Tri-County community leaders gathered at the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick Campus Monday, Feb. 17 to discuss the progress being made to ramp up the area’s economic viability as it relates to the Armed Forces and education.
Featured speakers at the two-hour session included U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer [D-MD District 5] and Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch [D-District 30]. The forum was hosted by the Patuxent Partnership, Southern Maryland Navy Alliance (SMNA) and the Energetics Technology Center.
The meeting comes several months after an agreement to draft a memorandum of understanding created an alliance among SMNA, the University System of Maryland and the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC). It also follows news that facilities in Southern Maryland will have a role in the testing of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
“Southern Maryland continues to be the fastest growing region in our state, a distinction we have held for two decades,” said Hoyer. “This includes the highest job growth of any Maryland region in the decade from 2000 to 2010. These are impressive accomplishments, but we must continue to look ahead.”
Hoyer noted the foundation for the region’s sound economy was built during the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiative of the early 1990s. “In many parts of the country bases were closed and jobs sent elsewhere,” he recalled. “Thanks to our efforts, we brought many of those jobs here. Pax River, Indian Head and Webster Field have become anchors for regional growth and development. With the end of military operations in Iraq and the winding down in Afghanistan and with budget cuts affecting the Pentagon, we must plan for a future in which federal funding for defense programs is less dependable. That means diversification, which will require a serious effort by all three counties, working together to promote the growth of businesses that not only provide services but also create products with wider applicability and performing more complicated integration of systems.”
Hoyer cited the efforts of the Tri-County Council, the St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles chambers of commerce; the “Navy alliances and the Patuxent Partnership” with protecting the bases and adding jobs to the area. “That’s the power of collaboration and teamwork,” he said.
“You’ve had vision,” Busch told the attendees, adding that Maryland’s leadership has made a huge contribution to education with such commitments as state participation in public school construction projects. The speaker said Maryland’s economy and business community will not grow “unless we invest in our university system.”
Busch commended Delegate John Bohanan [D-District 29B] for his co-sponsorship of several measures in the Maryland General Assembly’s hopper this year designed to help businesses in the state. The bills include establishment of a cybersecurity investment fund and granting authority through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) to purchase credits against the insurance premium tax or state corporate income tax in order to fund certain research at certain institutes of higher education.
During his brief remarks Dr. William “Brit” Kirwin, the chancellor of University System of Maryland, declared the bills “are going to be transformative for our state.”