Earlier this General Assembly session, we joined together to announce a transformational economic development commission, a part of a joint economic development agenda that builds on the strategic investments Gov. Martin O'Malley and the legislature have made over the past seven years.
While many other states made drastic cuts during the economic recession, Governor O'Malley made the right decision to prioritize investments in our future workforce. Together, we increased funding for K-12 education throughout the recession; we froze and limited tuition growth over the past 6 years, leading to one of the smallest increases in tuition rates in the U.S.; and we targeted investments to burgeoning sectors of the economy, including biotechnology, research and development and nanotechnology in the form of tax credits and investment funds. And, over the past 13 months, we have recovered 95 percent of jobs lost during the global recession.
Maryland is the home of strong, world renowned businesses like Under Armour, MedImmune and McCormick & Co.; emerging companies like SourceFire, Direct Dimensions, Inc.; and small businesses like The Giant Peach in Annapolis and Peace and A Cup of Joe in Baltimore City.
The vision that we announced looks to the future. We cannot be content with having the No. 1 schools in the country five years in a row. We cannot be satisfied being ranked No. 1 in the country by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for entrepreneurship and innovation. We also cannot continue to lead the country in the amount of research dollars that flow into our state without capitalizing on our world renowned institutions.
We must give the business community the confidence to continue to invest and expand in our state's economy. We need to build on the assets and anchor institutions that we have in our borders to create new job opportunities for Marylanders. We need to attract new talent and businesses to Maryland that want to take advantage of the highest median income and the highest number of workers with college and post graduate degrees, per capita, in the United States.
Our joint economic development plan includes:
•Engaging business leaders from around the state through a private sector commission that can make recommendations to the next governor and legislature on how Maryland's economic development platform should be shaped to support expanded investment by the business community. We are fortunate that Norman Augustine, a national business leader and former CEO of Lockheed Martin, has agreed to chair this commission.
•Continuing Governor O'Malley's strategic investments in the cybersecurity sector by creating a pool of funding to support new cybersecurity companies in Maryland. Maryland currently has 18,000 vacancies in cybersecurity for college-level jobs.
•Offering tax-free zones to new and expanding businesses around our universities and federal installations to capitalize on those assets. Maryland has the nation's largest percentage of its state economy — tens of billions of dollars — devoted to research and development, but we need to convert more research and development into private sector enterprises.
•Providing our research universities with resources to leverage matching private funds to attract to Maryland the best talent and minds in the world in targeted research areas, as well as to attract the best and brightest minds to Maryland universities.
•Creating a pool of seasoned business executives to help mentor new small businesses that are just starting in the marketplace.
•Aligning Maryland's estate tax with the federal government to establish a more equitable tax policy across state lines and positively impact small businesses. Maryland will remain one of only 14 states (plus District of Columbia) that imposes an estate tax, and this re-coupling is supported by many foundations and nonprofits in Maryland.
We hope that these efforts will provide a solid foundation for the next governor to continue to build on the strong work of the O'Malley administration and ensure that Maryland is a world leader in the innovation economy of the future.
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Maryland Senate. Michael E. Busch (email@example.com) is speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. Both are Democrats.
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