Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce Dinner
May 14, 2008
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.