The Innovation Economy

Montgomery County will once again become the economic engine of Maryland if we focus on the Innovation Economy. I will pursue a proactive, progressive “jobs now” strategy to spur high quality job creation, placing an emphasis on knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. This is also a piece of my Millennial Montgomery plan, to attract younger people, who are bypassing our county for better opportunities in DC and Northern Virginia. If we want to grow our economy and generate the tax revenue to fund our schools, fix our roads, and ensure a high quality of life, we have to create new jobs.

I have done this before, making Montgomery County lead Maryland in job creation during my tenure , revitalizing downtown Silver Spring, creating a business incubator system and making Montgomery County open for business.

In 1999 when I previously served as County Executive, I created the County’s Business Incubator Network, a cluster of incubators located throughout the county to help young companies realize their potential. Over the past 8 years, jurisdictions across our country and the world have embraced similar policies, augmenting them to reflect the market demands, such as public private partnership incubators, which can be seen as close as Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Baltimore. Meanwhile, Montgomery County has taken the exact opposite approach, enacting plans to shrink its entrepreneurial footprint, particularly in biotech, evicting nearly 40 startups from our incubators this year alone. We cannot let this continue to happen.

Part of my Millennial Montgomery plan includes the augmented expansion of our county’s incubator system through partnerships with private businesses. This will help diversify our economy in order to attract companies to not only relocate here, but also create and keep their companies here; this plan will create the ecosystem needed to attract the younger residents who are bypassing Montgomery County on their way to DC and Northern Virginia.

At the same time, we must work with our County’s existing businesses, particularly small businesses, to ensure they are given every opportunity to succeed.

As County Executive, I will do 3 things in order to attract startup businesses to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as make sure the businesses that are already here are appreciated, and being helped, not hindered, by their Government:

1) Create a Business Friendly Climate:
It is not easy to do business here, especially if you are a small business trying to start out. County Government, especially the Departments of Economic Development and Permitting Services, has lost its sense of customer service.  To create a business friendly climate, we will:

- Reinstate an attitude of gratitude for those companies that choose to operate in Montgomery County. Too often local business owners are treated like an adversary when they should be seen as a welcome partner and vital resource, without whom our strategic vision of expanding opportunity just can’t be realized.

- My economic development team and I will reach out on a consistent basis to business owners throughout the county, small and large, to find out how we can better serve them and how we can retain and grow their businesses here in the county.

- Help small businesses, especially minority and women-owned businesses, to take advantage of the available opportunities and incentives to become successful.

- Restore support for the biotech community and reassure them that Montgomery County is welcoming and actively wants their businesses here.

- Maintain our biotech business incubators and other key programs for growing our biotech sector, even while moving into other highly competitive fields – like cybersecurity – without trading off one against the other, as our current Executive and Council are doing.

- Work with our farmers to enhance our agricultural economy.

- Invest in a green economy and actually lower our carbon footprint.

- Work with companies like Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute to leverage their presence and foster growth in the entertainment, communication and education industries in the County.

- Work with the major hospitality companies in the region to foster best practices, innovation and growth in that industry.

- Create a business advisory council whereby some of the more successful companies in our region can contribute to helping grow new innovative companies.

2) Create a Competitive Business Environment:
I commit to doing a strategic, competitive analysis of all the County’s taxes, fees and regulations as compared to other jurisdictions in the region and state. Our residents will see relief from some of highest and most regressive taxes and fees in our region.  We need to stop thinking regressively and start acting progressively. Over the last 8 years, we have paid more in taxes and seen our services cut. Not only are we paying more, the taxes that have been enacted and the services that have been cut have hit working families the hardest; whether it has been dramatically increasing the energy tax on residents, slashing the local earned income tax supplement which helps the working poor, or cutting public transit services.   It is time we began again to create a sense of opportunity and upward mobility for those who work hard and play by the rules.  We must do a better job investing our tax dollars wisely instead of squandering them without any guiding strategy, and we can once again be a leader in job growth.

We must do things like the following:

- Reverse the broken promise by current County leadership and sunset the energy tax increase.

- Repair the broken Department of Permitting Services, which will lead to reduced permitting fees for residents and businesses.  We need a Department of Permitting Services that is friendly, responsive, timely and cost efficient. Today, we are overcharging for permits and not clearly laying out what residents and businesses need to do to get them. Even the current County Executive himself said “the development process is complicated and fragmented, redundant and expensive.”  We need to embrace technology upgrades that will allow more residents and businesses to get the information and permits they need quickly.  Our goal ought to be to maintain high standards in the process, without all the uncertainty and delays.  I guarantee that upon being elected, we will fix the Department of Permitting services, and restore its mission of providing the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost.

- Provide tax and other incentives to entrepreneurs to locate and grow their businesses in Montgomery County.

- Expand our business incubator program through public private partnerships to greatly increase the number of startup companies created in Montgomery County.

- Create a business accelerator culture in the County that assists our businesses with financial, technical and mentoring help.

3) Help Make Changes in Annapolis:
While there are things that we can do right here in Montgomery County, there are also things that can be done at the state level to further our efforts to grow jobs and create a competitive economic environment. I pledge to unite our State Delegation and work with our Governor to augment state policies to make Maryland, and Montgomery County a more competitive place for business.  We certainly need to work with the state to amend tax structures to ensure entrepreneurs want to live in Montgomery County.

In Closing:

We need to create jobs to empower all our residents, providing opportunity and mobility to move up the ladder of socioeconomic progress, which benefits the entire County.  More jobs mean a larger tax base from which to draw for the restoration and expansion of our services, whether it is education, public transit services, library hours, language programs, or special needs funding.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Montgomery County is in a jobless recovery, having since 2007 created just over 8,600 jobs, while Fairfax and DC have created nearly 92,000 jobs during that same period. Even Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Prince George’s and Howard County have created more jobs than we have.

Since July of last year, Montgomery County leads Maryland in job loss, having lost nearly 12,000 jobs*.

On top of that, our unemployment rate has dropped, not because of job growth, but because more and more people have stopped looking for work all together.

At the rate of yearly job creation over the last 8 years by the current Executive and Council, their plan for 100,000 jobs will come to fruition by 2099, 85 years from now. We can’t wait that long; Clearly the status quo will not move us forward.*

Economic development clearly has not been a priority over the last 8 years and we need stronger leadership dedicated to being open to and for business on day 1, not just in an election year.

But there is hope. With the right leadership and a vision for the future — making economic development and job creation a priority, — we can again become the economic engine of Maryland. This will allow us to invest in our schools, our transportation systems and our neighborhoods.

We will be open to and for business on day one of my administration and we need a stronger leader focused on job creation so we can begin again to provide the quality of life residents in Montgomery County deserve.

Read Doug’s full Leadership in Action Agenda Here

 Suggestions To Move Montgomery Forward? Submit Them Here

 *(job numbers updated to reflect latest MD DLLR jobs report- 4/2014) – 5.22.14