Just read through the text of Ken Ulman’s 2013 State of the County address. Some quick thoughts.
TL;DR: Great speech for a candidate. Don’t forget about the kids back home.
This is clearly the speech of a Man Running, and it looks like the theme of the campaign has been set. Although HoCoRising sees Howard County’s Stepford-like qualities as a potential stumbling block for the campaign, Team Ken is choosing to ju-jitsu that thought and hold Howard County up as a Model for Maryland. (Excuse me, a MODEL FOR MARYLAND.) Subtext: “Isn’t this what you want your community to be like? AAA rating, healthy, wealthy, secure? Our man did it.” Hey, if you can run on a record like Howard County’s (e.g. “lowest unemployment rate in the state”), it only makes sense to push it.
So it looks like my predication of an announcement outside of Howard County is likely to be…completely wrong. (Hey, with that sentence I’ll be on record calling it either way. Heads I win, tails you lose!)
Places not in Howard County mentioned in the speech (excluding “Maryland” and “Israel”): “Western Maryland”, “Eastern Shore”, “Crisfield”, “Somerset County”, “Garrett County”, “Prince George’s County”, “Rushern Baker” x 2, “Fort Meade” x 2, “Anne Arundel County” (although in context of taking Accuvant away from them). I was an “Alleghany” away from BINGO.
And I can only assume something like “With a mix of incomes and an array of amenities, these redevelopment projects look better, they fit into their neighborhoods better, and they generate the income needed to make them financially sustainable. It’s another example of the framework for creative problem-solving in Howard” is aimed squarely at Baltimore.
I was particularly interested in the ELTA and Accuvant stories. Although a lot of doomsayers are (doom) saying Maryland’s economy will take a massive hit as federal spending draws down, that’s unlikely to be the case. Most of the work actually housed in Maryland is in “soft” areas like consulting, IT, admin, and so on. (We put the rock in bureaucracy!) The biggest hits are going to be taken by the defense makers (of tanks, material, whatever) and far-flung outposts of federal domain. I think Maryland may actually stand to gain jobs over the next decade as more efficiency and IT solutions are pursued, and more consolidation of offices and functions occur. All of that requires the type of knowledge workers housed in Maryland. The FBI (among others) is looking for Maryland-based campuses to consolidate operations, more old-school offices want to digitize, the cyber revolution is finally hitting the feds. (Really. Stuff you take for granted is just now getting to the government.) These moves and initiatives take years and are a wellspring for contractors and consultants.
To be honest, the type of wheeling-and-dealing done by the Ulman administration and the ecomomic development team will scale up on the state level. Maryland actively completes with Virginia to host firms doing the work, and for all the complaints about Maryland’s corporate environment, there’s been some significant wins, with the potential for more. Even more importantly, if you can get the federal agency or office to choose Maryland over Virginia, the effect is geometric: private side jobs follow. West Virginia has pursued this strategy with some notable success. Places like Frederick, already home of many government workers and contractors, should totally be in the mix for these moves. Sequestration (or the cutbacks that replace it) will not be without opportunities, and Maryland is uniquely positioned to grab them.
(ELTA is particularly interesting- there’s a lot behind the Iron Dome success story that will be pooh-poohed by the big boys like Raytheon and Lockheed as they move to squash the upstart. Also, the average salary is $110,000?!?! Sign me up!)
As Wordbones predicted, the One Maryland Broadband initiative made a major cameo, as did the Inner Arbor Plan- although I noted, with some smugness, that the term “Inner Arbor” was never actually uttered.
The speech hit on a number of Democratic shibboleths: accessible health care, green energy in the form of solar and BITHENERGY (no love for Elkridge’s own Solar World?), anti-bullying initiatives, but leveled with a lot of pro-business speak I assume meant to attract the centrists. (Loved this: “Government can and should be a catalyst for innovative ideas, serving as a model, creating possibilities and then getting out of the way, making it easier for the private sector to make strides.” A MODEL FOR GETTING OUT OF THE WAY.)
Really, the only nit I can pick is that it was so clearly a campaign speech and really didn’t lay out any vision or future for Howard County, beyond every department doing everything on behalf of the children. (The for-the-children bit was by far the weakest part of the speech- it poorly, and rather cynically, tied the Newtown tragedy to anti-bullying initiatives, and then on to doing things FOR THE KIDS. It’s such a facile and ur-politico way to talk. Is a sanitation worker more motivated thinking about THE CHILDREN FOR WHOM HE MAKES STREETS CLEAN? From a rhetorical standpoint, such an emotional grab after such a economic-centric speech is jarring and reads as false, and didn’t fit well into the Model for Maryland MODEL FOR MARYLAND theme.) With no future laid out, with no vision set forth for the next year in Howard County, it’s clear our leader is ready to make us his springboard onto a bigger stage. Which is great, of course; just don’t leave us directionless in the interim.