Two bills passed during the recently completed Maryland General Assembly session offer tax incentives for qualified cybersecurity and biotechnology companies willing to locate in low-income areas, including Garrett and Allegany Counties.
"When we are trying to attract investment in those sectors, we can honestly say, you (the investor) will have the potential to get a higher return on your investment by coming to our county than to go pretty much anywhere else in Maryland," said Del. Jason Buckel, who sponsored the bills in the House of Delegates.
The bills were cross-filed in the Senate by Sen. George Edwards.
The first bill allows a 50 percent state income tax credit, not exceeding $500,000 to each cybersecurity company willing to locate to Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett or Somerset counties, as well as Baltimore City, according to a summary of the bill. The second bill allows a 75 percent income tax credit, also not to exceed $500,000 to biotechnology companies willing to locate to those same areas.
"We had a very difficult time making much of a pitch to high-tech companies, college educated job-based companies to come here," said Buckel. "The combination of job training we are doing at AC (Allegany College of Maryland) and Frostburg State and the increased tax credit incentives, it might really give us a chance to compete."
Allegany College of Maryland established the Western Maryland Center of IT Excellence in 2015 with a grant from the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The initiative focuses on educating the local workforce in order to attract and retain technology-based business.
"We definitely have the educational sources here in Allegany County to feed a pipeline for potential employers," said Autumn Becker, director of workforce development at ACM. "We began offering the two-year degree and the one-year certificate in the fall of 2015 and we have seen a good response from students. We have students now in the pipeline, finishing up their first year of that two-year degree."
ACM offers a two-year cybersecurity degree, as well industry-level certifications that prepare students to join a highly competitive technology based workforce.
"Western Maryland in particular has to get it out of their heads that it's going to go back to the 1970s — it's not," said Buckel. "We have to focus on having an economy that matches places like Frederick and Howard counties," said Buckel.
The biotechnology and biomedical firm AstraZeneca played a large role in transforming Frederick County, said Buckel.
"It's an enormous facility," he said. "It employs thousands and thousands of people. Our health care and pharmaceutical sector is where billions and billions of dollars gets spent in research and development. People are making $60,000 a year or more managing the production of pharmaceutical products. Western Maryland Health System is the major regional hospital for four or five counties and it's a very large hospital with the potential to grow."
Both pieces of legislation takes effect June 30.