It was appropriate that Gov. Parris N. Glendening spoke of transforming Maryland into "the benchmark for business and job development, not just for the region but for the entire East Coast" during remarks he made last week to the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Glendening knows such a transformation will likely be led by Howard and Montgomery counties and other jurisdictions with the smarts and the resources to become havens for high-tech industry. Indeed, the Howard-Montgomery area already is known a hotbed of biotechnology research with hopes of someday rivaling the Route 128 corridor near Boston, Silicon Valley in California and Research Triangle in North Carolina.
An example of the required smarts is the tax credit on research equipment offered by both the Howard and Montgomery governments to high-tech firms. Promoted in Howard by
economic development director Richard Story, the recently passed tax credit enhances the county's reputation for being receptive -- and therefore more attractive -- to the private sector.
This approach jibes with the new governor's philosophy that the elimination of certain business-related taxes (especially on R&D; companies) helps Maryland attain "benchmark" status.
As for resources, both Howard and Montgomery counties (and others neighboring subdivisions) have the good fortune to be located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, which boasts demographics and attributes that any region in the country would love to have. Among these are a well-educated, highly skilled work force; consumers with plenty of disposable income and the willingness to part with it; proximity to major research facilities such as Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health, and easy access to major airports, interstate highways, the Port of Baltimore, telecommunications centers and foreign embassies in Washington, D.C.
Small wonder that Montgomery and Howard also are the Maryland jurisdictions with the most foreign business investment, much of it connected to the high-tech industry.
The leaders of Howard's public and private sectors can't let flattery or past success go to their heads. Complacency would constitute the greatest threat to the county's business gains. Continued aggressiveness must be their theme if Howard County is to go on as, in Mr. Glendening's words, "one of the engines driving the state's economy."