Elrich Wants To Lure Top-Level Information Technology Companies, Jobs

Elrich Wants To Lure Top-Level Information Technology Companies, Jobs

County executive planning West Coast corporate recruitment trip

| Published:

Marc Elrich

Dan Schere

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is going on the road, aiming to attract more information-technology jobs, as part of efforts to boost the county’s business climate.

The former county councilman, labeled by some as an anti-business candidate in last year’s race for county executive, believes the county is “lagging” when it comes to the information technology sector and that was a factor in Amazon’s decision to choose Crystal City, Virginia, for a new headquarters over locations in Montgomery County.

“They [in Northern Virginia] clearly made a decision to make a very large investment in IT in general and to make sure Amazon was supplied with the right kind of workers,” Elrich said at a meeting with reporters last week.

“I was kind of dismayed when the Maryland people talked about how the bright side was these jobs coming from the University of Maryland. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. We should have a plan to employ people coming out from the University of Maryland. We shouldn’t be paying for the University of Maryland to supply another workforce to another jurisdiction,” he said.

Elrich, who is planning to go to the West Coast next month to meet with companies, said the county’s former economic development office, which existed as part of county government until 2016, didn’t seek enough outside advice.

“Montgomery County’s got a good case [for other companies]. I want to make the case now, and not when everybody else is looking,” he said.

Montgomery County Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that replaced the county’s economic development office, is also considering opening a satellite office in or near Boston, where high-tech companies have clustered in the Route 128 corridor, often billed as “America’s Technology Highway.”

David Petr, the CEO of the economic development nonprofit, said technology companies want access to a highly educated workforce.

“Talent really is number one, two and three. They [companies] want to have good interstates and Metro connectivity, but talent really drives recruits,” Petr said.

Petr said he wasn’t sure whether the February trip would be funded with taxpayer money.

Elrich has said he would not conduct an overseas mission using taxpayer dollars, but would be willing to take a domestic trip because it is less expensive. Former County Executive Isiah Leggett took part in trade missions to Israel, China, Ethiopia and El Salvador.

For decades, the county has promoted its concentration of life science and biotechnology companies, some of which located in the county to be near research and regulatory agencies such at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

Elrich said the county needed to look beyond the biotechnology industry as a source of creating jobs.

“We’ve focused on the biotech end of the universe, and that’s a good place to do work, but it’s not the only place to do work,” he said. “A lot of people who need jobs aren’t gonna be going to college and aren’t gonna be looking at biotechnology as a career path.”

Elrich also said he wants to expand the number of partnerships with Montgomery College and bring in outside companies to conduct business training for new incubator businesses.

A proposed mid-fiscal year savings plan from Elrich proposes to reduce the county’s incubator spending by $750,000, but the county executive said that all of the cuts in his plan represents amounts that agency heads had already identified as unneeded funds.

Incubators are spaces that are set up for small startup businesses to develop.

According to the Montgomery County Business Innovation Network, a partner with county government, Montgomery College and other institutions, there are more than 160 companies focusing on technology, life sciences and business services that have used incubator programs. Innovation centers are in Rockville, Silver Spring and Germantown.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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