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Maryland: Life Sciences Leads High-Tech Sector Growth

Susan Avery (Aug/Sep 09)
Although the recession forced Maryland's legislature to make deep cuts in existing programs this year in order to balance the state budget, the state's economy is still in much better shape than much of the country right now. Its unemployment rate - 7.3 percent in June - is well below the national average. Its business and professional services sector - which includes scientific and technical services - remains strong, having lost only 0.3 percent of jobs between June 2008 and June 2009, compared to a 6.9 percent loss in this sector for the U.S. overall.

Expansion of science- and technology-related industries remains a top priority. Despite budget cuts, the legislature approved funding for the state's Biotech Tax Credit, Stem Cell Research Fund, Nanobiotechnology Initiative Fund, and other programs, including the new Maryland Biotechnology Center, which opened offices this past May in Baltimore and Shady Grove. Part of Governor Martin O'Malley's Maryland BIO 2020 initiative announced in June 2008, the new center provides grants and strategic assistance to life sciences companies throughout the state.

Maryland's bioscience cluster employs an estimated 30,000 people in about 400 private-sector companies and an additional 30,000 workers at federal and academic institutions. In June, the governor announced the recipients of state grants totaling $3 million in funding for 12 nanobiotech research projects selected after a statewide competition. The state also awarded a $250,000 conditional grant to Life Technologies Corporation (created by the merger of Invitrogen Corp. and Applied Biosystems Inc.) to assist in the expansion of the company's Frederick facility; up to 50 new jobs will be created and more than 250 employees retained.

Additional company expansions in Maryland's biotech industry over the past year have included BIOMERE LLC in Baltimore, and Opgen Technologies Inc. and South Korea-based stem cell company RNL Biostar in Montgomery County.

Foreign direct investment in Maryland continues to grow. Earlier this year, the governor's new International Advisory Council met for the first time and announced the state's first incubator for attracting foreign-owned companies. In July, state officials announced a new foreign office in Vietnam, bringing the state's total number of global locations to 13. During the past year, the state has attracted more than a dozen foreign-owned companies from Israel, Russia, and various countries in Europe and Asia, in industries ranging from bioscience to advanced technology to aerospace and defense.

The cyber security industry is another rapidly expanding technology sector in the state as the federal government ramps up spending to protect systems and networks from the threat of cyber attacks. In April, Governor O'Malley announced the launch of the Maryland Security Technology Initiative, a public-private partnership intended to position the state as a global epicenter of cyber security for both government and private companies. Already home to many federal agency programs focusing on intelligence and national security, Maryland will soon welcome the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity to the University of Maryland in College Park, as well as the Defense Information Systems Agency, which, through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, will relocate from Virginia to its new headquarters at Fort Meade.

Maryland is expecting an influx of about 60,000 new jobs as a result of BRAC, adding to the 90,000 civilian and military workers already employed at a dozen military installations statewide. Nearly 50 other federal facilities, primarily in science and technology or medical-related fields, employ more than 100,000 government workers and contractors, contributing an estimated $16 billion to the state economy. In a recent speech outlining a strategic vision to encourage the growth and development of space-related business in Maryland, the governor announced plans to convene the state's first-ever Federal Facilities Summit later this year. The idea is to bring all of these federal entities together with leaders in state government, private industry, and academia to find ways to support their missions and leverage the vast potential of their resources. 

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