UMBC park's first building up, running

RWD technology lab is headquarters for e-learning division

160 employees working

Collaboration with university researchers is goal

March 18, 2002|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

The sign on the side of the road reads "bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park," and just beyond that sign, the first building at the park will officially open its doors this week.

The RWD Applied Technology Laboratory's grand opening is scheduled for Friday. The building - adjacent to the campus of University of Maryland, Baltimore County - houses the headquarters of Latitude360, a division of Columbia-based RWD Technologies Inc.

But company officials envision a day when Latitude360 workers and university researchers work side-by-side in the three-story building.

David Yager, president of Latitude360, said the key is "to leverage the intellectual side of the university with the intellectual side of the corporate world."

About 160 Latitude360 employees are already working from the building. The company plans to hire another 40 or more workers by the end of the year.

The 63,000-square-foot building - with an interior in mostly shades of gray and an exterior with a splash of silver - is filled with computer labs, offices and glassed-in conference rooms.

Robert W. Deutsch, chairman and chief executive officer of RWD Technologies, said he likes having Latitude360 in a university environment because it promotes free thinking, and the atmosphere is more relaxed. "There's something about an academic place that's different," Deutsch said.

At the new building, for instance, the dress is more casual and the work hours more flexible, he said.

Deutsch and Yager said the company hopes university researchers whose interests match RWD's would eventually work on their projects at the new building or work as consultants for RWD Technologies.

Publicly held RWD Technologies has three divisions: one focusing on helping companies implement software that helps them run their businesses, one focusing on helping manufacturers work more efficiently and one focusing on technology and e-learning.

That last division is Latitude360, which - among other services - designs online training programs that can be updated and changed as the content of each program changes.

That division also designs Web sites and helps companies document processes on the computer. It could, for instance, build a system for a pharmaceutical company that would record each step as a drug went through approval by the Federal Drug Administration, Yager said.

The bwtech@UMBC research park is expected to eventually have five buildings that house 10 to 15 businesses and employ about 1,200, said Ellen Wiggins, executive director of the UMBC Research Park Corp., the nonprofit group overseeing the park's development.

A second, multitenant building is expected to start going up this fall, Wiggins said. The rest of the park should be built in the next five or six years, though that depends in part on the market, she said.

"I think that with any development, it's always really, really great news to have your first building completed and occupied," Wiggins said. "We think it's very significant, and we're very excited."

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