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Glendening: To offset expected loss of federal jobs, Maryland needs to retain and attract private positions


DURING THE NEXT few years, Maryland is expected to lose an estimated 20,000 federal jobs and another 20,000 to 30,000 related jobs. Depending on what actions Congress takes in the coming weeks and months, we also expect to see at least $2.4 billion in reductions in federal aid to Maryland over the next seven years.

Given these startling figures, we must do everything possible to retain and attract private sector jobs.

In fact, we have set a goal of creating 90,000 good, family-supporting jobs before the turn of the century. Stimulating economic growth and private sector investment is absolutely vital to our efforts to develop a healthy state economy.

In his book "The Death of Common Sense," author Philip Howard challenges the principle that as long as we simply follow the rules, we do our job. Maintaining the status quo is the surest road to mediocrity and failure. In this era of federal and state government downsizing, we must think "outside the box" if our economy is going to prosper.

In response to a Sept. 22 Sun editorial, "Tilting state contracts," let me emphasize that it is possible to stay within the rules and still make every effort to encourage Maryland businesses to become more competitive.

For that reason, we have asked agencies to revisit procurement practices and make sure they do everything possible to encourage participation by Maryland companies.

Our nation and our state are in a time of dramatic historic transition. These next few years will be defining ones for Maryland and its economy. With a great sense of urgency, we are working to amend some of the patterns of how the state conducts business and look for ways to become more proactive in helping Maryland firms.

We are not interested in "monkeying with state contract awards" or "tilting the playing field," as your editorial indicated. We aggressively support all of Maryland's procurement laws, and as a member of the board that oversees and approves all state contracts for construction and services, I am bound to the laws that were established.

Sometimes I have become frustrated with bureaucratic processes that inhibit and often discourage the participation of Maryland businesses. For example, architectural and engineering contracts are selected on the basis of technical scores, after which a price is negotiated. The selection criteria is subjective and not based on low price.

We have firms right here in the state that are nationally and internationally recognized because of their expertise; yet we have seen them lose contracts to out-of-state firms because of subjectivities in the procurement process.

The University of Maryland recently brought in a contract for maintenance service on air conditioner units at the College Park campus.

School officials recommended awarding the contract to a Virginia company. After a closer look, we realized the company had a service office in Maryland which employed Maryland residents, but they chose to service the contract from the Virginia office because College Park was located in that particular designated service area. It was a policy decision on the part of the company which resulted in Maryland residents being precluded from doing work in Maryland.

Another example is our method of selecting residential treatment programs for severely developmentally disabled individuals.

Many times we must turn to out-of-state vendors because there are no vendors in Maryland who can provide the care.

I would simply ask, "Why aren't we doing more to locate those services right here in Maryland, closer to the families and at less cost?"

I believe that we have an obligation to take whatever action possible within the law to promote the participation of Maryland firms and the employment of Maryland residents. In light of this frustration, we have asked the heads of our major procurement agencies to devise a list of recommendations that will advance this goal.

We are not talking about giving in-state firms preferences that would result in retaliation from other states.

We are talking about agencies making a conscious effort to encourage and educate Maryland businesses about the availability of state contracts. I am seeking opportunities, not preferences, for Maryland firms.

Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and I both recognize that our state's economic future hinges in great part on our being successful in these endeavors.

Parris N. Glendening, Annapolis, the writer is the governor of Maryland.

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