New HCEDA CEO, Jennifer Jones, Aims to Strengthen Community Engagement and Business Growth

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Jennifer Jones

As she takes the reins at Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), new CEO Jennifer Jones plans to emphasize the abundance of available resources and increase HCEDA’s presence in the community.

A true local, Jones originates from Howard County and boasts two decades of experience in business development and support. With a deep personal connection to the Howard business community—thanks to her father’s ownership of a small local business—Jones is eager to ensure businesses thrive in her community.

“I’ve gathered a lot of experience across the world in what makes businesses prosper,” says Jones. “Howard County is my home, and I wanted to return and ensure businesses have what they need to thrive here.”

Jones spent five years working in the office of County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball, first as Deputy Chief of Staff from 2018-2022 and from 2022-2023 as the Business Development Strategist. In her roles, she visited businesses across Howard County and gained a sense of their needs. Her prior role and close relationships with HCEDA staff have facilitated a smooth transition into her new position.

Jones firmly believes in the untapped potential of Howard County and aims to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

“Since the 1970s, Howard has been regarded as a great place to raise a family. It has marketed itself,” says Jones. “Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re at an inflection point. We must proactively connect the workforce with industry and ensure an entrepreneurship pipeline. HCEDA can be that connection in that we can support businesses and connect the community to stakeholders.”

Often, notes Jones, small business owners are so focused on the day-to-day operations of their venture that they miss out on critical resources. HCEDA is there to help them bridge the gap.

“I think it’s important for everyone on the team to go out and visit businesses and connect with owners to share our mission with them,” explains Jones. “When I was growing up, I remember my dad would come home with a ton on his mind about his business. We must help business owners by proactively informing them about loan programs, workforce development, and other offerings.”

In addition to assisting small businesses, Jones recognizes the significance of fostering relationships with the county’s larger employers. The HCEDA Catalyst Fund, which large employers have used for expansion, has been instrumental in retaining Howard County jobs.

“We want to retain all the businesses we have across the board. They could choose to operate anywhere, but we want them to see they’ll thrive here in Howard County,” says Jones.

Thinking outside the box, Jones also sees much promise in attending community events beyond HCEDA’s traditional scope to reach more businesses.

“The other week, a church gave a marketing seminar,” Jones recalls. “I attended and connected with the pastor and learned ten entrepreneurs were seeking to start a business. I shared information with them; a few have since enrolled in BRITE classes at the Maryland Innovation Center. I’m trying to break down silos and connect with different community members and influencers who may know of business owners.”

To build on HCEDA’s work to foster diversity and inclusion in the community, Jones plans to connect loan recipients with other HCEDA resources that will boost their success. Jones, the first Black CEO of HCEDA, notes that many participants in BRITE classes are from underrepresented communities. Enhancing HCEDA’s existing support structures will help extend its reach even further.

“Many underrepresented businesses have barriers around access to capital and resources. We’re trying to break down those barriers,” says Jones.

As HCEDA celebrates its 30th anniversary, Jones emphasizes the importance of the recently-updated strategic plan, which will shape the organization’s next three years and set the stage for future accomplishments.

“I believe that the upcoming year will be of great significance in laying the foundation for the next three decades,” Jones states. “Our strategic plan will serve as our roadmap, promoting entrepreneurship and developing a strong business pipeline. We also aim to retain our highly educated workforce and ensure that they work for Howard County businesses, providing for the needs of our community. Moreover, we are committed to diversifying our community by identifying emerging industries and markets, understanding their impact on our business environment, and adapting to accommodate them.”

Jones is excited to help strengthen Howard County’s businesses and HCEDA’s presence in the community.

“Having an open mind and being open to new ideas makes a stronger organization,” says Jones. “We want to be the biggest resource we can and think of our job expansively.”

To learn more about how HCEDA supports local businesses, click here.

Upcoming Events

More Events