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Loh urges ‘metropolitan’ thinking on Amazon headquarters

University of Maryland, College Park, President Wallace Loh speaks to the Greater Baltimore Committee. (Tim Curtis/ The Daily Record)

University of Maryland, College Park, President Wallace Loh speaks to the Greater Baltimore Committee. (Tim Curtis/ The Daily Record)

University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh asked Baltimore business leaders to consider the entire Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area as the university pursues a bid to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to College Park.

Loh, speaking at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s newsmaker breakfast, also touted the strength of the partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as a powerful economic development tool, one that can prove attractive to recruiting companies like Amazon.

“We’re in the middle of the Super Bowl of economic development,” Loh said about the Amazon recruitment. “We need to think in metropolitan terms. … Think about a barbell. That barbell connects the north, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the southern … that is (College Park and) the center for innovation for economic growth.”

Loh sees that partnership representing a boon not just for the Baltimore-Washington region, but maybe even the mid-Atlantic. He said that begins with the Interstate 95 corridor from Baltimore to Washington.

“We’re going to go after big projects such as the Amazon headquarters,” Loh said.

He also advocated a rethinking of the regional rivalries between the Baltimore and Washington regions. He argued that bringing the two communities together could provide a greater result.

“We just work together for common goals,” he said. “The reason has to be more than greater Baltimore, it has to be the entire corridor. In this day and age of global economy, you have to think in those terms.”

Tuesday, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III announced that three sites in Prince George’s County will bid for the Amazon’s headquarters project, expected to bring the winning region $5 billion in economic development and 50,000 jobs. In addition to College Park, Baker’s list included sites in Greenbelt and New Carrollton.

But Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has thrown his weight behind a proposal to bring the headquarters to Port Covington in Baltimore. Still, despite his personal preference for the Baltimore site, Hogan said his Department of Commerce would support any local jurisdiction that wants to put together a bid for the project.

Part of Loh’s pitch for the project is the partnership that has developed between the university’s College Park and Baltimore campuses. Loh said that in 20 years people will say that the most significant part of his tenure as president was “the strategic partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore.”

“The major issues of the day cannot be solved only from the perspective of a single discipline,” he said.

Under the partnership, which began between Loh and University of Maryland, Baltimore, President Jay Perman five years ago and was codified in state law this year, the results have been significant. Prior to the partnership just one professor held a joint appointment at both campuses. Now there are 70 joint appointments.

Under the UM Ventures program, the schools have gone from creating five companies in 2012 to creating 20 companies this year.

Overall, the university has generated $120 million in funding from an investment of $10 million in the partnership.

“One plus one does not equal two,” Loh said. “When you have a thriving relationship, it equals three or four.”

 


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