Daily Journal (March 7th)

Today I received a tour of the Shady Grove Innovation Center, one of the county’s five business incubators. Some years back the county launched an aggressive program to incubate new businesses, and today it is one of the country’s largest. The innovation centers provide a more efficient way for entrepreneurs to get their companies off the ground, and also they provide access to a community of other entrepreneurs and workers.

I met Richard Garr, CEO of Neuralstem, a company building therapies with Stem Cells. I met Noel Doheny, of Epigenomics, a company that is seeking FDA approval for a device that will improve reliability and reduce cost for identifying colonoscopy.

I’m pictured here with Tashu Trivedi, an IT entrepreneur whose company provides support for the financial services that Federal agencies use.

In this picture, I am with Dr. Yan Su, a former academic researcher whose company, GenProMarkers, is working to identify a biological “proof” of PTSD that the military can use in determining benefits. You can’t quite see it, but we are looking at a slide with an example of his research.

Each of these entrepreneurs finds a different value in the innovation center. For some, like Dr. Su, it helps him make the transition from academic researcher to business manager – the “technology transfer” issue that we hear so much about. With agencies like NIH in our midst, for example, we must see new pathways to help commercialize the economic value that can be created from research programs.

This science and technology based economy is crucial to our future in the county. As I face down a continuing budget crisis, I have concluded that if we want to pay for school buildings, we need more office buildings. Our over-reliance on residential property tax income is creating a real challenge for the county. With the innovation centers, we are planting seeds for a spring to come.

My last meeting of the day was with youth from Gandhi Brigade—a great non profit that focuses on youth using the media for social justice issues. We started off the meeting with an ice breaker called “The Big Wind Blows”. This got our energy going for the conversation that followed. Gandhi Brigade youth expressed the need for space to hold community activities and engagement amongst generations. There needs to be a space that the community sees as their own, one that is affordable.