Ambitious Towson University hires ambitious businesswoman

June 14, 2005|By BILL ATKINSON

TOWSON University wants respect.

Unhappy operating in the shadows of Johns Hopkins, Maryland and even Loyola in business education, it is spending the cash to bring in talent and add programs that it hopes will make people take it seriously.

It angered Morgan State University officials with plans to offer a master's in business administration program. It unveiled a plan to launch an international incubator that it hopes one day will house start-up companies that do business around the world. And now, the school has hired Dyan Brasington, an economic development and technology expert, to help build the university into a resource center for businesses and entrepreneurs.

"We want to make the connection, we want to be integrated ... into the business community," said Brasington, 53, director of the university's Economic and Workforce Development group, a newly created post.

She sees Towson as a place where entrepreneurs can come to launch new companies, where technology can be developed and put to use by businesses, where executives can come for help when they need to solve problems. She envisions courses, workshops and programs designed to help students, faculty and business people.

One of her jobs is to oversee the incubator. The university has been awarded about $300,000 by the Small Business Administration for the project, and a feasibility study is in the works.

"I think there are a lot of opportunities," she said.

Brasington also oversees RESI, the consulting arm that once had international aspirations and more than 100 employees. Now much diminished, RESI has about 20 employees but still offers consulting services and forecasts the economy.

Before being hired at Towson late last year, Brasington ran the Technology Council of Maryland for 10 years, was executive director of the West Virginia Department of Community and Economic Development from 1992 through 1994, and worked as director of economic development in Howard County.

She also sits on the board of the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and is a founding member of the Maryland Angels Council LLC, which raises money for startup companies.

"We didn't think we could get somebody wrapped up who could do all of these things," said Jim Clements, Brasington's boss and head of Towson's Division of Economic and Community Outreach. "I thought it was a great catch."

Outsiders think so, too.

Brasington "is the kind of person that the university needs to bridge the gap from the academic world to the business world," said Anirban Basu, chief executive of Sage Policy Group, a Baltimore economic consulting firm, and former director of applied economics at RESI. "She is very well known in the technology community."

She's "very visionary," says Richard Story, chief executive officer of Howard County's Economic Development Authority, who has known her for 25 years. "Dyan is a creator. She is able to get people to mobilize and do things together."

Brasington acknowledges the job is demanding and she is juggling a number of projects at once.

"I have my hands around my throat," she joked. "A lot of things are evolving and beginning to take shape. We are coming of age at Towson."

Sure, their value to the big Baltimore asset manager has waned over the years, and rumors are hot that they are on the block as part of a deal with Citigroup, but Legg Mason brokers can still shine.

Barron's, in its latest edition, listed six Legg brokers among the 100 best wealth advisers in the country. The brokers were picked by consultant and brokerage expert R.J. Shook, who sifted through 7,000 nominations.

Shook interviewed the firms, brokers, clients and reviewed regulatory records. He quizzed the brokers on their knowledge of products, investing approach and calculated the assets they manage and revenue they bring into their companies.

The Legg brokers that made the list were: Marvin McIntyre, Washington, D.C.; Harry Ford Jr., Baltimore; Thomas Hill, Easton; Gregory Hurlbrink, Baltimore; James Snyder, Bowie; and Charlie Graham, Gaithersburg.

McIntyre led the way, placing sixth with $2.5 billion in assets under management and an overall ranking of 9.517 out of a perfect 10, Barron's said.

Al Berkeley's grand experiment seems to be working.

The former president of Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. and a former investment banker with Alex. Brown Inc., started his own stock market 10 months ago. It's a tough business and there are plenty of examples of disasters, but Berkeley's Pipeline Trading Systems in New York appears to be going strong.

Pipeline, which was trading a couple million shares a day when it opened, now has days when nearly 15 million shares are traded.

"We ... are happy," said Berkeley, who commutes to work from his Roland Park home.

Pipeline has more than 120 customers and 50 more say they want to try out the system, Berkeley said.

"It is going faster than we expected," he said. "We are sort of moving beyond that stage where customers have one person trying it out."

Bill Atkinson's column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 410-332-6961 or by e-mail at bill.atkinson@balt sun.com.

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