When Deputy Secretary Dominick Murray joined the state Department of Business & Economic Development (DBED), he brought a varied background not only in the aforementioned discipline, but in performance-based instruction, as well as commercial and technical sales. Before he assumed his current role in 2009, he led DBED’s regional development team and served as the state’s primary liaison to local economic development offices and the general business community.
Before joining the agency, Murray served as the economic development officer for the City of Baltimore, where he was responsible for streamlining the development and permitting process, facilitating interagency development issues, and acting as a business-community ombudsman.
Prior to public service, he held a variety of senior sales and marketing positions for such entities as CBS Radio, G1440, ARIS, GE Capital IT Solutions, O/E Mid-Atlantic and Westinghouse.
Murray received his B.A. in Radio & Television Communications from the University of Detroit. He has also served on several boards, including the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Technology Council, The Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center and UMBC’s Cooperative Education Office.
What steps is DBED taking to transition Maryland’s economy away from being as dependent on the federal government and more toward innovation?
Last year we had a strong increase of private sector jobs, and increasing private sector jobs has been part of our strategy. The federal government has 57 facilities in the state; some observers might think that’s a lot. [Those entities] provide important employment opportunities at such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, Social Security, the Beltsville agriculture center, plus numerous defense contractors.
And of course, we [now] have [job creation spurred by the] Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), which brought about more than 40,000 private sector jobs that are also generated by federal spending.
Aberdeen Proving Ground had an annual procurement of $8 billion, then the Monmouth (N.J.) BRAC brought $12 billion more, for $20 million total. That’s when our secretary, Christian Johansson, thought, “If we were to get just 10% of that, we could move $2 billion into our economy through the efforts of our federal facilities teams working with BRAC and the business community.”
So, this all depends on what frame you look at it through. In 2011, DBED helped in the creation and retention of 10,000 jobs. The leaders include Under Armour, Holy Cross Hospital, the Kohl’s distribution center, Evolve Composites and Maryland Live! at Arundel Mills.
Howard County alone had 50 new projects and growth opportunities announced last year, prominently in two of our strongest industries, professional services and health care. Then Maryland Live! created 1,500 jobs and Under Armour 225 more in Anne Arundel County.
What new programs is DBED presenting or working on this year?
We are counting on our innovation economy. It’s important to know that we are No. 1 in the country in basic research dollars that come into the state; however, we rank only 37th in commercialization, so that’s an area we will concentrate heavily on. We want to work to get that number up toward No. 1.
That’s why we started InvestMaryland, to help enable investment funding. To date, the Maryland Venture Fund has invested $25 million into hundreds of startup and early stage tech and life sciences companies, generating a $61 million return, 2,000 jobs and billions in follow-on private investment.
Today, we’re actively working with the Maryland Venture Fund Authority to oversee InvestMaryland, the state’s largest ever investment in seed and early stage companies. On March 15, we executed an auction that raised $84 million for Maryland’s innovation economy.
There are other programs, too. The Maryland Innovate Initiative will unite researchers with entrepreneurs to encourage qualifying universities to partner in pursuit of new business and new jobs; and Maryland Made Easy, a multi-agency effort, will allow businesses to go through streamlined permit processes.
How is DBED working to increase foreign trade?
We have established 10 foreign trade offices, which demonstrates great progress because there were just a few before Gov. O’Malley took office. That was done by establishing contingency contracts with other state companies.
That means if we have a representative in Vietnam, for instance, and that person closes a deal for Maryland, we pay him a commission. There are five other contingency offices; then we have fully-budgeted offices in China, India and France, and another in Israel that is staffed by the Maryland Israeli Development Center.
We also issue grants to help state companies export goods and services under our Export Maryland program.
In CNBC’s 2011 “Survey of America’s Top States for Business,” Maryland ranked 28th, while neighboring Virginia captured the No. 1 spot — and Virginia also outranks Maryland in nine out of the survey’s 10 economic categories. What are your thoughts on the report?
Many surveys concentrate on different data output. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Maryland has created more jobs (private sector) than our neighbors to the south. Maryland gained 4,900 private sector jobs in January, ranking 32nd in the country, compared to Virginia, which gained 3,100 private sector jobs, ranking 36th in the country.
More importantly, Maryland continues to create the programs such as Maryland Made Easy, to assist businesses and make it easier to do business in Maryland; and InvestMaryland, where we just raised $84 million through the program to invest in the state’s promising startup and early stage companies; CyberMaryland; Maryland Innovation Initiative; and many other programs to help create the jobs and companies of tomorrow, build businesses and expand opportunities in Maryland.
What’s new in Maryland on the manufacturing front? Are we seeing significant progress?
What is not well-known, but should be, is that manufacturing is the second largest growth sector in Maryland after health care (with 84 projects). Manufacturing accounted for 64 new projects for total of 1,477 new jobs and $212 million in capital investments in fiscal 2011.
Do you feel that there will be significant improvement in Maryland’s unemployment rate?
We do. When we look at the history, at the height of the recessionary impact our unemployment rate was 7.6% in February 2009; now, as of our most recent figures in December 2011, we hit our lowest number since, 6.7%. We always shoot to be lower than 5%.
We are 20% below the national rate and have recovered 65,000 jobs that were lost during the recession, so that’s about half. The rest of the nation has recovered about a third of its jobs. In our case, it’s important to note that, during the last six months of 2011, Maryland took private employment levels to their highest rate in nearly three years.
How much of DBED’s budget is directed toward marketing efforts?
We have had the equivalent of $2 million in national, local and broadcast media coverage in 2011 in what we call earned media. Also, we launched MarylandBizMedia, a multimedia news source with various departments, in the middle of last year, which has more than 10,000 subscribers. So far, we’ve posted more than 200 stories and seen almost 50,000 downloads via our YouTube Channel. These are promotional stories, no question; our mission is to promote the state.
In addition, we’ve also unveiled two research reports: One is about economic impact in the state’s life sciences industry; the other on the nature of, and number of, Maryland entrepreneurs.
What is the biggest challenge that DBED is facing?
Getting the innovation economy rolling. We want to take advantage of two of our strongholds: cybersecurity and space. It’s important to look at what’s happening around the cybercommand. More businesses are sprouting up around it, be they defense-related or restaurants, banks and ancillary businesses. That’s detailed in the “Cyber Maryland” report we released in 2010.
You have a varied background, having worked in different industries, for employers large and small. Do you feel that’s what led you to your present position in life?
What I did was always relevant to business and customer service, and that’s what we do here. My attitude is to make us very efficient and highly focused on customer service.