CyberMaryland / Cybersecurity / Investing / Municipal government / Q&As

MD focuses on startups ‘because of phenomenal growth’: Dominick Murray

Dominick Murray has been secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development since early 2013. Baltimore spoke with him in advance of the third CyberMaryland conference.

DBED Secretary Dominick Murray. (Photo by Jay Baker)

Dominick Murray, the secretary for the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, started working for Martin O’Malley in 2002 and has been working for the former mayor of Baltimore ever since.
He moved here from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, in 1979 at the age of 25. He moved to the Baltimore region in 1999, and is “still at two different places” in Baltimore city: a residence near Mount Pleasant Golf Course, and another not far from Belevedere Square. He spent two years at a seminary, thinking he would become a priest. But after multiple stints in the private sector, at such places as Westinghouse Electric Company and CVS selling radio advertising, he found himself with a job in government.
Since 2007 he has been with Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, serving as deputy secretary from 2009 until early 2013, when he took over the top job. In September Baltimore spoke with Secretary Murray, in advance of the third annual CyberMaryland conference, which kicks off today at the Baltimore Convention Center and champions the state’s formidable cybersecurity industry.
TB: Maryland is noted oftentimes as a cybersecurity hub for the U.S., but how much of a boon is the cyber industry for Baltimore city?
DM: I would suggest that Baltimore is going to benefit from it. There’s a reverse-commute phenomenon. People can live in the city. I do believe you’ll find a large growth of cyber in the city of Baltimore.
TB: OK, but is it wise to rely on an industry that, at least right now, is more dependent on federal spending?
DM: I really do believe there’s a small segment of the population who concentrates on [the public sector versus the private sector]. I don’t think that we count too heavily on it, but I do think we need to capitalize on the opportunity that it presents. Here’s a piece of data for you: more private sector jobs were gained in Maryland than public sector jobs. Now, that may relate to the government spending money with private companies, but I doubt, if you go into a local shop, they don’t want to take that money.
TB: So the state Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) doesn’t necessarily see a difference between public and private?
Jobs are jobs. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’ve had more private sector growth than not. I don’t think we’re concentrating on trying to get federal jobs. But we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the fed government has needs that the private sector can fulfill.
TB: Sticking with cybersecurity: does DBED feel the heat at all from the revelations of how far-reaching the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance operation is? At a point, doesn’t it become unwise to keep pushing cybersecurity?
DM: It’s incumbent on every person and every corporation to live a responsible life. You could say that about almost every industry. There’s always the opportunity to look at the negative parts of it. My responsibility is to create jobs, I’d say responsible jobs, and jobs that would this a better place to live. We want to make the world a better place. So if there’s opportunities for people to exploit metadata, then there’s all the more reason for people to have jobs where they prevent people from doing that.
TB: Still on jobs, but let’s shift a bit. Startup growth represents such a small number of jobs, so why does DBED give much attention to it?
DM: That’s because of phenomenal growth. You don’t want to not look at something just because it’s small, because it might not always be small. What we want to do is concentrate on the accelerated possibility.
TB: If you could pick only one priority for DBED to focus on — to encourage growth in the Baltimore region’s economy — would it be high-level tax and regulation reform, or grassroots community development?
DM: I don’t think there’s ever just an “either” or an “or.” When something is growing, we need to pay attention to the whole system. Our part is to enable the businesses that are going to continue to grow. … What we’re going to tend to is the growth of the companies that are here with the tools that we have. A lot of that is more dependent on our interconnectedness than on anything else.

Companies: Maryland Department of Commerce / Baltimore Convention Center / State of Maryland

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