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Maryland economic official gives update and a forecast

January 20, 2003

Maryland and Washington County are "open for business," Robert C. Brennan, assistant secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development financing programs, said at a recent Chamber of Commerce "Eggs and Issues" breakfast meeting.

More than 60 business and community leaders listened to an update on financial programs available for Maryland businesses. Brennan explained the structure and operations of the state agency and talked about the anticipated state budget challenges.

Touching on the highlights of 2002 and looking ahead to 2003, Brennan said, "There has been a lot of activity in Washington County, including the recent efforts by the state and of Washington County's EDC (Economic Development Commission) with Mack Trucks-Volvo. We are working right now on several projects that could have a significant impact for Hagerstown and Western Maryland."

Brennan said the Department of Business and Economic Development was busy with many companies looking to locate in Maryland, and that existing Maryland businesses are looking to expand.

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Brennan said Department of Business and Economic Development programs are crucial to helping businesses expand or locate in Maryland.

One program started in 1994 with a fund of $16 million has generated more than $70 million in investment in new business in Maryland, plus a significant number of new high-paying jobs, Brennan said.

He said companies can choose to locate in any state or community.

"Maryland and Washington County must be competitive to encourage businesses to locate here," he said. "We have to spend money and resources to attract high-paying jobs, and to create investment in our communities."

He said his agency and economic development should be looked upon as revenue generating and the method for increasing the tax base.

Touching on the state's budget concerns, Brennan said, "With a third of the state legislature brand new, and with a new governor, it will be a tough sell for keeping a high priority for supporting the full funding of DBED's programs."

Brennan also reviewed some of Maryland's most recent rankings.

"Maryland is outpacing the national average in job growth," he said. "We're 15th in the nation, up from 41st just a few years ago. Virginia is ranked 25th, West Virginia is ranked 32nd and Pennsylvania is ranked 21st.

Brennan said there is a lot of competition with nearby states, particularly for companies looking at Washington County.

"You're unique in Maryland, with other neighboring states five miles in either direction vying for the same economic development opportunities," he said.

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