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As Long as We Remember...

July 29, 2011

Priority One: Job Growth

Blaine R. Young

One of the first things that a new Board of County Commissioners does upon taking office is to develop its strategic plan for the next four years. The current board did so over a two-day retreat at which we heard from our department heads, managers and other stakeholders.


The result was a new strategic plan of which we are proud, and which we are doing our best to implement here in the first year of our term.


When you do a plan such as this, you have to prioritize your goals. Our number one priority for 2011 through 2014 is job growth. We talked about it during the campaign and we intend to do everything we can to make it a reality.


However, it is impossible to consider the prospects for job growth in Frederick County without looking at us as a part of the State of Maryland as a whole. Anybody coming to Frederick County is also coming to Maryland; and, as business friendly we may push to be here, prospective employers have to look at the burdens that will be imposed on them by our state government. And those burdens are significant.


In a recent survey of the 50 states, Maryland came in 50th in terms of job growth over the last two years. That’s right, dead last. It’s hard to do any worse than that.


A recent competition between Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia for the headquarters of Northrop Grumman Corporation should be a very loud warning to our state leaders in Annapolis. Northrop Grumman, one of the largest federal contractors in the United States, decided it wanted to move closer to its largest customer, the federal government. As such, Maryland had a leg up in that we were one of the three jurisdictions in the national capital area. So, it was between us, D.C. and Virginia.


By all accounts it wasn’t even close. Northrop Grumman decided to make their new headquarters and bring thousands of jobs to northern Virginia.


Why is that?


Because northern Virginia just doesn’t talk the talk about being business friendly, they walk the walk.


Another recent survey compared the taxes which are faced by new employers in Virginia and those in Maryland. The difference was dramatic. When you add up all the taxes businesses and their employees must pay, Maryland’s total taxes were at least two percentage points higher overall than Virginia’s. When you add that to federal taxes and local taxes, you can see that northern Virginia has a distinct competitive advantage in attracting jobs over those of us here in Maryland.


This growing gap between how businesses are treated in Maryland and Virginia is not going unnoticed throughout Maryland. The chairman of the Business Roundtable in Prince George’s County, a region always considered sympathetic to the high tax climate in Annapolis, was recently quoted as saying “Virginia is beating our pants off.”


The question I have for the governor and legislators in Annapolis is do you care? Until something is done to actually improve the tax and regulatory burden on prospective employers in Maryland, I don’t want to hear a single state leader talking about bringing new jobs to Maryland. And until you can get us out of 50th place (even 49th would be nice) all you are doing is talking for sound bites without any meaningful follow-through in actual policy initiatives.


The current county commissioners intend to keep our word to do everything we can do to foster job growth in Frederick County. We have already cut a number of fees, reduced the burden of many regulations, and we are always looking for more ways to make us more attractive to businesses and employers. And at least four of us would very much like to lower the property tax rate during our term to make us even more attractive to new employers. We will do all we can, but we need a little help from Annapolis.


What can you, as a county taxpayer, do? Write the governor, email all state senators or delegates, and let the people in Annapolis know that in Frederick County we are open for business, and we would appreciate it if they would stop slamming the door in our face.


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