Maryland is the best state in the country for innovation and entrepreneurship. We have known that for some time, but now, thanks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the rest of the country knows it, too.
The chamber, a staunch, independent advocate for the business community, ranked Maryland as the top state for innovation and entrepreneurship in the “Enterprising States” report released this month. As other states have hunkered down to weather the economic storm, Maryland has forged ahead, reinforcing its investments in the nation’s top-ranked public school system and doubling down on efforts to ensure entrepreneurs have the resources and the capital to create the next Under Armour, the next MedImmune, the next Google right here.
The No. 1 ranking is a significant improvement over last year — Maryland ranked seventh in 2011 — but more importantly, it validates the state’s strategy to grow and thrive in the new innovation economy and is a highly visible counterpoint to the argument that Maryland is not welcoming to business.
The chamber singled out InvestMaryland, the largest economic development program in the state’s history, in assigning Maryland the top ranking. In a first-of-its-kind tax credit auction in March, the program raised $84 million that, starting this summer, will be invested in hundreds of seed-, early- and growth-stage companies in the biotech and information technology sectors.
This is not the first time the state has invested venture capital dollars in Maryland companies. The Maryland Venture Fund, originally seeded with $25 million, has returned $64 million since its inception in 1994 and was instrumental in creating 2,000 jobs.
Gov. Martin O’Malley followed up InvestMaryland with Innovate Maryland, which was also cited by the chamber. The tech transfer partnership between the state and public and private research universities will be funded with nearly $6 million and tasked with commercializing 40 new technologies and discoveries a year.
Coupled with Maryland’s other strengths — the state’s economic performance was ranked No. 5 and its talent pipeline No. 7 — innovation and entrepreneurship form the foundation of our future, the fuel that prompted the chamber to rank Maryland as one of the top 10 future “boom states.”
InvestMaryland and Innovate Maryland are a start, but they cannot be the entire story. They will not be. Just as businesses must innovate to stay competitive, so too must Maryland if it is to maintain the most welcoming, most nourishing environment for the world’s brightest minds and leaders of the next generation of household names in medicine, information technology, aerospace, defense and cybersecurity.
These innovators and the highly skilled people they employ are the antidote to the economic downturn. Recession is our past, recovery is our present, but growth and prosperity are the future for Maryland. Entrepreneurs will lead the way.
Christian S. Johansson is Maryland’s secretary of Business & Economic Development.