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Preparing Md. for a post-government economy

If the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan deficit commission's recommendations were adopted, our research indicates, they could slash 150,000 jobs in Maryland in the coming years. This is a blaring wakeup call for us to start focusing on broad-based job creation.

High unemployment persists across the country for two reasons: the lagging effects of the economic downturn and changing workforce trends. In the face of a severe recession, no amount of stimulus, tax cuts or bailouts could prevent massive job losses, as we were generally unprepared for the realities of the workforce required by the new, global economy. America's pre-recession low unemployment levels were supported by a strong housing industry and cheap credit, masking larger changes that are impacting our competitiveness. Unfortunately, these headwinds on employment will continue with the next challenge to our workforce: anticipated cuts in government spending.

Maryland's employment stayed relatively strong across the recession because our state's primary employer — the federal government — continued to spend. For many years, Maryland has enjoyed healthy government jobs, grants that funded laboratory research, and defense contracts that poured in. This will certainly not end, but the drama unfolding in Washington around critically needed deficit reductions reminds us that the question is not whether government spending will be reduced but where and by how much.

I believe that planning and implementing our response to this call to action should be broad based. While our state and federal governments play a central role in creating an economic environment that facilitates job growth, hardworking Marylanders should also have a part in guiding economic development. Having built two businesses in Maryland and having helped to create thousands of jobs, I know that human capital is one of our state's greatest resources, and engaging it against this challenge is critical. That is why I have started Blueprint Maryland.

This ideas-based organization is committed to long-term job creation across Maryland. This nonpartisan and nonprofit effort will gather the best recommendations derived from a broad-based dialogue with people across the state. The best ideas will be incorporated into a plan — a "blueprint" — that can help position Maryland as a center of economic opportunity.

This collaborative effort by the people of Maryland doesn't have to be a radical or drastic endeavor. It could be as simple as exploring what other states are doing to revitalize their manufacturing base or positioning themselves to compete in the green revolution. It could be conducting a greater assessment of what can attract out-of-state and foreign corporations to set up shop here. It could be deciding which infrastructure spending programs produce the highest and best investment for new jobs.

These are all parts of the new approach Blueprint Maryland is undertaking. We each have a responsibility to get involved, because when unemployment touches any part of Maryland, it impacts us all. So if we want to have great jobs not only today but for generations to come, we have to develop ways to retain and create private-sector jobs that are sustainable from a macro-economic perspective while matching the skills of our people and the advantages of our state's location. People may disagree on political and ideological issues, but we must stand together to battle unemployment.

As the U.S. prepares for the economy of the new century and the workplace implications associated with it, Maryland can help launch and shepherd a new era of innovation that combines creativity, technology, entrepreneurship and education. That is the goal of Blueprint Maryland. If we can bring together our unions with corporations, our environmental groups with farmers, and our hard-working families with CEOs, I believe we can discover common understandings and shared goals that can be used to prioritize economic opportunities.

I encourage fellow Marylanders to learn more about the work we are doing at BluePrintMaryland.com. We believe that informed decision making, done in a nonpolitical context with a diverse group of participants and ideas and backed up by world-class research, will create the best plan for our job-creating future.

John Delaney, the founder and chairman of the board of CapitalSource Inc., is spearheading Blueprint Maryland, a new nonpartisan, not-for-profit statewide community initiative to advocate for opportunities for long-term, sustainable private sector job growth in Maryland. His email is john@blueprintmaryland.org.

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