Fielder says Md. business climate is 'better'

July 23, 1998|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Reacting to a survey that found decreased optimism about Maryland's business climate, the state's acting economic development secretary said yesterday that the climate "is better but not as good as it could be."

James D. Fielder Jr., who took over as head of the Department of Business and Economic Development after James T. Brady resigned April 28, pointed to an income tax cut, smoother permit procedures and the appointment of a state trouble-shooter as examples of the state's increased friendliness toward business.

"Other states have also made changes," Fielder noted, pressuring Maryland to continue improvements. "We must also accelerate our rate of change, or we will not keep up with what the other states are doing," he said.

A poll by the Maryland Business Research Partnership at the University of Baltimore reported that the percentage of businesses calling Maryland "anti-business" or "business-unfriendly" rose from 15 percent at the end of last year to 21 percent in the second quarter. The partnership queries 250 Maryland businesses every three months about hiring plans, revenue expectations and perceptions of government. The top zTC business complaint in the study was high taxes.

One reason companies might be less favorably disposed toward Maryland these days, Fielder said, is the state's low unemployment rate. With joblessness below 5 percent, he said, many companies are having trouble hiring qualified workers.

Overall, he said, "the economy's still strong, and it's still growing. And that's key."

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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