ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s highly educated population and creative technology community puts it in a strong position to benefit economically when the nation pulls out of the current recession, according to two reports released by organizations monitoring state economies.
The nation’s current “psychological funk” is the biggest challenge to economic recovery, said Gov. Parris N. Glendening Wednesday. But Maryland’s economy remains fundamentally strong and “our future looks even brighter.”
After weeks of bad economic news about recession and the state’s fiscal deficit, Glendening looked to the future for signs of optimism.
Maryland’s job growth rate dropped from 1.5 percent to .4 percent in September, placing it 23rd in the country, but remained above the national rate. The state’s September seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.1 percent. October numbers will be released Nov. 20.
The state broke into the top 10 for the first time in the 2001 Development Report Card published by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a private, nonprofit, economic development organization based in Washington, D.C. The report card ranks states on 70 areas in three broad categories — performance, business vitality and development capacity.
Maryland also rose one spot to fifth place in the Milken Institute’s New Economy Index, which ranks states based on 12 criteria considered critical to a region’s future high-tech growth. The Milken Institute is a Los Angeles-based economic think tank.
“The Internet and technology will continue to improve productivity, and those regions that can take advantage of high tech will be rewarded,” said Ross DeVol, a Milken director and creator of the index.
Both reports pointed to Maryland’s highly educated workforce and research and development capacity as favorable factors in the state’s economic development potential.
“It’s obvious that Maryland’s strengths are its educational assets, including its research facilities and very educated population,” said Skip Rimer, spokesman for the Milken Institute.
“Maryland presents a picture of a state with huge long-term development capacity,” said Brian Dabson, president of the Corporation for Enterprise Development. The state ranked second in the country in college attainment and first in both university and federal research and development.
However, Maryland’s economic development comes with some negative side effects.
The same evaluation ranked Maryland last in the country for conversion of cropland to other uses, which reflects farmland being lost to development, Dabson said.
Glendening, whose administration prides itself on its Smart Growth policies, was surprised by the ranking and said he would take it to the General Assembly as proof of the need for more investment in such programs.
Air quality, where Maryland ranked 47th, is another area Dabson suggested needs improvement. Maryland’s poor air quality rating was due to traffic congestion, he said.
While the state ranked first in the nation with the lowest poverty rate and first in closing the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest Marylanders, it ranked 46th for the number of uninsured low-income children.
Admitting that the nation was in an economic slowdown, Glendening was obviously pleased to present good economic news. “We’re a knowledge-based economy,” he said. “We’re bursting with pride that our strategy of investing in higher education is paying off.”
The state’s higher education budget has grown by $981 million over the past seven years of the Glendening administration.