Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 08, 2005

State runs hard in the race for biotech business

The Sun's article "Md. slips in biotech race" (Feb. 3) gives the false impression that Maryland is not as competitive as other states in attracting or keeping biotech companies. In fact, the contrary seems to be true.

The article bases its argument on a report showing that Maryland dropped from third to fourth place in the number of biotech companies completing first-round financing.

Maryland has a growing bioscience industry. But many of our companies, especially in the Baltimore region, are start-up businesses looking for seed money. This is one of the hardest types of financing to secure. But more venture capital money will be available in the coming months because of the nation's strong economic growth combined with low inflation and interest rates.

Despite the first-round financing statistics, Maryland is ready to see a noticeable increase in the number of biotech companies in both the short and long term.

The increased availability of venture capital will certainly help. And as buildings come online at the University of Maryland, Baltimore's BioPark and then the East Baltimore Life Sciences and Technology Park, the additional lab space they offer will attract more companies.

The initial building at UMB is almost fully leased, and tenants are already showing interest in the second building.

When both parks are built out, the region will have added almost 3 million square feet of bioscience facilities. By any measure, this is a significant commitment to a bright future for the industry.

These projects build on a strong life sciences foundation that is already here.

Baltimore ranks fourth among all U.S. cities in the total amount of research funding it receives from the National Institutes of Health, a critical indicator of where bioscience companies will look to locate.

And biotech companies and biotech workers look for proximity to first-class research institutions and institutions of higher education. Maryland has 70 federal research centers, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

In terms of research-rich universities, we can claim both the Johns Hopkins University, which pulls in more research dollars than any other in the country, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which commands $350 million annually in research funds.

Would the business community like to see an even greater commitment from the state to this industry?

Of course.

That is why the Greater Baltimore Committee supports both the biotechnology investment tax credit bill and the research and development tax credit bill.

Passage of these key economic development initiatives will send a clear message to the rest of the country that our state government is serious and aggressive about growing this industry.

But Maryland is not slipping in its pursuit of building a strong bioscience industry sector. Maryland is standing tall and ready to run.

Donald C. Fry

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Vote record isn't just for recounts

The Sun's article "Security for voting machines is pushed" (Feb. 2) contains a serious misunderstanding in the reason a paper trail of voting machine ballots is necessary.

The article states that the paper receipt is "put away for safekeeping in case a recount is required." That is one use of an audit, but not the main use.

After the election, the paper receipts for some of the voting machines would be tallied and compared with the results reported by the machines.

In this manner, the validity of the machine counts could be ensured - as anyone attempting to modify the counts would know there would be a very good chance the modification would be discovered.

Richard Tatlow

Marriottsville

`Social contract' no longer adds up

The Democrats like to call Social Security a "social contract" in which, in return for taking care of the older generation, the younger generations will be taken care of ("Reform of Social Security at the top of Bush agenda," Feb. 3).

This kind of thinking is wonderful when you have 14 workers supporting one pension recipient, as it was in the beginning of the program.

However, the baby boomers will have only two active workers supporting each of them. Thus there is no way the current benefits can be sustained without raising taxes or using general revenue funds.

Zev Griner

Reisterstown

Lesbians in PBS show no threat to families

We were astonished to read the article about the new secretary of the Department of Education, Margaret Spellings, condemning the PBS cartoon show Postcards From Buster because it includes a visit to a home with lesbian parents ("Despite denunciation, `Buster' episode to air," Feb. 1).

Ms. Spellings just took office, and we have to believe that there are far more pressing issues relating to education in America than this cartoon show that aims to make kids who aren't in traditional families not feel so different.

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