Com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion spurs in­no­va­tion, change

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land an­nounced it will lease the for­mer Ely’s Ware­house in the Town of In­dian Head for the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter, a one-of-its-kind fa­cil­ity that will en­com­pass an ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, re­search site and tech­nol­ogy incubator. Ren­o­va­tions on the space are an­tic­i­pated to be­gin this fall with launch pro­jected for sum­mer 2018.

The cen­ter is poised to serve as a cat­a­lyst for re­vi­tal­iz­ing the Town of In­dian Head. Once com­plete, the cen­ter will in­clude a co-work­ing space, train­ing fa­cil­i­ties, con­fer­ence rooms, and other ameni­ties, cre­at­ing a unique ecosys­tem for in­no­va­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter In­dian Head Ex­plo­sive Ord­nance Dis­posal Tech­ni­cal Di­vi­sion (NSWC IHEODTD) and civil­ians, in­clud­ing the area’s stu­dents.

While big ideas take time, they also re­quire col­lab­o­ra­tion to be­come re­al­ity. The Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter can trace its begin­nings back to com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion. In Au­gust 2015, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md. 5th) met with key stake­hold­ers in In­dian Head to learn about is­sues in the town, par­tic­u­larly re­lated to base op­er­a­tions and bar­ri­ers to growth. In that dis­cus­sion, Hoyer sug­gested a brain­storm­ing meet­ing to in­clude the area’s key play­ers — rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the base, town, county, state and pri­vate sec­tor.

A month later, the Charles County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment hosted the first meet­ing, which was fa­cil­i­tated by the Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Mil­i­tary Al­liance Coun­cil (MAC). In ad­di­tion to the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment and MAC mem­bers, at­ten­dees in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Con­gress­man Hoyer’s of­fice, the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment’s mil­i­tary af­fairs con­sul­tant, In­dian Head Mayor Bran­don Paulin, In­dian Head Town Man­ager Ryan Hicks, Mil­i­tary Af­fairs Of­fice of the Mary­land Depart­ment of Com­merce rep­re­sen­ta­tives, cur­rent base rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and for­mer base em­ploy­ees. NSWC lead­er­ship put forth the idea of an “in­no­va­tion lab” in the town, and the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter con­cept was born.

Meet­ings and dis­cus­sions con­tin­ued over the next months, and the project shifted from con­cept to re­al­ity when NSWC IHEODTD is­sued a Re­quest for In­for­ma­tion seek­ing part­ners for the in­no­va­tion lab. Un­der­stand­ing the im­pact the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter could have on re­de­vel­op­ment of In­dian Head, the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, and Town of In­dian Head col­lab­o­rated to pay for a ULI Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance Panel to help with re­de­vel­op­ment. Part­ners con­tin­ued to gather re­sources that could trans­form the idea into a re­al­ity.

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land re­sponded to the Re­quest for Pro­posal. At that point, plan­ning for the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter picked up mo­men­tum, se­cur­ing $200,000 fund­ing from Mary­land’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly, cre­at­ing a $1 mil­lion en­dow­ment — funded equally by the CSM Foun­da­tion and Mary­land Depart­ment of Com­merce — and most re­cently part­ner­ing with Mid-At­lantic De­vel­op­ment Part­ners to lease space for the cen­ter. Through part­ner­ships and col­lab­o­ra­tion, the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter is closer than ever to be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

Com­mu­ni­ties that col­lab­o­rate are the ones that ex­pe­ri­ence in­no­va­tion and change. Com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion was and con­tin­ues to be the driv­ing force be­hind the Ve­loc­ity Cen­ter. I con­grat­u­late the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land and all key stake­hold­ers who par­tic­i­pated.

Dar­rell Brown is the di­rec­tor of the Charles County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment.

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