A lively public forum Wednesday at Goucher College showcased Maryland’s economic accomplishments and gathered stakeholders to share ideas. Governor Martin O’Malley led the discussion, along with Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Leonard J. Howie III and a panel of industry experts.
“These forums are not about applauding what we’ve been able to do in the past, they’re about laying the road for the future,” the governor said.
During an introductory presentation, O’Malley detailed his economic plan for the remainder of his office. Within the next 16 months, he said he plans to accomplish the following:
- Collaboratively establish a new model to deliver enhanced services to Maryland manufacturers to improve the competitiveness of that industry and support next-generation manufacturing.
- Partner with the National Institute of Technology (NIST) to establish a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE).
- Promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and the expansion of Maryland’s early-stage and established businesses by connecting economic-development programs with opportunities to support strategic industries.
- Pursue plans to develop an aerospace cluster on the lower shore related to the growing commercial opportunities at Wallops Island.
“We believe in this administration that the difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline and we’ve set deadlines for every one of our plans,” he said.
O’Malley pointed to his administration’s track record for accomplishing economic goals, which include Maryland’s top ranked schools, the highest percentage of green jobs in the region and the state’s No. 1 ranking for entrepreneurship and innovation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The availability of venture capital funding and other forms of funding for startups became a major focus among panelists audience members.
Michael J. Thomas, CEO of medical device company iSonea and an experienced entrepreneur, said he appreciated the opportunity to publically share his desire for increased access to venture capital funding.
“Maryland is a great state. I’ve lived here all my life, I’ve relocated companies here and I’m looking to do it again, but there needs to be quite a bit more venture capital funding … With rich talent, the FDA and NIH, University of Maryland and medicare, the epicenter of healthcare is here,” he said.
The governor responded that several initiatives, including the Maryland Venture Fund, multiple tax credits and the InvestMaryland Challenge are already working to increase venture capital funding, but he insisted that more could be done.
“We’re working to create a silk road for investment from Silicon Valley and the Boston area to Maryland … I continue to tell your story when I travel abroad on trade missions and around the United States,” he said.
The governor repeatedly used the forum as an opportunity to praise the work of Maryland’s business leaders. “These have been some miserable hard years, with many of you wondering how you were going to weather this recession. I have a tremendous amount of the respect for all of you. The most important job we create is the next one, and you all are doing that every day,” he said.
Murray said the forum accomplished its goal of fostering proactive discussions,
“People are still lined up, almost an hour after the scheduled end, talking to myself, Secretary Howie, people within state departments and those running programs. There’s a lot of interest in what we can do together to advance job opportunities in Maryland,” Murray said. “It’s very important that the governor was able to present the progress that we’ve made and continue to learn what more we can do.”
Howie added that the forum helped break down the barriers that sometimes separate government officials from the people they serve.
“When you have a group of stakeholders come to the room and engage in a dialog it really allows us to get that immediate feedback on what we’ve done right and it gives us an opportunity to address the things that we still need to work on,” he said. “Events like this are important because it gives the administration a chance to show that we really did embark on a process to initiate better choices that would bring better results.”