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Nonprofit View: Autonomous corridor latest MAGIC development for ‘city of the future’ Westminster | COMMENTARY

What do you think of when you hear “City of the Future?” Maybe glass skyscrapers amid a high-tech utopia with citizens zipping around on Segways? Maybe you’re like my wife and you think of something more dystopian and post-apocalyptic?

My guess is none of you think of Downtown Westminster. But I believe our city is the perfect Goldilocks community in a post-pandemic world that isn’t too big or too small, just right for attracting an affluent workforce who can enjoy a walkable Main Street while leveraging our technology infrastructure of the fastest internet in the state of Maryland (maybe even the entire United States) and very soon our autonomous corridor.

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As a technology entrepreneur traveling to Silicon Valley, I have seen firsthand how a community like ours can become a technology powerhouse like Palo Alto or Mountain View. These towns in Silicon Valley were also once small train station towns in the shadow of nearby San Francisco and San Jose. It was the introduction of defense contractors like Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in the 1950s and ’60s, drawn by the low cost of living and high quality of life, that perpetuated workforce development with nearby Stanford University.

Similarly, in the early ’90′s, F&M Manufacturing in Hampstead was producing robotics components for Lockheed Martin and General Electric before being acquired by General Dynamics to create General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS), which operated out of Westminster until 2012.

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The closing of that office spun out Westminster-based autonomous technology companies Dynamic Dimension Technologies (DDT) and Land Sea Air, not to mention other GDRS alumni who remained local and now work for Textron, Robotic Research, Knorr-Brake, etc. This is the same pattern of branching seen from Shockley in Silicon Valley that gave birth to Fairchild Semiconductor, and then Intel, AMD, so on and so forth. Except instead of computer chip manufacturing, our braintrust is in robotics and autonomous technology.

This is why MAGIC’s economic development plan for the City of Westminster is called “Silicon Main Street” and why we are partnering with DDT and the city to lead the development of an autonomous corridor — an 11-mile route from Carroll Lutheran Village to the YMCA on Md. 97 that connects the businesses and residents in between with access to autonomous transportation and delivery.

It will also serve as the invisible infrastructure for simulations and assessments to help inform everything from public safety to public works. Our digital twin will attract investment and organizations looking for an autonomous technology sandbox to play in — a sandbox that will pay for itself.

On May 20, MAGIC will host an autonomous vehicle showcase at 29 W. Main Street in the parking lot of the old Stocksdale Garage (a juxtaposition that foreshadows the revitalization of Main Street). This event will also serve as the ribbon cutting ceremony to launch the scanning vehicle that will create the digital twin city. Attendance is by invitation only at the moment, pending changes in COVID-19 restrictions. More information at magicinc.org.

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Graham Dodge is the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory.

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”

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