The story was corrected on May 24, 2013.
Nikkia Carter doesn’t mind going across the Potomac River in search of clients, contacts and information on landing said clients.
Only instead of her going from Maryland to Virginia, as many believe is the usual case, the CEO of King George, Va., information technology company Carter-McGowan Services was traveling the other way. Carter was among the almost 900 business executives and government contracting officials participating in the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s 10th annual GovConNet Procurement Conference last Friday in Rockville.
“I’ll go wherever I can find the help and the business,” Carter said. “I like the match-making sessions with contracting officials here. I hope to get some more contracts this way.”
The competition for jobs between Maryland and Virginia has long been intense and shows little signs of slowing. Before recognizing companies at the Alliance for Workplace Excellence’s recent annual luncheon in North Bethesda, Steven A. Silverman detailed results of a recent study.
The director of Montgomery County’s Department of Economic Development said figures from Economic Modeling Specialists International showed Montgomery added almost 25,000 jobs between 2010 and 2012, a 3.9 percent growth rate.
“That was No. 1 in the region, beating out that other county over the river,” Silverman said, referring to Fairfax County’s job growth in that time being only 3.6 percent.
Another recent report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Maryland tops in the nation for innovation and entrepreneurship, which relates to areas such as business startups, academic research and development and job growth among science, technology and math fields.
But Maryland was near the bottom in business climate at No. 43, similar to the state’s positions in that category in several other studies. That related to areas such as business taxes and costs tacked on through government mandates and regulations. Virginia, a key regional competitor for jobs, ranked No. 3 in innovation and No. 16 in business climate.
“Different studies look at different measures,” Silverman said. “We are high in some areas and not that high in others. I think overall we stack up well against the states we compete against for jobs.”
In 2010, Montgomery lost a high-profile competition to Falls Church, Va., for the headquarters of Fortune 500 defense giant Northrop Grumman. Neighboring Prince George’s County is now in another high-profile battle with Virginia and Washington, D.C., to land the new FBI headquarters.
While it’s great that Maryland ranks highly in innovation, the continued low marks on taxes and business climate should give officials pause, said Christopher Carpenito, board chairman-elect of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and CFO of Gaithersburg-based Hess Construction and Engineering Services.
The latest dealings with a stormwater fee — which is forced by a federal mandate — makes it challenging, especially for small businesses, Carpenito said.
“The fees and taxes become cumulative after awhile,” he said. “They may seem small, but they add up. This is money that small companies need to reinvest in their businesses.”
Montgomery County is in the process of streamlining permit, plan review and inspection processes that are expected to cut as much as one year from development and construction projects. This would not only save time but major costs, Carpenito said.
Some extra costs cannot be avoided, he said. He was happy to see the transportation funding bill pass during the recent state legislative session, even though it might bring some more pain at the pump.
“Virginia puts a lot of funds into transportation infrastructure,” Carpenito said. “We would have continued to fall further behind if we had not found a way to invest in our infrastructure.”
Numerous local companies have opened offices in other states and countries to support contracts they win there. Hess recently opened an office in Richmond, Va., after winning some big contracts. Bethesda-based Design to Delivery, a consulting firm that specializes in helping other businesses and organizations navigate the government procurement process, just opened an office in Indiana to support its U.S. Navy client.
The new office is not related to business climate, said Molly K. Gimmel, co-founder and executive vice president of Design To Delivery. The company has remained in Bethesda since forming in 2001 and has its roughly 50 employees spread across seven states.
“The climate is fine here,” Gimmel said.
Correction: The story originally gave the wrong location of Northrop Grumman’s new headquarters.