2012 LINK trip — Maryland’s investment in life sciences and education paying off economically

By Maria Saporta

Baltimore — A 100 civic leaders from Atlanta, on the 16th annual LINK trip, arrived in the largest city in Maryland Wednesday witnessing a city that has strategically sought to be an economic leader in bio-science and cyber security.

Although Baltimore can be overshadowed by the Washington, D.C. metro area, the city also recognizes that its economic strength can be attributed in great part to the ample presence of federal dollars in the community.

View from Baltimore's World Trade Club (Photos by Maria Saporta)

Christian Johansson, Maryland’s secretary of business and economic development, said that Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other university in the country.

The LINK delegation met on the top floor of Baltimore’s World Trade Center, where there was a 360-degree view of Baltimore.

View of Johns Hopkins University complex from top of Baltimore's World Trade Club

Also the city has emerged as a center of cyber security because of the close proximity of so many federal agencies , especially those involved in national security.

As a result, unemployment in Baltimore is about 6.5 percent, well below the national average of about 9 percent and well below Atlanta’s unemployment of more than 9 percent.

“We are building on our strengths of having an educated workforce,” Johansson said, adding that people in Maryland without a college degree were twice as likely to have been unemployed during the recession.

Despite the economic downturn, Johansson said that Maryland was one of the few states in the nation that “dramatically increased our education investment.”

Atlanta's Mike Gerber talks to Christian Johansson about Baltimore

Several people who spoke to the LINK delegation also mentioned that Baltimore’s public school system ranks No. 1 in the nation.

Johansson, however, identified one of Maryland’s major weaknesses. Although it has become a leading center of research and innovation, the state ranks 42nd in start-up companies. That means those innovations are not being translated to the marketplace.

But the state is continuing its investment in the bio-science industry. “We are investing $1.3 billion in life sciences in the next 10 years,” Johansson said. “One-third of our net new jobs were in life sciences.”

Georgia also has a cluster of research universities that have received significant federal funding. And the state has been emphasizing the need to develop commercial applications for that research.

Still, the State of Georgia’s investment in life-science research or cutting-edge technology research does not come close to matching the $1.3 billion that Maryland will be investing over the next 10 years.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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