Ben Wu, Maryland’s former deputy secretary of commerce, will be paid a base salary of $250,000 to head Montgomery County’s economic development agency.
Wu’s appointment as executive director of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation was announced on Dec. 4. The agency released his contract Wednesday, Wu’s first day on the job.
MCEDC, a nonprofit company created in 2016 to promote economic growth, operates as a public-private partnership with Montgomery County.
Wu’s salary puts him in the middle range of the county’s pay scale, behind Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine — who makes a base salary of $280,000 a year — and many fire and rescue captains, who frequently earn thousands of dollars a year in overtime pay.
The contract entitles Wu to a yearly bonus of up to 25% of his salary. His benefits package includes four weeks of paid vacation, a monthly automobile allowance of $1,000, and reimbursement of all “reasonable” cellphone expenses.
Wu will also be reimbursed for business expenses “in connection with conducting and promoting the business and affairs of MCEDC.” Those can include “entertainment expenses,” according to the language in his contract.
A non-compete clause prohibits him from consulting for any outside economic development agency near Montgomery County, both during his tenure and up to six months afterward. The contract also includes a non-disclosure clause that prevents Wu from leaking “trade secrets” of MCEDC, including business practices, financial information and marketing strategies.
A Montgomery County native, Wu brings decades of experience at the state and federal level. Before serving as the state’s deputy commerce secretary, Wu worked as a U.S. deputy undersecretary of commerce and U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under then-President George W. Bush.
In those roles, he served in the capacity of chief operating officer, overseeing more than 3,000 employees and a $500 million budget for a bureau that included the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg.
His appointment as the executive director of MCEDC was due, in large part, to his experience in the technology sector, board Chairman Robby Brewer told Bethesda Beat this month.
Montgomery County has been focused on expanding its biotech industry and leveraging proximity to several federal research labs.
“We’re hoping Ben can take MCEDC, which is past its startup days, and continue on the path of attracting our target industries,” Brewer said during a previous interview. “And leverage his extensive knowledge of players and people to move forward.”
Wu’s salary is largely in line with the directors of other county agencies. Police Chief Marcus Jones was appointed at a base salary of $225,000 a year. Health and Human Services Director Raymond Crowel — who oversees the county’s largest department — makes $210,000.