by Moxye Staff
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous brought Google representatives to meet with local leaders in Baltimore and Prince George’s County Thursday, in hopes of bringing more tech investment to the state.
Jealous, who announced his candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last May, said he wanted to show the Google executives Maryland’s diverse tech workforce and capacity for generating startups. He has said previously that he doesn’t think Gov. Larry Hogan is doing enough to support a health technology ecosystem in Maryland, and that he wanted to attract major tech players like Facebook to the state. Jealous is a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a partner at California-based venture firm Kapor Capital.
David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development for Google parent company Alphabet, and Bradley Horowitz, VP at Google, accompanied Jealous on the mini Maryland tour.
Jealous said lack of workforce diversity is a well-known problem in the tech sector, especially in places like Silicon Valley where around 15 percent of computer programmers are women, and only 2 or 3 percent are black. But according to U.S. census data, almost 20 percent of computer programmers and engineers are black, Jealous noted. He said he wanted to demonstrate Maryland’s diversity and tech potential to Drummond and Horowitz, and begin conversations “that will hopefully continue” about the kinds of opportunities here for a tech giant like Google.
“I know we all share a passion for making tech more inclusive, and the fact is, it’s easier to do here in Maryland,” Jealous said. “I believe with our strengths, we can attract more tech companies to come here to build a more robust tech economy, without having to do the math of a multibillion-dollar giveaway.”
Jealous made nods to the state’s $5 billion incentive package offered in attempts to lure Amazon.com’s second U.S. headquarters to Montgomery County.
Thursday’s tour focused on Prince George’s County and Baltimore as kind of “hubs” for the activity and progress happening around tech and diversity in the state. Both areas have clusters of higher education institutions contributing to the local workforce and communities that are investing in and developing infrastructure around tech-friendly futures.
For example, College Park has seen millions of dollars in privately and publicly funded development over the past several years, bringing in projects like state-of-the-art computer science and engineering buildings at the University of Maryland, new Class A office buildings and a new hotel and conference center. And Baltimore has more than 15 incubators and accelerators helping to grow and retain locally-born startups.
Drummond said he has spent about 15 years traveling around the world, visiting tech ecosystems in search of both top tech talent to bring into his company and quality startup companies in which Alphabet can invest.
“We have been very impressed with our visit so far and seeing the infrastructure people are really intentionally putting together here to try grow the ecosystem,” Drummond said. “As a company, we want to invest an grow in places that have a lot of diverse talent.”
Drummond said he has noticed Maryland has some unique advantages in terms of tech as well, like a concentration of government agencies and organizations working on research backed by millions of federal dollars.
Jealous pointed out that Google already has ties to the state and its higher education system through Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder and University of Maryland alumnus.
“What we want to focus on is: How do we take one of the places with ties to the origin of Google and create more opportunities for both this place and that company,” Jealous said. “I hope they see we have great building blocks here for a great tech economy.”
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