For anyone who uses a computer, work being performed in Greater Baltimore is helping to make that experience a safer one.
With its proximity to major federal institutions and military installations, an impressive concentration of scientific and professional services workers, standout college and university programs, renowned research institutions, and a support infrastructure that encourages high-tech enterprise, Greater Baltimore is flourishing as a global center for information technology and cyber security.
The region's concentration of professionals in IT occupations is higher than in Silicon Valley or Boston. Greater Baltimore features one of the nation's highest concentrations in data processing and technical consulting, and it ranks sixth for concentration of cyber security professionals.
A major advantage for the region in developing its cyber security and IT sectors is the quality of its workforce. Eight of the region's colleges and universities are ranked as NSA Information Assurance Centers of Excellence. The Baltimore-Washington region also boasts more computer science degree graduates than anywhere in the nation. Having that level of talent is one of the reasons that Fort Meade, which already was home to the National Security Agency, became the headquarters of the newly formed U.S. Cyber Command in 2010. Anne Arundel County, where Fort Meade is located, has attracted a number of cyber-related developments such as Lockheed Martin's 56,000-square-foot Cyber Center of Excellence, which opened in 2013 with a seating capacity for 250 professionals.
"There is a growing need for computer science and cyber security professionals, and the Fort Meade area has established itself as a prime environment for such backgrounds," says Deon Viergutz, Lockheed Martin vice president of cyber solutions.
"Our customers benefit from our subject matter experts being closely immersed in the latest techniques and knowledge base."
In addition to system labs and employee training rooms, the facility contains an Advanced Innovation Center that utilizes the breadth of Lockheed Martin’s capabilities and investments, so the team can rapidly develop and provide solutions to customers’ most critical mission needs. Aberdeen Proving Ground, which began as a center to test military equipment and ordnance, is now the premier research center for military weapons systems. Work that takes place on the 72,000-acre complex in Harford County has made it a hub of research, development and testing.
Incubators for Growth
The region offers a number of resources that encourage entrepreneurship in the cyber and IT sectors. The BWtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park cyber incubator provides business and technical support to early stage companies in the IT and cyber security arenas. About a dozen companies have graduated from the incubator, and about 35 are still involved in the program. About a dozen companies are in the Cync program sponsored by Northrop Grumman, which provides a scholarship and additional resources to select companies.
"The companies like to become a part of this community, where they can access relevant programming for their industry sector," says Ellen J. Hemmerly, BWtech president and executive director. One graduate company, Fearless Solutions, was started by UMBC graduate Delali Dzirasa to develop secure software solutions, including cyber network visualization. The company has grown to six employees. Another startup, Light Point Security, participated in the Cync program and will be close to graduating at the end of 2015, says Zuly Gonzalez, CEO and co-founder. Before joining the incubator in 2012, Gonzalez and her partner needed help creating a business around their secure software technology.
"Building our product was easy, but building a company around that product is where the incubator's resources were helpful for us," she says. Another homegrown company, Millennial Media, has become a global leader in the mobile device advertising industry. Millennial Media was founded in Baltimore in 2006 and has made Charm City its headquarters for nearly a decade, says Dani Cushion, senior vice president, global marketing and communications. "Our office's location in the Canton neighborhood is ideal for attracting creative and technical talent, and its proximity to BWI Airport makes traveling between Millennial Media's 16 global offices really easy," Cushon says.
"The city is teeming with new life: tech companies, restaurants, shops and real estate. We have found a welcome and permanent home in Baltimore, and we look forward to promoting and sharing in the city's growth for years to come."