About 60 people from Baltimore, Cecil and Harford counties gathered Wednesday to participate in the next step of turning Harford's former HEAT Center into a university park that's a regional hub for technology.
"We've got to create a . . . sense of place about the Aberdeen Proving Ground region, the Aberdeen region, as a technology center," Mitchell Horowitz, vice president and managing director for the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice of Bethesda, said.
Horowitz presented the Feasibility Assessment and Action Plan for the research park Wednesday morning that offers a blueprint for the creation of a University Research Park in Harford County, which would serve the northeastern region of Maryland. The audience gathered in a meeting room in the University Center, formerly known as the Higher Education and Conference Center, or HEAT Center, campus in Aberdeen.
Horowitz had been hired by the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, a Harford County-based organization established to assist Harford, and surrounding communities in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, with making a smooth transition through the BRAC 2005 process.
He spoke about developing a research park which leveraged Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County's largest employer, Maryland's universities, local schools, and the variety of technology-based businesses spread around the county, to make Harford a center of research and development.
"The reach of Aberdeen Proving Ground goes further than we can imagine," Horowitz said.
The CSSC receives federal grants through the Office of Economic Adjustment, and grant money was used to pay Horowitz, along with matching funds from the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, said Karen Holt, manager of the CSSC.
The organization spent $80,000, including a $15,000 match from the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, for the first phase of the research park project, which was presented in January, Holt said.
The first phase involved "talent development" with APG, and developing partnerships with institutions of higher education.
"We don't want universities to serve Aberdeen from a distance," Horowitz said.
The second phase, which cost the CSSC $121,600, involved creating the feasibility study and a business plan, according to Holt.
She stressed a research park would not be a "bricks-and-mortar" institution in Harford County, but would be an entity used to coordinate among schools, universities, APG, the business community and governments.
"The ingredients are all there, but it's, how do we build upon that and build a university district or a technology corridor?" Holt explained.
Horowitz talked about other communities, which have developed research centers, such as Shady Grove in Montgomery County, or Dayton, Ohio, which has Wright-Patterson Air Force Base nearby.
He said communities in Oklahoma and Arkansas have attracted research and technology firms as well.
"I'm telling you if Arkansas can do it, and Oklahoma can do it, you can do it," he said of Harford County.
Horowitz said Aberdeen and Harford County should work to attract, not only large companies but also smaller, "emerging," companies.
"It's those emerging companies that really give you your mojo," he said.
He also stressed the need to develop the City of Aberdeen as a place for more people to live and work, a critical component of attracting new businesses.
"Some audience members asked about obtaining support from the state, and Horowitz stressed Aberdeen and Harford County should first work on their own, and not "wait for the state."
Del. Susan McComas, who represents Bel Air Sub-District 35B in the Maryland House of Delegates, attended Wednesday's meeting.
She said after the meeting that the state could not contribute money, but the University System of Maryland and the state's Office of Economic Development could provide expertise and assistance.
"Dollars are extremely tight right now," she said. "I think there's no spare change in the couch right now user the cushions."
She suggested local officials approach the state if any legislation would be needed to create a governing authority to oversee the development of the research park.
"We would be more in the assist role as opposed to the lead role," she said.
Harford County's Economic Development Advisory Board has been asked to "guide the process" locally, board Chairman Eric McLauchlin said.
"Because it's such a community-wide process, there's no one organization that's going to own it, but it does need coordination," he explained.