A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Governor Moore creates Maryland Economic Council to strengthen state’s economy
Yesterday, Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order to promote Maryland’s economic future through the creation of the Maryland Economic Council. The council will be the command center for analysis and recommendations for the Moore-Miller Administration to effectively implement economic policies that achieve growth, diversify our workforce, and merge our state’s assets and growing industries.
“For too long, Maryland has underutilized its assets because it lacked a cohesive economic strategy. This council will change that,” said Governor Moore. “The Maryland Economic Council will help build the robust economic strategy our state needs and our state deserves. For the next decade to be Maryland’s decade, we must invest in the infrastructure, technology, and workforce to grow the industries that will dominate the next half century of the world economy.”
The council will have no fewer than five and no more than fifteen members with training, knowledge and experience in analyzing and interpreting economic data, developments and trends, appraising programs and activities of the government. The council will recommend economic policy in light of the international, national and state macroeconomic environment, and proposing strategies to build a more equitable economy.
The Maryland Economic Council will submit an annual report to Governor Moore on or before January 1, 2024, and by October 1 each year following. The annual report will outline the current economic conditions impacting the macroeconomic environment. The report will evaluate the macroeconomic environment’s impact on Maryland’s economy and will recommend courses of action consistent with the duties of the council.
2. Baltimore’s DuClaw Brewing acquired by New Jersey company amid industry consolidation
DuClaw Brewing Co. has become the latest Maryland craft brewery to be acquired by an out-of-state operation amid continuing consolidation in the industry.
Baltimore-based DuClaw, founded more than 25 years ago in Bel Air, said on its Facebook page that it has been bought by River Horse Brewing Co., based in Ewing, New Jersey.
Dave Benfield, DuClaw’s founder, said production at the company’s Rosedale brewery will end next month. The facility employs about 15 people in production and administration, all of whom have been offered jobs at River Horse. The company will continue to employ the eight people now in marketing and sales, he said.
River Horse plans to expand the capacity of its facility in Ewing, New Jersey, to meet the demands of DuClaw’s national distribution footprint. DuClaw products are sold on shelves and taps in 21 states and Washington, D.C., and internationally in Canada and France, the company’s website says.
Two weeks ago, Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, announced it will be bought by New York-based FX Matt Brewing Co., which will take over production of Flying Dog beer by August. In early April, industry giant Diageo announced it would close its beer production plant in Baltimore County – where it made Baltimore Blonde – and lay off 97 workers. And Full Tilt Brewing on York Road in North Baltimore closed in March.
3. Governor Moore announces strong first quarter growth for Port of Baltimore key commodities
Governor Wes Moore announced Tuesday increases in key targeted cargo at state-owned marine terminals at the Port of Baltimore during the first quarter of 2023. General cargo is up 8% and containers are up more than 7% compared to the first three months of 2022, and roll on/roll off farm and construction machinery is up 42% year over year.
“Maryland’s Port of Baltimore is one of the largest economic engines in the state, and that engine is now firing on all cylinders,” said Governor Moore. “The maritime industry knows we have the critical tools they need: world-class infrastructure, state-of-the-art technology, outstanding leadership and the men and women of the hardest working longshore labor force in the business.”
The Port of Baltimore generates about 15,300 direct jobs, with nearly 140,000 jobs overall linked to port activities. The port is first among the nation’s ports for autos and light truck volume, roll on/roll off farm and construction machinery, and imported gypsum and is responsible for nearly $3.3 billion in personal wages and salaries, $2.6 billion in business revenue and $395 million in state and local tax revenue annually.
4. U.S. hiring, unemployment jumped last month; what that says about the economy
The nation’s employers stepped up their hiring in May, adding a robust 339,000 jobs – well above expectations and evidence of enduring strength in an economy that the Federal Reserve is desperately trying to cool.
Friday’s report from the government reflected the job market’s resilience after more than a year of aggressive interest rate increases by the Fed. Many industries, from construction to restaurants to health care, are still adding jobs to keep up with consumer demand and restore their workforces to pre-pandemic levels.
Overall, the report painted a mostly encouraging picture of the job market. Yet there were some mixed messages in the May figures. Notably, the unemployment rate rose to 3.7%, from a five-decade low of 3.4% in April. It’s the highest unemployment rate since October. (The government compiles the unemployment data using a different survey than the one used to calculate job gains, and the two surveys sometimes conflict.)
The strong, steady job growth of the past several months shows that the economy remains in solid shape despite the Fed’s interest rate hikes, which have made borrowing much costlier for businesses and consumers. A recession, if one occurs, is likely further away than many economists had previously thought.
“As long as the economy continues to produce above 200,000 jobs per month, this economy simply is not going to slip into recession,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM.
5. Baltimore will have new rules and fees for outdoor dining this summer
Even without the need for six feet of social distance, outdoor dining – and its power to brighten the streetscape – is in Baltimore and many Maryland cities to stay.
The latest initiative for permanent outdoor dining “parklets” – restaurant seating areas in public right-of-way spaces – was approved by the city’s Board of Estimates on Wednesday, establishing safety rules for seating structures and a fee system that will charge restaurants in affluent areas more per square foot.
Businesses in locations with a low equity score, like Federal Hill, Fells Point or Harbor East, will pay $10 per square foot of curbside space, while those with high equity scores like Curtis Bay, Station North and Charles North, will pay $5 per square foot.
In a letter of protest from bike advocacy group Bikemore, Jed Weeks, the group’s interim executive leader, stated that the fees could have business owners paying thousands of dollars more than what they pay for the same outdoor space when it’s used for parking or valet services.
“Even at the lower rate, you might be paying thousands more,” Weeks said. “We believe the fees should be more affordable to support small businesses, or at least be lower than the fees for comparable uses like valet.”