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Industry Perspective: Maryland: ‘The Little State That Can’

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Maryland may not have much in the actual acreage department, but it surely makes up for its lack of size in its impact. We should start calling Maryland “The Little State That Can.”

Consider this: Although it is smaller than 41 other states, it is more populous than 18 of its sisters and can boast the highest median household income in the nation. While politicians of different stripes will occasionally point to some factoid or random ranking to prove the need for different policies they favor, there can be no doubt that tremendous opportunity and activity live together here in “The Old Line State.”

Maryland’s economic vitality should surprise no one with a sense of history or geography. Located in the middle of the original 13 states, from the beginning the ports of Baltimore and Annapolis flourished on the Chesapeake Bay, one of the world’s largest and richest estuaries. The region on the western shore of the Bay, often called central Maryland, has continued to grow as the economic and cultural heart of the state.

Situated at the center of a new and growing nation, Maryland’s location gave transportation a critical role in building this economic engine. Maryland was the home of some of the nation’s earliest critical infrastructure investments, which opened the interior of the continent to trade and development. Projects like the National Road, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railway all were designed to reach the Ohio River — the first stage in America’s great westward expansion.

As aviation has joined ports, highways and rail lines as a critical mode of transportation, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport has become the region’s busiest airport, quickly connecting passengers, goods and services to the entire world.

As Baltimore emerged as an important center of trade and industry, the seeds were planted for academic and cultural institutions, such as the University of Maryland’s founding campus in Baltimore and The Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Today, these institutions are world-renowned and create opportunities for research, scholarship and health care worth billions of dollars to the state’s economy.

The creation of a capital city for the nation on the banks of the Potomac drew Maryland’s residents and economy into direct contact with a growing federal government. As the 40 miles between the two cities transformed from rural to a populous suburban area, it created fertile ground for a wide variety of opportunities created by that proximity.

Modern Maryland’s economy can be said to be rooted firmly in its past, but it can also be said that it has its feet planted firmly in the future. Its history and its present combine to paint a bright horizon.

The state possesses a fortunate location and a transportation system that includes a major port and a major airport, and extensive rail and highway networks that provide easy and cost-effective access from the region to the interior of the U.S. and to anywhere in the world. Maryland’s world-class academic and medical institutions combine with major federal research facilities to make a powerhouse for technology, life sciences, and defense and aerospace-related research and development.

In addition, Fort Meade’s ever-increasing role as the nation’s center for national security intelligence and cyberwarfare makes the region a focal point for a growing high tech security industry.

Increasingly, Maryland’s economy is the economy of the future. It is poised to take advantage of the tremendous synergies created by its location, its transportation network, its well-educated and skilled population, and academic and scientific institutions unsurpassed in the nation.

Today, the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area is the fourth largest in the nation, with America’s best-educated and most affluent population. What can it be tomorrow?

Greg Pecoraro is the executive director of the BWI Business Partnership. He can be contacted at 410-859-1000 and gpecoraro@bwipartner.org.