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Is Maryland "open for business" as Gov. Larry Hogan claims?
Is Maryland "open for business" as Gov. Larry Hogan claims? (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Maryland is not open for business As a Maryland resident, a taxpayer for the past 30 years, and the CEO of a locally-based company, Lighting Maintenance Inc. (LMI), I am now at a crossroads. LMI has enjoyed a long relationship with the state of Maryland and has delivered services for significant government contracts impacting our state’s infrastructure and community. Unfortunately, due to unfair regulations regarding small business certification in the state, we need to move our headquarters to Virginia in order to stay competitive in our industry and keep as many of our 75 Maryland-based employees, many who have been with us for years, as possible.

Given the interconnectivity among the DMV jurisdictions, especially with respect to commerce, the lack of homogeneity between Maryland and Virginia’s small business requirements is problematic to say the least. LMI’s only available path forward is drastic and significantly impacts the Maryland residents that rely upon their LMI employment. Basically, Maryland’s small business certification framework has undermined our — as well as countless other Maryland businesses’ — ability to continue operating from within Maryland.

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With respect to our Virginia operations, LMI relies heavily upon its Small, Women and Minority Businesses (SWaM) certification to bid upon state-funded lighting contracts within the commonwealth. Changes in Virginia’s policy now requires all out-of-state businesses to first obtain home state certification with a comparable program such as Maryland’s program — the Small Business Reserve (SBR). Because LMI has approximately 130 employees total in Virginia and Maryland, we only qualify as a small business in Virginia. Maryland’s inability to recognize the importance of acknowledging neighboring jurisdiction’s’ policies, and keeping businesses such as LMI headquartered in the state, has put our company in an untenable situation.

These circumstances are especially frustrating given that the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority and Women Business Affairs is well aware that many Maryland companies that qualify under SWaM have now lost that certification due entirely to our state’s non-offering of a program with similar guidelines. Staying a Maryland-based business would be catastrophic for LMI unless this issue is addressed swiftly.

As we look forward to the beginning of the 2020 legislative session in January, we would like to open a dialogue to discuss reforming Maryland’s SBR framework so that companies that would otherwise qualify under neighboring states’ small business programs are not faced with the same difficult decisions with which LMI is currently wrestling.

Michael Yoder, Linthicum

The writer is CEO of Lighting Maintenance Inc.

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