MacRo LTD Blog

If We’re Not Open for Business, What are We?

Governor Larry Hogan grabbed a phrase that worked well for the promotion of the Frederick Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development, hoping it will do the same for the entire state of Maryland … and what’s wrong with that?

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I’ll just start this post off with a plain and simple statement:  Get Over It!

Yes, it was the last president of the now defunct Frederick County Board of County Commissioners’ Blaine Young, who chose to tell all as they drove into our fair county that Frederick was “Open for Business.”

Many Frederick Countians would like to erase from memory any policy, program or phrase that evolved out of the Young years.

And while Mr. Young did not leave office with much, if any, positive fanfare or show very well in his bid against Jan Gardner to capture the coveted role of Frederick County’s first County Executive, there were surely a lot of positives that grew from his four years in office – consider the fact that job growth in Frederick County (2.04%) out paced all of Maryland (1.17%) by nearly 75% over the last four years!

Putting aside the always controversial matter of residential growth caused by so-called “evil” land developers (aka Land Devil-Opers), the final board of commissioners did work quickly to untangle miles of red tape that congested the flow of the general permitting and site plan approval processes for warehouse, office and retail users which had earned Frederick County the dubious reputation of being a very unfriendly place to do business for any kind of Frederick commercial real estate or business venture.

As fate would have it from the perspective of the Mayor his Department of Economic Development, over the last four years the City of Frederick has slipped considerably on the scale of business friendliness compared to the county. Why else would the City dedicate a substantial amount of its staff time to supporting the recently formed Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) made up of a cross section of local business leaders?

With a goal of providing “advice and specific recommendations to help ensure that the City of Frederick, both today and into the future, is the preferred community in the Baltimore Washington region for attracting private business investment, jobs, and economic opportunity,” recent EDAC studies shown that Frederick County is often found to be much more favorable in attracting new and expanding businesses than the City.

The Council of which I am proud to be a part of is actively dissecting current policies, codes and programs that will hopefully develop recommendations which will put the city on a more even keel with Frederick County, not to mention surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland as well as adjoining states.

But what about that anomaly named Larry Hogan, only the second Republican governor the state of Maryland has known since the glorious rise and fall of Spiro T. Agnew, who was elected to the state’s top office in January of 1967?

Without a doubt Hogan’s victory over the assumed “anointed one” former Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, was the national shocker of the November 2014 election.  Now while Maryland is well known as for its ultra-liberal tax and spend, budget busting, deficit climbing and anti-business reputation, occasionally its voters awaken from its “strangular” (yeah, I made up this word) grip of heavy taxes and layers of bureaucracy to demand some kind of relief.

In the words of well-known economist Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., who serves on Mr. Hogan’s transition team, Maryland, over the last 8 years has fallen to 46th of the 50 in the US in state by state employment ranking, not to mention that resident out-migration far exceeds in-migration.

Governor Hogan was not exaggerating when he said in his State of the State address on February 4, 2015 that “High taxes, over-regulation, and an anti-business attitude are clearly the cause of our economic problems. Our economy is floundering, and too many Marylanders have been struggling, just to get by.”

Now that may come as a surprise to the omnipotent Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, who has reigned over the Maryland State Senate as its president since 1987 (yes, that’s right … 28 years!), as I am sure that over that time he has never personally struggled or floundered from the rewards of his position.  Hogan_state_of_the_state02102015

The landslide election of Larry Hogan last November was a clear statement from Maryland voters that the state’s economy cannot remain dependent on the gift of fantasy dollars from the Federal Government any longer … or find economic benefit from excessive amounts of over regulation.

The time has come to diversify our employment base and tell (and even more so “show”) the private sector that “Maryland is Open for Business.”

… and whether that quote “We’re Open for Business” that now is seen on all “Welcome to Maryland” signs throughout the state is a derivative from a phase used by former County Commissioner President Blaine Young or someone else, it does sum up well a goal for our state, and I for one, am proud the Frederick County is seen as an example for Maryland to follow.

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The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital, as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, and currently serves as Co-Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Council to the Mayor of the City of Frederick … to name a few.

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