THAT OLD bugaboo -- Maryland's hostile business climate -- has returned, thanks to James Brady's resignation as state economic development secretary.
Despite making considerable progress in his job, Mr. Brady grew frustrated by the lack of a consistent pro-business fervor from the governor and General Assembly.
It is a mixed record. Gov. Parris N. Glendening brought in Mr. Brady to jump-start economic development, but support from the executive office ebbed and flowed. For every pro-business step, there was a step to appease other interest groups, especially labor unions and environmentalists.
Mr. Brady can chalk up substantial gains in lowering targeted business taxes; in finally getting the governor to agree to reduce the income tax rate; in making the state's business development department pro-active, and in starting the streamlining of regulatory procedures that can be unpredicatable, time-consuming and insensitive to businesses. But Mr. Brady never fully won mastered the politics of gradualism that both Mr. Glendening and the General Assembly practice.
He was particularly miffed by the hostility shown last month by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in blocking efforts by Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. to form a holding company, and by the governor's sudden abandonment of a crucial east-west highway in the Washington suburbs.
Those setbacks mask Mr. Brady's triumphs. Until he arrived, the corporate community had done a poor job of selling itself in Annapolis. The linkage between a friendly business climate and job growth hadn't hit home -- even as Virginia and other nearby states prospered by accommodating big firms.
Now Maryland is better positioned to go after those companies. It has an array of enticements to offer. There is a greater effort in government circles to understand the corporate view.
This state's business climate may not be the best, but thanks to Mr. Brady's efforts, it is far better than critics claim. What is needed at this juncture is greater sensitivity from the governor's office and the legislature to the needs of growing companies. Businesses should be viewed as partners, not adversaries, in the quest for jobs and economic security.
Pub Date: 5/06/98