Monday, January 07, 2008

New Name= New Mission?

New name new mission?

Chesapeake Regional Tech Council expanding its reach
January 4, 2008
By Allan Maurer

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Just outside the immediate Potomac region surrounding Washington, DC, the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland no longer sees itself as a single-county organization.

Since 1992, the organization formally known as the Anne Arundel Tech Council supported the expanding technology sector both locally and beyond its borders. It changed its name to the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council to reflect the increasingly regional nature of its membership and concerns.

“I think it’s a great name change,” says Michael Ryan, president of South River Technologies, who took the helm as the council’s president Jan. 1.

Since 2005, the council saw its membership grow from 74 to more than 229 under the leadership of Laura Willoughby, executive director. About 30 percent of its membership is from outside county borders.

“We’ve been regional in nature the past few years,” Ryan tells Techjournal South, “and we changed the name to suit our membership base.”

He points out that the region has intertwining connections, ranging from the high number of government contractors in the Chesapeake area to the way people commute from Northern Virginia to DC or Maryland’s Montgomery County to work.

“Our tight connection and proximity to the federal government means there is an abundance of contractors and agencies that work directly with the government to provide technology for building aircraft, tanks, secure networks, data transmission and more,” Ryan says.

The area does have a weakness in workforce development, says Ryan. “We have all these great tech companies (more than 1,500) in the area trying to find workers. One of the things we’ll see in the next three to five years due to the base (U.S. Armed Forces) realignment initiative is that we’ll have a ton of jobs coming into the area. It’s a struggle to find quality people.

“The closure of bases that were previously in Virginia or New Jersey or elsewhere is bringing agencies and contractors here. So an already tight job market will get even tighter when those organizations move into town. Workforce development is a key factor on everyone’s plate.”

Seed funding is also “a little tight” in the region, Ryan notes. “There’s no shortage of ideas, that’s for sure,” he says.

Ryan says the region is doing a good job of helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed.

He points to the Chesapeake Innovation Center, an incubator that focuses on homeland security startups ranging from biotechnology firms tackling ways to combat anthrax threats to IT companies. Its tenants, among others, include:

BeCrypt USA, a security software company formed to meet the growing demand for high-level encryption products for personal computers and PDAs from the international government and corporate marketplace.

CINTT, a professional services firm that provides intelligence analysis, intelligence analysis training, and analytical technology to the U.S. Intelligence Community, and MGB, which has developed the ProductAcoustic Signature System (PASS) handheld container inspection device.

Graduate companies, among others, include PharmAthene, which is developing countermeasures to a range of biological and chemical threats with potentially lethal effects.

Goals for the council, Ryan says, is to further diversify and expand its growing membership and bring more value to its members through networking events and quality programs.

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