State and county officials, including Gov. Larry Hogan and County Executive Marc Elrich, celebrated the opening of a new science center at The Universities at Shady Grove. Credit: Photo via Twitter

Educators and community leaders touted a new facility at The Universities at Shady Grove as a critical step toward building a better economic future in Montgomery County.

The ribbon-cutting for the $175 million Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility on Thursday was attended by a long list of local and state officials, including County Executive Marc Elrich and Gov. Larry Hogan.

It was the first meeting for the representatives after a series of well-publicized spats over transit funding and a controversial police flag given to a Montgomery County district station. A local TV station filmed three pro-police protesters waving the flag as Hogan arrived at USG, but neither Hogan nor Elrich referred to the dispute during the event.

Instead, both officials focused their remarks on the new facility and its potential to expand the bioscience industry in Montgomery County. Elrich said there are 100,000 to 130,000 unfilled jobs in Montgomery County, fueled by a lack of workers qualified for the roles.

“There’s a real disconnect between the skills of our workers and the jobs that are out there,” he added at the ribbon-cutting. “And this is one of the ways to fill that gap.”

USG Executive Director Stewart Edelstein said construction on the facility began about three and a half years ago with support from the state and the University System of Maryland. Former County Executive Ike Leggett also added $20 million to the county’s capital budget to construct a parking garage beside the new science center.


The facility doubles the size of the USG campus and is expected to double student enrollment to more than 7,500, according to Hogan. (Steve Hull, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Beat, is a member of the Board of Advisors of The Universities at Shady Grove.)

The 220,000-square-foot building includes 20 teaching labs, a product design lab and a new community dental clinic where students from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry can receive hands-on training.

The clinic was a focal point for local officials who said it would connect residents with a much-needed health service.


“One of the greatest unmet needs in this county is dental services,” Elrich said at the event. “And this is a chance for us provide that for our residents.”

Academia, especially bioscience programs, have become a growing focus as legislators look for ways to boost the local economy. In September, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation hired former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman to recruit new investment from the University of Maryland and the University System of Maryland.

Both Elrich and Council Member Hans Riemer have suggested that new graduate programs or incubators could spur investment in the county and make it a more appealing place for tech companies.


The new science facility will host programs in engineering, bioscience, health care, dentistry and computer science — some of the fastest-growing fields nationwide and in Montgomery County, Edelstein said.

“Our economy here is driven by STEM,” he added after the event. “We’re a research and development economy. So, we need a workforce to support those sectors. If we don’t have a pool of local talent, the businesses that come here won’t be able to grow and thrive.”