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Cyber is helping to re-brand Baltimore

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After years of redevelopment challenges, South Baltimore’s 235-acre Port Covington site is on its way to becoming a major economic center.  News of a branded “Cyber Town USA” was announced in mid-October, with some high-profile companies immediately joining the start-up project as tenants. Adam Bednar of The Daily Record covered the developers’ launch announcement event in an Oct. 18 article, “Port Covington Seeks to be Cyber Town USA.”

From a marketing and brand perspective, this emerging success story is central to advancing Baltimore’s national and local reputation. Make no mistake: The Baltimore brand is critically relevant to the state and all its businesses and residents.

As my wise friend and colleague Aris Mellisaratos notes, “the best the city and state can do to secure (future) economic development is to expand strategic investment.” Aris should know. As a longtime champion of Maryland manufacturing and as current dean of Stevenson University’s Brown School of Business and Leadership, he actively believes investment — especially in higher education research technologies — can be commercialized to substantially improve the region’s standard of living. Tech innovation and entrepreneurship offer vast opportunities for Maryland’s highly educated workforce and cutting-edge research institutions.

Strategic investment at the estimated $5.5 billion mixed-use waterfront site at Port Covington is becoming a reality with the recent announcement that the cybersecurity and technology hub secured an initial three tenants (DataTribe, AllegisCyber and Evergreen Advisors), two relocating from Silicon Valley. There is a reported $400 million cybersecurity investment fund attached. Nearly 30 additional firms are in discussion for space for a projected 500-600 employees by the planned tech center’s 2020 opening.

In addition to a strong data science and engineering work pool available in Maryland, how is the Port Covington “Cyber Town” brand attracting tenants? The waterfront area is a “first-of-its-kind cyber ecosystem,” said Marc Weller, president and founding partner of the site’s Weller Development at the October announcement event.

It’s hard to imagine millennials not liking this work space. Already located and operating at the site is UnderArmour’s colorful headquarters, The Baltimore Sun offices and printing plant, the sparkling Sagamore Rye Distillery, and the popular Rye St. Tavern Restaurant. Outdoor walking areas and the plans for contemporary apartments and residences add to the ambience. Easy access to Interstate 95 and a host of additional popular downtown Baltimore residential and lifestyle amenities add to the appeal.

State support

The state’s relevant overall theme for supporting the brand is Maryland: Where Cyber Works. The accompanying website, marylandcyberworks.com, effectively showcases why the state and its technical workforce numbers support this promotional push. For example, in 2018, Maryland universities are reported to have graduated 7,202 students with various degrees in computer and data science. This number is reputedly the highest in the United States.

The website branding touts quality of life with lower costs of living, a proximity to nature and cultural diversity and significant proximity to federal technology agencies. Weller Development is actively marketing the Port Covington site nationally, and its strong start with the announced initial tenants for the cyber complex is significant for the city’s growth plans and advances its reputation.

Adding to the branding support, the just-released national study prepared by Tech Town Index helpfully places Baltimore in the Top 20 cities for techies to work. Ranked at No. 16 but with a median salary range of $93,000 and expected job growth of 8 percent, the good-news stories are real and will likely continue to improve the city and state, with Port Covington’s important project leading the way.

Hopefully the state will stay committed to this effort and support both “Cyber Town” and “Maryland: Where Cyber Works” promotional campaigns for the long run. Branding takes focus and commitment.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at [email protected]