A cybersecurity center that Montgomery County officials have hailed as a new step in Montgomery County’s economic future is one step closer to reality after a ceremony Tuesday in Annapolis.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) joined Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore to sign an agreement that will help solidify the county’s plans to build the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Rockville.
Cybersecurity is a sector with a huge upside for future employment in the county, Leggett told The Gazette Tuesday.
Montgomery historically has been on the cutting edge of economic and technical challenges, and the center provides a chance for the county to be a leader in the cybersecurity industry as well, he said.
Mikulski and O’Malley both praised the role the center could help play in the state’s economy.
“We want Maryland to be the epicenter for cybersecurity in the United States,” Mikulski told Capital News Service.
In a statement released by his office, O’Malley said the agreement would bring together private companies, educational institutions and government agencies to both help protect personal data and create economic growth.
The center was one of the main recommendations of a report released by O’Malley in 2010, “CyberMaryland: Epicenter for Information Security and Innovation.”
The plan for the center has drawn criticism from county executive candidate Douglas M. Duncan (D), who is running against Leggett and Councilman Philip M. Andrews for the Democratic nomination.
Duncan has said the relocation of bioscience companies now at the site of the new center at the William Hanna Center for Innovation would damage the county’s long-standing role as a leader in the life sciences industry.
County officials have insisted the move doesn’t mean any retreat from biosciences and said they’re confident the county can be a leader in both industries.
Steven A. Silverman, head of the county’s Department of Economic Development, said the new center will help make Montgomery a national hub for the nonmilitary cybersecurity industry.
“Civil cybersecurity today is where life sciences was 35 years ago in our county,” Silverman said.
Leggett said the county will fall behind unless it constantly tries to reinvent itself.
“I don’t want to see Montgomery County in that position,” he said.