State unveils new database on Maryland

Starting today most of information can be accessed via Internet

August 19, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

State economic development officials attempting to lure businesses to Maryland are getting a boost from a new database that contains information ranging from state-by-state wage comparisons to where to find a local business park that has rail access.

"M/Quest" gives development agency staff -- and the public, to a lesser extent -- a plethora of information at the click of a mouse. Company officials calling any number of area development groups -- the state Department of Business and Economic Development or the Greater Baltimore Committee, for example -- will be able to find out immediately such things as corporate tax rates, electricity prices region by region and average wages paid in various sectors of industry.

Beginning today, much of the information will also be available on the Internet -- www.mquest.org -- packaged with slick videos and photographs extolling the benefits of doing business in the state.

M/Quest was developed by the Maryland Communications Center, a quasi-public agency that helps economic development agencies and businesses sell the state. The system, developed with Cincinnati-based technology firm Mycom Enterprises, is scheduled to be unveiled today at the Maryland Association of Counties 49th annual conference in Ocean City.

"This is the first time all the information you need to make business decisions has been put in one place; that's never been done before in Maryland," said Pamela R. Jones, the center's executive director. "We went from not having a centralized system to taking a quantum leap, and we have moved to the head of the pack."

M/Quest is being marketed as a product, not just another random Web site. Once consultants and business people have M/Quest in their minds, Jones said, they won't have to worry about remembering how to access the Business and Economic Development site or the state Department of Transportation's site -- they will all be linked together.

"The M/Quest product gives Maryland the ultimate sales tool," said Richard C. Mike Lewin, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development. "It enables the state's economic development community to respond swiftly and precisely to every prospect inquiry."

The project started in 1997 and had been scheduled to be ready by summer 1998 at a cost of about $1.5 million. The price tag has risen to $2.25 million and the project took about a year longer than expected.

But, Jones said, the original concept included only multimedia presentations and the Internet site. Development officials then said they wanted access to a full database of information and the project expanded to its current form.

M/Quest was funded with $920,000 from the state and about $1 million from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Bell Atlantic Corp., Allegheny Power, Potomac Electric Power Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., CSX Transportation Inc., Piper & Marbury LLP, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and AAI Corp. Jones said several more companies have contacted the center about becoming sponsors, and she expects to come up with the remaining $330,000 without too much difficulty.

The Communications Center itself has an annual budget of $550,000, which is funded with $200,000 from the state and the remainder from Bank of America Corp., Baltimore Development Corp., Allfirst Financial Inc., Mercantile Bankshares Corp., Provident Bank of Maryland, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

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