As a government contractor myself, I recognize firsthand that our economy is blessed by Patuxent River NAS. The base provides $5 billion of revenue into our community, and 80% of our local economy is a direct result of its existence in St. Mary’s. While protecting its value, we must simultaneously enhance the surrounding economy.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They hire locally, get 50% of their supplies within 20 miles, and return their investments directly to our community. St. Inie’s Coffee is a prime example of how a small business can affect us all. Started two years ago as a boutique offering at the Red Barn Farmer’s Market, the female owner grew her business to open a shop in Lexington Park in a building that had not been fully occupied for years. St. Inie’s is now not only supporting a growing staff but has added to the vitality of the surrounding neighborhood.
Ultimately, we want the infrastructure and education system to lure startups to take risks here in the county. Actions we could take to champion small business development:
- Cultivate relationships with Navy Leadership on PAX NAS to enhance the bond between the Navy and its surrounding community. The Navy is a leading partner in assuring small businesses continue to grow outside of the gate, and their help and guidance is beneficial in finding solutions to the limitations imposed by the Air Installations Compatibility Use Zone (AICUZ).
- Create a streamlined payment process to allow local micro-businesses to work with state entities, such as St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Historic St Mary’s City, in order to receive payment immediately upon completion of work.
- Develop a micro-economic zone to create set criteria for startup businesses and give them an efficient path to navigate government permitting procedures.
Lastly, post-secondary education is more vital than ever to compete in today’s job market. St. Mary’s is home to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, College of Southern Maryland, and the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. All are major contributors to the fastest growing economic sector in our county. It is imperative that we continue to support those institutions and find ways to grow this sector of our economy.