Report finds state economy is among the leaders in U.S.


After its economic growth lagged behind most of the country in the early 1990s, Maryland has vaulted up among the leaders and is poised to capitalize on the industries of tomorrow, says a new report on the state economy to be released today by the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Center.

"Maryland is well-positioned for the technology businesses of the future," said Richard Clinch, program manager for the Jacob France Center and the report's author, said yesterday.

The study, "Benchmarking Maryland's Business Climate and Socio-Economic Performance: 2001," looks at factors influencing business and economic growth in the state, and compares Maryland in more than 145 areas with those of the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Like other recent research, the study underscores the changes in the Maryland economy since the 1990-1991 recession.

Take job growth. In 1993, coming out of the last recession, Maryland ranked 45th nationally. By last year, however, it ranked 15th.

Its job growth rate of 2.8 percent in 2000 tied Maryland with Virginia for first in the region - outpacing Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the study found.

Then there's the state's much-hyped technology sector. David S. Iannucci, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said the study "confirms ... that Maryland is prepared for the new technology economy."

Maryland ranked sixth in the amount of venture capital money - the seed money for new companies - managed within the state and 10th in the amount of venture capital money actually invested within Maryland's borders.

In fact, the state ranked fourth nationally in the number of start-up companies per 1 million in population, the report found.

The infrastructure is there to support this technological transition, the study found. It has the 11th-highest percentage of fiber-optic cable relative to old-fashioned copper telephone lines and has the third-highest level of high-speed ISDN control channels per switched access lines among all the states, Clinch noted.

The report reiterated some of the common criticisms of Maryland: Crime, labor costs and taxes are too high.

According to the report, Maryland's labor costs exceed those of key rivals: Virginia and North Carolina. Maryland's average hourly manufacturing wages are about 5 percent above the national average, and the state ranks 11th for the highest average hourly manufacturing wages.

The state trails some rivals in key quality-of-life measures - such as crime - that can influence where companies locate, Clinch said.

Personal income taxes as a percent of personal income and taxes per capita are among the highest in the nation, the study found.

Iannucci took issue with both of those points. The personal income tax data was taken before the state cut personal income taxes, he said. And measuring taxes on a per-capita basis unfairly penalizes a wealthy state like Maryland when ranking it against a lower-income state, he said.

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