Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

New County Partnership With Tech Incubator 1776

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.

Spurring Economic Development With High Speed Networks

County Executive Ike Leggett proposed several new initiatives to improve the County’s economic development efforts in his inauguration remarks delivered on Dec. 1. The initiatives would combine to launch a new County economic agenda that reflects on a number of the key positions I have long advocated for.

I heartily welcome the County Executive’s decision to focus on economic development and entrepreneurship. I have long been a believer that, in order to continue to thrive, Montgomery County must have an economic base that is more diverse and competitive for new and growing companies in our region.

Building on my “Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks” initiative, County Executive Leggett is proposing creation of UltraMontgomery, which would be a high-speed fiber network that will connect Montgomery’s businesses and its academic and federal institutions.

I am extremely pleased that County Executive Leggett is moving forward with next-generation network infrastructure that will power economic growth and vitality in the County for years to come.

In August, I published the strategy paper “Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks” that addresses how new technology initiatives can drive growth in the local economy and leverage critical economic assets such as federal research labs. The plan led to me being named one of 16 finalists of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) New Ideas Challenge. The New Ideas Challenge gives recognition to smart, pro-growth progressive solutions that are being developed and tested by state and local leaders across the country.

To spur economic development and job creation in key sectors of Montgomery County’s economy, my white paper proposes building ultra high-speed, ultra reliable and ultra secure data networks in the County’s centers of research and economic activity. These are our innovation districts, such as the future White Oak development, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Bethesda and Silver Spring.

These districts are attractive for investment and job creation because of the presence of federal agencies, such as the FDA, NIST, NIH and NOAA. He also points out the County’s significant private sector strengths and its highly educated resident workforce base focused around the life sciences, earth sciences, biotech and cyber-security industries.

The proposed development in White Oak, next to FDA, will be a great proving ground for these concepts.

I also praise County Executive Leggett’s initiatives to streamline the development process—an area where I have has successfully championed a variety of reforms. In addition, I support the Executive’s proposal to create a new tech-sector incubator.

I will join a roundtable discussion with County Executive Leggett and County-based entrepreneurs on Monday, Dec. 8, at the tech-sector incubator 1776.

VIDEO: Pushing the technology envelope in MoCo

You might enjoy this short video reporting on my work promoting next generation internet infrastructure in Montgomery County.

I recently released a White Paper called “Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks.” If you are interested in this topic I hope you’ll read the report and let me know what you think.

Moving Montgomery forward with technology

One of my top priorities on the County Council is to develop new technology initiatives that can drive growth in our local economy as well as strengthen the transparency and accountability of government.

If you read my new white paper on Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks, you will get a sense of why I think new technology initiatives are so important for our county.

To spur economic development in key sectors of Montgomery County’s economy, my white paper proposes the more effective utilization of ultra high-speed (100+ gigabits per second), ultra reliable, and ultra secure data networks in the county’s centers of research and economic activity — our innovation districts. These districts include White Oak, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Bethesda and Silver Spring. What makes these districts so attractive for investment and job creation is the presence of federal agencies, such as the FDA, NIST, NIH, NOAA, a significant private sector toehold, and highly educated resident base focused around the life science, earth science, biotech and cybersecurity industries.

The specific challenge for the County is to form collaborative partnerships with the major federal institutions, non-profit, and private-sector companies to leverage these ultra high-speed connections. Specifically, the County will need a better understanding how federal agencies, such as the FDA and NIH, could use the next-gen applications made possible by the ultra high-speed networks. Then, the County should use these partnerships to attract businesses to build those applications in each innovation districts. The challenge is great, but the rewards could be substantial for the continued growth in the County’s economic base.

If you would like to dig a bit deeper into these exciting concepts, I invite you to read the white paper on this interactive website:

Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks

I am also thrilled to share a landmark new development in financial transparency for the county — the launch of our new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model. The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012, which I authored.

Some of the key highlights of the new budget tool include:

  • Allows residents to digitally navigate the current and past budgets with interactive graphs and charts.
  • Enhanced search capability and optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop.
  • Translatable into more than 90 languages.
  • Future modules of the tool will include spending and procurement data.

As the Council’s Lead Member for Digital Government, I am pleased to see the Montgomery County Executive–in collaboration with the private sector open data company, Socrata–develop an innovative tool that will help residents better understand our County’s budget and finances and more effectively participate in the decisions our government makes. We are working to replace the lengthy paper budget books and endless PDF files that have provided all of our budget information for years, with web-based tools that allow residents to see spending patterns and priorities over time, crunch their own numbers, and hold government more accountable.

budgetMontgomery

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on both of these please initiatives. Please do email me at Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov to let me know what you think!