The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) has been gradually implementing a transformation and disclosing its plans for its venture, the North Haven Street-based Emerging Technology Centers (ETC Baltimore).
According to BDC President Colin Tarbert, the COVID-19 pandemic helped inspire a reevaluation of how ETC engages with its audiences and assesses the most effective ways to bolster Baltimore’s tech and entrepreneurship sectors. In response to these changes and to move beyond merely offering affordable coworking space, BDC kicked off a strategic planning process in the spring.
“I would say that the impetus for the strategic plan was that, sort of, there are two things. One was maybe not expected and the other one was expected,” Tarbert told Technical.ly. “One was the pandemic and kind of the shift of what it means to have a co-working space, and also what resources entrepreneurs need and just how the world is working post-pandemic. And then two was, or is, the fact that our lease at Haven Street is ending within a 10-year lease, which expires at the end of this month, which we also knew was coming. And so it was an opportunity for us to think about the ETC moving forward.”
A little history
Back in October 2022, ETC underwent a discreet leadership change that wasn’t officially announced until March 2023 when Kimberly Clark, the executive vice president (EVP) of BDC, assumed the roles of ETC’s acting executive director and president. This change came after the departure of longstanding executive director and president Deb Tillett under circumstances that remain unclear. During a joint interview with Tarbert, Clark affirmed that her tenure in those acting ETC leadership positions is temporary.
“Yeah, I have enough to handle as the executive vice president of BDC,” she said. “So, I don’t need any more titles or responsibilities. But I also recognize that, you know, I was the most appropriate at the time to step into the role as president while we were going through this strategic planning, as well as working with the various tenants over at the current ETC.”
Coming up with the new strategic plan
Since early summer, BDC worked with HR&A Advisors, Brick & Story and Rodney Sampson to lead the strategic planning process. That work includes finding a new director and possibly filling other roles at ETC. A mix of nearly 50 organizations and individuals, including Impact Hub Baltimore; Spark Baltimore; Wendy Bolger, founding director of the Simon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Loyola University Maryland; and Jay Nwachu, president and CEO of Innovation Works Baltimore, are named in the aforelinked strategic plan as having provided input. A footnote in the document says: “Note: These organizations and individuals provided input for this strategy but have not endorsed it and their views may or may not be represented in the final version.”
Clark noted that she did not participate in all parts of the planning process.
“I, for one, personally did not want to be part of any of those focus groups because I didn’t want to influence,” she said. “I really wanted to hear and see what folks had to say.”
As for the future, Clark put her faith in a future executive director.
“The hiring of the executive director will help us achieve our goals to be the convener that we need to be and to make sure that we’re achieving our goals that we have set forth for the ETC moving forward,” she said.
Applications for that position are being accepted through Dec. 1.
The brochure provided to Technical.ly for the executive director role at ETC contains a blurb about Baltimore, highlighting its recent designation as a federal tech hub; a position description; and an overview of the strategic plan outlining the organization’s three programmatic areas.
Tarbert said he hopes to establish a robust national brand for ETC within Baltimore’s ecosystem in the coming years. The organization’s focus on those three new programmatic areas — acting as an amplifier, offering catalytic funding to early-stage startups and serving as a community connector — aims to achieve this goal.
“A lot has happened in Baltimore in over 10 years,” he said. “And so, the good news is I think there’s a lot more partners and resources that exist, but making sure that ETC’s plugged in in a way that is synergistic and not duplicative is really kind of my goal for this so that we can leverage all these other resources that have come to Baltimore in the last decade.”
What’s coming up for BDC?
BDC will be involved in several events over the coming weeks. The Baltimore Together Summit is scheduled from Monday, Oct. 30 to Thursday, Nov. 2. It will feature breakout sessions like “Making Matters,” about the partnership between Open Works and Coppin State University; and “Serving the Needs of an Untapped Workforce,” which addresses professional pathways and hurdles for life sciences and tech workers. Tarbert encouraged those interested to join the livestream of the summit for insightful discussion.
In addition, the grand opening party for Made In Baltimore’s holiday store — another BDC initiative — will be held on Nov. 9.
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