Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled plans for a Maryland Technology Infrastructure Fund at his Opportunity Zone announcement last week. But this is something TEDCO has been planning for a while as it tries to find more ways for tech startups in Maryland to gain traction.
The infrastructure fund would allow Maryland to offer matching public funds for physical spaces like labs and research centers that could fuel Maryland’s startup economy.
“Here’s another fund that can participate in those regions to do some new things,” George Davis, president and CEO of TEDCO said. “The real key here is this money is matched and leveraged.”
Hogan released proposals last week to “supercharge” Maryland’s Opportunity Zones and make them more competitive nationally at attracting investment.
One of the proposals would be the Maryland Technology Infrastructure Fund, housed and staffed at TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation. The fund would likely be governed by a commission made up of members from the private and public sectors.
At first the fund will house about $16 million, but Davis described that as “a start.”
The hope is that the fund can act in concert with Opportunity Zone inducements to convince private backers to invest their money in building technology infrastructure across Maryland. Proposed facilities could include labs, cyber ranges and centers of excellence for technology.
TEDCO had been planning a fund like this for a while, but it dovetailed with what the governor was doing to boost Opportunity Zones.
The idea for all of them would be to create places where entrepreneurs, researchers, universities and the private sector could come together.
Davis compared the infrastructure’s potential to Kendall Square in Boston. The Cambridge development is adjacent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and includes high tech labs and houses offices for prominent companies, including Apple and Facebook.
Hubs like these could drive development of startups, investment and jobs in some of Maryland’s critical industries, including life science and cyber. TEDCO projects $500 million spent on innovation infrastructure could leverage $2.5-$4 billion in private activity and ultimately generate 40,000-55,000 jobs in life sciences and cyber-related industries over the next 10 years.
There is also hope that the funds the state provides will not just have a one-to-one match but rather anywhere from a three-to-five times multiplier effect, with some projects going even higher.
“This is not just state money. This is leveraging and matching private money, university money and government money, whatever it takes,” Davis said.
These hubs could have a multiplier effect attracting talent to the area. One need Davis has consistently identified for Maryland’s innovation economy is more leadership talent to help take startups through their life cycle.
But before the fund gets off the ground, it needs legislative approval. Davis started one-on-one meetings with legislators this week to build support for the fund. He is hoping to get it approved this year and start looking at applications by July.
If that happens, he has already started building support for what could be the fund’s first couple of projects, projects Davis called “no-brainers.”
“We’ve been soliciting opportunities,” Davis said. “We’ve been kind of socializing. We have some things teed up that I think we can move relatively quickly on.”