CSM in­sti­tute aims to grow an eco­nomic ecosys­tem

En­trepreneur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute could help spur growth in re­gion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com

While Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) was busy last year pro­claim­ing Mary­land “open for busi­ness,” and re­struc­tur­ing the old de­part­ment of busi­ness and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment into the Mary- land De­part­ment of Com­merce, Col- lege of South­ern Mary­land Pres­i­dent Brad Got­tfried was piec­ing to­gether a re­gional ef­fort to help spur eco­nomic growth and cre­ate a cul­ture of en­trepreneur­ship in South­ern Mary­land.

This past July, af­ter a cou­ple of years of work, CSM for­mally launched the En­trepreneur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute — the lat­est of sev­eral in­sti­tutes de­signed to weave the grow­ing col­lege into the com­mu­nity ta­pes­try of the three coun­ties it serves.

“I was see­ing that en­trepreneur­ship was so im­por­tant to South­ern Mary­land,” Got­tfried said in a re­cent in­ter­view at his of­fice on the La Plata cam­pus, sit­ting be­side the new in­sti­tute’s di­rec­tor, Tommy Lug­in­bill. “I saw that we were never go­ing to have Mar­riott head­quar­ters com­ing to South­ern Mary­land. What would cause us to pros­per would be to en­cour­age en­trepreneurial ac­tiv­ity — whether it’s as­so­ci­ated with the bases, whether it’s as­so­ci­ated with the power plants, whether it’s as­so­ci­ated with sim­ply cit­i­zens who have great ideas and want to start a new busi­ness, or grow their busi­nesses.”

Dar­rell Brown couldn’t agree more. The Charles County eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor es­sen­tially echoed that sen­ti­ment in a brief in­ter­view be­fore the de­part­ment’s fall meet­ing ear­lier this month.

“We think this is the type of

part­ner­ship, in­sti­tute that ties into our tar­geted in- dus­tries that will have a mean­ing­ful ef­fect on job cre­ation,” Brown said of the ef­fort. “With­out en­trepreneurs, we can’t grow our econ­omy and our base. You grow from within. You take what you have and you nur­ture that, you sup­port that — and that’s our en­trepreneurs.”

Brown and his staff re­cently com­pleted a five-year strate­gic plan to make a strong push to­ward ex­pand­ing the eco­nomic base, and are now en­ter­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion phase. In light of that, the CSM in­sti­tute couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time.

“I see it as be­com­ing the cen­tral driv­ing force to bring to­gether all the pieces and iden­ti­fy­ing the gaps in our en­trepreneurial ecosys­tem, and help­ing us fill those gaps — and help us func­tion more col­lab­o­ra­tively,” said Mar­cia Keeth, the deputy di­rec­tor un­der Brown and a mem­ber of the in­sti­tute’s Charles ad­vi­sory board. There are ad­vi­sory boards in each county.

Chris Kase­lemis, di- rec­tor of the St. Mary’s County De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, echoed much the same thing. His de­part­ment is work­ing on a strate­gic plan that may be un­veiled in De­cem­ber.

“We re­al­ize that we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to get most of our jobs in the fu­ture from cre­at­ing our own com­pa­nies, help­ing new star­tups and help­ing busi­ness we have here ex­pand, ver­sus get- ting com­pa­nies to move down here,” Kase­lemis, who is on the St. Mary’s ad­vi­sory board, said. “We still try to do that, and there will be some, hope­fully, but that’s not what we bank on.”

And that’s mu­sic to Got­tfried’s ears.

“It’s shock­ing how much is go­ing on here, but it’s so dif­fuse,” Got­tfried said, talk­ing of the var­i­ous ef­forts in the three coun­ties. “There’s no uni­fy­ing force that’s bring­ing every­thing to­gether, and that’s what this idea is. We all be­lieve that if we can har­ness en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion, this com­mu­nity, this South­ern Mary­land, will re­ally thrive.”

In­sti­tutes for out­reach

The new in­sti­tute comes on the heels of two suc- cesses and two fail­ures, Got­tfried said. The first, a fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy in­sti- tute called Money Smart, was started to of­fer res­i­dents and stu­dents free work­shops on man­ag­ing money. “The prob­lem was, in some cases, there were more pro­fes­sion­als at some of these ses­sions than there were at­ten­dees,” he said.

Af­ter clos­ing that one, he started a STEM (sci- ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi- neer­ing and math) in­sti- tute to help co­or­di­nate such ac­tiv­i­ties around the re­gion and host com­peti- tions. “That’s sort of still limp­ing along,” he said.

The first suc­cess was the Non­profit In­sti­tute, which acts as a sort of clear­ing- house for the re­gion’s non­prof­its. Through the in­sti­tute, the col­lege pro­vides reg­u­lar ex­ec­u­tive and vol­un­teer ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions and get-to­geth­ers, and helps South­ern Mary­land non­profit agen- cies at­tract vol­un­teers and do­na­tions through on­line por­tals. “That’s been very suc­cess­ful,” Got­tfried said. “I’m very proud of that one, the Non­profit In- sti­tute. It’s been go­ing for at least four years.”

The next suc­cess was the cre­ation of the Di­ver­sity In­sti­tute, which is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Charles County to pro­vide di­ver­sity train­ing and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment in a county that has tran- sitioned into a ma­jor­ity mi­nor­ity ju­ris­dic­tion.

While the last two have proven suc­cess­ful, Got­tfried has high hopes for the EII.

“It’s look­ing to be the strong­est of all of them,” he said. “The three more re­cent ones are go­ing very, very strong. And what they all have in com­mon is they all have staff as­so­ci­ated with them, paid staff. That makes the big dif­fer­ence.”

En­dow­ing the fu­ture

Michael J. Chiara­mon- te, a long­time South­ern Mary­land busi­ness­man who now keeps an of- fice in Alexan­dria, Va., stepped up to the plate and do­nated $250,000 to start the in­sti­tute’s en- dow­ment. His fa­ther, who died three years ago, had given the col­lege $1 mil- lion for a schol­ar­ship en- dow­ment in 2008 — there is now the Fran­cis P. Chi- ara­monte, MD Cen­ter for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy on the La Plata cam­pus.

Michael Chiara­monte grew up in Clin­ton where his fam­ily owned South­ern Mary­land Hos­pi­tal, which he would run for 27 years be­fore its sale to MedS­tar. “We’re re­ally South­ern Mary­lan­ders, first and fore­most,” Chi- ara­monte said in a phone in­ter­view. “We’ve been big fans of the col­lege for years.”

It was in this re­gion that he started more than 15 mostly health care-re­lat- ed busi­nesses stretch­ing back to the 1980s. And it’s those ex­pe­ri­ences he hopes to share with fel­low South­ern Mary­lan­ders, both through the do­na­tion and as one of the in­sti­tute’s busi­ness men­tors.

“Why do this? It was to of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to young en­trepreneurs to gain the in­sight and knowl­edge nec­es­sary to start a new busi­ness,” he said. “Young peo­ple, if you query them, they re­ally want to be en­trepreneurs.”

Got­tfried said it only took a cou­ple of lunches to get Chiara­monte on board.

“He re­ally did get it started,” Got­tfried said. “It was be­tween that and the fac­ulty po­si­tion that re­ally got this off the ground.”

Got­tfried used an open fac­ulty po­si­tion to hire the first di­rec­tor, a 29-year-old Mary­lan­der with ex­peri- ence in en­trepreneur­ship. Tommy Lug­in­bill started in July and has spent the last four months meet­ing peo­ple and lis­ten­ing at ad­vi­sory board meet­ings. He’s also teach­ing an eco­nomics class and will take over the “so­cial en­trepreneur­ship” class in the spring.

“Something very tangi- ble, that I think mar­ries the en­trepreneur­ship in­sti­tute to the Non­profit In­sti­tute, is the so­cial en- trepreneur­ship class I’m teach­ing in the spring,” Lug­in­bill said. “In my mind, en­trepreneur­ship and non­prof­its kind of go hand in hand. A well-run non­profit is run ex­actly the same way as a well­run for-profit.”

Work­force de­vel­op­ment

“I think it’s an­other step in the right di­rec- tion for the col­lege,” said Bill Cham­bers, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com- merce. “They’ve been chal­lenged to get more in­volved in work­force de­vel­op­ment.”

Cham­bers said Calvert’s needs are more dire than those of the other two coun­ties. With “stag­nant growth in this county, we have an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, de­clin­ing school en­roll- ment. We are not headed in a re­ally pretty di­rec- tion right now,” he said. “There needs to be ev­ery com­po­nent, in­clud­ing the col­lege, in­volved in try- ing to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful, sus­tain­able county.”

He’s hop­ing the ex- is­tence of the in­sti­tute might it­self be­come a busi­ness mag­net.

“It’s nec­es­sary and needed,” he said. “Work- force de­vel­op­ment is a real is­sue, es­pe­cially in a county like ours that isn’t pro­duc­ing a whole lot of new jobs. Maybe this will be the egg be­fore the chicken. Maybe we’ll get em­ploy­ers to take a look at lo­cat­ing in Calvert if they feel as though we’re ad­dress­ing some of these is­sues — en­trepreneur- ship, in­no­va­tion, work- force is­sues.”

Got­tfried said his vi- sion for the in­sti­tute is to let the county ad­vi­sory boards — which in­clude en­trepreneurs — and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lead­ers set the agenda to keep it from be­com­ing a top-down or­ga­ni­za­tion. The care­ful se­lec­tion of its first di­rec­tor was meant to en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion and avoid ter­ri­to­ri­al­ity.

“We’re bring­ing every­one un­der the tent rather than say­ing we have a sep­a­rate tent,” Got­tfried said. “What I like so much about Tommy is that he is non-threat­en­ing, he is very col­lab­o­ra­tive. You sit across from him and you can tell he wants to help. Not every­one has that kind of per­son­al­ity.”

Lug­in­bill’s an­swer to the ques­tion of what the in­sti­tute will ac­com­plish in its first year un­der­scored Got­tfried’s sum­ma­tion of him.

“What I see in one year, is that we have been suc­cess­ful in bring­ing every­body to­gether — an on­line pres­ence where every­one can come to­gether and a phys­i­cal pres­ence where we can all come to­gether — but mostly a men­tal­ity that every­body’s work­ing to­gether,” Lug­in­bill said. “That means we are truly suc­cess­ful in a year. Once every­one agrees we’re all col­lab­o­rat­ing, then we’ve done a good job.”

Oth­ers are hop­ing for the same. Nearly every­one in­ter­viewed men­tioned the de­sire for col­lab­o­ra­tion and stressed the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing an en­trepreneurial ecosys­tem when asked about what role the in­sti­tute should play in the three coun­ties.

“We sup­port each other, but I don’t think we’re as col­lab­o­ra­tive as we can be and should be,” Keeth said. “I think that CSM, and both Dr. Got­tfried and Tommy, have the vi­sion to pull it all to­gether.”

“I think it’s go­ing to have to be a group ef­fort. We can’t be in si­los on this, we’ve got to work to­gether,” Cham­bers said. “I think this is an im­por­tant piece.”

“I think that’s good that we’re all start­ing to say the same things,” Kase­lemis said. “When peo­ple are speak­ing with one voice, that shows that there’s something there. If we’re all pulling in the same di­rec­tion, that’s go­ing to help.”

Got­tfried, who is less than a year away from re­tire­ment, hopes the EII will have a life of its own and grow into what­ever South­ern Mary­land’s econ­omy and busi­ness com­mu­nity need.

“Ul­ti­mately, what will hap­pen as this grows is, there’s no ques­tion in my mind, this will be more than Tommy — this will be a va­ri­ety of in­struc­tors, of staff mem­bers, who will be out in the com­mu­nity,” he said. “I could see this re­ally res­onat­ing in a way even be­yond my ex­pec­ta­tions.”

“I do re­ally be­lieve that this [area] could be a na­tional model of how a re­gion can re­ally work to­gether to pro­mote eco­nomic health and well-be­ing,” he added. “I think that’s the bot­tom line.”


Tommy Lug­in­bill is the di­rec­tor of CSM’s new En­trepreneur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute.


Dar­rell Brown, di­rec­tor of Charles County’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment, de­liv­ers open­ing re­marks Nov. 1 at the de­part­ment’s fall meet­ing in Wal­dorf.


Tommy Lug­in­bill, left, di­rec­tor of CSM’s En­trepreneur and In­no­va­tion In­sti­tute, and CSM Pres­i­dent Brad Got­tfried pose for a pic­ture.

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