Maryland Relies on Thriving Biosciences Industry
01 Aug, 2012
By David Hodes
Maryland has quickly become one of the largest and most dynamic life sciences centers of the country. They have tax incentives to help with the creation of jobs and the recovery of businesses — the Jobs Creation and Recovery Tax Credit passed in 2010 that gives Maryland businesses a $5,000 credit for every unemployed Marylander they put back to work — but there are other programs that are compelling for companies that are either expanding in the state or considering coming in, says Ursula Powidzki, director, Office of Business Development for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED).
One of the more widely used incentives is for biosciences. “There is the biotechnology investment incentive tax credit which is popular and really works with a company capitalizing on their growth,” Powidzki says. An individual or business may be allowed a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the amount contributed to a qualified Maryland biotechnology company, not to exceed $250,000. Qualified investors must contribute at least $25,000 in cash or cash-equivalent to a “qualified Maryland biotechnology company” that is certified by the DBED based on a number of criteria. Ten local biotech companies received nearly $6 million from local investors including 20/20 GeneSystems Inc. in Rockville, Creative MicroTech in Potomac and SynAm Vaccine in Gaithersburg.
Other incentive programs — such as the Maryland Venture Fund, a state-funded seed and early-stage equity fund that is an evergreen fund that receives annual allocations from the Maryland State Legislature — are of tremendous interest to companies that are growing rapidly or in early stage of development, Powidzki says. The bioinvestment tax credit is administered by the Maryland Biotechnology Center (MBC), along with a series of small investments and grants.
“They are essentially designed to move a company that is at an R & D stage toward commercialization,” Powidzki says. Other support comes from Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) Maryland Technology Transfer and Commercialization Fund, also created to work with life sciences firms at an early stage. Along with the large life sciences presence at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, which has a graduate program in life sciences, there is a “great deal of early stage financial support and resources here,” Powidzki says.
Industries And Innovations
Life science is top of the agenda in economic development in other areas of Montgomery County as well. The 300-acre Shady Grove Life Sciences Center has the largest concentration of advanced technology facilities, with Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Johns Hopkins University-Montgomery County Campus (JHU-MCC), the Universities at Shady Grove, and biotechnology companies such as Human Genome Sciences, BioReliance, and the J. Craig Venter Institute all located there. The federal government’s General Services Administration recently selected the JHU-MCC site for the National Cancer Institute’s consolidated headquarters. “It’s the hub of our life sciences center in the county,” says Steve Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. “It’s where human genome sciences are and that is an extraordinary opportunity for an expansion of our life sciences center.”
In addition to biosciences, Maryland’s industry clusters include: aerospace and defense; education and research; energy and sustainability; finance and professional services; hospitality and recreation; information and technology; manufacturing and production.
One sector in the state’s defense cluster that gaining quite a bit of traction is cyber security, Powidzki says. “We field a lot of interest from out of state firms in this area.” Maryland is a logical place for a cyber security firm because there is the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, representing a significant federal presence. “But increasingly, there is a growing community of cyber community firms which are involved in cross development,” Powidzki says, meaning that they create products not just for military and federal markets but also for commercial markets.
Jim Richardson, director of the office of economic development in Harford County says that you can’t talk about Harford County without talking about Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), a national resource for the Army and a center for excellence in science, technology, engineering and applied research just outside of Baltimore. It’s the Army’s oldest active proving ground and is at the forefront of technical achievements in national defense, intelligence, medical research, engineering and computer technology.
“That Base Realignment and Closure 2005 decision to have several federal installations relocated to APG gave us a great win,” Richardson says. By last count, there are 87 new defense contractors located in the county to do business with APG.
In Allegany County in the heart of western Maryland, Matthew Diaz, director of Allegany County Economic Development, says that the region is historically diverse, with the former heavy manufacturing sector transforming through the years to light manufacturing.
One of those firms is Hunter Douglas Northeast in Cumberland, makers of window blinds, where about 600 people work. American Woodmark, also in Cumberland, employs 350 in their cabinet manufacturing plant.
Talent And Education
Some of the country’s foremost universities and colleges are located in Maryland. Chief among these are the Loyola University-Maryland, comprised of the School of Education, the Sellinger School of Business and Management, and Loyola College — the university’s college of arts and sciences.
Johns Hopkins University has nearly 20,000 full-time and part-time students on three major campuses in Baltimore, one in Washington, D.C., one in Montgomery County, and facilities throughout the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, and in China and Italy.
There is also the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Allegany County developed a greenfield business industrial park in 2005, the Barton Business Park off I-68 on U.S. route 220, set up to attract advanced manufacturing firms, Diaz says. The park is south of Cumberland and adjacent to the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing.
That park is one of a series of eight business parks tailored to a diverse economy including information technology, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing. North Brand Industrial Park, the largest park in the county, is in the enterprise zone and has several sites available. A new technology park, Allegany Business Center, is adjacent to Frostburg State University and surrounds the newly constructed Appalachian Laboratory.
Says John Mason, business attraction and expansion manager for Dorchester County Economic Development, the county is aggressively marketing the newly opened Dorchester Regional Technology Park as a strategic location for innovative manufacturers, new startups and established technology firms. He says that a strategic collaborative partnership between federal, state, county and local stakeholders helped provide the funding to launch the project that could potentially spur new capital investment and create new economy jobs in the future for the county.
Montgomery County boasts the Strathmore Music Center, an 11-acre, 2,000-seat concert hall in North Bethesda. Other amenities include the Maryland SoccerPlex, which opened in October 2000 with 19 full-sized irrigated soccer fields, organized in clusters of four or five fields with parking and a comfort station for each cluster. “Half the county is green space, a third of the county is set aside as an agricultural reserve so its farming and open space here,” Silverman says.
Maryland is one state in the country that was able to absorb the hits from the economic decline over the last few years, but there is still a sense of recovery underway.
Powidzki says that in the macro and micro sense, economic development officials are hopefully optimistic that things will improve. “There are external risks such as the European debt crisis that may affect how business is done particularly for firms that export to those markets,” Powidzki says. “But I think that in the state, the fundamentals are sound. In the end, I think that is a good thing and will continue to diversify our economy.”