A Message from HCEDA CEO Larry Twele

Thursday, August 9, 2018

This letter originally appeared in the August 2018 Edition of the Business Monthly

There was a time when the dog days of summer meant that activity quieted to a more subdued pace. It seems however, that those days are long gone. From an economic perspective, business continues to be brisk regardless of the season. We continue to see the local business base expand, unemployment rate fall, and vacancy rates across the county remain low, even as new inventory comes to the market. In a recent report issued by Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, Columbia was cited as the most active office market in the region.

The data speaks for itself: Howard County’s unemployment rate has settled to the lowest in the state at 3.0%, bringing Maryland’s average to a healthy 3.9%. Employment has grown 1.3% and wages have seen increases of 2.2% over the year, helping to generate more economic activity and consumer spending. Property markets across sectors are very strong with low vacancy rates both historically and compared to other markets.

At the forefront of this, is the work that The Howard Hughes Corporation is doing as they redevelop Downtown Columbia, which is quickly becoming recognized as the most dynamic development in the region. Their progress over the past year has been significant and businesses are finding it an attractive destination. In addition to large flagship companies such as MedStar and Pearson who recently located in Downtown, Tenable, one of the nation’s leading cyber firms, announced that they would relocate their corporate headquarters to the Merriweather District. The opening of this area will bring new retail, residential and office space and will add a new dimension to the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia. Additionally, with the completion of the 10M and mFlats apartment projects, the Metropolitan and the newly opened Little Patuxent Square building, and the exciting new developments at the mall, it’s clear Downtown Columbia is truly an attractive choice for those seeking the live, work, play lifestyle. This will draw talent and truly be a driver to attract new business.

Downtown is only one exciting chapter of the Howard County story. We continue to see brisk activity at Maple Lawn’s commercial core, which has been attracting new breakthrough technology and cyber companies to its buildings. Both Howard County and Maple Lawn lay at the core of what has become one of the nation’s densest and fastest growing cyber hubs; fueled partly by the area’s large government agencies and their attraction of industry talent from across the country. This talent continues to develop startups around the breakthrough technology they develop each day. DataTribe, a leading cyber security accelerator, recognized the talent present in Howard County and established their national base of operations here. In just a few short years, they have helped to spin out several nationally recognized cyber companies that have gone on to raise millions in capital to help solve issues of critical importance.

As we look to ensure that Howard County can maintain its strong position as a regional economic powerhouse, a new plan to position the Columbia Gateway Office Park for future growth will begin to emerge. At the same time, the Columbia Gateway Office Park continues attracting new and innovative companies, such as Intralytx and the Axis Research and Training Center who support the life-saving technologies developed by the fast growing Acell Corporation based in the park.

The health of Howard County’s economy has long been driven by the diverse small business community here and we recognize that long term economic growth and prosperity is rooted in the ability of that base to expand and prosper. One of the most exciting projects we are working on is the Gateway Innovation Center, which will help to further accelerate and support entrepreneurship and innovation in the County. This center will not just house the HCEDA’s Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and Howard Tech Council, but will also host strategic partners and educational institutions such as Howard Community College, research and development partners, accelerators, and other partners serving the start-up community. Through the resources available from these partners and the innovative programing provided by our Howard Tech Council, this center will become a key tool for small businesses across the county. Collectively, we will set a new standard as an innovation hub for the entire region. We expect to begin renovations late this fall and will open by 2Q 2019.

While we see many positive indicators, and remain bullish on our local economy, we keep a watchful eye on external factors that may have an adverse effect on the development of the local economy, but, we know that the sentiment of this business community continues to remain positive and optimistic. Through our strong partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce and the Community College we look forward to supporting and celebrating the growth of our businesses in the year to come.

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