When I am elected County Executive, I will — immediately — take very seriously the concerns I am hearing about the need to make it easier to do business in the county.
I will appoint a blue-ribbon task force on business process reform. The group will include individuals who have established successful businesses in the county; those who understand any impediments to establishing or expanding businesses; and tax. legal, and county planning experts whom I will task with producing a series of recommendations within six months.
Cut Energy Tax
The first budget that I will submit to the County Council will contain a significant reduction in the energy tax (which harms our competitiveness).
Flag Business Impediments
I will appoint new leadership in key departments that have been cited as impediments to business growth and formation, including the Department of Permitting Services and the Department of Environmental Protection (The Planning Department is not under the County Executive’s supervision, but it is also the source of many complaints, and also needs to be reviewed). I will meet personally with a wide range of employers, large and small, to conduct my own qualitative review, and commission an even wider range of focus groups to get input.
Attract Jobs, Investment
But let us remember: We remain a very wealthy county, and many of the business owners who most vociferously raise concerns are doing very well. Recently, one of my Democratic competitors told a group of about 40 local small businesses that he was surprised to find there were that many people still doing business here, who had not fled to other jurisdictions. I know he was joking, but that kind of talk is irresponsible.
Those who seek to lead the county must be positive forces for change – and must be careful not to spark a panic. Let’s remember President Franklin Roosevelt’s admonition that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Whomever is elected County Executive will need to promote our county’s excellent attributes to attract jobs and investment. Relentless criticism of, and negativity about, our county’s business climate can itself be harmful to the business climate, since so much about consumer spending and investment decisions is psychological – the “animal spirits” of the marketplace.
MoCo: Strong for Business, Families, People – Always
I will never describe this affluent, attractive county as a bad place to do business. Indeed, the tradition of those successfully elected here has been optimism – it used to be a cliché to say that Montgomery County was a “great place to live, work and raise a family.” That’s still very true, but at least half the Democrats running for County Executive have adopted a different theme: “don’t invest here, it’s a disaster area.” Whomever is elected will find that turning a big ship is a slow process – that no matter who is Executive, altering a complex structure of taxes and regulations takes time, requires the assent of other elected leaders in the state legislature and County Council, and will encounter enormous push-back from unions, the PTAs, and other interest groups. I am more than ready for that challenge.
Some things are more important than winning an election. Let’s not burn the whole house down because we want to renovate some of it.