Gambling: Maryland’s growth industry?

There are guys who really must like parsing economic statistics, and I’m getting the impression Change Maryland employs several of them. Toying with Martin O’Malley like a catnip-addled feline pawing about a ball of yarn, their latest effort is summed up neatly this way by Change Maryland head Larry Hogan:

Combined, the gambling industry is expected to generate 3,250 jobs or nearly 40% of the 8,500 new jobs announced in 2012. Other sectors pale in comparison with cyber security expected to generate 2,612 jobs, healthcare 379 jobs and manufacturing 334 jobs. By contrast… sectors (lauded) by the O’Malley Administration, most notably green energy, are expected to generate just 110 jobs.

“I don’t know how Martin O’Malley can say with a straight face that jobs are a priority of this Administration with numbers like these,” said Hogan. “These numbers are lopsided and pitiful.”

I’m not sure if the total includes the dozens of jobs created by the fat Christmas bonuses awarded by the media conglomerates who own the television stations made wealthy by the millions of dollars spent contesting Question 7, but it is a sad state of affairs when casinos create more jobs than manufacturing. Yet that’s the reality in Maryland. And as Hogan pithily adds:

While I’m glad that some will get jobs as blackjack dealers and cocktail servers, the best careers are those that require science,  technology and engineering skills that Maryland educators are working so hard to develop in the classroom.

The Change Maryland release compares the job creation in Maryland and Virginia, and makes the case that our neighbor to the south is kicking our tail in that regard.

Looking at these statistics in a more parochial manner, the Eastern Shore as a whole is getting very little benefit this year from the state’s economic development team, with one project apiece in Dorchester and Worcester counties. Total jobs created (over three years, mind you) are projected to be 80. The two companies in question invested a total of $3.5 million in new facilities, but by way of comparison that’s less than a month’s revenue from the casino at Ocean Downs. And 80 jobs is a drop in the bucket compared to some of the major employers here in Wicomico County alone.

Needless to say, the state’s efforts are puny and minuscule compared to how much they put into attracting jobs along the I-95 corridor. Our tenth or so of the state’s population could use more assistance in trying to grow and develop as opposed to the War on Rural Maryland we’re forced to endure from Annapolis. More or less we’d like to be left alone, although if you could work with Delaware and the federal government on an interstate-grade highway from Salisbury to I-95 at Wilmington we would be mighty thankful. I look at it this way:  if we could get ourselves to be an easier 4 hour drive from the New York megalopolis, I believe it could help both tourism and industry. Something I didn’t know until I looked it up is that we here in Salisbury are actually closer to New York City than to Cumberland, Maryland.

But whatever the job creation task required, the folks at Change Maryland are generally quick to point out that Maryland is lacking in that department. You can call it partisan politics if you want, and perhaps you’d have a point since Hogan is a Republican. But facts are facts, and the numbers which come from neutral referees continue to show that Maryland isn’t the job-creation machine our state government would lead you to believe that it is. And when three of the four counties which make up our little corner of the state lag with unemployment over 9 percent (Wicomico isn’t much better at 7.9%) it tells me that the “One Maryland” fallacy espoused by our governor is just that.

If a chain is defined by its weakest link, we’re the ones who need the attention. Stop listening to the Agenda 21 crowd who would like to return the Eastern Shore to a pristine wilderness (aside from the beachfront condos they annually rent in Ocean City and from Ocean Downs, since it creates revenue for the almighty state) and start listening to what we who live here have to say. Really: I’m not lying to you when I say growth is good for us, so help us cut our unemployment rate down by stepping aside and letting us do it.

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