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Md. technology councils announce merger

Amid a superheated competition among states to develop thriving technology industries, the two dominant tech councils in Maryland are merging.

The Maryland Technology Council hopes to build on the bio-health strength of the Technology Council of Maryland and the cybersecurity underpinnings of the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council, said the organization’s new CEO.

“My ultimate goal is to make Maryland the greatest technology and bio-tech hub in the United States,” said Tami Howie, the CEO of the new council.

The merger was announced Tuesday night at the annual Maryland Policy and Leadership Dinner in Annapolis.

There was surprisingly little overlap between membership of the two organizations and between their respective focuses, Howie said. Prior to the merger, the Technology Council of Maryland had 350 members and was oriented to bio-health, while the Chesapeake organization’s 300 members were largely from the worlds of cybersecurity and general technology. Only about eight individuals were members of both, she said.

“This is an exciting and obvious next step for our region – bringing together two powerhouse councils under one roof to benefit the tech and life science industries in our region,” said Rene B. LaVigne, president and CEO of Iron Bow Industries and the chairman of the new organization. “We also believe that, together, we will create a larger technology footprint.”

Maryland is hardly alone in the urgent push to expand technology industries.

California has dominated the overall industry, with a 2015 technology payroll of $171.7 billion, well ahead of No. 2 Texas’ $58.3 billion, according to a report by the Computer Technology Industry Association.

Maryland, a much less populous state, was well down the list. Nonetheless, the importance of technology jobs was illustrated by the state’s status as the fourth-highest in terms of the concentration of technology workers, coming in behind only Massachusetts, Virginia and Colorado, the industry group found.

And these are high-paying jobs in fast-growing industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment in science, technology, engineering and math careers grew by 10.5 percent between May 2009 and May 2015, compared with 5.2 percent net growth in non-STEM occupations.

Officials in Maryland have long touted what they see are unique advantages in the state: the proximity to the National Security Agency and other federal cybersecurity and technology agencies; a host of well-regarded higher education and research institutions such as Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory; and a well-educated and entrepreneurial workforce.

The state’s industry got a shot in the arm in late 2015 when Tenable Network Security of Columbia, a provider of next-generation cybersecurity software, received a $250 million infusion of funding, one of the largest venture capital rounds in the country.

Howie said the new council plans a number of initiatives to build on those attributes.

  • Joint programs with TEDCO, an independent agency created by the state to nurture innovation, to drive more financial investments into startups.
  • A statewide technology internship program developed in conjunction with universities and colleges.
  • Closer ties with the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland and with such bio-health private companies as MedImmune.

Howie said the council will also push for an angel investor tax credit, a proposal that has been aggressively backed as well by the Greater Baltimore Committee. State legislators have not embraced that measure thus far, but Howie said she thinks the value of the tax credit as a boon for job creators may prove to be persuasive.

The tech councils’ merger talks began in March and picked up steam in September, Howie said.

The new council will have a board of 62 members, “whittled down” from the more than 80 that were on the combined boards previously. Because some jobs on the councils had been left unfilled, the professional staff of 16 on the merged organization means there will be no layoffs, she said.

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