April 23, 2015
Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government and a member of the committee on economic development, today applauded the new partnership between Montgomery County Government and the Washington, D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. County officials intend for the partnership to significantly expand the County’s innovation program in order to modernize County services as well as foster regional entrepreneurship networks that will strengthen the local economy.
The agreement represents the first partnership between 1776, which receives funding from the District of Columbia, and a local government outside of the District. It is part of a groundbreaking effort by the Montgomery County and 1776 to foster regional economic strategies.
In recent years, Montgomery County has been seeking out unique opportunities to bolster innovation and startup growth as part of a larger effort to continue strengthening the County’s economy.
“When I first visited 1776, I was inspired by the potential that I saw for a 1776-Montgomery County partnership to foster regional entrepreneurship networks,” said Councilmember Riemer. “Its focus on companies with ‘smart cities’ solutions also aligns perfectly with our interest in applying innovations to the delivery of services to our residents.
“I’m thrilled that County Executive Ike Leggett and so many of my County Council colleagues are working together to forge this innovative partnership. It is a great step forward for our County’s innovation program and the economic strength of the whole region.”
Councilmember Riemer worked with County Executive Leggett and 1776 to organize a roundtable for local entrepreneurs housed at 1776, which sparked many ideas for how they could join forces. The resulting partnership will represent a major expansion of the County’s innovation program, as the County will screen up to 10 companies based in 1776 each year and may agree to work with as many as five on smart-city type services that will benefit residents.
1776 companies also will have opportunities to occupy workspace in Montgomery County’s Thingstitute, an incubator devoted to “Internet of things” technology. The County will become a sponsor of 1776’s upcoming Challenge Festival, which will feature startups from across the globe. In addition, companies in the County’s incubator system will have access to 1776 programs.
Montgomery’s Department of Economic Development and County Chief Innovation Officer, Daniel Hoffman, will work to connect 1776 startups with leading Montgomery County employers such as MedStar Health, NIH, GlaxoSmithKline and NIST.
After his initial discussions with 1776 leaders and entrepreneurs, Councilmember Riemer wrote a blog on the 1776 web site called, “Entrepeneurship and Innovation Networks are Regional. Here’s Why.” In the blog, he wrote:
“In the regional economic-competition model, attracting companies is generally a zero-sum game. But supporting entrepreneurs and young companies and building a thriving regional entrepreneurial scene is not zero sum. The more that a particular region develops as a hub for tech companies, the more that every jurisdiction in the region benefits from the skilled workforce that moves there, the investment capital that follows the entrepreneurs, the income that the employees earn and the services that those companies provide.
“If strong networking is beneficial to the economic development of every jurisdiction, how can local governments in the region work together to build on our strengths? Since 1776—and other incubators like it in places like Chicago and Austin—are already regional entrepreneurship networks, how can we make its regionalism more intentional and therefore more powerful?
“Local governments in the region could become partners of 1776, taking advantage of the content provided by 1776 to support their own incubator networks—and 1776 could work with the jurisdictions to launch programs in their focus areas. Because 1776 focuses on companies that meet government and public sector needs, local officials also could serve as mentors, offering their time as sounding boards or informational resources for those companies, as D.C. city officials already do.”
Several County Councilmembers, including Council President George Leventhal and Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee Chair Nancy Floreen, have visited 1776 to meet with the organization’s leaders and entrepreneurs.
The County’s relationship with companies in 1776 has already yielded a successful project. TransitScreen, a company working from the 1776 location, created software for showing real-time public transportation information. Two other 1776 startups — Local Roots Farms and SeamlessDocs — also are now working on small projects with the County.
Under the partnership, the products being created by 1776-based startups can be adjusted to meet specific needs of the County.