Md. fares well in think tank's survey

Social, economic survey ranks it 11th

Baltimore is 42nd among 50 cities

May 12, 2004|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Maryland ranks 11th in the nation across key categories that measure the social and economic health of areas, according to a guide released yesterday by the National Policy Research Council, a Washington-based think tank.

Baltimore doesn't fare as well, coming in at 42nd in an overall ranking of 50 cities.

The data, based on analysis of hundreds of city and state rankings, found that Maryland did consistently well across 11 categories, including business climate, education, technology and quality of life.

"It doesn't rank one or two in any of the 11 categories, but it consistently performs well across all [categories]," said Spencer Tracy, co-executive editor of the guide and co-founder of the council. "That's the key to success."

For Maryland, public safety, health and welfare, and business climate are the areas that should receive attention, Tracy said. The state scored highest in technology, ranking No. 3 in the nation.

Baltimore does not even show up in the top 50 list in the categories of business climate, economic dynamism, infrastructure, quality of life and technology. Its scores are about average for environment and quality of local government. And it ranks 46th for public safety.

"Baltimore performs consistently average, which is why it doesn't do well overall," Tracy said.

"You should definitely be concerned about public safety. Public safety cuts across quality of life, economic dynamism, government and, to some extent, health and welfare."

There are two ways to look at the public safety ranking, said Gene Bracken, a spokesman for the Greater Baltimore Committee.

"At least we made the top 50," he said. "In some of those categories, we don't even make the chart. You could look at this as a plus as well as a minus."

Bracken said he was surprised that Baltimore did not show up among the 50 top cities ranked for technology, given the presence of such premier medical research institutions as Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

"These kinds of surveys are always of some value, but you have to take them with a grain of salt," Bracken said. "You're looking at an average of averages, which is always risky."

Because the data focus on cities and states rather than regions, they might not be as useful given the nature of competition in the economy, which is regionally based, he said.

"These reports are probably more useful in self-evaluation than in comparisons to other cities," Bracken said. "But they get people talking about competitive advantages and challenges."

Yesterday's data followed Entrepreneur Magazine's October ranking of Baltimore as No. 2 in the East behind the District of Columbia and 12th nationally, up from 30th in 2002, based on entrepreneurial activity, small-business growth, job growth over a three-year period through January last year and bankruptcies, said Steve Kearney, a spokesman for the mayor's office.

The June 4 issue of Money magazine will identify Baltimore as one of the nation's "up and coming" cities, he said.

One explanation for the findings in the new guide is that the data it used are probably from 2000 or 2001 and would not reflect recent improvements, said Brad McDearman, an economic development consultant.

"Most of the data is hard to get and lags behind a few years," he said. "Especially since there's been so much change in the past few years, you're not going to see any of that."

Donald C. Fry, president of the GBC, said Baltimore's failure to show up among the top 50 cities in the quality-of-life category seems to contradict his agency's latest study.

"Our recent state-of-the-region report shows that Baltimore fares very well in quality-of-life issues," he said.

"If you look around the city, you see growth taking place in the city and in the region," Fry said. "We clearly are on the move, and people are realizing it."

Top 50: Maryland ranks 11th, Baltimore 42nd

According to a study released yesterday by a division of the National Policy Research Council, Maryland ranked 11th overall based on key categories used to measure the health of the region; Baltimore ranked 42nd out of the top 50 cities.

State ranking overall

1. Massachusetts

2. Colorado

3. Minnesota

4. Virginia

5. Washington

11. Maryland

City ranking overall

1. Denver

2. San Diego

3. Austin

4. Boston

5. Dallas

42. Baltimore

Source: National Policy Research Council

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