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Broadband connectivity makes Md. more competitive

ConservationBusinessKen Ulman

Thanks to reporter Arthur Hirsch for his comprehensive article on the completion of a valuable statewide broadband project in Maryland ("Fiber-optic network lighting aspirations across state," Oct. 7).

After having participated in the launch of this project, I have spoken to many people about its promise and about whether it can be successful. I believe there is no question our state has built a solid foundation for the future.

The Baltimore-Washington region is already the second largest IT market in the country, with more technology professionals than Silicon Valley. But how connected are we, and is there room for improvement and increased collaboration?

The experience of other markets shows a strong correlation between broadband installation and high-value, sustainable job growth. I applaud the leadership of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in particular. They have embraced this objective and moved the project from concept to completion.

On one level, it is a government project linking schools, police stations and other institutions while providing our children and first responders with more resources and saving taxpayer money.

But let's not forget that we reside in a market with nearly 20,000 cybersecurity jobs, with tremendous growth projected in both government and commercial investment. Given the growth of the cyber security industry and the need to attract and retain technical talent, we must make sure that our state's students have access to the assets and resources they need.

Fiber leased to private businesses will reach into currently underserved communities, from Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore to the heart of Baltimore. These communities — families, businesses, institutions, schools, etc. — will have access via a high speed network that effectively levels the playing field and makes them more competitive locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Greater Baltimore and the state of Maryland are consistently recognized as hotbeds of technology activity. Recently, Greater Baltimore was awarded a grade of A- for its high-tech economy by the Martin Prosperity Institute. It was ranked the fifth best city for tech jobs by Forbes; and KPMG recognized that the Greater Baltimore region's tax environment for high-tech firms is more favorable than the U.S. average.

The state's broadband initiative will improve our standing as a technology and innovation, hub and it will improve our competitiveness because it has better connected our most valuable resource: our people. Once connected, an ecosystem of collaboration, innovation and discovery will quickly emerge and this region and this state will not only compete, but be prepared to lead in a hyper-connected world.

J. Thomas Sadowski, Baltimore

The writer is president & CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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