Community collaboration spurs innovation, change
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.