Md. commerce secretary offers advice for rural development
Special from the Star Democrat
— Maryland’s commerce secretary gave some advice to local economic development professionals last week at a rural economic development session.
Supporting rural development in Maryland is one of the primary goals of the Maryland Economic Development Association. To assist in that goal, MEDA hosted its rural economic development session on Dec. 1 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.
MEDA is, according to its mission statement, a nonprofit organization comprised of economic development professionals working to improve the state’s business climate through encouraging partnerships and networking among people committed to bringing jobs and capital to Maryland.
Mike Gill is the Maryland secretary of commerce under Gov. Larry Hogan. Gill, who was the keynote speaker for the development session, spoke enthusiastically about growing business in Maryland as well as making Maryland a more friendly state in which to operate a business.
“What is important to you, is important to us,” Gill said to the group.
He added, “(Gov. Larry) Hogan has spent more time visiting the Shore in the past two years than that other guy did in eight ... because it’s important.”
Gill said that for the state, keeping taxes and fees down and not creating a lot of obstacles on the regulatory side is one way the current administration is seeking to make Maryland a more friendly state to businesses.
Gill said they also want — like any good business owner — to provide good customer service.
“It costs nothing to be nice,” Gill said. “There was a time we couldn’t even spell economic development (in
the state of Maryland) ... now we are ready to develop an image and brand for Maryland and make it special.”
It is often said one of the secrets of success is growth through retention and then finding new business to draw in, and Maryland is going to work on that at the government level, he said.
“When Baltimore made the news last year, as Marylanders, we know that is not representative of the state as a whole, but that is what the nation sees ... I want to be in that conversation about being one of the 10 best states in America,” said Gill.
Gill acknowledged there is a need to find a balance between quality of life and economic development. Each county is unique and wants to maintain that difference and they all bring something different to the table, but there is a greatness in combining as a region also, said Gill.
Gill summarized what he believes are the top five areas to focus on for economic development on the Eastern Shore. First, determine a culture or brand for the area to promote, be it proactive local government leadership, clean, pretty, safe towns or good schools. Second, he said, cultivate talent by supporting good schools with graduates who are ready to compete in the work force and being ready with jobs for them at home.
“There is a passion for the young people who have grown up on the Shore, who want to stay here and raise families of their own,” Gill said.
Third, Gill said, is to develop a local plan for economic development.
“A plan, even a small one is okay, just buy into it and make it happen,” he said.
Fourth, according to Gill, is to execute the plan, be determined, stay with it and make it work.
Fifth and finally, Gill said, is to be courageous. To those in a position of responsibility in your counties, talk about big ideas and commonality, “it is not just a Talbot, Kent, Cecil county thing ... it’s a Maryland Shore thing,” he concluded.
“Your potential is great,” Gill told local MEDA members, “and the state needs to be right there with you.”
Raymond “Chick” Hamm, market executive with PNC Bank and a Cecil County resident, spoke to the MEDA’s Eastern Shore members gathered at Tuesday’s session.
“What are things that are unique to our communities?” Hamm asked. “How do we recruit ... what is is the role of government in this (discussion)?”
Hamm said Tuesday’s session was a good opportunity to start getting these questions and others on the table and establishing a list of priorities that needed to be addressed or considered by the group.
The event was sponsored by PNC Bank and attended by MEDA members and guests.
Maryland Economic Development Association Board President Keasha Haythe thanks the sponsors and attendees at the Rural Economic Development session held at Chesapeake College.