By Seth Mendelson
From the March/April 2022 Issue
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has spent much of the last seven years advocating for the state and emphasizing its many business attributes, including location, educated workforce and an “open for business” atmosphere that has attracted many businesses to the Old Line State.
Hogan, a highly popular two-term Republican, was first elected governor in November 2014 and was re-elected in November 2018. He cannot seek a third term next year because of term limits, causing much speculation that he might run for president in 2024 or compete for one of the state’s two senate seats down the road.
He sat down with Business Facilities to discuss the “state” of Maryland, what is happening now and what needs to happen in the future to keep things moving forward. Here are Hogan’s comments:
BF: Tell us about the business climate in Maryland now. What is driving its success?
Gov. Larry Hogan: Much of Maryland’s success is driven by its supportive, business-friendly climate and strength in innovation and entrepreneurship. When I was elected governor seven years ago, I was committed to ensuring that Maryland was “Open for Business.” That meant improving the perception of our state, providing better customer service to our constituency, and working hard to help our existing companies grow and add jobs as well as attracting new companies to the state. Maryland’s strongest industry sectors include cybersecurity, life sciences, manufacturing, and aerospace & defense.
Growth in these critical areas is driven by a diverse range of assets including federal laboratories and military installations, world-class research universities, and a growing community of private companies. Maryland’s strategic location on the East Coast has also helped to drive growth in the state’s logistics sector in recent years, with many companies opening major new distribution centers and easy access to the Port of Baltimore and major interstates such as I-95 and I-81.
BF: What are the key issues facing the state in terms of business development going forward? How are you addressing those issues?
LH: Since the most difficult days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Maryland has experienced a vibrant recovery thanks to the aggressive steps taken to protect the business community, including hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency grant funding for small businesses. When it comes to attracting and retaining businesses, Maryland continues to support businesses through targeted incentive programs to support key goals, such as the creation of new, high-paying manufacturing jobs and spurring investment across multiple industries. Over the past seven years, we have made it a priority to reduce taxes and fees, streamline or eliminate hundreds of burdensome regulations, and place a new emphasis on customer service to make processes such as getting permits or starting a business much easier for Marylanders.
BF: What programs are you emphasizing to encourage both retention of businesses and encouraging other businesses to come to the state? Are there new programs being developed?
LH: The Maryland Department of Commerce has a number of programs that help businesses of every size across our state by providing financing, tax credits, and other forms of assistance. One of our current programs is More Jobs for Marylanders, which promotes the growth of manufacturing by providing tax incentives to spur job creation in manufacturing, encourages manufacturers to invest in new equipment, and funds job training and apprenticeship programs to help strengthen Maryland’s workforce.
Through this program, we have been able to help existing Maryland companies expand, attract dozens of new out-of-state companies, and create hundreds of manufacturing jobs. In fact, the More Jobs for Marylanders program has helped our state go from last in the country in manufacturing to adding more manufacturing jobs than 39 other states.
BF: As with many other states, Maryland has different regions that have different issues and opportunities. Can the state meet everyone’s needs? How?
LH: Not only is Maryland a topographically diverse state, but also in the industries that thrive in each region of our state. In Greater Baltimore and our Capital region, we have a critical mass of companies in life sciences and cybersecurity, while our more rural counties are home to a thriving aerospace and defense industry, as well as manufacturing and agriculture-related businesses. To help our rural regions reach their full potential, we recently announced $50 million in grant funds will be made available to boost economic development activity, stimulate private sector investment, and increase job creation. These funds can be used to improve infrastructure such as utilities, transportation, and broadband to support the attraction, retention, or expansion of businesses, as well as infrastructure related to specific industry sector development including manufacturing, cybersecurity, and the life sciences.
BF: As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, what do you see happening for the state from a business angle?
LH: Between April 2020 and December 2021, Maryland regained 324,600, or 81%, of the 400,000 jobs lost during the first months of the pandemic. That recovery ranks second-best in the Mid-Atlantic region and ahead of states like Virginia and Pennsylvania. While some sectors of our economy are still recovering, others are ahead of where they were pre-pandemic. Our professional, scientific, and technical services sector has added 13,000 jobs, and our transportation, warehousing, and utilities sector has grown by 3,600 jobs since February 2020 as Maryland continues to grow as an e-commerce hub. From passing the RELIEF Act of 2021 to help families and businesses to establishing emergency grants for our struggling small businesses, hotels, restaurants and artists, we were able to preserve thousands of Maryland jobs.
BF: I am sure that you are proud of the educational system the state has and its educated workforce. Can you talk about that a bit?
LH: One of Maryland’s strongest assets is our world-class education system which we have made record investments to prepare our children for the future. Today, more than 40% of Marylanders 25 and over hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and nearly 20% of Marylanders 25 and over have a graduate or professional degree—ranking us second in the nation. Our K-12 public school system consistently outperforms those in the other states and our nearly 60 accredited two- and four-year colleges and universities include some of the world’s leading academic institutions. We also have a very robust community college network, offering continuing education as well as customized workforce training.
BF: What’s next for the state? What does the future hold?
LH: In 2022, our administration will remain extremely focused on continuing to grow our economy and reinforcing the pro-jobs, pro-business mission that has been successful in helping Maryland experience the biggest economic turnaround in the country. As we continue to see our state unemployment rate drop, we are making significant investments in key areas like broadband and our infrastructure, and are welcoming dozens of new companies each year.