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Considering Central Maryland as a Business Location

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When considering the locational attractiveness of Central Maryland — specifically Anne Arundel and Howard counties — for corporate operations (e.g., manufacturing, office, resarch and development), know that the area has a lot to offer.

One of the most notable is Central Maryland’s geographic positioning. The region is strategically situated in the densely-populated and lucrative Boston to Atlanta corridor. Moreover, the business and quality-of-life resources offered by metropolitan Washington, D.C., are less than an hour away.

The ability to efficiently service eastern seaboard markets represents a corollary advantage to geographic proximity. This advantage can be summed up in one word: logistics. Three major airport hubs, a deep water port, interstate highway linkage, multiple rail carriers and competitive motor carrier service compose a major “locational pull” for manufacturing and distribution operations.

Additionally, extensive domestic and international air service has strong appeal for corporate headquarters or other entities requiring significant travel.

Much to Learn

Higher education also bolsters the region’s favorable posture for business. Tangible benefits include talent pipeline, research, collaboration, continuing education and quality of life.

The military constitutes another powerful locational asset, in particular, the military augments labor supply, throughout the skills spectrum.

Perhaps the most compelling locational attribute for Central Maryland revolves around human resources. The breadth and depth of talent accommodates staffing requirements for a diverse range of industries and functions. The region features extensive labor pools in science, engineering, information technology, finance, production and administrative support. Good public schools add qualified workers to the labor market every year.

The region’s quality of life portfolio and robust economy allow companies to nationally recruit talent, including experienced and recent college graduates. Quality-of-life can thus be included as a talent pool asset.

Demographics auger well for future labor supply. The current population (about 877,000) is projected to grow by 5.6% during the next five years. This is well above the national norm of 3.5%. Importantly, the prime working age group (ages 21–34) should expand by almost 3%, versus only 1% nationally.

The region also displays substantial population diversity. This is key, as companies continue to place more emphasis on that attribute.

Utility infrastructure, including excellent electric power reliability and state-of-the-art telecommunications, constitute a locational draw for most businesses. A variety of high quality business parks and sites help to underpin the region’s ability to recruit/retain businesses.

Of course, as is the case with any area, there are locational challenges. These include high income taxes (corporate and personal); traffic congestion, which truncates labor markets; absence of Right-to-Work legislation; state business regulations, which often exceed federal standards; permit approval times (but they’re getting better); less competitive state and local incentives for business job creation/capital investment; labor shortages in some fields (including skilled crafts); and a lingering statewide reputation of being less than friendly to the business world.

It should be emphasized that most of these deficiencies are correctable. And it seems that the new state government administration is committed to upgrading Maryland’s competitiveness as a business location.

The Deal

Bottom line: Central Maryland composes a strong locational alternative for a number of industries. These include corporate headquarters; research and development (especially in fields such as bio, life sciences, software, security, aerospace, instruments and communications); manufacturing (e.g., avionics, medical equipment, scientific instruments, packaging, telecommunications, machinery, food processing, etc.); and distribution (dry goods and refrigeration).

The state, Anne Arundel County, Howard County and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore still need to bolster efforts aimed at promoting the state and region. This will require additional resources, especially financial, for marketing. But the effort would be worth it.

Why? Because there is an exciting story to tell. More people need to hear about and absorb the reasons why Central Maryland is a “cool” place to live and conduct business.

Dennis Donovan is a principal of Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting (WDGC), in Bridgewater, N.J., and Jacksonville, Fla. He can be contacted at ddonovan@wdgconsulting.com.