Port Covington is planting a flag as a cybersecurity hub.
With the first phase of development on the South Baltimore peninsula, leaders are aiming to create a magnet for cyber and tech companies, providing a landing point where companies can locate while drawing from the wide pool of talent in Maryland that congregates around NSA and government research centers.
“We call it Cyber Town, USA,” said Mike Janke, a leader of the effort and cofounder of Data Tribe.
At a waterfront ceremony attended outside Port Covington’s Rye Street Tavern on Thursday that was attended by officials including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore city Mayor Catherine Pugh and U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Port Covington development team leader Marc Weller announced the first three residents:
- DataTribe, the startup studio that first opened in Howard County’s Maple Lawn community, which works to build startups alongside technologists bringing technology out of the state’s government centers. It has birthed startups such as Dragos, Enveil and ReFirm Labs.
- AllegisCyber, the Silicon Valley–originated investment firm founded by Bob Ackerman that focuses on cybersecurity companies and has built a presence in Maryland.
- Evergreen Advisors, the Columbia-based investment and corporate advisory firm focusing on growth-stage companies.
With first phase of development, @port_covington looks to create home for cybersecurity companies. Development team head Marc Weller announces first tenants will be @data_tribe, Allegis Capital and @evergreenadvise. pic.twitter.com/veSKAiZjpx
— Technical.ly Baltimore (@TechnicallyBMR) October 18, 2018
The three firms intend to relocate to Port Covington in 2020, and Janke said he is in talks with more. That’s when “Chapter 1” of the Port Covington development is expected to be opened. In all, the phase is expected to include 1.26 million sq. ft. of office space, retail, residential and hotel space, as well as an open-air market and food hall.
Owned by a company controlled by Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank as well as Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, the 235-acre Port Covington development already has activity in the form of the City Garage entrepreneurial and maker hub, an Under Armour office known as Building 37, the Sagamore Spirit distillery and the headquarters of the Baltimore Sun. The first phase of development represents initial plans for buildings beyond those already in place. Future plans also include a campus for Under Armour and more mixed-use space.
The development also has a fiberoptic loop that will offer gigabit-speed internet and public WiFi. It will be built with cyber-hardened infrastructure from the start, officials said.
When it comes to growing the number of companies there, however, it’s people that are key to the focus on cybersecurity. It was at the center of remarks from Gov. Hogan an Mayor Catherine Pugh.
“What we all recognize is that there is so much talent in and around our city,” Pugh said, highlighting colleges and universities in the area, as well as the concentration of engineering talent.
That’s perhaps an argument other areas could make. But when it comes to cybersecurity and data science, however, the state is unique.
“Maryland has the largest cybersecurity employee population in the U.S.,” said Janke, who along with Ackerman characterized the state’s cyber talent along the lines of a natural resource. Ackerman, dubbed “cybersecurity’s money man” for his early investment in the space, said he initially came to Maryland reluctantly, but later saw that technology coming out of government labs is often several years ahead of what’s being developed outside the walls. While cybersecurity has emerged as one of the city and state’s leading areas where startups form and reach growth stage or exit, most of the state’s engineers still tend to work in government and in services businesses. Janke and Ackerman see an opportunity to apply those developments to the commercial sector. Drawing on a Silicon Valley network, they are among a group who have been working to build up resources to help fund and grow new businesses around that talent. At Port Covington, the announcement indicated they’ll start with some of those elements in place. Janke said they are in conversations with more than two dozen additional companies about relocating to the area, but did not name them.
“This will be the corporate headquarters of cyber innovation in the United States,” Ackerman said.
Janke, Ackerman and other development leaders said they met with public officials and thanked leaders for support. However, the development is not receiving additional public funding beyond the $660 million bond deal for the entire Port Covington project that’s already been approved.
“This new development at Port Covington will help spur further development of cyber companies, bringing much-needed jobs, capital investment and business opportunities to Baltimore city and our state,” said Hogan.