The findings. . . suggest that Maryland enjoys (in non-recessionary times) an economy that is the envy of most of the country. The analysis cautions, however, that the foundations of the state's prosperity are not expanding. Since growth is necessary just to maintain the status quo. . . the post-recession long-term prospects for the Maryland economy are cause for concern.
For some time now, this December warning from the National bTC Consulting Service of the National Association of State Development Agencies has been variously sounded by economists, policy pundits and economic development experts. Now comes evidence that the damage from the recession may have been worse than expected. In a report assessing how well Maryland has held up under recession, the U.S. Department of Labor found that the state lost close to 75,000 jobs last year -- a decline of 3.4 percent. The drop was even worse in Baltimore City, where 6.3 percent of the employment base vanished.
Some jobs went by way of the recession and its disastrous effect on growth, expansion and business formation. The construction development industry, for example, has crashed to earth, extinguishing jobs and a large chunk of the personal prosperity local retailers and governments had come to depend on. Downsizing decisions made in boardrooms in distant cities have churned thousands of jobs out of existence. Baltimore, meanwhile, has seen its traditional manufacturing bulwark contract even as social ills and high costs drive businesses to the surrounding suburbs.
The central question, one local and state policy makers should be asking, is how to cull and harvest a new crop of jobs. The good news is that the contours of Maryland's new economy are already beginning to gel. The Greater Baltimore Committee is pushing a life sciences economic development construct for Baltimore. The state is taking a pro-active role in germinating seed capital. Businesses have come to understand that they, as the ultimate consumers of today's graduates, have a direct and crucial stake in education.
But many of the conditions needed to nurture job creation have yet to be laid. The lack of a highly skilled labor pool continues to be a major drag on harvesting the state's strong research base. The mismatch between affordable housing, work sites and educational opportunities continues to thwart suburban business opportunities.
The economic path on which Maryland needs to embark is clearly marked. The current recession should not be used as an excuse to postpone or abandon the kinds of programs and policies that will ensure economic vitality in the next century.