ANNAPOLIS -- After 2 1/2 years and more than half a million dollars, state officials are finally paying attention to an enormous report on making Maryland's economy competitive.
At a hearing before the House Economic Matters Committee yesterday, the state's outgoing economic development chief pledged that his department will use the report and others to present the legislature with a full-fledged statewide development strategy by November.
That strategy will rely on the work of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, among other groups around the state, according to J. Randall Evans, who announced last week that he will resign in September as secretary of economic and employment development.
The policy institute was commissioned by the General Assembly, the governor's office and the Abell Foundation in 1989 to conduct a comprehensive study of Maryland's economy to come up with a competitiveness strategy for the state.
The 1,000-plus page, three-volume study, produced at a cost of about $500,000, has been largely ignored by lawmakers and state officials since it was published in late 1989.
"I was and am frustrated that it's taken us this long to get this far," said Delegate Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, chairman of the Economic Matters Committee.
"There were times, I must confess, when I thought this entire process had sunk into a black hole, and it's a delight to see that it's back on track," said Lester M. Salamon, director of the Hopkins institute.
The need for a development plan that would make the most of state programs and curtail inefficient efforts has become more urgent as every state agency struggles to make further budget cuts.
The problem was further highlighted this year by a Washington consulting firm that evaluates state economic development programs. The Corporation for Enterprise Development, though it awarded Maryland straight A's in its annual economic development report card, gave the state an F in one subcategory because of a lack of long-term strategic planning.
Mr. Evans said that he has asked the National Association of State Development Agencies to use the Hopkins institute report, along with suggestions from regional economic development task forces, the Greater Baltimore Committee and others to create, preferably by November, a "very condensed, succinct action list of things that need to be done."