Bringing high-tech to Howard

November 03, 1993

The Baltimore-Washington corridor isn't a high-tech hot bed to rival Massachusetts' Route 128 or California's Silicon Valley. But it could be if the vision of business leaders in Baltimore City and Howard and Montgomery counties pans out.

Technology is the buzzword among companies, not just in our region but all across the country as well.

This happens as the U.S. economy shifts from one based on manufacturing and military contracts to one in which research and funding go into relatively new fields such as marine science, information services and process technologies (whose purpose is to modernize manufacturing methods).

To take advantage of this sea change in the economy, leaders of the technology committees of the Greater Baltimore Committee and the chambers of commerce of Howard and Montgomery counties have begun to place greater emphasis on boosting the profiles of the high-tech companies already in the region.

They're also trying to woo companies here. In Howard, special attention will be paid to smaller high-tech shops employing a dozen or so employees.

Howard County, with many incentives for businesses looking to move to the area, seems particularly well-positioned for a key role in an emerging technology haven. The county is located at the center of the nation's fourth largest urban corridor. It has a highly educated populace, said to include as many scientists with advanced degrees as any other East Coast locality.

It has an appealing mix of rural and urban communities, all served by top-notch public amenities. And next March, the public economic development office will be transformed into a public-private "authority" that is expected to improve relations between the local government and business interests.

Perhaps the greatest of these incentives is a matter of pure luck -- geography.

Howard County's proximity to Baltimore and Washington means the county has the luxury of attaching itself to either or both of these urban centers as they develop high-tech industries. Such an option is not available to, say, Baltimore or Harford counties.

It took decades for Route 128 and Silicon Valley to bloom. While local business and government leaders can't take that much time, their recent push to enhance the region's technology presence is on the right track.

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