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Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce Dinner

Introduction

I want to thank Jonathan Carr.  At a time when the Federal Government is investing less and less it seems in transportation solutions, you’re providing a way forward for us, along with members of the General Assembly.

We also are joined by Lawanda Jenkins, who is our Secretary of Minority Business.  Lawanda, can you stand so everybody can give you a hand?  (Applause.)

Lawanda is doing a terrific job for us at the Office of Minority Business Development, establishing a baseline so that we can move forward.  Seated next to her is Earl Adams, representing our Lieutenant Governor from gorgeous Prince George’s County, Anthony Brown, so, Earl, thank you for being here on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor.  (Applause.)

We are also joined by a couple of terrific representatives from this county, the Prince George’s County delegation. State Senator Doug Peters is here.  Doug, thank you.  (Applause.)

And the best voice in the General Assembly is from Prince George’s County,  Delegate Melony Griffith.  (Applause.)

Both the Senator and the Delegate are terrific leaders that have enabled us to make progress.

I really appreciate President Dula’s invitation and the members of the Prince George’s Chamber for the very, very important work you do, not only for your county, not only for your State, but also for your country.   Getting up every day, going to work — even in these times of national economic downturn and finding a way forward, being part of that strength that is our one Maryland, it’s not easy, especially in these times.  And I’m deeply appreciative to the business leaders of the Prince George’s County Chamber — one of the largest, and most diverse, I might add, Chambers of Commerce in the entire State.

Where there’s some strength in our efforts to grow minority owned businesses, promoting energy conservation and reaching out to young people through this new Chamber of Commerce you started in 2007, this chamber is making a very positive and impactful and lasting difference in our State.

Pat Moore from WJZ stopped me on the way in, and is doing a story about our national economy, and certainly Maryland is part of the national economy and things that happen nationally do affect us.  But if there’s some good news in this downturn, it is this — we are stronger than most other States in the Union.  Take a look at the fact that for the most recently reported period the United States of America as a whole shed 80,000 jobs, while in Maryland, because of your hard work, you’ve created 3,600 additional jobs in Maryland.

If you look at our unemployment rate, it’s about 30 percent less than what the national employment rate is.  Some Governors wake up and they look at the newspaper and read headlines about thousands of jobs leaving their State and, of course, everybody sees that as bad news.  In our State we look at 60,000 jobs coming here in a short time because of BRAC and all of us say, oh, my goodness, all that growth, how are we going to handle that?

I was mayor of a city that suffered from a lot of population loss, a lot of job loss in the 30 years before I served.  I’ve had the honor to be able to serve you as Governor of the State of Maryland, and I tell you, between the two problems, I’d rather have the problems associated with growth than the problems associated with decline of population and job loss.

Again, I want to thank President Dula and I want to thank Bill Sheriden.  Bill has a 16 year old and when he heard those numbers about in-State tuition being frozen for three years in a row, he said, “Can you do it for two more years?”  (Laughter.)

So, Bill, my friend, I have a 17 year old and a 16 year old as well, and I have a 10 year old and a five year old, so I’m hoping to do everything I can to keep college affordable in the State of Maryland.

To John Peter Thompson, all the Board members of this Chamber, you deserve a tremendous amount of credit for pulling together this great group.

Prince George’s: Contributing To Our One Maryland

I wanted to share with you a few thoughts about not only Prince George’s County, but our entire State and about the goals and priorities we all must share, even in a State that is as geographically and demographically diverse as our State.

You know, the late Maryland comptroller, Louis Goldstein, when speaking about all the wonderful places that call this particular county home, commented that it’s hard to believe so many diverse places could be located in just one county.  And that is, of course, your gorgeous Prince George’s County.

“But it’s true,” he said. “Because Prince George’s County, Maryland is a land of tremendous and beautiful contrasts.  It is a remarkable place.”  A land of tremendous and beautiful contrasts.  I don’t have to remind anyone in this room about the important contributions that this county makes to our State, to our one Maryland, to our economy, to our commerce, also to our culture and, really, to our character as a people.

This county is home to more than 15,000 businesses, which employ hundreds of thousands of Marylanders.  It’s a place where great minds converge in some of the world’s greatest institutions of education, of science, of discovery.  That rise in the creative class of which Richard Fordis spoke, that we have such a healthy part in leading.

It’s also a place where our present and future can merge with our past, home to 72 sites listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.  That could be a benchmark for the administration, if I could visit the 72 on that historic registry.  It really is a land of tremendous and beautiful contrasts.

Prince George’s County leads our efforts to do a better job of harnessing the strength of our State’s diversity.  You know that phrase e pluribus unum means something. It means something especially in this day and age.

Minority Owned Business

And Prince George’s County ranks first in Maryland in the number of African American owned firms and the number of employees of these firms.  It ranks fourth in the nation in terms of revenue generated from African American owned businesses.

It ranks second in our State for the number of Hispanic Latino owned firms.  And it ranks fourth in our State for the number of firms owned by women.

Working together we can utilize the success of Prince George’s, really, for our entire State.

Every secretary of every department in our State government understands that minority owned business development is an important priority for this administration. Because of the priorities that we share — to strengthen and grow our middle class, improve public safety and public education, and expand opportunity — in a State that has our diversity, minority business development is an indispensable and essential part of making a more just day for our State in the future.

Under the initiative we call the Small Business Reserve Program, we are requiring 22 designated State agencies to award a minimum of 10 percent of their total procurement dollars to small minority-owned businesses.

And through our StateStat process, we’re doing something revolutionary that’s rarely done by businesses or governments.  We’re actually measuring outputs instead of just measuring inputs.  You ever notice how great people are when they’re going to tell you how much it cost or how much the taxes will be?  But we’re not so good at telling you what the outputs are.  But you know from running your own businesses that the things that get measured are the things that get done.

And so we have been struggling and persistent and untiring in our efforts to put together a system where we can actually benchmark how we’re doing on minority business development.  Not at the end of four years, but at the end of every two weeks and the end of every month, so that we can make constant progress through our goals and hopefully highlight those areas where waivers are granted, so that we can send out opportunity alerts, if you will, so that the partnerships and businesses and the collaborations can form. Not only for the Board of Public Works, but actually a year in advance when they see these opportunities are coming up.

Restoring Fiscal Responsibility to State Government

John also talked about job number one.  When Anthony Brown and I rolled out our ten point plan during the campaign, points one, two and three were these; we’re going to make our government work again, number two, we’re going to make our government work again, and number three, we’re going to make our government work again.

And you cannot have a working government any more than you can have a working nonprofit or a working business if you are not fiscally responsible.  It’s an under-valued American value, in my opinion, but it’s essential for our progress as a State.

We are working in business, in the county government or the State government. We all share the same understanding of how important fiscal responsibility is, to advance towards our goals of strengthening and growing our middle class and improving public safety and public education, and expanding opportunity.

Over the past 15 months we actually have made very steady progress toward protecting these priorities.  And we’ve done so in a manner that we believe has strengthened our business climate here.

There’s a classic Groucho Marx routine, in which he passes a restaurant bill over to his dinner companion and declares, “This bill is an outrage, and if I were you, I wouldn’t pay it!”

You know, far too often in our recent history, as a State and as a nation, we’re like Groucho Marx at the dinner table.  Only instead of passing the bill across the table, we pass it across to the next generation.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be remembered as the first generation of Americans that left our country in a weaker condition for our kids than our parents gave it to us.  I don’t want to do that, I don’t think you do either or you wouldn’t have bothered to come here today.

We inherited a $1.7 billion deficit in our State and we’ve attacked it with a tremendous number of cuts — close to $2 million of cuts and spending growth reductions.  We also raised the 42nd lowest sales tax in the nation by a penny.   We also enacted for the first time a progressive income tax in our State.  And also actually, reduced the tax burden for about 90 percent of us in the State in order to offset that impact that the sales tax would have.

Why did we do that?  We did it to make progress.  It was hard and it was painful.  But Maryland is one of only seven States that has a Triple A bond rating, a rating that was in danger that we’ve now been able to retain.  We now have left a cash balance of about $1 billion.  And we’re applying performance measurement, measuring the outcomes not only to minority business development, but to every State agency.  And we’re making steady progress.

Public Safety

Let me talk to you a little bit about public safety. Maryland boasts a lot of great things.  I think we have the highest number of doctorates of any State per capita, and we ding all sorts of bells on human tests and achievement, but sadly, we’ve also allowed ourselves to be one of the most violent States in the United States — the fourth or fifth.

But we have now created a tremendous amount of alignment, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while, between our State government and our local governments.  As I say this, your county is currently — thanks to courageous work with your county government, your police officers, and your neighbors, on a year to date basis you have a 10 percent reduction in homicides so far this year.

Your neighbors up in the City of Baltimore are experiencing a 31 percent reduction in homicides. And, you know, for anything that went into it, you know it’s location, location, location, right?  Well, we’ve allowed our location to be divided for too long.  We’re pushing back.

When Lieutenant Governor Brown and I took our oath of office, we said that that was unacceptable — we were going to work to save lives in our State.  Because in our State, there is no such a thing as a spare Marylander.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we have been able to knock out all those shameful backlogs of 24,000 DNA samples that were supposed to have been taken from people convicted of violent crimes.  And just by knocking out that backlog, even before we get to the new law, we were able to solve 61 cases of murder or rape in our State.  There are 71 that are under active investigation. So imagine the families that together we’ll be able to save from a tragedy.

There was a 46 percent increase in those CODIS matches.  We’ve also gotten parole and probation and juvenile services those assets back onboard to partner with local governments, the crime prevention agencies and departments that they should be.

Strengthening the Prince George’s Business Climate

In addition to improving public safety throughout the State, another one of our priorities, of course, is to strengthen small business.  We led the charge to repeal the computer services tax.  The only thing worse than making a mistake is not being able to admit you made a mistake.  So we admitted we made a mistake and we went back and we were able to repeal that.

Together, because of the tobacco tax, we are going to be able to extend health care coverage to 100,000 people in Maryland.  And all of you know why that’s important.  One of the costs that’s going up by leaps and bounds every year is the cost of health care for your employees.  Part of that is because the number of uninsured in our State has gone up every year.  And that, of course, gets pegged into the premiums you pay.  So 100,000 more people are going to be able to have health insurance.

We also bring within that a $30 million fund to incentivize small businesses — that is, businesses of nine or fewer employees — to join the ranks of the insured.  And we’re currently putting that process together and we’ll have more to share with the chamber, with all of us spreading that word to Maryland businesses.

As part of our efforts to strengthen our business, we’ve made several investments in Prince George’s County — loans, grants and tax credits to do with Comcast to create an advanced services center in Largo.  Six hundred employees coming to Largo, Maryland.  Incentive packages to Pepco to build a regional facility in Prince George’s and to Capital Lighting to develop 220,000 square foot headquarters facility in Eastgate Business Park.

Not to mention National Harbor and the exciting developments going on all around Greenbelt Metro Station, the purple line.  I’m really excited about the East Campus development and what that portends to the future of Maryland.  This transit oriented development is the way to go.  And I’m going to have a couple more words to say about that in a second.

Workforce

You know, as we try to integrate the work of your State government and raise the department heads to work together, three of our highest priorities are security integration, sustainability, and workforce creation.

According to Forbes Magazine, we have the third best workforce of any State. Third best workforce in the United States of America.  And I know that some of you, as I say that, have taken a deep breath and said, you should see the last ten people I interviewed, right?

We can always get better.  We can always get better.  We want to be first.  But it’s no accident, given the investment that all of you have made in public education, that a national magazine would say that we have the third best public school system in the nation and the third best workforce in the nation.  And we need to continue to grow, we need to be number one.

The most valuable asset we have is the talent of our people.  Each month I meet with key members of our cabinet to discuss workforce creation.  We created and expanded a P-20 council, from pre-kindergarten all the way to post graduate level. So that we try to make sure that we have an education continuum that is responsive to the market needs.

We’ve also made major investments in school construction.  Here’s a performance measurement for you, although it isn’t input, but soon it will be: classrooms.

In the first two years of our predecessor’s administration, the State invested only $23 million in school construction in Prince George’s County.  In the first 14 months of the O’Malley/Brown Administration, we together have invested $93 million in school construction.  (Applause.)

We’ve also made many investments in our community colleges.  We have invested a record $150 million in facility improvements in our community colleges.  John talked about freezing tuition in our State.  Under our predecessors, the cost of college tuition went up 40 percent for in-State kids, and we held it at zero.  We hope to hold it at zero for another couple of years, God and the economy willing.

Transit-Oriented Development

In addition to investing in our workforce, we also are getting back to investing in infrastructure.  It’s something that if we compare what the country does on infrastructure, compared to Germany, Japan, India, China, it’s obvious that we have a lot of catching up to do.  And that’s true in our State as well.

The interesting and, I guess, the challenging thing about infrastructure is that if you don’t invest in it, nobody sees it for a while.  And then you realize, hey, I’m sitting in traffic at the worse intersection in the State because nobody invested 10 years ago to make sure that that was addressed.

Last month I signed legislation to move Maryland to the forefront of national efforts to build a transit oriented development, a strategy to bolster concentrated growth around our Statewide transportation infrastructure — infrastructure that we, in State government will, in turn, continue to upgrade and improve.

There is enough land available, I am told, for transit oriented development within a half mile of our State’s 112 transit stations to theoretically absorb all of the new residents that Maryland is expecting today and in the next two decades.   That’s 1.1 million people, all of whom theoretically could actually be housed and live in the areas that are available through development around our transit stations.

Here in Prince George’s County, where there is a tremendous opportunity to create a new sense of place in so many towns, 14 of our 15 Metro properties have ample room for transit oriented developments.  There are nearly 2,800 acres of land available for truly smart and sustainable growth within walking distance of stations and it will allow us to harness our county’s potential.

The University of Maryland is going to be one of those who are teamed with the East Campus development project.  And I know it’s hard, these things are complicated.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan, God rest his soul, from New York said the problem with urban development is that everything’s connected to everything else.  So it’s not always easy, but it is the right thing to do for so many reasons.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to mention the business leaders in this room, to thank them for your forward-looking and acting vision.  There’s no reason why places like Capitol Heights can’t be like Friendship Heights, you know, it requires hard work and it requires will, and you can do it.

Our State Transportation, Business and Economic Development departments are working to bring businesses to these sites.  We also have been working with our Congressional Delegation to make sure that when the Federal government looks to locate, that they come to Prince George’s County.
As part of our efforts we’re working on reforming WMATA so that we have a more inclusive process for local governments, so that these stakeholders have a voice in what happens around these stations.

And our vision is to develop neighborhoods like those that many of our grandparents lived in, where you know everybody’s name, where you look out for one another.

Protecting Homeownership

Finally, I wanted to mention before we open it up to a couple of questions, that our State has been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.  Our State has been hard hit by this national economic crisis that effectively is a building block of middle class stability and growth.  It is the first step to the creation of legacy wealth.  And right now there’s a record number of our neighbors who are hurting, who are shamed, who are in danger of losing their homes.

We passed one of the most sweeping foreclosure bills in the country, but we still have a long way to go.  Hopefully the Federal government will get in this game as well.  But we have — in addition to creating a longer window of time — it used to be the foreclosure action would only take 15 days in the State of Maryland, that’s been extended now to 150 days.  There’s more regular reporting now and there’s reporting of companies to the State Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation.  We’re one of the few States that actually licenses them, which made it a little easier for us than some other States.

So we’re doing a lot of outreach and we have a number, 1-877-462-7555.

We’re also offering small no-interest loans that can help some homeowners.  You know, it’s a Catch-22, right?  They won’t renegotiate the more sustainable mortgage rate with you if you’re behind.  Well, you wouldn’t need the more sustainable rate if you weren’t behind.  And so for some homeowners we’re hoping that that helps as well.

We need, as a country, to stabilize the housing market because it affects so many things.

Conclusion

You know, Dr. King taught us that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.  That every step towards our goals requires what he referred to as the tireless exertions of passion and concern of dedicated individuals.

They are the dedicated individuals that are seated around each of these tables.  And I want to thank all of you for what you do every day.  I also want to thank you for your patience.  I want to thank you also for your impatience.  I want to thank you for the high ambitions that you have for your county, the high ambitions that you have for your State, and most importantly, I want to thank you for having high ambitions for the sort of world that together we can leave to our children’s children.  You know, that’s the most important work of all.

I consider myself very lucky and very blessed to be able to serve as your Governor and I promise you, so long as I have this privilege, I’m working to do everything I can to make the right decisions for our long term future.  And I trust — I know — that the people of our State prefer that better future and you expect nothing less from your elected officials.

Thanks very, very much.  (Applause.)

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