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Path to Excellence Q&A: Kelly M. Schulz

Kelly M. Schulz

Kelly M. Schulz

In December, Governor Larry Hogan tapped Kelly M. Schulz to become the state’s next Secretary of Commerce after serving as the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation since 2015.

Before her appointment, Schulz represented Frederick County in the state’s House of Representatives for four years working on the economic matters committee. While in the private sector, Schulz partially-owned a cyber security firm, sold real estate and was a program manager for a defense contractor.

The Daily Record recently spoke with Schulz to discuss a variety of topics from her first months on the job to why Maryland can be an appealing state for female entrepreneurs and business owners.

Is there a success story that has happened since you took office that you are really proud of?

Schulz cites Kite Pharma’s February announcement that they are planning to build a nearly 300,000 square facility in Urbana potentially bringing in 900 jobs to Frederick County. A subsidiary of Gilead Sciences, the company develops cancer immunotherapy products.

SKS: Obviously Frederick is my hometown but that is not the only reason why it was exciting for me. Understanding the people that were here during the beginning processes of it and understanding how hard they worked. … As you start to see it (come to fruition) over a period of time to the point where everybody can take pride in what they have been able to do that is a very satisfying process.

What are some issues you hope to or have already tackled as Commerce Secretary?

SKS: I would say communication and collaboration. As much as we say that we want to communicate and collaborate with all of our stakeholders, sometimes we say that but there is never really the processes that are put into place in order to make that happen.

Our commerce subcabinet made up of our partnering state agencies have gotten together to put together our regional resource team. … Now there is a very formalized process on being able to collaborate with (different agencies). … Whomever is involved in that economic development process, our liaisons all across the state are working together everyday in order to be able to satisfy the needs and take away the barriers to businesses. … Just getting answers to businesses and constituents at a faster rate is something that seems to be a big success.

This magazine issue focuses on women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Why is Maryland a great state for women to start or own a business?

SKS: First of all, Maryland, in and of itself, is a great place for women to be. Whether you are a small entrepreneur or you are established in business, there is a great system of women and women mentors (who) understand what it takes to go out there and be a part of a very successful community.

I would say being a entrepreneurial woman (in the state) is even that much more exciting because we are starting to see many organizations pop up and focus directly on that entrepreneur. Women seem to be the most supportive of helping to assist other women. … (Women) definitely have resources that are available to them both through state agencies and the minority and women owned business organizations that are out there and set aside. But I think more importantly, they feel as if they have an ecosystem and infrastructure that is there to support them.

How do your years of experience in the public and private sector help you to better understand what residents are going through with their business needs?

SKS: Well I was a small business owner and I worked in that field so it is helpful now to understand (about) the confusion and the barriers (some face). Let me just tell you the state of Maryland has come a long way since then.

Having represented constituents when I was in the House of Delegates, I learned from that legislative branch as opposed to the executive branch what it takes to lead people through the process and help to find resources for them. Sometimes that is not easy so you want to bring that experience with you to say ‘Hey, this is a burden.’ We had to try to to get answers for our constituents.

Of course being at the Department of Labor for four years, I had a great opportunity to listen to the challenges that businesses had with their work force and different types of regulatory processes that they had to go through so now at the Department of Commerce, I am able to look at it from many different perspectives.

I am one individual but was able to see it from the private sector from the legislative branch from other state executive department agencies and now we can have a multifaceted way of looking at a problem and doing it very cohesively.

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.