November 3, 2011

Business executives say Maryland government needs to be friendlier

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Business executives on a panel at a Maryland Chamber of Commerce forum sounded familiar themes Wednesday: state government needs to reduce cumbersome regulations, speed approvals and become more “business-friendly.”

Maryland Chamber of Commerce logo“It’s certainly not as business-friendly as Northern Virginia,” said Gail Bassin, co-CEO and treasurer of JBS International, a North Bethesda consulting firm with 350 employees in Maryland and 50 in Virginia. “I would like the state to be more business friendly.”

“It takes too long to get anything approved,” said James Cornelsen, president and CEO of Bowie-based Old Line Bank. He complained that it took three years to get a building constructed because of government delays.

“There’s a lot of redundancy” in government inspections, said Stu FitzGibbon, refinery manager of the Domino Sugar plant on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. He cited multiple inspections by state and local health officials and visits by both federal and state officials to enforce occupational safety regulations. “We should eliminate redundancy.”

From the audience at the forum held at the Cambridge Hyatt Regency, real estate attorney Robert Cannon of the Saul Ewing firm said that state and local officials are not hearing and listening to these kinds of comments.

Cannon agreed. “Many times they’re sort of seeing right through me,” looking around for the “consumer voter” instead, he said.

Chamber President Kathleen Snyder pointed out that Gov. Martin O’Malley issued an executive order Oct. 17 ordering a 60-day review of regulations to eliminate or reform them in order to spur job creation.

The program is part of the “Maryland Made Easy” initiative to streamline the regulatory process. It began in January.

“The governor and DBED are actually looking at what they can fix,” Snyder said. Comments and suggestions can be made on the Maryland Made Easy website.

As of Thursday, there were already 223 comments on the site, some echoing the remarks of the business executives. But many others have little to do with regulations or job creation, complaining about employee use of state cars, union dues, child support standards and gun-carrying rules.