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Towson University names new entrepreneurship director, who will oversee “StarTUp” armory venture

Towson University has named a new executive director of entrepreneurship, whose job will include overseeing the “StarTUp,” a business engagement center housed in the historic armory in Towson.

Patrick T. McQuown, the new director, will start at Towson University at the end of January. He comes from James Madison University, where he was the director of a center for entrepreneurship. In a statement, McQuown said he’s looking forward to starting at Towson and working to create a “world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

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In a statement, Daraius Irani, vice president of Towson’s Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, said the university is excited to welcome McQuown, who “brings a great deal of experience in building entrepreneurship programs at universities.”

Towson University announced in late March 2019 that it was working with the firm Greenberg Gibbons to develop the former Maryland National Guard Armory in Towson into a business engagement center.

University spokesman Sean Welsh said the school has a “long-term lease” for the space, and the cost of renovations is a part of that lease. He said he did not immediately have the terms of the lease available.

Towson University President Kim Schatzel said in an early December interview that she expects the business engagement center, located at 307 Washington Ave., to be operational by fall 2020.

“We’re an anchor institution. We’re committed to the success of the region and the state,” Schatzel said. “What we’re all about as a public university is to positively impact the state.”

The idea of the StarTUp is to serve as an incubator for developing businesses or nonprofits, to connect business leaders with each other, and to connect businesses with students interested in finding a job.

The basic concept isn’t new for the University System of Maryland. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has a center that houses external firms. The bwtech@UMBC is a research and technology park on the school’s campus that has more than 130 tenants in fields including energy, cybersecurity and health IT.

In an emailed statement, system Chancellor Robert Caret said it is important for Maryland universities to work together with businesses of all sizes.

“Business leaders in Maryland rely on us, support our institutions, mentor our students, and provide their expertise as we develop programs and facilities. It’s a relationship that works for everyone — and the state economy ultimately benefits,” Caret wrote.

Schatzel said the university has received a “tremendous” amount of interest from companies and nonprofits that want to be a part of the engagement center, but that Towson University is still “priming the pump” for the level of interest.

“You don’t see a lot of entrepreneurial job fairs,” said Schatzel, herself a former entrepreneur and marketing professor. “Students want to work for those firms. There’s a real strong interest for working for start-up companies.”

The exact shape and form of the space is still coming together, Schatzel said. But there are some things that she already has decided are necessary.

“It needs to have great coffee, lots of ability to charge and great Wi-Fi," Schatzel said.

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