Glendening's Focus on Business

January 27, 1995

In delivering his first State of the State address yesterday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening must have been tempted to borrow a quote from Calvin Coolidge. "The business of America," said the 30th president, "is business." Governor Glendening's policy speech to the General Assembly could have been summed up that same way: "The business of Maryland is business."

Jobs and economic development dominated the governor's 40-minute lecture. He hammered home the message that Maryland's future depends on this state becoming business-friendly and focused on stimulating employment.

His transition team is bubbling over with ideas to change Maryland's business climate. Among the steps the new governor said he would be taking:

* Setting up a slimmed-down Department of Business and Economic Development designed to offer one-stop shopping to corporations and firms locating in Maryland. A private-sector commission will plot strategy and set priorities for the state's marketing efforts.

* Consolidating all environmental licensing and permits in one department (the Department of the Environment), thus erasing a major complaint of businesses about the overlapping, duplicative and time-consuming regulatory process now divided between two departments. The governor also said he will end duplicative efforts in Annapolis and Washington on wetlands regulations.

* Eliminating the sales tax on snack foods and phasing out the property tax on research and development equipment, such as computers. This has been an impediment for the state since other states in the region don't tax what the governor called "research tools of the future."

* Starting a "mini-UDAG" program to give grants to small businesses in established neighborhoods. The idea is to use the initial $7 million appropriation to stimulate job growth in older communities through small businesses, which generate most of this nation's employment.

The governor's economic development thrust was linked emphatically to preserving Maryland's precious natural resources, especially the Chesapeake Bay. He spoke of the two as being compatible: job growth and a clean environment. A revamped Department of Natural Resources will be the designated "conservator, protector and manager" of the state's land and water.

Great stress will be put on steering businesses to parts of the state where infrastructure already exists -- both to preserve open spaces and to create jobs in older, declining communities. That would be an important step to counter population sprawl and bridge the job gap between suburbs and cities.

"None of this is, as they say, rocket science," the professorial governor told legislators. "It is just plain hard work." Mr. Glendening has sketched a well-formulated, coherent plan for his first year in office. Now he has to deliver on his pledge to bring jobs to Maryland.

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