Two institutions of higher learning in Aberdeen formally signed an agreement Wednesday that they say will help bring new research and high-tech opportunities to Harford County.
University Center, a multi-purpose training and higher education facility formerly known as the HEAT Center, signed the agreement with Northeastern Maryland University Research Park, formed in 2010 to support research at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Danny DeMarinis, president of the research park, said after the signing that the partnership could mean new doctoral programs, internships and chemical-biological and cyber "institutes."
The research park would facilitate such programs while the University Center would implement them, he explained. The agreement would also help the organizations avoid duplication.
"I think this will accelerate things," he said.
DeMarinis signed the agreement with Dennis Golladay, president of Harford Community College, which oversees the University Center.
The partnership was a recommendation in a Battelle feasibility study for the university research park.
Battelle is also based at the University Center.
DeMarinis said the research park consists of about 22 staff members and advisers from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, Towson University and UMBC.
Golladay said just before the signing that one of the college's big drives has been to bring together all institutions of higher learning.
"We are starting to hit some significant steps," he said.
DeMarinis also said the Harford region "is such a rich and varied area in research," adding the research park pledged to be a major supporter of higher education.
"Hopefully with the signing, we can have a transformation in education in this region," he said.
Jim Richardson, Harford County's director of economic development, said the land the University Center is on will be up before Board of Estimates Thursday for purchase by the county for $1 from the state.
"After 23 years, we will finally own the land this building sits on," Richardson said, adding the park-and-ride parking lot would also be purchased.
If the purchase is approved, "we have the ability to expand this facility to a level we feel is appropriate," he said.
The purchase would ultimately still have to be approved by the state's Department of Public Works, which would not happen until this summer.
Richardson said the partnership is one in a series of "small steps."
He quoted the series "House of Cards," which had been partly filmed in Harford County.
"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time," he said.