Meets with tourism stakeholders, releases Maryland State Parks Economic Impact Study
CUMBERLAND, MD (March 14, 2011) – Governor Martin O’Malley convened the latest in his series of “Maryland Forward” policy forums today at Allegany College in Cumberland, addressing job creation and the New Economy in Western Maryland. Following a panel discussion hosted by Allegany College Interim President Gary Durr which included area business, tourism and education leaders, Governor O’Malley facilitated an open dialogue with more than 150 participants on how the State can work in partnership with local higher education institutions to meet the workforce demands in Western Maryland in the short term and over the next two to five years. During his remarks, Governor O’Malley announced the sale of the former Sacred Heart Hospital to NWT Enterprises, an information technology company that will establish a data center on the site and lease space on the campus to other IT companies. NWT anticipates creating 40-60 new jobs initially, with plans to grow to 400 to 500 jobs over the next five years. The project is the culmination of two years of assistance by the Department of Business and Economic Development and Maryland Department of Transportation.
“We are all here today because we understand that we are in a fight for our children’s future. It’s a fight to turn into the new economy with more opportunity for all,” said Governor O’Malley. “In this fight, there will be some states that lose, and some states that win. For Maryland to win, we must move forward by creating jobs through innovation, by saving jobs, by training Marylanders to compete in the New Economy and by protecting public safety, public education, and our quality of life.”
Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian S. Johansson and Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez kicked off the Forum’s panel discussion, which included Barry Ronan, CEO of the Western Maryland Health System; Barbara Buehl, Allegany County Tourism Director; James Bailey, owner and President of Government Contract Consultants; Shawn Bender, Division Manager, Beitzel Corporation and Pillar Innovations; and Dr. Jonathan Gibralter, President of Frostburg State University.
“The community colleges play an important role in developing Maryland’s intellectual capital by providing boots on the ground customized training that enables our existing businesses to grow and expand and working to attract new companies to the region,” said President Durr. “It is critical that our workforce have the skills and training to be able to compete in an increasingly global economy.”
Earlier in the day, Governor O’Malley joined Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin and tourism stakeholders at New Germany State Park to release the 2010 Maryland State Parks Economic Impact and Visitor study. The study concluded that Maryland’s 66 State Parks have an economic impact of $650 million annually, create more than 10,000 jobs and generate nearly $40 million in State and local taxes. The Governor also received briefings on energy efficient upgrades to State Parks, and on local tourism and arts initiatives from Nicole Christian, President of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce and Andy Vick, Executive Director of the Allegany County Arts Council.
Last week, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced the first improvement in the state’s unemployment rate since May 2010 and the state’s lowest unemployment rate since May 2009. Unemployment declined, according to January 2010 employment estimates released by the U.S. Department of Labor, 0.2 percentage points in Maryland from 7.4 percent to 7.2 percent – nearly two full percentage points better than the national unemployment rate. Maryland’s unemployment rate has improved or held steady every month since February 2010. Maryland created 11,300 jobs in 2010. January 2011 was the seventh consecutive month of year-to-year job growth. Nonetheless, Governor O’Malley acknowledged that many Maryland families and businesses continue to struggle as the country pulls through this national recession.
Prior to his inauguration for a second term, Governor O’Malley convened a series of five “Maryland Forward” forums designed to gather the input of various stakeholders, including recommendations for legislative in areas including jobs and the economy; skills and education; sustainability; children and health; and public safety and security. These day-long summits brought together stakeholders to generate concrete actions and recommendations that support the Administration’s strategic goals.
Following that series, Governor O’Malley has convened smaller groups of local stakeholders, including today’s discussion and throughout the 2011 legislative session, focused on specific policy areas that will help Maryland be a winner in the new economy, protect our neighborhoods, and create jobs.