As I look back on my first year leading the talented and hard-working team at the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC), I am most proud of the new initiatives we have rolled out to help our community of businesses and look forward to continuing these efforts in the new year.

Our Arundel Defense Tech Toolbox, which was launched in July, has been warmly received from many businesses that compose our technology community. As home to Fort Meade and premier defense agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and U.S. CyberCommand, Anne Arundel County is the nation’s most prominent government and cybertechnology hub. The toolbox’s purpose is to make sure our companies serving our national security efforts get the right resources to help them grow and create jobs.

The toolbox’s signature piece is the Next Stage Tech Fund, which offers 0% loans ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, with flexible payment terms. For small government contractors awaiting payment to entrepreneurs wanting to expand the market for their commercial product, the Next Stage Tech Fund gives businesses the bandwidth to expand their workforce and upscale their operations.

Such is the case for Penacity, the first company to benefit from the Next Stage Tech Fund. The Pasadena-based cybertechnology firm plans to use the financing to hire additional staff and continue operations as it awaits payment on various federal contracts. This tech startup is showing impressive growth and also has tasked the AAEDC to assist in its search for office space in Anne Arundel County. We’ve been pleased with the strong pipeline of applications for our Next Stage Tech Fund and look forward to highlighting more of these businesses in the coming months.

This past fall, AAEDC unveiled a wonderful new initiative called the Runway to Success Program, Powered by Southwest Airlines. With the help of two travel reward certificates, an Anne Arundel County business can travel to out-of-state conferences and meetings as a way to enhance its marketing and sales or provide for workforce training.

Runway to Success is targeted to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that generate annual revenue of less than $10 million. These travel rewards were distributed to 12 companies in December through an application process and are expected to be used to travel to training workshops and industry conferences in locations such as Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; San Diego; Jacksonville; Dallas; and Las Vegas. We look forward to hearing feedback on how these travel opportunities helped their businesses.

In the past year, the AAEDC team has put greater effort into strengthening industry connections. The Arundel Defense Tech Toolbox, for example, is the result of discussions we have had with a cohort of technology companies. Along this vein, we recently convened a hospitality workgroup to learn more about industry challenges and developing solutions.

The hotel industry is a critical driver in our economy, especially in Anne Arundel County. Not only are there 25,000 hospitality jobs in the county, but there is also a higher concentration of hotels in Anne Arundel County than in most other areas around the state. The most recent projections show high demand for this industry through the year 2024.

Given the economic impact of our hotel industry, it is important for these businesses and resource organizations, like AAEDC, to partner together. We’re pleased to facilitate this effort and be joined by other organizations, such as the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., Anne Arundel Community College, North County High School, the BWI Business Partnership and others.

Through monthly meetings, this workgroup has begun to address issues such as workforce recruitment and retention, and transportation. Although the initial constituency of the group is focused on BWI Business District hotels, we expect an expansion in the near future to engage hotel properties in other parts of the county. In addition, we plan to convene workgroup discussions for other industry areas, such as health services and health technology.

In 2018, we will continue our commitment to put in place resources that are effective and valuable to our business community. As we grow our industry engagement, we expect to develop new programs that are responsive to the market and highlight Anne Arundel County as a premier location to do business.

For more information on the AAEDC’s programs and services, visit