Harford executive names liaison to $4 million technology center

Official gets appointment after businesses complain of poor management

January 26, 1999|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

In response to complaints about the management of Harford County's multimillion-dollar technology center, County Executive James M. Harkins has appointed a high economic development official to work as liaison between the center and his administration.

Robert Infussi, the county's deputy director of economic development, moved last week into an office at the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center (HEAT) near Aberdeen, and was to begin the job of increasing business participation and presence at the center.

Harkins has decided not to renew the contract of a consultant hired by the county to attract businesses to the HEAT Center, saying that having a government official at the site would better demonstrate the county's commitment to the center.

"We are looking to the future and moving ahead with the vision of the HEAT Center," Harkins said.

The $4 million, 11,000-square-foot center, overseen by Harford Community College, was opened in August 1995 on state-owned land at Interstate 95 and Route 22. It was designed to capitalize on resources at nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground, offering upper-level degree programs and conference and training sites for local businesses.

But in recent months, members of the business community have criticized the center's management. They have noted a lack of computers at the center and accused community college officials of mismanaging it and failing to pursue businesses aggressively.

College officials have called the accusations unfounded, chalking up the complaints to misunderstanding between HEAT management and former County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's administration. Rehrmann had urged Harkins to remove the community college as manager of the center.

Harkins said he recently toured the facility and that officials at the center are working to correct problems that led to the complaints.

"The computers are installed, and things are looking well," Harkins said.

Harkins said the appointment of Infussi is intended to strengthen links among the HEAT Center, local businesses and Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Infussi will work from an office at the HEAT Center and will work with APG officials and act as a liaison with technology businesses, Harkins said. Infussi worked as the director of government and community relations for Rehrmann and was briefly acting director of economic development for Harkins.

Dot Roller, a spokeswoman for the college, did not comment directly on Infussi's appointment or on criticism of the HEAT center's management. Roller said computers had been installed at the center and that day-to-day operations are being managed by a member of the college's faculty.

Warren Hartenstine, the consultant hired by the county two years ago as director of technology advancement and development at the HEAT Center, said he was surprised when he received a letter informing him that his contract would not be extended.

"It was abrupt," said Hartenstine, who worked closely with Rehrmann, under whose administration he was hired. "It came without warning."

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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