Technology magnet in Montgomery Co. Center aims to give firms a good start


September 02, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Start with a 52,000-square-foot building in Rockville, add subsidized rents, blend in the know-how of the state's business and financial community, and simmer gently for three to five years.

Maryland and Montgomery County officials believe that's the recipe for adding home-grown biotechnology and information technology companies to the Interstate 270 corridor.

Those officials and about two dozen budding entrepreneurs attended a ceremonial "topping off" yesterday of the $4.5 million Maryland Technology Development Center. The one-story building, designed by Gaudreau Inc. of Baltimore, will provide offices, research and development space, 24 laboratories and four conference rooms for fledgling firms when it opens in January.

"We have become a magnet for some of the nation's leading technology firms," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "With this [incubator], we can create a climate that supports the needs of start-up businesses."

The county provided the land -- one of the last parcels in its 300-acre R&D village -- and about $250,000 annually for operating costs. The state is paying for construction. The new center replaces a smaller facility in Gaithersburg.

Typically, tenants have two or three employees and stay about three years, said Dyan Brasington, president of the High Technology Council of Maryland, which will manage the center after it opens.

Rents will be about one-third of market price: $1,900-$2,100 a month for a biotech lab and $200 to $1,000 for an office.

New business owners already are able to tap into a network of experts from the high technology council for advice on marketing, research and financing. The nurturing pushes the success rate for high-tech start-ups to 80 percent, compared with 20 percent for non-incubator companies, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development says.

The numbers were encouraging to potential entrepreneurs such as Dr. M. James Naughton, a scientist who works in McLean, Va. Naughton and a handful of colleagues involved in cancer research are weighing the security of working at a university against the independence of ownership.

"Montgomery County is where the [biotech] action is," Naughton said. "The strength of the incubator is, it draws together the dreamers and the doers."

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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