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Editorial - A new way to create jobs

October 14, 1997

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening on Monday told the Maryland Chamber of Commerce he's ready to change the way the state brings new jobs here. Instead of luring business from other areas, Glendening said, the new emphasis will be on improving job training in Maryland.

The idea sounds good and it's in line with what top development specialists have been saying for several years, but the idea of totally abandoning the grant and loan programs that give some businesses an incentive to locate in Maryland is a little bit scary.

Perhaps we just lack sufficient faith in the short-term possibilities for improving the economic climate with better training. But when Glendening says he wants to provide scholarships to Maryland's top science and technology students who agree to "make a commitment to stay in Maryland and work in Maryland," we wonder where these students will work if some state agency doesn't help create jobs, either by funding entrepreneurs who need start-up help or by luring high-tech companies here.

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In Washington County we face a circular problem; the percentage of residents with four-year degrees is too low to convince many high-tech firms to locate here. And yet when local parents sacrifice to put their children through college, the kids often find that there isn't a suitable job to come home to.

We have read the Corporation for Business Development's 1994 report "Bidding for Business," and agree with its conclusion that the bidding to lure existing jobs from one region to another wastes money states should be spending on improving work force readiness.

But until the state improves its work force to the point where Maryland has a reputation that draws business here, we wouldn't like to see the state abandon the grant approach entirely. That's because Washington County has a utility debt problem that won't be solved without some new industries using some of the county's excess sewer capacity. Building a better work force is a laudable goal, but until that happens, the county needs to keep a few of the old- style incentives to keep industries interested.

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