Q&A: Gov. Larry Hogan reflects on entrepreneurship, small business and his two terms

Cristopher Centers

Submitted photo Governor Larry Hogan, the first Republican in 64 years to serve two consecutive terms as governor of Maryland, declared the state “Open for Business” and has held high approval ratings throughout his tenure. As he prepares to leave office, Hogan answered some questions posed by the Governor’s Office […]

Submitted photo

Governor Larry Hogan, the first Republican in 64 years to serve two consecutive terms as governor of Maryland, declared the state “Open for Business” and has held high approval ratings throughout his tenure. As he prepares to leave office, Hogan answered some questions posed by the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs as part of this year’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide.

1. What drew you to public service?

I had never held public office before being elected as governor, but I spent more than 25 years building and running small businesses in the private sector. I saw a need and an opportunity to bring fiscal responsibility and common sense to state government. I was also very aware of Maryland’s history of one-party rule and have always believed in advancing the best ideas — regardless of which side of the political aisle they come from. I believe we have truly changed Maryland for the better, and I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to serve my fellow Marylanders for the last eight years.

2. What entrepreneurial skills did you carry into government leadership?

Since taking office in 2015, our administration used some very core, common-sense principles that will certainly resonate with small business owners.

Exercise fiscal responsibility. Our state government must provide essential services, but we must do so as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible. We inherited a $5.1 billion deficit and transformed it into the largest surplus in state history.

Cultivate growth. Maryland is home to world-class universities and institutions. The Chesapeake Bay is the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region. The people of Maryland are hard-working, innovative, and resilient. It takes vision and leadership to create a state where businesses can flourish — making more jobs and more opportunities available to our citizens. After eight years of fiscal discipline and economic growth, together we successfully brought Maryland’s economy back from the brink and saw record job creation.

Commitment to customer service. We made a concerted effort to better serve and represent all of our citizens, in part by reinforcing the need for state government agencies to be more responsive to needs, be consistent in policy and procedure interpretation and implementation, to simplify access to information and resources, and to advance a culture of honesty, clarity, and trust.

3. How did your administration change Maryland for the better for the small business community?

It is not easy to run a small business. From day one, our administration has been committed to common sense reforms that roll back unnecessary impediments to living, working, and doing business in Maryland. Immediately upon taking office, we conducted the most wide-ranging review of state regulations in decades and identified nearly 200 individual small business regulations that we have streamlined or eliminated to cut through bureaucratic red tape.

We implemented a new statewide e-procurement platform, called eMaryland Marketplace Advantage, or eMMA. eMMA will enable the state to institute an all-electronic procure-to-pay system, which will help increase efficiency, transparency, accountability, and trust in all state procurement activities.

We also asked state agencies that interface with the business community to do more to help entrepreneurs at every stage of the business cycle. This led to the creation of some very powerful tools including the Entrepreneurial Hub hosted by the Department of Commerce, Maryland Business Express hosted by the State Department of Assessments, and the Technical Training Classroom webinar series hosted by the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs.

All of these efforts contributed year after year to increasing Maryland’s profile in national rankings for small business, including being named one of the top five most innovative states in the country in 2022. We have really made incredible progress.

4. Why was the state’s Small Business Reserve Program important to you?

As a former small business owner, I understand the passion, struggles, and rewards that come from seeking your own opportunities. Maryland’s Small Business Reserve program puts prime contracting opportunities into the hands of small business owners.

Emerging from the pandemic, our state’s small businesses needed more access to more opportunities. My first executive order of 2021 was an enhancement to that program, requiring 66 state purchasing units to designate qualifying procurements valued between $50,000 and $500,000.

We are seeing an impact, as more than 20% of all solicitations from the State of Maryland are being designated to small businesses. The state makes more than $425 million in payments to certified SBRs annually. In 2022, state legislators codified my executive order into law; I was pleased to see that, and I know we can do more.

5. As we rebuild the state’s economy post-COVID, how important is the resurgence of small businesses in Maryland?

The strength and enduring spirit of our state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs has shown us all what it means to be Maryland Strong.

When the pandemic struck, our administration acted swiftly and decisively. We provided more than $250 million in COVID-19 emergency relief through grants and loans to main street communities, the restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment industries, the manufacturing sector, and the nonprofit community. As a result, Maryland’s economy fared in the top 10 for states for pandemic recovery.

To keep that momentum, we have identified ways to reduce the cost of running a business in Maryland. In January, we eliminated the filing fee for businesses that submit their annual report online, making us the first state in the country to provide a zero-fee option for all businesses that submit this type of annual filing. In July, we announced a significant increase for personal property assessment exemptions — from $2,500 to $20,000 — which amounts to $55 million in tax relief for 42,000 of Maryland’s smallest businesses.

Small businesses need access to capital, therefore it is important that we help fund key initiatives to promote lasting economic impact in communities across the state. We provided a $198 million infusion to our State Small Business Credit Initiative, and $50 million in restoration and expansion funding for entrepreneurial spaces through the innovative Project Restore. These efforts truly demonstrate how important the small business community is to our economic stability statewide.

6. Should small business owners be paying attention to politics, and if so, why?

It can be difficult to remain engaged in politics — especially when the political climate is as polarized as it has been in recent years. However, it is important to stay informed on how political decisions could affect your business, as well as a way to stay connected, continue to grow, and learn about new opportunities.

7. At the end of the day, being governor was a job. What did you like best about the job?

There is so much that we have achieved over the years together and we have so much to be proud of. We were able to keep most of our businesses open during the COVID-19 crisis. We have invested in major revitalization and development projects statewide. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since before the pandemic; our economy is growing at its fastest rate since before the pandemic; and a national survey recently named Maryland as the most improved state for business in America.

For nearly eight years, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the state and see first-hand the dedication that Marylanders have to their communities. It has been extremely humbling to witness and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many people to make meaningful, lasting change — especially in areas that have been previously ignored or neglected. We made it our mission to change Maryland for the better — and through bipartisan effort and defying politics as usual — we have done exactly what we said we would do.

8. Will your entrepreneurial spirit be part of your next chapter?

Being an entrepreneur and businessperson will always influence my perspective and the way I approach finding solutions. Right now, I am laser-focused on finishing strong in these final months.

Minority Business/Expanding Opportunities cover

Expanding Opportunities

This article is featured in the 2022 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses that was published on Sept. 23. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities or read the digital edition.

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