business regulations, and his arbitrary mindset about contracts - he violated a signed contract with Constellation Energy for political expediency. Business development begins at home.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a conservative blogger and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate, and communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party. Ron is a regular contributor to
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