Survey: Majority of Maryland businesses optimistic, poised for growth

Originally published in the Baltimore Business Journal

MPPI in the News Melody Simmons | Reporter, Baltimore Business Journal Mar 6, 2019

More than half of the Maryland business owners surveyed last year reported strong revenue and employment growth, despite what they said were major challenges to doing business in the state.


About 39 percent of the 1,031 businesses surveyed decried the state's high tax structure and a shortage of skilled workers as impediments to doing business here. More than half of businesses surveyed reported difficulties obtaining workers with the skills necessary to fill specific jobs.


The findings of the Maryland Business Climate Survey were released Wednesday. The survey presents a snapshot of the state's business climate to highlight strengths and weakness in its potential, said Christopher Summers, CEO of the Rockville-based Maryland Public Policy Institute.


The institute and the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore conducted the survey over the past year. The Baltimore Business Journal was the group's media partner. To view the entire survey, click here.


"Our goal was to use it to take the pulse of the private sector," Summers said on Tuesday. "To find out what are the challenges out there in terms of companies being able to grow in Maryland? In the regulatory climate? The tax climate?"


The Maryland Business Climate Survey was last taken in 2012, four years into the Great Recession. At that time, it showed that nearly half of Maryland businesses forecasted slight increases in sales while fewer business owners expected to be able to expand with new employees.


Six years later, the 2018 survey showed more optimism as the recovery continued. Some of the findings include:

  • A total of 51 percent of the respondents cited revenue growth over the past year and 37 percent reported adding jobs.
  • A total of 13 percent reported declines in revenue and 10 percent reported declines in employment over the past year.
  • 39 percent of responding firms reported that state taxes were the greatest disadvantage to doing business in Maryland.
  • Overall, 64 percent of Maryland businesses surveyed reported being negatively impacted by Maryland’s taxes and 24 percent reported being negatively impacted by state regulations. The share of firms reporting being negatively impacted by both taxes and regulations has fallen since 2011, with taxes falling from 67 percent to 64 percent.
  • 40 percent of respondents cited reducing, reforming or lowering taxes as the single most important step needed to reverse that dilemma. 98 percent of the businesses surveyed said they planned to remain in Maryland — with the 2 percent responding that they were likely to move indicating relocating to states that included Virginia, Florida and Delaware.

The state's workforce was also under the spotlight in the survey.


Fifty-six percent of businesses queried said they had difficulties finding the skilled workers needed to support operations last year. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed reported they had experienced long-or short-term staff shortages as a result. 


Most of the businesses surveyed were locally owned and all were private with 10 or more employees. Among the survey questions were: workforce development, infrastructure, regulations, taxes, projected revenues and market conditions.