The state's new economic development chief has seen the haves and have-nots of Maryland, having worked in that capacity in both Allegany and Montgomery counties.
That's why David W. Edgerley is the right person for the job, say state officials and business leaders.
"He's a true economic development professional," said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which represents regional business and civic leaders.
Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Edgerley's appointment as secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development yesterday in Annapolis.
O'Malley said Edgerley's experience in two counties as different as Allegany and Montgomery gives him a broad perspective on the challenges Maryland faces as it confronts a globalized, information-age economy.
In Allegany, Edgerley had to cope with a mountainous county in the western reaches of Maryland that steadily bled manufacturing jobs; in Montgomery, he saw the job-generating power of technology and knowledge-based businesses, O'Malley said.
"David comes to us with an understanding of one Maryland, the great strengths we have on one hand and the great challenges we have on the other," O'Malley said.
In his remarks, Edgerley said he plans to capitalize on the economic dynamism of the Washington region to position Maryland as a world economic leader.
"We want to pay attention to small business. We want to pay attention to existing businesses and we want to pay attention to growing businesses," Edgerley said.
The 55-year-old Germantown resident succeeds Aris Melissaratos, a former Westinghouse executive and Democrat appointed by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Melissaratos enjoyed widespread support in the business community.
A native of Prince George's County, Edgerley earned a bachelor's degree from Frostburg State University and a master's in business administration from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg.
Yesterday afternoon, he traveled to the economic development department offices on East Redwood Street in downtown Baltimore to meet his new staff. Today, he is expected to attend his first budget meeting.
While he said it's still too early to say what his strategy will be, he plans to start by meeting with county economic development directors and other state officials to build a consensus on what needs to be done.
"Creativity in economic development is directly but inversely related to need," he said.
To those who have worked with him, the choice is not a surprise.
Renee Winsky, interim director of the Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, said Edgerley is well-connected, knowledgeable and gets things done. As a member of TEDCO's Incubator Technical Advisory Board, he vowed to build seven incubators in Montgomery County by 2007; five have been established and two are in the works, she said.
"Even in a transition year, he'll have an impact," she said.
David S. Iannucci, Baltimore County's economic development director, once worked with Edgerley and has become a close friend. He said the new secretary would likely make changes at DBED.
"He's going to make it his own agency," Iannucci said.
When former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan brought him aboard in 1995, many wondered whether he was up to the task, said Henry Bernstein, Edgerley's former deputy director. Allegany County, a rural jurisdiction with high unemployment, was a stark contrast to Montgomery County, an area of growing development outside Washington.
As he did in Allegany, Edgerley used "creative" tax credits and other incentives to lure the right companies, which Montgomery County hadn't done before, Bernstein said. The strategy was instrumental in reviving Silver Spring, which was losing jobs in the early 1990s and bore signs of decay. Now it has a vibrant downtown, with shops and restaurants centered near a Metro station.
Bernstein credits Edgerley with engineering United Therapeutics Corp.'s move to Silver Spring, something many said couldn't be done. He also helped Discovery Communications relocate to Silver Spring from Bethesda, which not only brought jobs but a prestigious name.
"David isn't one to take 'no' for an answer," said Bernstein, now senior vice president in charge of new business development at the Rockville-based commercial real estate firm Scheer Partners Inc. "If it's for the benefit of the community, he'll do whatever it takes."
At the state level, Fry would like Edgerley to craft a blueprint for development opportunities, whether it be expanding biotech in Baltimore or attracting defense contractors along with the 60,000 military and civilian jobs slated to come to Maryland over the next eight years as part of the national military Base Realignment and Closure process, or BRAC.
He also wants Edgerley to make sure the state's tax credits and other incentives are competitive with other states. Fry said transportation will be a big factor in determining whether a company locates or expands here, and he wants Edgerley to work closely with Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari. Others hope he will push to further develop the state's research base.
"He's the person we need right now in the position to advance science and commercialization in Maryland," said Elaine Amir, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery County and co-chair of the economic development committee of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
Sun reporter Andrew Green contributed to this article.