The economic engine of Maryland

Larry Hogan: Maryland's biggest city must serve as the economic and cultural heart of our state.

Once every three weeks, I spend several days in the heart of Baltimore at the University of Maryland Medical Center for my chemotherapy. On each trip, I pass two magnificent stadiums, a vibrant downtown that includes my own office at the William Donald Schaefer Tower, and thousands of busy workers in a bustling, amazing, beautiful city.

During the riots in April and during my campaign for governor last year, I toured every corner of Baltimore, from Sandtown-Winchester to Fells Point. Everywhere I went, I met people who talked with me about their optimism for a better future for the great city they love.

Over the next several months, my administration will announce a series of innovative ideas that have the potential to deliver real change. First and foremost, Baltimore must be a livable city — a place that people want to move to and not from. Recently, the population has stabilized and the tax base is showing improvement. But there is more to be done, and my administration is prepared to take action where the state can make a difference over the long-term.

Fixing what's broken in Baltimore starts with the sea of abandoned, dilapidated buildings that infect entire neighborhoods. These empty, decaying structures are a breeding ground for crime and an impediment to private sector investment. Blight is a symbol of what's wrong with the city, and taking steps to fix the problem can be an equally powerful symbol of Charm City's rejuvenation. Therefore, my administration will advance a plan to knock down blocks of derelict buildings that tarnish communities across Baltimore, replacing them with parks and other open spaces.

But addressing blight is just one part of a long process. Another part is jobs. Without sustainable jobs and competitive industry, no large city can survive. Fortunately, Baltimore has a terrific economic base. The Port of Baltimore sees more than $50 billion in cargo a year, handling more cars, farm and construction machinery than any other port in America. Meanwhile, world class companies like Under Armour and Amazon are investing in the city and creating jobs alongside Baltimore's great hospitals and world-class universities, which continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world.

Creating sustainable jobs means doubling down on Baltimore's formidable strengths. Projects like Under Armour's new campus at Port Covington, the expansion of CSX rail capacity at the port, and the redevelopment of Sparrow's Point nearby in Baltimore County have the potential to be transformative — creating thousands of new jobs for decades. My team will be putting our full support behind these projects, and many others, to maximize the impact of essential private sector investments.

Supporting iconic, growth-oriented industries, combined with tax policies that encourage small business growth and investment, represents a potent combination and is the basis of our entire administration. On the day I was inaugurated, I proclaimed that "Maryland is open for business." Since then, my administration has worked to improve customer service and eliminate burdensome taxes, fees and regulations. The early indications are that it's working: Jobs are coming back to Maryland. I urge Baltimore to follow the state's successful lead.

Improving transportation in Baltimore is critical and is the next part of my vision. The city somehow manages to function on a mish-mash of disconnected rail lines and nonsensical bus routes that don't connect people with jobs. Soon, my Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn will unveil a new approach to transit that includes ideas to better move people around Baltimore, including dedicated corridors to rapidly move people East-West and North-South. While Baltimore's broken transit system cannot be fixed overnight, if the city is willing to consider new ways to utilize buses, trains and other transportation options, we can successfully partner to build a modern system that works for the people of the city.

Finally, and most importantly, is a commitment to improving education. We have invested $6.1 billion statewide into public education — more dollars than under any other governor in Maryland history. Our commitment to good schools in Baltimore City is equally strong, surpassing $950 million annually, or more than three times the average local contribution elsewhere in the state.

But we all know that funding alone does not produce the results our children need. New, innovative solutions are necessary to ensure that every child has the opportunity to get a world class education. That's why I will continue to advocate for creative new approaches, like Bard High School Early College, and the amazing work in our terrific public charter schools and parochial schools that serve disadvantaged students. My administration will vigorously pursue and support approaches to education that reject the status quo in order to make a real difference for students.

Of course, these ideas are just a preview of what I hope to accomplish over the next eight years, and these principles are consistent with the positive changes we are already delivering across Maryland. We can't do it alone, which is why we are eager to work with the mayor, city elected officials, community and faith leaders, legislators, neighbors, parents and anyone willing to put aside partisanship to embrace the possibility of a better future. The traditional approach of just throwing new money at old ideas won't deliver solutions, but I believe that hard work and innovative new concepts can change Baltimore's destiny.

I love Baltimore and the people who call it home, and I sincerely believe that Maryland's biggest city must serve as the economic and cultural heart of our state. Baltimore residents deserve a commitment from leaders to deliver meaningful changes and the possibility of a better future, and so does every Marylander who loves our great state.

Larry Hogan is the governor of Maryland. He can be reached at governor.maryland.gov/mail.

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