Proposed university research park discussed by Harford economic board

Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board member B. Danny DeMarinis explained the benefits of creating a university research park in the county during Wednesday's advisory board meeting in Aberdeen.

DeMarinis gave a presentation on a proposed Northeastern Maryland University Research Park, a college-like campus that would bring schools, government entities, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, and businesses together to promote higher education in certain fields.

Some Harford County business and education leaders have been discussing the prospects for such a development, although no potential sites have been publicly identified.

He explained that a university research park is important to Harford County, as it leverages base realignment, or BRAC, at APG to support research and development and people receiving degrees — undergraduate through post-doctorate — in Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), the chemical/biology field and others fields important to the local installation's missions.

Prior to BRAC, DeMarinis said, "APG was a $5 billion entity." With BRAC, "another $15 billion in acquisitions has been brought in," including the C4ISR operations that came from New Jersey.

"Ours would be national defense oriented," he said about the research park's focus.

DeMarinis went on to explain that the park's mission to strengthen that field through advanced degree opportunities and continued education in math, biochemistry, biotechnology and other areas is "critical to APG and other federal agency needs."

"There's a tremendous growth of education in the workforce in this area," he said.

DeMarinis said there are already ongoing education efforts from Harford Community College, Towson University, Aberdeen's HEAT center and Harford County Public Schools to encourage these programs.

Bylaws and a charter have been created in order to create a 501(C)(3), a nonprofit organization to develop the park, he said.

When the Maryland Higher Education Commissioner informed several institutions about the project, many were interested in becoming a part of it, DeMarinis said, including the University of Maryland in College Park, Johns Hopkins University, UMBC, Morgan State, Stevenson and Towson University.

A big part in succeeding, DeMarinis added, was to also get out-of-state colleges on board.

"Phase two would be making it a national reach," he explained. "This really would enrich our region."

Futures 11 Conference

Frank Mezzanotte, coordinator of magnet programs for Harford County Public Schools, also informed the advisory board of next year's Futures 11 conference, an event with workshops discussing topics relevant to high school juniors.

The event, geared toward educating and preparing students for different career fields, is hosted by HCPS and HCC and will be held next March 22 at Harford Technical High School. Topics of the workshops include college admissions, internships and apprenticeships, Facebook etiquette and preparing for job and interviews and fairs.

Businesses, such as Frito-Lay, Amanda's Florist in Havre de Grace and Barnes and Noble, participated in the conference this year, which had roughly 450 students attend.

The chamber of commerce, department of economic development and HCC have helped in "getting this off the ground," Mezzanotte said.

Renie Valenti, program specialist for Harford Technical High School, said 250 juniors from the school attended the event. Valenti said the students' feedback was mostly positive — they liked the sessions and speakers — but also wanted more topics relevant to their age group.

Valenti said they're looking to have speakers from the plumbing, hospitality, EMS and other fields for the March event.

Students who attend come from Harford Technical High School, the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School, biomedical sciences program at Bel Air High School, global studies and international baccalaureate program, as well as the academy of finance program at Edgewood High School and the homeland security and emergency preparedness program at Joppatowne High School.

Mezzanotte said the event committee is still looking for content specialists to act as speakers and presenters, as well as sponsorships to make up for costs of lunches and "take-aways" for students.

The cost of sponsoring one student is $25, and the sponsoring person or business will be recognized in the event program and all PR materials.

For more information, contact Mezzanotte at or 410-809-6069.

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