By Len Lazarick
For the third year in a row, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rated Maryland among the top five states in the country for economic growth, job creation and innovation.
In its annual report on “Enterprising States”, the national chamber gives the O’Malley administration high marks for policies and conditions that help grow jobs, issues on which members of the state business community often find fault.
This year the chamber also classified Maryland as one of “the next boom states,” the states “best positioned to grow, create jobs, and prosper in the coming five to 10 years.”
Lower rankings on taxes and regulatory climate
In the array of rankings, Maryland continues to do poorly when it comes to taxes and regulatory climate – the area where critics typically pound O’Malley. But even there, Maryland ranked 8th in the nation for “tax climate for mature firms.”
“Benefitting from the recent economic stability provided by the nation’s capital, Maryland is one of the nation’s high tech centers,” the report says. “Its most productive sector over the past decade has been professional, business and technical service, particularly computer-systems designs.”
While Maryland does better than most of the 50 states, it still ranks slightly below its nearest fierce competitor, Virginia, as the southern neighbor moved up in the rankings from sixth to third, while Maryland stayed at fifth place. The report even refers to Virginia as “the emerging East Coast economic superstar.”
“Virginia’s low tax and regulatory environment, coupled with its proximity to the nation’s capital have made the state one of the most attractive locations for both domestic and international firms.”
Reliance on federal spending
Reacting to the report, Larry Hogan of the pro-business Change Maryland group said: “As the report notes, Maryland benefits from its proximity to the nation’s capital. With record federal debt, last summer’s credit downgrade and the automatic sequestration process now part of the congressional budgeting process, the warning signs are clearly there for anyone interested in Maryland’s job growth in the months and years ahead.”
The three New York bond rating firms have expressed similar concerns about impact of federal budget cuts on Maryland’s economy.
In establishing its ranking, the chamber uses some of the same measures O’Malley persistently touts when he talks about Maryland: educational attainment, high school advanced placement tests, affordable college tuition, family income and the high percentage of science, technology, engineering and mathematic jobs in the work force. The chamber even specifically praises O’Malley’s InvestMaryland initiative to put $84 million in venture capital funding to high tech start ups. The money was raised by the auction of state tax credits to insurance companies.
The chamber also gives O’Malley credit for his efforts at regulatory reform, citing the 131 regulations that were repealed or revised this year after an intensive review. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce said the regulations did little to help local business.