Recommendations include funding an Equitech Growth Fund and the establishment of an innovation-focused commission
TEDCO, Maryland’s economic engine for technology companies, unveiled a legislatively mandated Maryland Innovation Competitiveness Study—one that could lead to a 5-year, $250 million down payment for an Equitech Growth Fund and the establishment of a major Kirwan-type commission. The new commission would map out an in-depth strategic plan focused on ensuring Maryland becomes a national model for a thriving, inclusive tech sector and innovation economy.
“On behalf of TEDCO, we thank the General Assembly for their directive and RTI International and Keen Point Consulting for their work on this illuminating report. The findings are clear: our state can lead the U.S. in tech innovation and growth in a way that is inclusive of talented but traditionally underrepresented Marylanders,” said Troy LeMaile-Stovall, TEDCO CEO. “Now is the time for Maryland to take the crucial next steps to ensure our place as a top innovation leader, beginning with the creation of an Equitech Growth Fund and a major new commission that is laser-focused on growing a thriving, diverse tech sector.”
The Maryland legislature’s 2022 Joint Chairmen’s Report (JCR) directed TEDCO to oversee a study that would guide the creation of a $500 million, 10-year Equitech Growth Fund. TEDCO brought on RTI International and Keen Point Consulting to draft the Maryland Innovation Competitiveness Study, with the consultants collaborating closely with TEDCO’s leadership and Maryland’s innovation ecosystem.
“Maryland’s competitors are investing significantly in their innovation infrastructure and workforce. It’s time we do the same,” said Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, chair of the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee. “The bad news is we’re not growing our tech economy at the rate we should. The good news is that Maryland has the potential to be a national tech leader, given our many assets and resources. Those include our state’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, a commitment that ensures we build and grow a tech ecosystem that taps into the talents of all our innovative entrepreneurs, benefiting communities across our great state.”
The study identified several major challenges. Maryland’s overall economic growth rate is slowing, with real gross domestic product growing only 1.0% per year from 2011–2021. If this continues, it will have a negative effect on job opportunities, livelihoods, and the state’s overall fiscal health. The high-tech sector is Maryland’s engine of growth, but the state needs high-tech employment growth of 3% to 4% per year compared to its past 10-year growth rate of 1.6% per year. The report also cited research from other studies that highlighted the underrepresentation of people of color and women in high-tech companies and startups.
“We must choose to invest in inclusive and equitable approaches to diversify Maryland’s economy and drive impactful solutions that accelerate our position as a global leader in equitech,” said Brian Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “The Equitech Growth Fund is an opportunity to further elevate Maryland’s competitiveness, create new economic interest and drive an inclusive economic growth strategy for our region.”
The study found that to move to a higher growth trajectory, Maryland needs to be proactive and develop a comprehensive strategy to spur stronger high-tech industry and innovation-led growth, make the needed investment to execute that growth, engage industry and diverse communities, and act quickly to remain competitive with other states in attracting and retaining industry and talent. Researchers cited a vision for inclusive tech and startup activity (“equitech”) that draws broadly on the brilliance and talent of the populace across neighborhoods and cultures. This ensures that founders, the workforce, mentors, investors and thought leaders are all included and active in shaping the tech ecosystem.
“When we invest in our tech entrepreneurs across the state with programs like TEDCO’s Rural and Urban Business Innovative Initiatives, we see real success,” said Malcolm Augustine, senate president pro tem and member of the Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. “We know here in Maryland that innovation isn’t about your address; it’s about ideas. Now is the time for Maryland to act and invest at a scale that will enable it to truly pull ahead of competitors and become known as a top innovation state. We all benefit, from Maryland’s western mountains to our eastern shore and everyone in between.”
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JCR Report Language
The Joint Chairmen’s Report from the 2022 General Assembly session requested that the Maryland Technology Development Corporation: (1) conduct a study to assess the effectiveness and impact of the State’s current economic development strategy and look at ways to elevate Marylanders who have not been included in early-stage technology opportunities; and (2) develop draft legislation for the establishment of a Maryland Equitech Growth Fund in consultation with the Maryland Economic Development Corporation, the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, industry, university, and representative community groups.
Due to the scope of research requested, TEDCO engaged a qualified third-party vendor, RTI International, and its partner, Keen Point Consulting, to provide data-driven answers to six specific areas of inquiry raised in the 2022 Joint Chairmen’s Report. The six areas are Maryland’s competitiveness in cybersecurity and IT, biohealth, and other advanced industries; investments being made by other states to increase their competitiveness; participation of people of color in Maryland’s high-tech sector workforce; the connection between STEM education and career development in these sectors; participation by people of color in startup activities; and wealth creation in communities of color.
TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, enhances economic empowerment growth through the fostering of an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. TEDCO identifies, invests in, and helps grow technology and life science-based companies in Maryland. Learn more at www.tedcomd.com.