How Diversity has Helped to Make Maryland the Land of Opportunity
Maryland may often be perceived as being under the radar in comparison to some of the larger states in the Union. It also can be easily overshadowed by the continuous spotlight on Washington, D.C., but in this citizen’s humble opinion it’s one of the best states to live in America.
The secret key to Maryland’s greatness can be uncovered through its great diversity.
Maryland is home to 3 of the top 10 most diverse cities in the U.S. — Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, and Germantown. These, along with it’s other top cities, including Baltimore, Frederick, and Rockville, provide a diverse mix of cultural influences and a blend of urban and suburban lifestyles with easy access to all that Maryland has to offer.
Maryland is not only culturally diverse, but it also offers a vibrant economy that benefits from a widely diverse set of key industries, including the Federal Government. It also benefits from one of the most diverse geographies in America which give residents access to everything from historic urban cities, bustling suburban communities, vast access to the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries, sprawling agricultural lands, the majestic Allegheny mountains, and the breathtaking beaches on the eastern shore.
It’s well-proven that diversity is an essential element in fostering innovation, and Maryland seems to have captured the recipe for harnessing both. Maryland ranks as the 4th most innovative state in America, capitalizing on its thriving high-tech industries such as biotechnology, cybersecurity, aerospace and defense, and information technologies. With such an established melting pot of cultures and access to great schools, high paying careers, diverse industries, and a high-quality of life, it’s no wonder that so many people come to Maryland to chase their dreams and grow their families.
“It’s not hard to get someone interested in relocating to Maryland for a job with one of our clients,” said Jeff Caskey, Senior Talent Consultant at Workforce Genetics, a Maryland-based life science recruiting firm. “Not only does the region provide ample opportunities in life science, with hundreds of growing companies and a world-leading cell therapy industry, but their spouses also feel confident in relocating because there are so many other leading industries that offer great paying jobs. Not to mention the great schools, the culture, and the quality of life. It’s really a win-win.”
Some may be surprised that Maryland is the wealthiest state in the U.S., with a median household income of $83,242 in 2018, according to a ranking by the financial news website 24/7 Wall Street. Not only does Maryland have the highest median income in the nation, but also the most millionaire households per capita. Among these millionaire households live some of the wealthiest African American families, according to AtlantaBlackStar.com who recognized that 7 out of the 10 most influential black communities in America are found in Maryland.
Financial success in Maryland is shown to be more evenly distributed among the diverse population than in most other states, which can be attributed to a higher level of equality among its citizens. The state proudly claims the #4 ranking for the most equality in employment, education, and income disparities. In fact, Maryland’s employment gap by gender is one of the smallest in the country. In 2017, there were approximately 9 women for every 10 men in the labor force, according to US News and World Report.
What’s more, Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city and a center of innovation and job opportunity, was ranked #4 by Forbes for the top “Cities Where African-Americans Are Doing The Best Economically 2018”, coming just a few spots behind #1, Washington, DC. Two key determinants driving these rankings are homeownership and self-employment. According to Forbes, African-Americans living in Baltimore have a 44% homeownership rate and a median household income of $53,231, which puts the city on par with Atlanta, Georgia, Austin, Texas and, Washington, D.C. Entrepreneur.com ranked Baltimore 5th for Top Cities for Minority Entrepreneurs, further showing that Maryland stands out as a state that offers access to opportunity for all.
Diverse enterprises and entrepreneurs are specifically supported in Maryland. In fact, TEDCO, the state-funded venture capital firm has a specific investment program, the Builder Fund, that was established with the direct mission to ‘financially and operationally support the development of startup companies run by entrepreneurs who demonstrate a socially or economically disadvantaged background that hinders access to traditional forms of capital and executive networks at the pre-seed stage.’ By being specific about its programs and resources for entrepreneurs, the state has continued to show a commitment to a diverse demographic of founders and entrepreneurs.
Maryland’s leading innovation economy does mean that there is a higher cost of living in parts of the state. However, much of the state offers families a great lifestyle and a top-notch school system that’s more affordable than other innovation hubs like the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and New York City, for example. In a 2018 CNBC article entitled, “The Most Expensive Places to Live in America,” Maryland was ranked #7 but New York City (#4), Massachusetts (#3), and California (#2) were all more expensive places to live. Add to that Maryland has pockets of more affordable living within driving distance of many Maryland job hubs, and a person’s income goes a much longer way in Maryland than in some other innovation centers.
Maryland is also the epicenter of the BioHealth Capital Region, which is the #4 top U.S. biotech cluster, according to GEN Engineering, with a goal of hitting #3 in the next few years. And the region is still growing. This booming industry is attracting many people to relocate to the state to advance their education, pursue their research, or to start new jobs and advance their careers. The diversity in Maryland’s biohealth industry is a key factor for why it is growing so rapidly. The convergence of healthcare, technology, genomics, cellular biology, and engineering is fueling new research, new companies, and new medicines to treat human health around the globe.
Despite the chaos caused by the pandemic, Maryland’s biotech and life science industry is seeing multiple, prominent companies continuing to hire, especially those that are working on leading COVID-19 programs such as Novavax, Emergent BioSolutions and Altimmune. Maryland’s top-ranked commercial biotech industry that is within close proximity to government research agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a deep network of world-renown research universities like Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland system, and the policy-makers in Washington D.C., make it an ideal spot for innovation across industries and beacon that attracts the very best and brightest talent in the world.
Like all states, Maryland still has its fair share of challenges that need to be addressed. Specifically, there are still many citizens and communities who are still fighting an uphill battle to achieve the opportunities discussed in this very article. Fortunately, there is a tremendous commitment to social entrepreneurship, which is the approach taken to develop, fund, and implement new and better solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues, across Maryland in which hundreds of entrepreneurs and enterprises are addressing these challenges. Baltimore was ranked as the 9th best city for social entrepreneurs in 2019 and has a vibrant ecosystem of resources aimed at supporting social impact such as incubators like Johns Hopkins’ Social Innovation Lab or Accelerators like Innovation Works which is seeking to help launch and grow 250 social enterprises in 10 years.
Citizens in Baltimore don’t sit on the sidelines. There is a highly engaged community of social innovators who are in the game and working to make their communities healthier, smarter, safer, and stronger. Jeff Cherry, founder of Conscious Venture Labs and Managing Director of SHIFT Ventures shared in a January 2020 article, “Every day we are proud to work with entrepreneurs to help them understand why people matter, and why thinking differently about the purpose of business in society has the power to help us all live more fulfilled and prosperous lives.”
Baltimore, which has a large finance industry base, a vibrant tech scene, is considered the ‘silicon valley of cybersecurity’, and is the home of Under Armor, also boasts some of the largest commercial Biotechnology companies in the State. Catalent Gene Therapy, which acquired Baltimore’s Paragon Bioservices for $1.2B in 2019, employs 500+ people across the region, and Emergent BioSolutions which is on the front line of pandemic preparedness and supporting the development and manufacturing for several lead COVID-19 vaccine programs is hiring hundreds of people for two of its Baltimore operations. These companies create hundreds of high paying jobs for a diverse population from high school graduates all the way to PhD’s.
What all of this really boils down to is a state that views diversity as one of its greatest assets and is committed to providing unparalleled access to opportunity for all. Diversity has fueled a robust innovation economy and helped to make Maryland one of the best places in the world for your hard work to translate into success for you and your family – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background.
If that’s what you’re seeking… Maryland is the land of opportunity, for you.