Economic Diversity for Maryland: Progressive Maryland Teams with IPS on Project

Progressive Maryland and the Institute for Policy Studies are working to sharpen Maryland's response to a changing defense jobs picture and promote an equitable and green transition.

/By Patty Snee/ Maryland’s dependence on defense spending and how to diversify our way to a more resilient economy is getting a renewed look from Progressive Maryland, with support from the Institute for Policy Studies.  The state needs to plan and prepare for job and economic development in an era of sequestration and reduced defense spending. 

Progressive Maryland  would like to see the state use a grant it has from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA)  at the Department of Defense to explore a broad set of options for economic diversification.   The State Department of Commerce is the recipient of the grant and we’re working to engage with their efforts as they review economic diversification options in a number of locations. Our first priority has been to make our allies aware of this process and we’re encouraged by the interest many of them have expressed. This October we’re expanding our outreach to include elected officials and our grassroots supporters.  We welcome questions and thoughts.  Folks can post comments here or contact Patty Snee at patty@progressivemaryland.org.

Progressive Maryland advocates state budget priorities and economic policies that will advance a sustainable 21st century economy that promotes good jobs, wages, benefits, and the kind of financial security all Maryland families deserve.   In our view, it makes sense to include a cross section of representatives from labor, small businesses, economic development groups, green businesses, and the community when it comes to making decisions that shape the future of the state’s economy. We’re working to bring that view to the government officials overseeing the OEA grant and this process.

BACKGROUND

Maryland has a multi-faceted economy, operating across many sectors.  Many of us know about the importance of tourism, agriculture, healthcare, education, and government to the state but may not be aware that defense-related jobs and spending are also a very significant part of our state’s economic and financial makeup.  In fact, Maryland is one of the top 5 states in the country in defense spending.   Recently, reductions in military spending (called “sequestration”) and other trends have reduced some of the money flowing into the state for defense related activities and businesses.

Knowing that changes in defense spending were likely, the Obama Administration created the grant program within OEA to encourage states to look at how to make adjustments to lower levels of defense spending.  It’s this funding that the state Department of Commerce, in conjunction with the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University, is using to study options.  The efforts are supposed to result in an interactive map of the defense industry in the state and a set of recommendations for economic diversification (including things like commercialization options for military technology.)

Progressive Maryland has reached out to RESI and the Commerce Department to learn more about their approach to the process and to make them aware of our interest and concerns.  We’re weighing in so that their focus is not just on “insiders.” At this point in the program RESI has mostly met with folks from the military and defense contractor world and some county-level economic development staff.   But we’ve gotten agreement from RESI to hold interviews with additional stakeholders who we recruit and recommend.  Those interviews should take place this fall.

ISSUES

As the State works to identify diversification targets, strategies, and plans, Progressive Maryland will push it to be as visionary and inclusive as possible.  At this juncture we are surveying our allies to get their perspective.  Thus far, some of the questions and issues rising to the top are:

  • Who will be at the table and who will be considered in the business models and ideas that are being developed around economic diversification?
  • Can resources be freed up to look at pathways to a less militarized, green economy? One with an emphasis on clean and renewable energy, small business stimulation and incubation, job training, and transition planning that benefits workers and communities? 
  • How can we best support existing jobs and workers during a just transition?
  • Will we be able to relate this process to other efforts to help create new economic opportunities in a variety of industries including manufacturing?
  • Can we get the state to consider taking a more comprehensive approach to its economic policy planning? (like creating something akin to the Commission on Connecticut’s Future, which we came close to doing in 2014 here in Maryland.)

Please stay tuned as we identify additional issues and next steps.


Patty Snee is Progressive Maryland’s staff liaison to the Institute for Policy Studies on the economic diversification project.