OED Consolidates Services, Integrates Within Business Community
Innovation. Technology. Efficiency. These efforts have dominated Harford County’s new administration in its first 100 days under the leadership of County Executive Barry Glassman. And one of its first initiatives, consolidating and co-locating the Office of Economic Development (OED) with small business resources on the Route 40 Corridor, has achieved all three.
Although the consolidation design and build-out was an expedited process, it didn’t happen overnight. A team visited collaborative workspaces such as CBRE’s Workplace 360 in Baltimore and conducted extensive research on modern workspace and its impact on productivity. “It’s a cultural change from the traditional office environment,” says Karen Holt, director, OED. “We adopted some concepts where we thought we could be successful, like an open work environment, but didn’t leap to a full paperless office. But we are more about less paper.”
The site for these synergies is Swan Creek Village Center at 2021 Pulaski Highway in Havre de Grace, just two miles from Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Route 22 Gate entrance. The official ribbon cutting and open house for the new facility took place on March 31, showcasing 12,000 square feet of small business resources, technology and technical supports to cultivate concepts into companies.
“Consolidating services at this state-of-the-art facility will be a game changer allowing us to attract more business and move Harford County forward as Maryland’s new center of opportunity,” says County Executive Barry Glassman.
A full spectrum of workspace supports various stages of business development within a modern work place and a positive business setting. The GroundFloor, which was launched on site in 2012, offers monthly membership in a 24/7 collaborative workspace with an urban-industrial, Wi-Fi enabled, plug-and-play environment. A Corporate Commons area features several IT and defense contract service companies doing business as tenants at the new facility. The Small Business Resources Office houses the business navigator who serves as the first point of assessment and referral for small business needs, consultants for the Small Business Development Center and Procurement Technical Assistance Program, and cooperative support for the Army Alliance, the regional additive manufacturing authority RAMP MD, and the North Eastern Maryland University Research Park. The Harford Business Innovation Center, which was formerly at Brass Mill in the Riverside Industrial Park, has also been co-located with a focus toward a more traditional incubator with six individual offices for lease by start-ups. Integrated into this full suite of services, OED serves as host and site management while offering a dedicated staff to assist in business retention, expansion, attraction, workforce training support and transportation.
Innovative technology was an important aspect in creating the new workspace and a modern setting to host stakeholders – from prospective clients to professional industry groups to municipal economic colleagues. SmartBoard technology in OED’s Susquehanna Conference Room allows for interactive mapping and presentation edits to happen with the tap of a smart pen. Clusters, meeting rooms that accommodate four to six people, each have monitors that support a variety of technology mediums; ‘pods,’ a reboot of the British phone booth, allow an individual to take a confidential phone call and not impose on others in the collaborative workspace. “While there may be less personal space, there is greater public space and different types of workspace,” says Holt. “Some may work better from a desk and chair, some within a pod, and some on a chaise lounge with a laptop and ear buds. The idea is to cultivate creativity and encourage new ways of thinking and doing business.”
These different workspaces are all on a centralized Web-based reservation system that allows members, tenants and staff to reserve space as needed. “It creates a synchronized core of activity. I enjoy the heavy meeting days where the lobby becomes a networking center for people who may not typically cross paths,” adds Holt.
“It is an incredible opportunity for the business community to have such collaborative space where companies, advisors, business supports and commercial opportunities can intersect,” says Eric McLauchlin, chair, Economic Development Advisory Board. “Co-locating the many economic development resources within this hub of activity makes accessing them more efficient and the interaction more nimble. They’ve created great soil for economic gardening.”
The final result has been a consolidation of more than 16,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet from multiple sites, enhanced business services in a one-stop-shop environment, and the transition of Economic Development out of the County Administration Building and onto the Corridor, close to APG and immersed within the business community. I95