This month, Maryland’s comptroller released a concerning report which found that, despite our state leading the country in several economic indicators, our economy has not grown since 2017. Although Maryland’s economy may feel strong today, especially with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the lack of economic development during a seven-year span should concern us all. Fortunately, our state has a promising path forward using one of the most significant drivers of economic growth: innovation.

A recent report found that Maryland is among the country’s top five most innovative states, driven by investments in and a growing talent pool for industries such as life sciences and technology. These industries continue to be promising engines for Maryland’s progress, especially as the attention generated by developing technologies such as artificial intelligence has brought significant investments and buzz for our state.

For instance, in October, the Baltimore region was awarded a federal designation as a national tech hub focused on developing AI and biotechnology. This valuable federal recognition is more than just a title. It is accompanied by $500 million in federal funding and is projected to generate an additional $3.2 billion in economic activity while creating 52,000 jobs across Baltimore and the surrounding region. Considering the magnitude of this investment and the expected impact it will bring in revitalizing local economies, we were shown a clear path forward from the stagnation we currently face.

The development of AI has not only served as a promising boon to our state’s economy, but it has also become an invaluable resource for Maryland’s small-business community. National studies have shown us that leveraging technologies such as AI and other digital tools is helping our small businesses improve their performance nationwide. Here in Maryland, we have seen small companies automate and create new operational efficiencies, giving them a leg up to face their larger competitors. Arming our small businesses with AI ultimately will make our economy more competitive with other states and the global marketplace.

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In this moment of promise, our lawmakers must support emerging industries that will power our economy in the 21st century. In Maryland, that means resisting the urge to overregulate AI before its immense promise is even realized. For example, the state recently issued an executive order to guide the government’s use of AI. Although this action is well intentioned, and establishing guidelines is warranted, some state legislators have predicted this measure will spur additional regulatory legislation in this year’s legislative session. Ultimately, a rush to control this emerging industry could hamper the very innovation we’re counting on to jump-start the Baltimore tech hub and our state’s economic growth.

If we want to overcome the kind of economic stagnation Maryland has faced for the past several years, we must embrace technological innovation and the promise of AI. The strength of our economy and readiness of our workforce are too important to miss out on the cutting edge of this technology.

Kelly Schulz, Frederick

Kelly Schulz is CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, the largest technology and life sciences trade association in the state. She previously served as Maryland’s secretary of labor and commerce.

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