I love coming up here to this section of town. I remember years ago — I sound very old when I say that, don’t I? I remember years ago when this was all vacant and trash strewn. You know, it wasn’t corn, but the weeds were as high as an elephant’s eye, and now it’s great.
Really, you’ve got to be careful, Doctor Ramsay, maintaining it too well. People will start to think it’s a park. I mean, a park with grass. Instead, it’s a fast-moving biotech park and I thank you for your leadership.
Thank you all who are participating today.
If I say it once, I say it a hundred times, they can tell you in the course of a month that our competitive advantage is our workforce. Our challenge is our workforce, too. But our competitive advantage with other States economically really is our workforce. And I’ll get into that a little bit more here in my brief — I promise — remarks.
Because of your hard work and commitment to growing our bioscience industry, it’s truly within our grasp, our ability, to not only be a national leader, but to be a world leader. And we need to be a world leader, because we’re competing globally, not just nationally. I take great pride when I hear about Maryland’s ranks nationally, but I also know that there’s a big world out there that we’re competing with as well.
So we need to become a world leader. We can’t content ourselves with being one of the top national leaders. We want to become a world leader. And as we seek to grow this sector of our creative economy, I think we have a special opportunity not only to secure our economic future, but also to reassert our State and our nation’s moral leadership in this world.
I am fond of quoting Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, who was an advisor to Kofi Anon, who speaks very eloquently about our opportunity to really unleash the weapons of mass salvation. You know, it’s not so much about how many smart bombs our country can send against our enemies around our world, it’s how many smart, educated, compassionate hands, technologies, life-saving sciences and cures that we can extend to the most fragile of our neighbors around the planet. That’s moral leadership.
Our real moral leadership and our creativity is in developing the weapons of mass salvation.
And we recognize the importance of our bioscience industry. It’s an industry, as you know, that employs tens of thousands of Marylanders, and growing.
We’ve come together; we’ve made significant progress together. Thanks to many of you in this room we have created a Life Sciences Advisory Board to draw upon our State’s best and brightest minds and, really, create a strategic vision that all of us can kind of tie into and understand, articulate, promote and be an ever greater part of.
And we’ve also created a Bioscience Workforce Committee to implement a vision for attracting, recruiting and training the workforce that’s able to meet the challenges in the 21st century economy.
Together, we have nearly tripled our investment in stem cell research, dedicating $43 million in the first two years of this administration, compared to just $15 million in the first two years of the last administration.
Together, we have nearly doubled State funding for nano technology to make our State the national and world leader, we hope, in the life sciences.
Together, we fought to continue funding for our State’s Biotech Investment Tax Credit, which in only two years has leveraged $24 million for growing Maryland biotech companies.
And together, we have invested not only in the UMB Biopark, but also over at Johns Hopkins, at the Science and Technology Park, UMBC’s research park, and many other incubators and other terrific sites around our State.
And in addition, we’ve met with delegations from China, from Ireland, and this week I’ll travel to Israel for their Biotech Conference. Israel boasts exporting more healing technology than any other country in the world on a per capita basis. So we’ll be traveling there and doing a lot of business at that Biotech Conference. As you know, Teva, an Israeli company, recently purchased CoGenesys, so there is already a presence here.
I wanted to focus my remarks today — the remainder of them, anyway — on how we can, through investing in our workforce, best position our State to become that national leader and that world leader in life science.
Good Economic News
I wanted to share with you a little bit of good news in a dour, sour national down-turning economy, though.
Maryland’s job growth was four times the nation’s rate of job growth over the last year. Exports out of the Port of Baltimore are up 32 percent first quarter of this year, compared to first quarter of last year. Our unemployment rate is about 26 percent, some months almost 30 percent, lower than the nation’s unemployment rate.
So we have a tremendous base. We have some tremendous strengths. Take heart, Maryland. As difficult as this national economy is, it’s because of you and because of the strengths we have as a people that we’re going to come through this downturn more quickly than other States. And it’s because we had the guts, we had the courage, we had the commitment to protect our priorities and actually make progress.
Yesterday at the bill signing in which we signed a number of things that never made a headline, but they’re all good stuff on health care — I said, “It is amazing,” to Speaker Busch, “that we have been able to replace so many of the flat tires on this vehicle while it continues to roll.”
Maryland’s Bioscience Climate
And we are continuing to roll. You know, if we look at the resources we have in our One Maryland — at our science-related employment levels, our institutions of higher learning and discovery, our world class workforce, our Federal facilities, you would have to agree — and I think it’s why you do business here — that there are very few places like Maryland in our country or maybe around the world, when you look at the concentration, the clusters of institutions, and the workforce and the creativity, the diversity that’s attracted here because of our nation’s capital.
We have the highest percentage of doctoral scientists and engineers in the country. The highest percentage of professional and technical workers. Three of the six top biomedical scientists in the world conduct their research right here in Baltimore.
We have what Forbes magazine ranks as one of the top three most highly skilled workforces in the country. It’s not just a happy coincidence. The reason for that is we’re also ranked by Newsweek as having one of the top three public school systems in the country.
So for all our challenges, we do have tremendous strengths upon which to build. And if you haven’t heard enough of the big threes, depending on how you count, we have either the third or fourth largest cluster of life science biotech companies in the nation as well.
No other State has this sort of concentration of skills, talents, great institutions and the location and some competitive cost advantages that we have as Marylanders.
STEM & Our Workforce
Our challenge and opportunity, of course, is to continue developing our workforce so our State will not only meet the demands of the 21st century, but become that world leader that we talked about.
The efforts of the Workforce Investment Board are going to be very critically important in this regard. Our administration continues to make workforce investment a top priority.
I have had occasions to sometimes call employers that are thinking about coming to Maryland, are about to come to Maryland, and are expanding in Maryland, and I always ask them to explain to me what it is about our State that attracts them. And almost always they say one of two things; it’s either location, because of their proximity to all of you and the other Federal institutions here, or workforce. And oftentimes it’s location and workforce and just different ways they articulate that when it comes to their ranking.
Is the rent important? Yes, the rent is important. Are the schools important? By gosh, they are. Is the quality of life important? Quality of life is very important.
But you know what? All of those things are the things which lead to the great workforce.
So at the center of our workforce creation strategy is the conception, the modeling, the creation of a comprehensive strategy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM, for short.
For all the virtues of our workforce and education system, our bioscience partners warn us of the troubling sentiment in the industry that we’re really slipping behind as a country. A sentiment that our schools aren’t providing the STEM training necessary is not a problem unique to Maryland; it is a nationwide issue, as students in foreign countries graduate with better STEM training than our children are receiving in our country.
Our Statewide vision for STEM education calls for better preparing every student at every age in every region of our State. Those who plan to enter the workforce after high school need better STEM training, and so too do students planning to pursue a college degree.
So we had to do it across the board. And you know what? It’s not only STEM, it’s also career and technical education.
If, as a people, we can marry both of those, then we’ll be cooking. Because for every PhD that we create, you’ll also create the need for other people across the whole continuum of workforce.
And what a wonderful American concept, that here in West Baltimore as you extend into the heart of some of the greatest unemployment pockets in our State, that this economy is troubled there, that we can — by reasserting and promoting the highest ends of our creativity — we can also bring opportunity to those of our neighbors who are most in need of the opportunity to develop that economic independence, and begin to climb those rungs to the ladders of a legacy wealth that can really be changing in a positive way for our entire State.
A recent study found that 38 percent of bioscience jobs in Maryland could be filled by individuals with less than an associate’s degree if they had the proper training.
Extending our bioscience sector isn’t only about creating more jobs for PhDs; it’s about bringing more opportunity to all our people. And that’s why we’re not only looking for STEM students from our universities, but looking to graduate them from our middle schools, from our high schools.
Our administration is engaged in a lot of activity. We are seizing as many opportunities as we possibly can. We’re continuing to change the tires of the car and move forward together.
And what are some of the choices that we’ve been making? Well, I’m glad you asked.
We are making history — this year the largest investment we have ever made in public education K-12, a $5.3 billion investment. That includes $741 million for school construction.
Well, what does that mean in the perspective of time? In the first two years of our predecessor’s administration, they invested $241 million in school construction. Today, as a people, we’re investing $741 million over the comparable time, the two year time period.
Secondly, we’re making record commitments to our community colleges. I love community colleges. Many of you have relationships with your community colleges. They are some of the most nimble, facile, fast-moving and dollar stretching people on the planet. I love our community college presidents.
We have increased together, as a people, operational funding by 39 percent for our community colleges in these first two years of the O’Malley/Brown Administration.
We’re making a record commitment to our community colleges, increasing funding by 39% versus the first two years of the prior administration and investing $150 million in facility upgrades.
We’re making important investments in our four year colleges and universities. We saw college tuition increase by 42 percent over the prior four years. We are now embarking on our third year in a row of zero percent increase at our four year, in-state colleges. This is an issue very near and dear to me because I have a 17 year old and a 16 year old, I’m really hoping they stay in-state.
The Higher Education Investment Fund. We created for the first time ever a dedicated stream of funding for higher education and created the Higher Education Investment Fund.
But we’re also using some of those dollars to invest in extended education for students pursuing degrees in nursing and other health related fields. And we’re using it to invest in education needs associated with the BRAC process, which is expected to bring, as you know, 60,000 new jobs to Maryland — many, if not most, of which will require STEM skills.
We’ve also created what we call our P-20 Council that Secretary Perez alluded to, to help insure that curricula from kindergarten through graduate school, grade 20, are aligned. And I thank June Streckfus and Bret Kirwan for co-chairing that effort on STEM within the P-20 Council.
So anyway, those are real, those are tangible steps. It’s not only a process and dialogue and collaboration, things that are greatly undervalued in most governments, but it’s also real investment of your dollars and a better future for our shared economy.
Our first action step for the P-20 Council is, of course, the development of the STEM Education Plan so we can start bench-marking each other. So we can hold each other accountable for making progress towards a much more aggressive STEM agenda.
Just think about what it could mean for our State if we were able to increase the size of the bioscience sector by 10 or 20 percent. What it would mean for our economic future, our competitiveness, our global competitiveness, our character.
At the end of the day our greatness as a State is going to be determined by what we do in the here and now, to invest in each other, invest in our potential, invest in our skills, and our capabilities.
I am committed with all of you to taking tremendous advantage of the opportunity we’ve been given by future generations and by so many of you in this room and in our generation, and really bringing greater balance to that body so it operates at its highest and best for the future of Maryland, for the future of our country and also for the future of the world.
And I really, really want to thank all of you for overcoming the cynicism deeply ingrained in us as Americans to participate with our government in anything. This is something very, very important to all of us.
And I thank you so much for giving of your time, your talent, your energy and also your commitment and your hope for a better future. Thanks very much.