COLLEGE PARK – Local, state and federal officials Thursday launched a research park that aims to make Maryland “the Silicon Valley of the East” by drawing on the university and nearby federal agencies.
The university’s new 124-acre Enterprise Campus, dubbed “M Square,” will provide more than 2 million square feet of research space for companies at the cutting-edge of technology. The research park could ultimately employ as many as 5,000 workers in public and private-sector offices.
The state put up $5 million to help finance the research, laboratory and incubator facilities that will define the park, which has already attracted to federal government agencies as tenants.
“It’s a wise and important investment to make,” said Lt. Gov. Michael Steele of the state’s contribution. “(The site) will help to make Maryland the Silicon Valley of the East.”
Brian Darmody, the university’s assistant vice president for research and economic development, said the park would provide a home for firms focused on space and earth sciences, defense and security technology, and food safety.
Darmody said companies would likely flock to the site to be close to the Food and Drug Administration’s nearby Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), which will be housed in M Square.
NOAA will serve as one of the park’s two initial anchors. The university’s Center for the Advanced Study of Languages, funded by the Department of Defense, is the other.
“This will accelerate the transfer of research results into operations,” said NCEP Director Louis W. Uccellini of his agency’s proximity to the university, its researchers and facilities. “Right now, it takes too long.”
Darmody said that federal appropriations will cover the cost of both the 285,000-square-foot NOAA facility, which is expected to be completed in 2007, and the construction of the language center.
The center was created with federal funds in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to helps sharpen the foreign language skill of federal employees including those at the NSA and other intelligence agencies.
The university has partnered with Maryland commercial real estate firms Manekin, Corporate Offices Properties Trust and The Michael Companies to develop, construct, market and manage the site.
University officials say they envision a 10-year timeline for completion of construction.
Besides Steele, Thursday’s event drew University of Maryland President C.D. Mote, National Security Agency head Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, and state Senate President Mike Miller, D-Calvert, among others.
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