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Harford forms university research park corporation

A nonprofit corporation has been created to oversee development of a university research park in Harford County and has held its initial organizational meeting, the county government said Wednesday.

Harford political and business leaders have been exploring the possibility of creating a public/private partnership to develop a campus to attract private and university-based research, including activities connected to the military-related scientific research and development at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

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Though no potential sites for a research park have been publicly identified, there has been considerable buzz among developers active in the county about the opportunities such a project could present.

Creation of the corporation grew out of recommendations from an ad hoc committee of the county's Economic Development Advisory Board, according to a news release issued Wednesday afternoon by Harford County Executive David Craig's office.

One of the economic development advisory board's the biggest advocates for a university research park in Harford has been B. Daniel DeMarinis, who was named the new corporation's president.

According to the news release, the advisory board's committee reviewed the research needs of the programs at Aberdeen Proving Ground and held numerous meetings with military and private sector leaders in the areas of communications, electronics, testing and evaluation, chemical and biological research and other emerging high technology domains. This led to development of the Northeastern Maryland University Research Park LLC, a 501(c)(3) corporation.

The corporation held its first organizational meeting Tuesday, according to the news release.

In addition to DeMarinis as president, other officers include John Ferriter and Eric McLauchlin, vice presidents; John Wasilisin and John Casner, treasurer and associate treasurer, respectively; and James LaCalle and William Suchting, secretary and associate secretary, respectively. In addition, there are 16 leaders from industry, government and the academic community serving as board members, the county said.

DeMarinis is director of strategic initiatives for The MITRE Corporation, a Massachusetts non-profit corporation that, according to its website, "manages federally funded research and development centers" and "also has its own independent research and development program that explores new technologies and new uses of technologies to solve our sponsors' problems in the near-term and in the future." The company's clients include the Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Veterans Affairs.

DeMarinis is also a member of Gov. Martin O'Malley's Workforce Investment Board.

LaCalle is a former president of Harford Community College. McLauchlin, a lawyer, is the chairman of the economic development advisory board.

"This represents a significant milestone in our efforts to leverage our highly-skilled workforce and the resources that exist at APG to create opportunities for advanced education and high-tech research for Harford County and the surrounding region," Craig said of the new corporation.

"The county has seen a great deal of interest in research at the graduate and post-doctoral level, and the county stands ready to meet those research needs through the research park corporation," McLauchlin said in the county news release. "It will be the goal and objective of the corporation to team research needs from the Department of Defense with universities who have world renowned programs in the appropriate areas of study."

At the October economic development advisory board meeting, DeMarinis gave a presentation about a proposed Northeastern Maryland University Research Park, which he explained would be a college-like campus that would bring schools, government entities, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, and businesses together to promote higher education and research in certain fields.

He explained that a university research park could be 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 other fields important to the local military installation's missions.

Prior to BRAC, DeMarinis said at the time, "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.

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"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.

"This is an exciting time and opportunity to support the APG community and our warfighters by establishing a nationally-recognized multidisciplinary academic, science and research campus creating technology-led economic growth for the northeastern Maryland region, while solving national problems that advance our security," DeMarinis said in Wednesday's news release. "We anticipate that the URP, led by many of our community's technical, educational and business leaders will result in additional advanced education opportunities, research collaboration and technology incubation. It is important to work with the APG community to ensure that the transformation goals of the URP are met. I know that we are ready for the challenge."

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