Marketing is also key to the EDA's success, Neuman said. As a part of Neuman's new marketing strategy, the EDA will launch a new website this fall.
"We want the public to understand the work that's done here and the value in (it)," she said.
Under Neuman's leadership, the EDA launched the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, which brings together several existing resources — the business incubator, the Business Resource Center, the Howard Technology Council and the Catalyst Loan Fund — with new initiatives aimed to help people bring their business ideas to life.
To help grow the center and other new EDA initiatives, Ulman has proposed to increase the organization's funding by 27 percent.
'Her own pair'
Howard County Chamber of Commerce President Pam Klahr said the chamber is partnering with EDA to help promote the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
"Her vision is far beyond Howard County; it's something they're really hoping to launch statewide," Klahr said.
Klahr said Neuman, who serves on the chamber's Board of Directors, "had giant shoes to fill when she came in, (and) that intimidated a lot of people.
"What I saw was that Laura, rather than try to fill those shoes, she put on her own pair," Klahr said.
Story, who is now the senior vice president for marketing at Columbia-based JPB Enterprises Inc., said he hasn't paid close attention to what Neuman is doing at the EDA.
"To give her own autonomy, I have deliberately stayed away from EDA events," he said.
Cathy Ward, EDA board chairwoman, said it's not fair to compare Neuman's leadership with Story's.
"They're two different styles," she said. "Dick Story met every goal that was ever set for him, and Laura is doing the same."
Ward said Neuman's "deep skill set in entrepreneurship" is her strength, but she was also a quick study of "the traditional economic development methodologies" like providing solutions for real estate development and land planning issues.
Others have also noted how Neuman's entrepreneurial background has set her apart.
"That's really quite helpful that she has the perspective to understand what business people think, how important it is in business to get quick responses, quick answers," said Scott Dorsey, chairman and CEO of Merritt Properties LLC, a Woodlawn-based developer that does a lot of work in Howard County.
He said Neuman is able to cut through the bureaucracy and tell businesses where they stand, rather than give the typical "we're working through the process" response.
Ulman, who nominated Neuman for the position last year after being impressed with her extensive private-sector experience, said he's really pleased with the job Neuman has done.
"She's got a new team with a lot of energy and a lot of drive toward business expansion and recruiting new companies," he said.
Ulman added, "It's hard to change the world overnight, but she's put a lot of key pieces in place to position us over the next couple of years to really thrive."