Maryland's Anti-Business Climate

August 15, 1994

"Maryland is 50th out of 60 U.S. markets with pro-business attitudes."

"Maryland is America's #1 most litigious state in auto accident suits."

"Maryland leads the nation in jobs lost."

That's how a North Carolina business political action committee summed up our state's performance in recent years. It was the N.C. PAC's way of warning members what can happen if they don't move heaven and earth to ensure a pro-business climate among elected officials.

"Why did companies leave Maryland?" the solicitation letter asked.

"Because too many of Maryland's politicians saw business and industry as a bottomless source for funding new state government initiatives; too many politicians believed that business exists solely for the purpose of funding state government.

"Too many Maryland politicians bought votes with government programs and services without regard for the competitive burden those programs and services placed on the shoulders of the private sector. . .

"Who ruined Maryland's favorable business climate? Politicians."

Maryland's anti-business reputation is known far beyond our borders. It harms efforts to lure new companies. Yet it need not be this way.

For decades, local business leaders have bemoaned the fact that Annapolis and local governments seem hostile to corporate interests. Elected officials haven't grasped the notion that the viability of this state depends on an expanding economy that creates more jobs. You can't do this with a suspicious attitude toward the business world.

Business leaders have never taken the lead to change this atmosphere. Now the Maryland Business Council -- which includes the state Chamber of Commerce -- is formulating an economic growth plan to present to the next governor for a public-private sector effort to transform the business climate in Maryland. It is long overdue.

If the state's diverse business interests (especially the Baltimore region vs. the Washington region), can unite behind a sensible agenda, those in the State House might finally listen. In the past, the lack of a unified and forceful business voice has enabled legislative and executive leaders to duck the hard decisions, such as doing something about Maryland's tax structure, the sky-high real estate settlement costs, the stifling regulatory climate and a merely adequate education system.

But things are changing in Annapolis. A new governor and a legislature with a 40 percent turnover could view a game plan from corporate leaders with considerable favor. That's the hope, anyway. A joint business-government effort is the key to revolutionizing Maryland's reputation. It's good to see the Maryland Business Council moving smartly in the right direction.

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