By Logan B. Anderson, Reprinted from The Banner, June 3, 2013

CAMBRIDGE — After nearly two decades of political maneuvering, inaction and disagreements, thanks to the Dorchester County Council’s recent budget vote and its Economic Development Department Director’s work, the Regional Technology Park is in its final phases. The county’s fiscal year 2014 budget, adopted last week, includes a $2.2 million capital expenditure for the construction of a business incubator building at the technology park on Bucktown Road.

The vote signaled the end of a project, started in 1999, that Dorchester County Council President Jay L. Newcomb described as a, “nightmare.”

It is almost over,” said Councilman Newcomb.

“The Dorchester County Council’s recent actions concerning the Regional Technology Park represent real and relevant progress to move this project from conception to construction to completion,” said Keasha Haythe, director of the Dorchester County Economic Development Department.

The council’s recent actions — beyond the vote to allocate the construction funds and granting access to already allocated State of Maryland dollars — include choosing a commercial real estate broker to market and sell the lots in the park.

“These actions strengthen Dorchester’s economy by creating the infrastructure, environment and network to help entrepreneurs and small business owners start, expand or move their business here,” said Ms. Haythe. “The council’s actions demonstrate that long-term economic success is the result of public-private partnerships, a long-term vision and commitment to an integrated economic development strategy. Council’s approvals directly impact the county by providing an environment that will increase Dorchester’s tax base and create jobs today – and 21st century jobs tomorrow.”

The plan for the Dorchester County Regional Technology Park has three phases. Phase I, though started 14 years ago, was just completed last year and involved installing the basic and technological infrastructure that the park needed.

Ms. Haythe said the council’s recent votes, “Allows us to complete Phase II of the Technology Park and immediately launch Phase III.”

“Phase II is development of the park’s ‘anchor tenant’ incubator – Innovation Crossroads. By selecting the Willow construction team as the design-build contractor – work will begin immediately and the public should see construction begin this fall. We are on task and on-time for a Spring 2014 ribbon cutting,” said Ms. Haythe.

Willow Construction is an Eastern Shore-based firm and plans to hire local contractors for its tech park project.

The incubator is designed to attract new startup technology companies to Dorchester County. As the name implies, the facility will incubate starting businesses by allowing new ventures to focus on creating their product or service. The large firms that new companies may be competing with already have large office buildings with conference rooms, administrative assistants and access to expensive things many take for granted like office furniture and copy machines. The incubator provides these business necessities so startup companies can flourish and potentially expand in Dorchester County, either in the technology park or another local property.

“Dorchester’s first business incubator will provide county residents and business owners with all the advantages of an Eastern Shore address with Western Shore amenities,” said Ms. Haythe. “In addition to affordable space in a high tech building, incubator tenants will receive professional support services and network to jumpstart their success.”

The Regional Technology Park will be complete when its lots have been sold and businesses start to come to the Heart of Chesapeake Country.

“Cassidy-Turley is a respected real estate broker recognized for their ability to successfully sell and lease commercial spaces to business tenants. The company will work with the economic development office to identify and target prospective tech park businesses for the 15 lots. This is a great deal for the county as the company is paid when the lot is sold,” said Ms. Haythe.

If all goes according to plan, the economic impact for the region will be significant.

“It is estimated that the economic impact of the tech park alone could be-private investment over $37 million and well over 500 jobs,” said Ms. Haythe.

The project started in December of 1999, when Dorchester County was awarded a $1.75 million grant through the “One Maryland” program to develop a technology park adjacent to the Cambridge/Dorchester Regional Airport. The Dorchester County Economic Development Office and the council — in partnership with the City of Cambridge, the State of Maryland and the Federal Government’s Economic Development Administration — have since worked to develop a, full-service, fully-wired and centrally located Technology Park off of US 50. The fruit of those labors will start to grow this year and will blossom next year. The investment the county, state and City of Cambridge have made on Bucktown Road should pay off soon.