* A statewide strategic audit.
As a first step, Maryland business and government leaders must come to recognize and prepare themselves to take full advantage of the state's considerable assets as a global competitor, regardless of where they are located. This will require a recognition that the real competitors of Maryland jurisdictions are not other Maryland jurisdictions, but other states and nations. It will also require a statewide strategic audit to identify what the state's assets and limitations are and how to make the best use of them.
* Targeting industries.
Secondly, public programs must be focused more effectively on key industries. Strategic choices will have to be made about which industries seem most promising and join public-private efforts mounted to understand the needs of these industries and design ways to respond to them.
The Greater Baltimore Committee has taken a useful step in this direction by singling out the life sciences industry as a strategic opportunity for Maryland and the Baltimore region and calling for concerted action to promote this industry.
At least equally important will be concerted action on the "producer services" industry that is the dominant industry in the state but one that now faces immense challenges.
* Investing in people.
Whatever else it does, Maryland must continue to invest in its people. No other investment is more important to its economic health. This will require intensified efforts in elementary and secondary education, including expanded resources, possibly linked to the new performance measurement system. But it will also require more concerted efforts at work force training and retraining through both public and private efforts.
* Promoting an entrepreneurial culture.
Continued efforts must also be made to ensure that Maryland reaps more economic benefit from its scientific and technical personnel. At present, the state excels in discoveries but not in patents or commercial applications. Incubators, co-ventures and other devices have recently been created to help turn this around, and these must be sustained and expanded.
* Better economic development organization.
Finally, the state needs a more coherent and regular mechanism for monitoring and fine-tuning its economic development strategy. This could include a regular subgroup of the governor's cabinet focused on economic competitiveness, a counterpart committee in the legislature and a network of regional public-private economic development councils.
Maryland has reason to be bullish about the future. But there is a significant danger that the state's past economic success will blind it to the serious challenges that face it even if the current recession eases.
In the increasingly competitive world of economic development, as in football, the best defense is often a good offense. Maryland must take care now to keep the pressure on and not assume that the end of the recession will cure the state's economic woes.
Lester M. Salamon is director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. This article draws on his recent paper entitled "Maryland and the New World Economy: Challenges and Opportunities."