Governor praises county

March 17, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday praised Howard County as "one of the engines driving the state's economy," noting that the county serves as headquarters to some of the largest companies in the state, including the Rouse Co. and the Ryland Group.

"What is exciting is the growth of small companies as well," he told an overflow crowd of more than 220 at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Columbia Inn.

He noted that Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, for example, has expanded three times since coming to the county.

And he praised County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the county government for taking important steps to help existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

"I commend County Executive Chuck Ecker, who, if I may say so, is doing a great job," the governor said.

The governor then kidded Mr. Ecker about seeking state aid. When seeking favors, "I hope you'll remember how nice I was in front of your friends today," the governor quipped.

The governor's visit comes at a time when Howard and Montgomery counties are fast becoming a major national corridor for high-technology research, which officials hope one day will rival California's Silicon Valley and Boston's Route 128 corridor.

The two Maryland counties have become known particularly as a burgeoning center for biotechnology research.

Mr. Glendening reminded his audience that when he campaigned in Howard during the primary, he said that "private-sector business creates jobs" and that a healthy economy leads to better schools and safer streets.

He reiterated that view yesterday, saying his administration plans to help provide a healthy economy by having government cooperate with business in a way that it has not.

"Maryland is not as competitive as it should be" with other states in the region and he plans to make it more competitive, the governor said.

He said he will achieve that goal by reducing or eliminating certain taxes, getting rid of repetitive regulations, reducing real estate closing costs and populating his Department of Business and Economic Development with business people.

The very first bill he signed as governor will save state businesses $85 million by reducing the unemployment insurance tax, he told the audience. "That's $85 million back into the economy."

Among the taxes the governor wants to reduce or get rid of are the snack tax, the tax on leasing vehicles and the tax on high-tech research equipment.

Howard County government recently voted to lessen the burden on high-tech companies by giving them a tax credit on their research equipment.

The governor said he also is looking to shave the state income tax for individuals, but wants to wait until next year to assess the effect of federal cuts.

In addition to offering businesses some tax relief, the governor has created a business-oriented Economic Development Commission that includes two Howard County business leaders as members: Randall Griffin, president of Constellation Real Estate Group, and Donald Manekin, senior vice president of Manekin Corp.

Good session for business

Meanwhile, his pro-business programs are moving through the legislature, the governor said, adding that he expects the current session to be "the best session for business in 20 to 25 years."

Although nearby states are "clobbering us" now in terms of economic development, that will change by the end of the decade, Mr. Glendening predicted.

"By the year 2000, we will make Maryland the benchmark for business and job development, not just for the region but for the entire East Coast," he said.

Local business leaders said they were buoyed by the governor's remarks.

"His speech was right on point -- just what we need at this point," said Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president of the Rouse Co.

"We've had experience with the governor when he was executive in Prince George's [County] and we are familiar with his coordinated, comprehensive approach," Mr. Scavo said. "He understands the relationship that business has to the overall health of the community."

Happy with direction

Former Chamber of Commerce President Joan Athen said the governor's speech went over very well.

"I'm extremely happy with his direction of helping business," she said, "particularly his 'Let's get realistic' approach about wooing business to the state and competing with North Carolina and Virginia."

And Scott Armiger, director of construction for Orchard Development Co., said he found the governor's speech "very positive -- especially what he is doing with tax credits for new homebuyers."

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