Economic development is rooted in place. Maryland’s residents need safe communities to live, work, and recreate in. Maryland businesses need bustling main streets and downtowns to draw in customers and to take advantage of nearby workers. This is especially important as Maryland continues to recover from COVID-19 and how we interact with space has changed. Many of our downtowns are struggling as workers telecommute, leading to ripple effects from restaurants to commercial real estate. Ensuring all of Maryland’s neighborhoods and downtowns are vibrant will be a key focus of a King-Siri administration. These policies will not only help to strengthen areas of our state that are doing well but revitalize areas of the state that have struggled. Recent research has shown that quality of life improvements lead to more population and employment growth than focusing solely on business attraction efforts in rural communities. Efforts to increase quality of life will be a key component of a King-Siri administration’s efforts to support Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. But these efforts will drive economic growth statewide as well. Specifically, a King-Siri administration will:
- Increase funding to neighborhood/main street revitalization programs statewide. Building resilient cities starts with a focus on Maryland’s main streets and downtowns. And Maryland’s cities are working on exciting redevelopment projects. In Cumberland, the development of a new river park will drive tourism and interest in the downtown. And in Salisbury, transforming downtown parking lots into mixed-use developments and a town square will help revitalize the city’s core. A King-Siri administration will build on these projects and more by expanding six state revitalization programs within the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) from their current available capital funding of $49 million. A King-Siri administration will also place a focus on redevelopment efforts that work to transform cities into “15-minute cities” where residents can accomplish most daily activities by walking or biking 15 minutes. These walkable neighborhoods that serve the needs of residents create stronger communities that provide more employment opportunities and are better able to weather economic shocks. While supporting these projects, a King-Siri administration will work to ensure that longtime residents of communities are not priced out or displaced by revitalization and are able to share in the benefits of more vibrant neighborhoods. Our administration will work with communities throughout Maryland to identify the needs of residents and to identify perceptions of the area so they can develop their plans.
- Dedicate additional funding for state parks. A vibrant system of state parks not only benefits the health and wellbeing of state residents and protects Maryland’s natural environment, but also makes Maryland more attractive to entrepreneurs and corporate relocations. Conserving and restoring natural resources for recreation and tourism have become a proven way for small towns and cities to diversify and strengthen their economies, making investment in state parks important for more than just environmental reasons. During the height of COVID-19, Maryland’s parks and natural areas saw record numbers of visitors. Improving these resources is important, as is increasing access to the parks. The State Park Investment Commission’s final report laid out 40 recommendations for improving the park system in Maryland and a King-Siri administration will work to implement those recommendations, build off the Great Maryland Outdoors Act that passed this year and increase access to parkland statewide. For example, a King-Siri administration will:
- Identify opportunities to develop new state parklands.
- Identify ways to open existing parkland, such as Wills Mountain State Park which currently has no public access but has the potential to become a premier climbing and tourism destination for Western Maryland.
- Connect Maryland’s state parks with the history of Black or underrepresented communities at those locations.
- Work with the Maryland Department of Transportation to offer enhanced transportation options to Maryland’s state parks.
- Increase conservation targets.
- Provide funding and support for community economic development organizations to allow residents to help guide the development of the neighborhoods they live in. Too often, residents of a neighborhood undergoing redevelopment are not allowed a voice in how those projects look. Development and revitalization efforts cannot be treated as a one-size-fits-all strategy, and we must tailor plans for each individual community. A King-Siri administration will provide funding and technical support services to local community economic development organizations and nonprofits to empower them to guide redevelopment efforts.
Leverage money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to fund broadband access across the state. Now more than ever, access to broadband is critically important. As the advent of remote work and schooling showed, broadband access is an essential part of participating in the modern economy. But many Maryland homes are still not connected. A King-Siri administration will work to finally connect all Marylanders to high-speed internet. While 95% of the population has broadband access, reaching that final 5% and ensuring reliable high-speed access are some of the best things we can do to improve the business climate in the state. By leveraging funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a King-Siri administration will work to end last-mile issues and provide grants to low-income residents to increase internet access. Understanding that not all Marylanders have stable housing, a King-Siri administration will also increase the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots at libraries and state facilities, as well as provide funding to counties to increase public Wi-Fi accessibility.