By Megan Poinski
Before beginning his second four-year term as Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley is taking some time out to listen to what some people have to say.
O’Malley held the first of five “Maryland Forward” forums on Monday in Gaithersburg at the National Institute for Standards and Technology campus.
The theme of Monday’s session was jobs and the economy. It was targeted to get people involved in all sectors of the business community talking about issues, problems and solutions. Hundreds of leaders from different portions of the business sphere attended the half-day forum, which was part informative, part discussion, and part dialogue with the governor.
O’Malley told attendees that now is a time of transition.
“It is a time of transition in our economy, country and world. And it is a time of transition for two individuals, Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown, who head up this public trust that each of us has an interest in called the state of Maryland.”
Attendees first received an overview of the challenges the state faces, as well as O’Malley’s larger goals. Then, they broke into smaller groups to discuss jobs and the economy and their impact on science and technology, small businesses, traditional industries – including manufacturing and agriculture – and quality of life – including arts and culture.
They discussed how the state could best help each sector to innovate in entrepreneurship, expand access to capital, and leverage partnerships. Before closing out the session, each group’s findings were shared with O’Malley, and attendees were able to ask the governor direct questions.
With the recession that has ravaged the nation over the last several years, times have been tough in both the public and private sectors. O’Malley said that everyone – himself and all of the businesses represented – has gone through three or four “miserable, tough years,” and been working hard. The economy of today is one built on innovation – a quality that O’Malley said Marylanders have in quantity.
“There have been lots of cuts and difficult things that we had to do, but there is not another state in America with greater promise of coming out at the other end,” O’Malley said.
In the small group breakout sessions, the business leaders discussed what the state needs to do better in each sector. Some of the answers were very similar.
Each group said that more publicity was needed – either to get the word out about great opportunities for businesses and employees in Maryland, or to find out more about the opportunities, programs and assistance the state makes possible through the Department of Economic and Business Development.
Groups also all talked about enriching Maryland’s digital core, making sure that broadband is installed statewide – including in the rural areas for farmers. Another common theme in the groups was talking about the need to streamline government processes, making permits and licenses easier to get, and making more of the tools businesses will need easily accessible.
The entire closing session was recorded, and will eventually be transcribed as a transition report for the O’Malley administration.
“We’re taking stock of where we are, and where we need to go in the future,” O’Malley said.
The remaining Maryland Forward sessions, which require advance registration, are:
· Skills and Education: January 3 at Bowie State University
· Sustainability: January 7 at Chesapeake College
· Children and Health: January 10 at Coppin State University
· Public Safety and Security: January 13 at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium