Brown ex­cited about ‘trans­for­ma­tional’ de­vel­op­ment

En­trepreneur­ship panel talks about col­lab­o­ra­tion, busi­ness cul­ture in county

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DARWIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­

Dar­rell Brown is ex­cited about a par­tic­u­lar land sale and fu­ture de­vel­op­ment in Charles County.

“I leave you with two words, and you’re go­ing to hear more about this later this morn­ing, and that is Green­berg Gib­bons,” the county’s di­rec­tor of econom- ic de­vel­op­ment said, wrap­ping up his open­ing re­marks at the depart­ment’s an­nual Fall Meet­ing in Wal­dorf.

Green­berg Gib­bons, a de­vel­oper known for “Towne Cen­tre” re­tail and hous­ing de­vel­op­ments

around Mary­land, has pur­chased Wal­dorf Sta- tion, a pro­posed 145-acre mixed-use project in Wal- dorf, ac­cord­ing to a com- pany press re­lease. The de­vel­op­ment is ex­pected to in­clude 500,000 square feet of re­tail and com­mer- cial space, 700 apart­ments and 100 town­homes.

“It’s go­ing to be, po­ten­tially, a trans­for­ma­tional de­vel­op­ment for the county,” Brown said in an in­ter­view dur­ing a break at the meet­ing.

He said his depart­ment has been work­ing with the de­vel­oper since Fe­bru­ary, though work on the project has yet to be­gin.

While large projects re­ceive the most at­ten­tion, the first panel dis­cus­sion at the meet­ing was about the fu­ture of en­trepreneur­ship in the county. The panel was mod­er­ated by Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land Pres­i­dent Brad Got­tfried, who es­tab­lished the En­tre­pre­neur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute at the col­lege ear­lier this year.

“Among the strate­gic plan rec­om­men­da­tions, un­der the head­ing of ex- ecute ef­fec­tively, is a rec- om­men­da­tion to create a cul­ture of en­tre­pre­neur- ship, es­pe­cially among our young,” said Mar­cia Keeth, deputy di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, in­tro­duc­ing the panel dis­cus­sion and ref­er­enc­ing the county’s five-year eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plan.

“As you know, as you’ve been hear­ing, en­trepreneur­ship is a cen­ter­piece of the new county strate­gic plan,” Got­tfried said in his open­ing re­marks.

“We all know that en­trepreneur­ship cre­ates jobs,” he said. “In some cases 64 to 70 per­cent of the jobs in an area are cre­ated in small busi­nesses. They pro­duce and com­mer­cial­ize high qual­ity in­no­va­tions.”

Three of the four panel mem­bers work di­rectly with en­trepreneurs and busi­nesses, while the fourth was Charles County Pub­lic Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill, who pointed out that “our 3,500 peo­ple spend their money in Charles County.” She added that 68 per­cent of sys­tem em­ploy­ees live in Charles.

She said the sys­tem strug­gles to find enough qual­i­fied teach­ers and has to look else­where out­side the state, ul­ti­mately at­tract­ing col­lege-ed­u­cated peo­ple who end up stay­ing and adding to the econ­omy.

“We need a lot of these peo­ple to come into our com­mu­nity to ed­u­cate our chil­dren,” she said. “Many of them come from Penn­syl­va­nia or Michi­gan or New York, and they say in their minds, ‘I’m go­ing to be here a year or two, get a lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence and go back home.’ What we found is that they don’t go back home, most of them.” She shared a video of vi­gnettes of teach­ers who came from else­where and ended up stay­ing.

“I want to try to shift the think­ing in Charles County from the school dis­trict be­ing just a con­sumer of dol­lars to the school dis­trict be­ing an eco­nomic en­gine, as well as the busi­nesses that are here,”

she said.

Panel mem­ber Ellen Flow­ers-Fields, re­gional di­rec­tor of the Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter lo­cated at CSM, said that her agency served 600 busi­nesses and po­ten­tial new busi­ness through­out the South­ern Mary­land re­gion in the last fis­cal year.

“What that tells us is that there is a ripe pipe­line of in­di­vid­u­als that are look­ing to es­tab­lish their busi­nesses here in the tri-county re­gion,” Flow­ers-Fields said. “We need to con­tinue to work with them to bring the re­sources to bear to en­sure that they can sup­port our lo­cal econ­omy by get­ting their busi­nesses off the ground.”

The SBDC pro­vides busi­ness coun­sel­ing as well as train­ing cour­ses through CSM. She said the train­ing cour­ses in en­trepreneur­ship have be­come a corner­stone in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

“Very of­ten, that en­tre­pre­neur­ial ed­u­ca­tion is what’s lack­ing, and so that sup­port is be­com­ing very im­por­tant,” she said.

Panel mem­ber Tom- my Lug­in­bill, di­rec­tor of CSM’s new En­tre­pre­neur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute, said he sees good things hap­pen­ing in South­ern Mary­land and that new ef­forts at col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pri­vate and pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tions can build on that.

“I’ve been all around the state, and this area has done a phe­nom­e­nal job pro­mot­ing en­tre­pre­neur- ship,” he said.

Lug­in­bill, a Mont­gom- ery County trans­plant now liv­ing in Dunkirk, has a back­ground in cre­at­ing busi­nesses, pri­mari- ly in con­junc­tion with the mil­i­tary. Along with the in­sti­tute, he’ll be teach­ing en­trepreneur­ship cour­ses at CSM.

He said that places around the coun­try that are suc­cess­ful in pro­mot­ing and sup­port­ing en­trepreneur­ship usu­ally have ac­tive “in­no­va­tion cen­ters.”

“At the cen­ter of each of these places is an ac- ademic in­sti­tu­tion,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been able to fig­ure out very quickly is that the South­ern Mary­land re­gion needs to rally around a higher ed­uca- tion in­sti­tute. We’re hop­ing that that’s the [En­tre­pre­neur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute].”

Panel mem­ber Kim Mozingo, the TechFire pro­gram man­ager at the En­er­get­ics Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter, echoed the gen­eral calls among all the panel mem­bers that con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion among stake­hold­ers and in­sti­tu­tions was needed to make an “en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tem” a re­al­ity, and that could start with a fo­cus on Naval Sup­port Fa- cil­ity In­dian Head.

Trans­fer­able in­tel­lec- tual prop­erty de­vel­oped in the re­search go­ing on there of­fers “op­por­tuni- ties to build busi­nesses around that,” Mozingo said. “Build­ing and grow- ing from there, part of it will be or­ganic, [and will de­pend] on what peo­ple’s in­ter­est and needs are.”

Speak­ing to the strate­gic plan, Flow­ers-Fields said the role of the var­i­ous agen­cies and govern­ment is to fa­cil­i­tate busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and help busi- ness own­ers down the path of suc­cess.

“Our im­por­tant role as a com­mu­nity is to iden­tify a roadmap that can ac­cel- er­ate the time it takes you from that con­cept that you’re think­ing about in your dreams at night, to mak­ing it a re­al­ity, con­nect­ing you with those re­sources,” she said.

Harry Shasho, a com­mer­cial real es­tate bro­ker/de­vel­oper in White Plains who was re­cently ap­pointed to the Mary- land Eco­nomic Devel- op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, had a ques­tion about the re­sources, specif­i­cally about fi­nances for start- ups and busi­nesses that want to ex­pand. He said for en­trepreneurs “most of their prob­lems are about fi­nanc­ing.”

Lug­in­bill, quot­ing from an ear­lier con­ver­sa­tion with Flow­ers-Fields and her col­leagues at SBDC, said that “the money will al­ways be there if the en- trepreneurs are pre­pared to get the money. As long as we’re pre­par­ing the en­trepreneurs to have the pitch ready to go, the bankers are not go­ing to have any trou­ble find­ing them.”

“One of the things I hear about in South­ern Mary­land is that we don’t have an ‘an­gel in­vestor’ net­work,” Got­tfried added, re­fer­ring to wealthy peo­ple able to in­vest in new and grow­ing busi­nesses. “There’s a lot of wealth in South­ern Mary­land, and maybe that’s some­thing we need to be think­ing about de­vel­op­ing in the fu­ture as a com­mu­nity to help grow our new en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity.”

While other points were made about in­still­ing the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit in young stu­dents, sup­port­ing the busi­nesses they will even­tu­ally create and at­tract­ing bud­ding en­trepreneurs from else­where by high­light­ing out­door ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able, Hill, a Charles County na­tive, said pride of place is an im­por­tant el­e­ment that needs to come out of all the work to­ward grow­ing en­trepreneurs and grow­ing busi­ness.

“We need to be proud of where we live and show that pride and demon­strate that pride with oth­ers around us,” she said. “Some­times in Charles County we’re our own worst en­e­mies, and we talk badly about our own in­sti­tu­tions. We are a great com­mu­nity.”

Staff photo by DARWIN WEIGEL

Dar­rell Brown, di­rec­tor of the county’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, de­liv­ers open­ing re­marks Tues­day at the depart­ment’s Fall Meet­ing in Wal­dorf.

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