Daily Journal, March 14 (Digital Gov)

Today started with an impressive briefing by leaders in the tech sector on the topic of Montgomery County and the new economy. We talked with a venture capitalist, Brad Burnham, who urged us to create urban areas where young tech workers want to live, promote community banking to increase lending for small businesses, and use our data effectively to foster new tech start-ups. These are all initiatives I am working on and excited about, so I was very encouraged by his comments.

David Lieber from Google talked about ways that we can partner with the company, particularly with Google Transit but also Maps, Apps and other areas. We’re already started with Google but need to build a more effective partnership.

Wayne Jackson, CEO of Sonatype, a cyber security firm, talked about how he moved his company here from Silicon Valley. His comments were particularly interesting as we discovered a tension between the advice of Burnham, who said that young tech workers are less interested in schools, and Jackson, who said that he located his company here precisely because the workers are more loyal and rooted in the county. Jackson said our quality school system is essential for fostering the kind of workforce that he needs to have a successful company. He targets a different workforce, essentially, that has tech skills but won’t jump ship for the next start-up quite as easily when times get tough. In truth I assume you need both layers for a robust economy and in my view MoCo doesn’t have enough of the younger types to have the right balance, but according to Mr. Jackson we don’t want to swing the pendulum too far in that direction.

Over lunch I sat with my team to talk about upcoming priorities, strategies, and legislation that I am preparing to introduce.

In the afternoon, I had a discussion with a current events group at Magruder High School. I left that meeting invigorated by the unique and amazing qualities of our MCPS students.

Rushing back to the office, I then met with the county executive’s team to talk about our progress on digital government. We will soon be rolling out an open data platform (as Burnham was urging this morning) and an array of other initiatives that I have been planning with the Executive Branch. They are doing a superb job getting this initiative going.

After some time chewing over various issues with my chief of staff, I headed down to Glen Echo for the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth’s awards event, where they honored the generous volunteers who do so much to support youth programs in the county.