Friday Five | August 25, 2023

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. Maryland unemployment drops for the 6th straight month

The record run of low unemployment in Maryland reached its sixth straight month as the state reported a drop of 0.2 percentage points to 1.8 percent in preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the survey data, Maryland also gained 2,000 jobs in July. The “other services” sector experienced the most growth, with an increase of 2,500 jobs. Additional areas that created jobs included leisure and hospitality, public sector, mining, logging and construction, and information.

The bottom line: Maryland’s low unemployment pattern as of late, which currently ranks second with Vermont, is not due to a competitive labor market but rather job seekers ceasing to look for new opportunities and/or relocating elsewhere. There is work to be done to attract employers and jobs here as the migration to more business-friendly climates heats up.

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2. Maryland small businesses thrive in these counties

Are certain counties more friendly to small businesses than others? To pinpoint the areas where small businesses abound, altLINE used Census Bureau data to find which counties in Maryland had the highest concentration of small businesses, calculated as small establishments of 500 employees or less per 1,000 residents. Maryland’s top-ranking jurisdiction: Worcester County, with 2,184 small business establishments (or 40.9 per 1,000 residents).

Business insight: The data reveals that small businesses fair better in Maryland’s rural and vacation-orientated counties, possibly due to loyalty from local residents, the absence of competition from larger corporations, as well as tourist demand for local experiences — factors to consider if planning to launch a business here.

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3. Baltimore competes to become a federal tech hub that could bring 52,000 jobs

A 35-member consortium led by the Greater Baltimore Committee is finalizing a bid seeking to become one of 20 or more regions chosen for the federal Tech Hubs Program. If it succeeds, federal funding — an estimated $500 million over five years — is expected to generate $3.2 billion in economic impact and 52,000 jobs by 2030 in a region that includes Baltimore and seven surrounding counties. The program aims to diversify technology investment and development beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, which currently attract 80 percent of all tech funding. Others reportedly seeking funds include Richmond, Va. and Toledo, Ohio, as well as regions of North Carolina.

Why it matters: If Maryland’s Baltimore and seven-county region bid is successful, our state’s economic competitiveness will benefit, as will future generations of businesses and entrepreneurs by spurring opportunity in industries like biotech, medical technology and genomics.

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4. Wes Moore: Maryland’s ‘lazy’ economy must change

State analysts are predicting that budget deficits will sprawl to $1.8 billion annually after Governor Moore’s term ends — due in large part to the ambitious education program Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Maryland’s lackluster economy must shift, the Governor said in a recent interview — and the data backs him up. Adjusted for inflation, Maryland’s economy grew 0.2 percent between 2018 and 2022, compared to 3.1 percent in Pennsylvania and 7.5 percent nationwide.

Key takeaway: Maryland has relied on the federal government as a chief employer for decades, has a state population in decline and a sluggish gross domestic product outpaced in growth by the surrounding region and nation overall. Governor Moore: “We have the assets that we can build off of. It just requires an intentional measure of investment.”

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5. State seeks federal grant to rebuild American Legion Bridge, I-495 toll lanes

State transportation officials said they will seek more than $3 billion in federal funding to ease congestion around the American Legion Bridge. The proposed project extends along a 6.5-mile stretch from the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the western spur of I-270. Future phases could be used to address congestion from the west spur of I-270 to I-370, north of Rockville. The plan includes a rebuild of the American Legion Bridge, long seen as a bottleneck for commuters. The project, pending funding, could be completed as soon as 2031.

Local impact: Providing long-desired transportation solutions in the American Legion Bridge and I-270 corridors is critical to eliminating employment barriers, linking more people to high-demand jobs and stimulating local economies.

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