GREENBELT – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot met with local business owners at the Greenbelt Business Coffee Meeting to update them on the state’s fiscal outlook and the effects of the recent government shutdown, on Feb. 27.
The meeting at the Greenbelt Municipal Building brought together about 30 local business owners and Greenbelt city government officials. According to Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis, the city has been holding these Business Coffee’s for a few years to bring together business owners for networking opportunities.
“We realize that we need to get to know all our Greenbelt businesses and you all need to get to know us and maybe meet other business owners in the area as well so that perhaps you can partner with each other,” Davis said to the group.
Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan was supposed to attend but had other last-minute obligations.
Regarding the impact of the 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in our country’s history that left thousands of federal employees and contractors out of pay, 172,000 of those workers were from Maryland, Franchot said.
Additionally, he said that about 5.4 percent of the workforce in the state work for the federal government and they collect $2 billion in federal withholding tax alone. Not to mention the contractors who missed out on pay that they will not get back. Because of this, Franchot said, the shutdown had a “toxic effect” on the Maryland economy.
“Even if it were absolutely necessary, which it wasn’t, the shutdown had a huge negative impact, and we’re just beginning to feel the emotional overflow from the shock of not being paid for two pay cycles in a row,” Franchot said. “Yes, I guess (we) get that money back, but we’re talking about $2 billion in income that was suddenly removed from the state’s economy, so people get shocked because they don’t think that will ever happen.”
Franchot said his office functions off of the “Three R’s” implemented during the beginning of his term in 2006 which are respect, respond and get results for the taxpayer. Since the comptroller’s office will process 3.5 million tax returns per year, collecting $17 billion in revenue, this becomes especially important.
All of those tax returns provide a view into the “real Maryland economy,” and to Franchot, the public budgets are secondary to private budget because it shows what impact the national economy has on families.
“We get some real insights into what’s going on with small businesses…We continue to see stagnation in wage growth and permanent long-term employment.”
Following his speech, there was a brief question and answer session from the business owners in attendance who wanted to know they could take advantage of the services and opportunities available to them through the comptroller’s office.
Part of that involves the office trying to provide outreach to the community.
“We are trying to modernize our integrated tax system, thanks to Comptroller Franchot, and we would love to have members of the business community participate in that process so we can get feedback from you on how we can make the system more business-friendly and more user-friendly,” said Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi.
Davis called the business community “the heart of Greenbelt” and representatives from those businesses and a variety of other organizations such as Analytic Design Solutions, Columbus Technology, Crown Plaza Greenbelt, First Data Corps, Greenbelt Community Foundation, NASA Goddard, the National Park Service, the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and more were in attendance.
Greenbelt Economic Development Coordinator Cherise Liggins, who has just entered into the position within the last few months, said that the city of Greenbelt is a great place with a “robust business community” and feels that connecting with business owners through events like the Business Coffee, is a great way to ensure that businesses can continue to grow.
“Really our goal is to continue to support businesses as they figure out ways to adapt to the 21st century,” she said. “Whether it’s through innovation or whether it’s through developing new types of businesses.”
Franchot said his goal for the rest of his term is to “focus on good government” which includes paying close attention to the state’s small businesses.
“We just need to focus on small businesses in particular and make sure that they get good customer service and that the rules and regulations that protect the public health are not impediments to their innovation.”