GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — Maryland is fighting for its future amid a changing economy and Gov. Martin O’Malley told business leaders Monday that the state must make choices that spur innovation and create jobs despite tough budgetary constraints.

The governor told the forum for the state’s business leaders that he wanted to hear how Maryland can support entrepreneurs and which programs are valuable to businesses and which need to be changed or eliminated. It’s the first of five forums on topics including education, sustainability and public safety to help shape the priorities of O’Malley’s second term.

“We’re all here today I think because we understand that in this changing new economy we are literally in a fight. We are in a competition or a fight for our children’s future,” O’Malley said. “And in this competition or fight there will be some states that win and there will be some states that lose.”

After discussions in smaller groups on the needs of high-tech, traditional, or small businesses and tourism, representatives reported back that businesses want the state to facilitate better access to capital, saying banks’ requirements can make it difficult for them to borrow.

Several groups called on the state to brand itself to attract businesses and skilled workers from outside its borders and communicate more effectively with companies that are already in Maryland.

“We have to push more information to small businesses because lot of opportunities go by because they’re not very familiar with programs in the state,” said Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow of Muldrow & Associates LLC.

Participants also want state government to streamline its regulatory process with the creation of a “one-stop shop” that would guide businesses through the tangle of regulations they face.

Karen Myers of Wisp Resort, who spoke on behalf of the group that focused on arts and tourism and other quality of life issues, said the state should “simplify or basically repeal the arcane and obsolete laws and regulations,” a suggestion that drew cheers and whistles from the crowd.

“The frustration with permitting and licensing is something that’s real and something that needs to be further broken down, pulled apart and rebuilt in a way that makes a lot more sense and is more understandable and more user-friendly,” O’Malley said after the forum. “There’s room for improvement in all of these things. A lot of it comes down to openness, transparency and accountability.”

But he warned that some of the aggravation with lengthy waits for approvals are due to the state’s layoffs and there is likely more of those cuts to come.

A final report produced from forum will be available to the public in early January.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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