Troy A. LeMaile-Stovall

TEDCO cultivates the ecosystem, laying the ground work for a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable ecosystem in Maryland

Successful farmers know that the time they spend cultivating their land is a crucial step in producing healthy, thriving crops.  They also know that cultivation requires a multi-pronged approach, one that relies on the right combination of human capital, investment, crucial equipment and computing infrastructure—and a well-thought-out strategy to foster growth. 

It’s the same with Maryland, which stands at an economic development crossroads. Called “asset rich and strategy poor” by Governor Wes Moore, the state needs a new approach. Cultivate Maryland was created to change the economic development narrative to “asset AND strategy rich.” 

TEDCO is here to help cultivate this new phase in Maryland, implementing a bold strategy to increase Maryland’s competitiveness as an innovation economy, expand opportunities for a larger and more diverse workforce, and increase wealth and representation in communities that have the talent but are currently underrepresented in STEM spaces. 

In this post I’ll share the exciting progress that’s occurred in both the 2022 and 2023 General Assembly sessions, my views on four essential elements of a successful action plan to grow and diversify our innovation ecosystem, and our crucial next steps as we work to Cultivate Maryland together.  
The seeds for Cultivate Maryland were planted by the General Assembly in 2022

At the start of the Maryland 2022 legislative session, TEDCO was asked by House and Senate leadership through the Joint Chair Report to conduct a study on the effectiveness and impact of the State’s current economic development strategy (“Study”). Goals of the study include identification of strategies that would increase Maryland’s competitiveness as an innovation economy to retain and attract trained workers; grow Maryland’s innovation economy to create opportunities for a larger and more diverse workforce; increase the number of underrepresented individuals (minorities) in high technology-based (STEM) education, careers, and entrepreneurial activity in Maryland; and increase wealth in Maryland’s underrepresented (minority) communities.

The General Assembly’s mandated report included ambitious 10-year goals 

  • Maryland is a top 10 fastest-growing state in advanced technology industries;
  • The share of jobs at all skill levels, including high-skill jobs, held by minority workers equals their overall workforce representation;
  • The number of STEM degrees and experiential learning opportunities for minority students equals their overall presence in the workforce;
  • The number of minority entrepreneurs participating in start-ups equals their overall workforce representation; and
  • Raising the levels of minority resident-owned businesses and housing in surrounding neighborhoods.

TEDCO was asked to draft legislation to make financial, policy, and governance recommendations for a 10-year, $500M Equitech Growth Fund that would support achievement of these goals.

State leaders approve funding support for Cultivate Maryland in 2023 

The 2023 session saw the introduction of important legislation for the innovation ecosystem:  HB 781/SB 699 stablished the creation of an Equitech Growth Fund.  Shepherded by House Ways & Means Committee Chair Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary and Senate President Pro Temp Malcom Augustine—and cultivated by a coalition of private and public sector supporters—the legislation passed out of both houses and was signed by Governor Wes Moore. 

The final legislation includes $3M in FY24 and $5M a year for 9 years starting in FY25 for the  Equitech Growth fund, as well as establishment of an Equitech Growth Fund Commission. This cultivation resulted from the efforts and support of the “Coalition of the Willing,” an assembly of private and public sector leaders who are committed to this exciting public-private partnership, one where the private sector will lead and invest, in coordination with seed funds from the public sector.

Moving from legislative cultivation to cultivating our “4 Ss” action plan 

The passage of this essential legislation creating both a commission and a fund was a key element of our state’s work to cultivate our innovation ecosystem. What’s next? I advocate an action plan that’s focused on the 4 Ss:

  • Scale – we must “add a zero” – where we invest $5M that must become $5B—and we must be honest about what we can scale (1 or 2 things) versus what we can invest in;
  • Stitch – we must bring together the various efforts attempting to address the same question, knowing that cohesion will create scale and our scaling will incentivize stitching; 
  • Storytelling – we must tell our story using both data-informed means and real people, as effective storytelling generates more resources to scale and stitch;
  • Stickiness – we will create a higher level of stickiness (something we can measure) when we scale better, stitch effectively and story tell more robustly, leading to more firms that start, grow, and scale in Maryland.

Essential Tools and Partners in Cultivate Maryland’s Success 

TEDCO's Cultivate Maryland initiative will support the growth of a more diverse and sustainable innovation ecosystem in MarylandWe know that small seeds require careful cultivation to become a robust crop or blooming garden; it takes the right tools and team to ensure proper irrigation, fertilization, and harvesting. 

We have a wealth of tools as we start this cultivation, from the Equitech Growth Fund to the  Build Our Future Grant Pilot Program and Fund (Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act of 2023, HB552/SB549), Cyber Maryland (HB1189/SB801) and  Industry 4.0 Technology Grant Program (HB622/SB906). These resources—coupled with TEDCO’s already established funds like the Social Impact and Seed Funds—are an excellent base from which to leverage federal, corporate and philanthropic resources to cultivate an inclusive innovation ecosystem here in Maryland.  

To lead the mission, the Equitech Growth Commission will be a 24-member group that includes participation from a diverse group of private and public sector representatives, many of whom will be appointed by the Governor and legislative leadership this fiscal year. This group will lead the Governor’s charge to enhance Maryland’s strategic status, thereby reversing the “asset rich and strategy poor” status we currently have. 

Furthermore, this group will be having the necessary conversations, ensuring Maryland not only aligns with the reversal, but becomes a singular entity aligned in the same mission thereby stitching the state together and allowing communities to collaborate and support the “strategy rich” state we hope to become.

Cultivate Maryland will be the umbrella effort to ensure we are scaling, stitching, and storytelling with a clear vision of the endgame – making Maryland a Top 10 state for high tech job growth. In farming there are key dates the define the cycle, so here are ours

•    SB669 passed: April 6, 2023
•    HB781 passed: April 8, 2023
•    Governor signed bills: May 8, 2023
•    Effective date: July 1, 2023
•    Maryland becomes a Top 10 fastest growing state: July 1, 2040

It's time to Cultivate Maryland—we hope you’ll join us.