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From Site Selection magazine, July 2024

It Starts With The Man in Charge

But climate tech is totally Maryland.

Gov. Wes Moore welcomes Blink Charging to Maryland.
Photo courtesy of Blink Charging Co.

by Gary Daughters

ed by Gov. Wes Moore, a delegation of Maryland’s senior elected officials turned out in March to help Blink Charging Co. celebrate the launch of its new global headquarters and manufacturing operation in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Bowie. Their presence sent an unmistakable signal to the multi-service EV charging venture, previously headquartered in Miami.

“The whole company got the feeling that Maryland really wants us here,” recalls Harjinder Bhade, Blink’s chief technology officer. “The warm welcome has ignited immediate collaboration on important sustainability initiatives together.”

And yes, Maryland truly does want Blink and other early-stage entrants in the climate tech space. Discerning a potentially massive opportunity that skews toward Maryland’s strengths, officials have dusted off and are refining a playbook that helped to establish the state as an undisputed global leader in the biotechnology sphere, with more than 3,600 life sciences companies now pursuing ground-breaking solutions.

“Ten or 15 years ago when Maryland came into its own in the biotech arena, it was a targeted effort by the state,” says Katherine Magruder, executive director of Maryland Clean Energy Center, the statewide umbrella organization whose mission is to advance clean energy and energy efficient products and services. “What we’re looking at here is a similar model but with climate tech. We’re putting everything in place to make Maryland a leader. Maryland,” Magruder adds, “is a knowledge economy, and the jobs we will create and bring here are going to leverage our workforce, one of the most highly educated in the country.”

Recently having established some of the nation’s most aggressive climate goals — with a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 — Gov. Moore and his team are actively crafting new programs and funding streams to build out Maryland’s climate tech ecosystem.

“The governor is backing up the climate goals with over 40 statewide initiatives and more being developed every day,” says Ryan Powell, energy program manager in the Office of Strategic Industries and Entrepreneurship at the Maryland Department of Commerce. “There is a lot of goodwill and, more importantly, a lot of money that’s being pushed into this area to help the industry grow and thrive.”

Breeding Ground for Brainy Startups
Attracting established companies like Blink is part of a larger project built around efforts to nurture startups in the climate tech space. Before moving to the Commerce Department, Powell headed up a biofuels startup incubated at the Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (MEIA), a project of the Clean Energy Center.

“I can say without qualification that it’s the best accelerator I’ve ever been a part of,” Powell tells Site Selection.

MEIA helps climate tech innovators develop and commercialize their ideas through services such as Energy Executives in Residence, a program that pairs participants with experienced energy entrepreneurs to create business models, identify customer bases and align their technologies with emerging needs.

“It’s different than the typical incubator approach,” says Magruder. “We start with technologies discovered in labs and universities and then we wrap executive expertise around them to pull the product to market. We’re helping these companies with business model canvases, pitch decks, marketing, logo development, legal and accounting, all moving very quickly.

“It’s a highly personalized approach with a lot of hand holding,” Magruder says. “We let our cohorts interview the executives in residence and decide who they want to work with. We don’t force it on them. I think that’s part of the secret sauce.”

MEIA works in close collaboration with the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEII), which has awarded $2.6 million in energy seed grants since its inception in 2017. Together, the two programs have established an energy innovation ecosystem that has produced 37 new companies that have garnered $70 million in private investment and created more than 130 high-paying jobs. Early-stage companies taking part in the MEIA and MEII programs have produced innovations in areas including energy storage systems, fuel cell technologies, advanced materials, energy efficient buildings and carbon sequestration.


The whole company got the feeling that Maryland really wants us here.
— Harjinder Bhade, CTO, Blink Charging Company


Great Location, ‘Amazing’ Partner
Ion Storage Systems (ION), a battery storage company spun out of the University of Maryland, is among the top success stories produced by Maryland’s full court press on climate tech. A recipient of a $1 million state grant, the company now resides in spacious quarters in Beltsville, just a few miles from UMD, from which it hires some of its specialists. Commissioned in May, the new headquarters is one of the largest solid-state battery manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

Bolstered by $30 million in Series A venture capital funding, ION secured a contract to provide a small yet powerful battery for Army combat troops, a light-weight charger free of the risk of explosion presented by lithium-ion counterparts.

“Everybody wants a better battery that’s also safe,” says Ricky Hanna, the company’s CEO. “That’s exactly what we have here at Ion Storage Systems.” The company plans to expand incrementally into consumer products, EVs and, eventually, grid storage.

As with other tech companies rushing to the D.C. metro, ION sees a huge advantage in being close to the nation’s political leadership.

“The people I’m trying to sell batteries to are in the Pentagon, the White House or Congress, and they’re 15 minutes away. They can jump in a car and come visit. I’m meeting face-to-face with the decision makers, and if I were in Texas I couldn’t do that. What we have in Maryland is a great strategic location.”

And, says Hanna, a “fantastic” partner in the state.

“I literally just got off a conference call this morning with delegates and senators at the state level and the Maryland Commerce Department,” Hanna relates. “They’re asking ‘How can we help you, how can we attract other startups, how can we copy what we did for biotech and put it into green energy?’

“It’s great that they’re asking my opinion,” Hanna says, “because what will work for me will work for 100 other startups. I’ve worked in a lot of places, and the way that Maryland is pulling in the startup world is absolutely amazing.”

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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