Federal executive to head TEDCO

Singerman to help lead state's effort to seed a technology garden

August 13, 1999|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Maryland tapped an assistant secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department yesterday to help lead the state's bid to become a world-renowned technology hotbed.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said that Phillip A. Singerman, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for economic development, has been named the first president of the Maryland Science, Engineering and Technology Development Corp.

This agency, known as TEDCO, was created last year by the General Assembly to help private industry gain technological expertise from the state's universities.

Richard C. Mike Lewin, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development, said Singerman was chosen from 120 applicants.

"How often do you get the No. 1 economic development official in the nation to come start a program in a state?" Lewin asked. "His background just stood out so dramatically."

Singerman, 54, grew up in the Bronx and received degrees from Oberlin and Yale. He spent two years in the Peace Corps, living in the Colombian Andes and advising farmers and villagers on economic and community development issues.

After spending 12 years as the head of an industry-university partnership program in Pennsylvania, Singerman became the head of the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration in 1996.

In taking his newest position, he is leaving a federal agency with 250 employees and a $400 million budget for a fledgling state organization that has $650,000 in seed money.

"I don't measure my professional satisfaction on the size of the budget or the number of employees," he said.

Singerman said he was drawn to his new job in part by the direct role that state governments play in fostering new companies.

"States are the places where technological development occurs," he said, adding that one of his frustrations at the Commerce Department was the failure of the federal government to set up a program to help states boost high-technology programs.

Singerman, who lives in Bethesda with his wife and two sons, ages 15 and 12, will receive $150,000 a year. At the Commerce Department, his salary was $118,000. He will leave his federal position and begin his three-year TEDCO term after Labor Day.

The Economic Development Administration has its critics.

Aaron Taylor, a spokesman for the Washington-based Citizens Against Government Waste, said the federal program "has basically become a funnel for pork-barrel dollars."

However, Singerman and his supporters said that under his direction the economic development agency became leaner and more financially responsible.

Singerman "was able to cut down paperwork. He was able to get a clean accounting opinion -- that was the first time that had ever happened," said Ray Kammer, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg.

Kammer was the chief financial officer of the Commerce Department during part of Singerman's tenure there.

Pub Date: 8/13/99

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