County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced two important projects to be included in his proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget, which will be presented to the County Council tomorrow.
At a press conference in the Gateway Business Park, Kittleman outlined plans to create the Howard County Innovation Center in the county-owned Gateway Building. He also announced plans to create a Community Resources Campus to further consolidate human services.
Under Kittleman’s plan, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), housing 24 start-up companies, will relocate to the Gateway Building, which is home to the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA). HCEDA operates the MCE, now located six miles away in a facility isolated from other businesses and amenities.
Last month, Kittleman announced his plan to transform the 920-acre Gateway Business Park in the heart of Columbia into an Innovation District over the next decade. Relocating the MCE to Gateway is one of the first tangible steps in establishing the district, he said.
“This consolidation of MCE with HCEDA will be the cornerstone, demonstrating our commitment to the Innovation District and future economic development in Howard County,” Kittleman said.
Kittleman’s second announcement involved moving four community-service based agencies out of the Gateway Building to a new Community Resources Campus four miles away off Patuxent Woods Drive, accessible through public transportation. These moves would take place over several months starting this summer.
“Last year we committed the necessary resources to creating a Nonprofit Center at this location, bringing together many nonprofits that were scattered throughout the county,” said Kittleman.
“We’re furthering our commitment by relocating our Department of Community Resources and Services, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of Human Rights and the Community Action Council to the same campus. This move will improve accessibility, accountability and coordination among all human service agencies,” he added.
Bita Dayhoff, president of the nonprofit Community Action Council of Howard County, said nonprofit leaders and service providers have advocated for this model of service delivery for 20 years.
“We serve 35,000 people a year, and that doesn’t even include everybody who is eligible,” she said. “People struggling to make ends meet, people who have to overcome a lot of barriers to receive services they desperately need. This consolidation to the Community Resources Campus is so important. It looks at our entire system from the lens of the client. It is truly customer focused.”
After moving the human services agencies out of Gateway, more than 45,000 square feet will become available for the Innovation Center, which will house EDA’s offices, 24 MCE companies, an incubator for high tech companies, an innovation lab, the Howard Tech Council and a business resource center.
Relocating these services will benefit the MCE, individuals using its services and the business community at large. The MCE will be located in close proximity to some of Howard County’s key technology partners, including Leidos, USRA, TEDCO, UMBC, CISCO and Tenable.
“We moved to the MCE in 2013. It has provided not only a great space to grow our company, but also provided the resources and connections that have contributed to our growth,” said Kirk Couser, CEO of NextLOGIK, an IT development and compliance solutions company. “We look forward to what lies ahead at the Innovation Center. Promoting a strong, connected business community at Gateway fosters economic vitality and helps Howard County excel as a whole.”
“This Innovation Center will be the connective tissue between great new commercial technology companies and established government services companies. We will create a tech hotbed here,” said Drew Cohen, President and CEO of MasterPeace Solutions, a government cyber, intelligence, IT company located in Gateway that also operates MasterPeace LaunchPad, a commercial startup technology accelerator. “We shouldn’t have to read stories about how great Silicon Valley is – we can have our own Silicon Valley right here.”
The County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed capital budget on Thursday, April 6 at 7 p.m., followed by a series of work sessions. The Council is expected to vote on the proposed operating and capital budgets on May 24, 2017.