Neuman, 46, says she is a “self-made person.” She was appointed by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman to replace Richard W. Story as director and CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. Story retired last month after a17-year tenure.
Neuman said on Friday she will begin work in early April.
Her first order of business, she said, will be to tour the county and meet with business owners to better learn what issues they are facing. She also plans to help boost technology companies in Columbia and monitor the town’s revitalization plan, expected to come before a vote in the County Council this week.
“I’m very results oriented,” Neuman said. “I’d like to get something set up like town hall meetings, get-togethers and breakfasts. I need to see what’s available to the business community.”
Neuman said her compelling personal story helped her get the job in Howard County.
Neuman grew up in Northeast Baltimore and attended both the Institute of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Preparatory School. She said she did not complete high school.
On Oct. 14, 1983, at age 18, Neuman said, she was raped by an intruder who broke into her apartment through an open window. The trauma of that experience set her life back for years, she said.
At her insistence, city police reopened her sexual assault case 19 years later, which led to the conviction of Alphonso William Hill in 2002 after he confessed to the assault. Hill received a 20-year sentence, with five years suspended.
In 2008, Hill pleaded guilty to six more first-degree rapes between 1978 and 1989 in Towson, and was sentenced to an additional 60 years in prison.
Neuman’s advocacy for rape victims is well known in the state. She pushed state legislators for a law requiring police to take DNA samples from suspects arrested for violent crimes, which was signed into effect in May 2008.
She said her life’s difficult path has also allowed her to forge ahead with determination.
“I tried to go back to school for a couple of years, but it was difficult financially,” she said of her life after the assault. “In my early 20s, I started working in the local business community and got a job at T. Rowe Price as an hourly worker. Over the years, I gravitated toward smaller companies because I was a hard worker and I could make the biggest impact there.”
In 1997, Neuman entered the MBA program at Loyola University Maryland, where she earned a degree in 2000. She also has completed the Executive Program at Stanford Business School.
Neuman has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being named an “Influential Marylander” and being selected as one of “Maryland’s Top 100 Women.” Both awards are sponsored by The Daily Record.
In 2000, Neuman was named CEO of Matrics Inc. The company, which develops radio frequency identification technology, was based in Columbia and was near bankruptcy when she took over, she said. It later moved to Rockville and was acquired in 2004 by Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol Technologies for $230 million in cash.
Neuman was later named executive director of the Chesapeake Innovation Center, the Annapolis incubator for technology startups focused on homeland security. She was also an entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Maryland.
Ulman said her diverse background made her the top candidate for the post.
“Laura’s involvement in so many levels of business development, from entry-level positions at T. Rowe Price all the way to CEO of a company that was based in Howard County before it was sold for $230 million, offers a glimpse into the drive and passion that make her the ideal leader of the Economic Development Authority,” he said.
Said Neuman: “This is an extremely exciting opportunity. Howard County has so many things going for it — they have a great school system and a great library system in place. It’s a great place to raise a family. The revitalization of Columbia will bring a new demographic here — a younger worker.”