Marketing Maryland as a high-tech mecca

Essential development: Group aiming to bring more technology firms to state needs strong support.

August 15, 1999

TECHNOLOGY companies will play a major role in Maryland's future. That's why state officials have hired the top economic development official at the U.S. Department of Commerce to attract more technology companies.

Phillip A. Singerman left his post as an assistant secretary at Commerce to begin what amounts to a start-up venture for Maryland. He will be the first president of the Maryland Science, Engineering and Technology Development Corp., known as TEDCO.

The quasi-public group's purpose is to make Maryland a mecca for high-tech firms. While technology companies here employ 222,000 people, that represents only 16 percent of the state payroll.

Could Maryland become the next Silicon Valley? A growing number of experts think that's possible, but only if the state makes a major commitment to aggressive marketing and stronger tie-ins to research at state universities. Mr. Singerman's agency will be pivotal in elevating high-tech in Maryland.

He'll be working with university scientists and private-sector start-up "incubator" firms to commercialize technologies. TEDCO is structured so it can avoid governmental red tape and react immediately to customers' needs.

It also has the authority to finance, build or manage office space for technology companies.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening will have to commit substantial funds to TEDCO, at least initially, if he's serious about focusing on technology. Mr. Singerman's agency has a bare-bones budget of $650,000.

Jump-starting TEDCO is one of several steps taken by Richard C. Mike Lewin, secretary of Business and Economic Development, to shake up his department:

He's rearranging assignments to create marketing specialists in promising job-growth fields.

He hired retired Brig. Gen. J. Michael Hayes, the Marine Corps former assistant deputy chief of staff, to look after the interests of Maryland's military bases.

He has created an Office of Regulation and Analysis to identify laws and regulations that hamstring businesses.

He is consolidating a confusing array of 25 business-financing programs.

He is developing a statewide "site bank," complete with aerial maps, which is now sorely lacking.

Elevating technology in Maryland's economy is an important element of Mr. Lewin's strategy. So are more focused marketing efforts. With the Maryland economy in high gear, this is the time to zero in on ways to keep jobs flowing for years to come.

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