Coming from a small business background, I understand the value they bring and the challenges they face. Likewise, I understand that there’s a false notion that what’s good for business must be bad for the employee and vice-versa. Each can benefit.
We need to build back an economy that promotes innovation and allows for general prosperity, not just concentrated in a select few. And I believe we need to take advantage of this moment to plot a new course for Maryland’s economic future — one that sets communities up for success as we move past COVID and beyond.
Here is what my Relief, Recovery, and Reform platform will accomplish:
Small Business Loans
In the 1990s, as my parents’ business started to grow, they were able to expand from flea markets in Bethesda to commercial office spaces in Silver Spring. As downtown Silver Spring continued to develop, however, they were forced to vacate their place of business three times in five years. While they understood development would help the local economy flourish in the long-term, the frequent dislocations meant they needed greater assistance in the short-term, including finding affordable space that was convenient for existing customers and attractive to new customers.
This kind of story is not unique. It is one of opportunity and gentrification. As such, we need to support these types of businesses by providing bridge loans to help them stay afloat even in these periods of development and growth.
In the short-term we need to ensure that we prop up employers that are understandably struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic. While the Paycheck Protection Program’s loans were a start, there was a clear disparity in their access by minority-owned businesses.
Part of the solution could be to provide assistance and to minority-owned, women-owned, disability-owned and veteran-owned businesses to ensure they accurately complete the loan forms. Another part is to include demographic data (just like we do with the census) in loan forms — not to determine who gets loans and who doesn’t, but rather to ensure that we are fulfilling our task of building back Maryland businesses that truly represent all of our state.
The lack of financial institutions is a major challenge facing our minority entrepreneurs. We need to get branch banking in these neighborhoods or help with online banking. If these communities don’t have access to banks, they will miss out on developing stronger financial literacy and lose access to capital if they want to start a business. These are easily preventable problems.
Likewise, we should be increasing funds to the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Fund and the Minority Pre-Seed Investment Fund to support entrepreneurship in underserved communities in Maryland.
We need to ensure the bidding process is more transparent and prioritizes women/LGBTQ/veteran/disabled/minority-owned businesses.
Enterprise and Opportunity Zones
We can create new Enterprise or Opportunity Zones where we reduce or waive certain business, corporate, sales, or property for eligible small and mid-size tech startups for their first 5–7 years of moving to Maryland. This could attract new industries and bring new jobs to our communities. However, we must stipulate that these benefits would only be available if they are bringing quality jobs to our state. That would mean that they provide paid sick leave, childcare, and living wages.
I would invest in workforce development and career readiness programs in partnership with organizations (like Worksource Montgomery) and utilizing the Cyber Warrior Diversity Program, that can help train our residents for these new job opportunities, while also attracting younger employees to move and work in our state.
Likewise, I will push for more training and development programs targeted for veterans, LGBTQ workers, workers of color, women, those with a disability, and currently and formerly incarcerated individuals to ensure that all Marylanders are given ample opportunities to find successful careers.
Improve the Tourism Industry
I have shared specific and comprehensive details HERE.
A Living Wage
When employees are invested in and taken care of, they help a business’s bottom line by being more productive, more loyal and more focused. In other words, it helps both the employee AND employer. That’s why I advocated — and helped get pass — a $15 minimum wage in 2017/2018 for Montgomery County.
One of the key tenets of building up our state’s workers is protecting and expanding access to collective bargaining and union rights. Not only do collective bargaining rights help ensure our workers have a seat at the table when it comes to ensuring safe working conditions, access to healthcare, and living wages, but they make companies places where employees want to work — allowing employees to stick around longer and be more productive.
Paid Family/Medical Leave
I’m proud that Maryland finally passed paid leave — something I’ve been advocating for (and campaigning on) since our kickoff.
No one should be fired due to illness or forced to choose between their emergency and their source of income.
Oppose “Right to Work” and “At-Will” policies
I oppose “Right To Work” and “At-Will” policies that either prevent employees from joining a union or where terms of employment can change without just-cause or proper notification.
We must also ensure safe working conditions to protect employees from workplace injuries, illness and death.
Businesses need thriving urban centers where their employees have greater access to live, work, shop and play. As such, I support smart growth that favors mixed-use development.
By encouraging and zoning to allow for these developments we can build inclusive and walkable communities with access to kid-friendly parks, green space, affordable housing, quality schools, and a wide range of transit options such as protected bike lanes, buses, and metro. This can allow residents to have almost everything they need within their community, and improving walkability would increase retail revenue for local businesses.
This also ensures that we expand our economic tax base without pricing anyone out of our cities.
Like I have said throughout my policies, we need to be intentional about how we build back our communities and our state. This is why I would propose developing a commission to identify potential locations to designate as community commerce centers — places such as metro hubs, train stations, and other spots that can receive preferential zoning and tax incentives to build up inclusive, accessible communities.
Public School Apprenticeships
Our state and local governments should be partnering with local high schools and community colleges to match students with apprenticeships and internships to help them gain experience and a better understanding of what they want to do for a career.
These bridges between our public education institutions and our governments throughout the state can provide meaningful experiences for these students and opportunities to explore skills and career paths that they may not have considered. However, most importantly, it can provide our students with a professional mentor as they continue down their educational and career path ahead. These types of connections can make an unmeasurably significant impact on childrens’ lives and we need to be providing them with every opportunity we can to be successful.
As it exists now, our tax code is hardly as progressive as it should be. We need to ensure that we are taxing people fairly to maximize the balance between government revenue to provide services and ability for Marylanders to be successful and not weighed down by taxes.
We must ensure our tax code is structured so the richest Marylanders (the ones who have benefitted the most from Maryland’s economy, infrastructure, and workforce) are paying their fair share of taxes. I pledge to work with the state legislature to make this happen so we can fix our tax code, and with that extra revenue stream, build back our state.
Corporate-social responsibility is not a luxury but a necessity. Businesses do not live in an isolated bubble, but rather must care about the well-being of their employees and the community that surrounds and supports them.
As such, we must be smart about which large companies do business into our state. While I want to bring more businesses and jobs into Maryland, we must not do so by selling out our residents.
- This means that we need to ensure that they are offering fair wages and benefits for their employees as well as consider levying impact fees to support schools and housing in the communities they will be impacting.
- This means that we need to ensure we provide proper protections for gig workers: ensuring they have a right to organize, have access to quality and affordable healthcare, and are treated with dignity.
- Likewise, we should not be begging these large corporations to bring jobs to Maryland at the tremendous cost to taxpayers. Instead, we should be prioritizing organic job growth in our communities.