Center planned for homeland security firms

County-sponsored project to help start-up businesses

NSA location seen as key

Companies to receive entrepreneurial advice

April 11, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County leaders looking to create jobs have again turned to the emerging field of homeland security, announcing that the county's first government-sponsored business incubator will focus on assisting security start-ups.

The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., a county government-funded nonprofit, will open the Chesapeake Innovation Center in June, county officials said. The 24,000-square- foot facility being leased on Admiral Drive near Annapolis will be able to hold up to 15 fledgling companies.

While the incubator will not be entirely focused on homeland security, the county is promoting it as the first in the nation with such a focus. Another selling point: The National Security Agency, the intelligence agency based at Fort Meade, is located in the county.

"It just makes sense for us to focus on that right now," said Bill Badger, president and chief executive officer of the economic development corporation. "Being the home of [the NSA], you have to look at the homeland security sector. There's a lot of opportunity there."

County Executive Janet S. Owens and U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski also have led the push for locating the undersecretary of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection unit of the newly formed federal Homeland Security Department at Fort Meade.

The NSA will work in an advisory role for the companies who join the incubator, Badger said.

The goal of incubators, such as the Chesapeake Innovation Center, is to help small businesses - some with as few as one employee - grow into successful companies.

At the center, the start-ups will receive entrepreneurial advice from a corporation-hired director.

The tenants will pay rent, but the county's economic development corporation will provide office equipment and group meeting rooms, Badger said.

County government provided about $500,000 for the project this year, as well as $100,000 last year, Badger said. He said he hopes the incubator will grow so that an approximately $1.5 million annual budget can be paid for equally by government, private partners and tenants.

Badger said a consulting firm will evaluate the feasibility of potential companies and make recommendations to an advisory board, which is being assembled and will include local business leaders. It will decide which companies to accept.

In addition to security-focused firms, the incubator also will include communications and information technology companies, Badger said.

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