The Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC) is unique – not only in terms of our function, funding model and network – but in terms of our history. We have 30 years of incredible successes and the benefit of having one outstanding lead professional the entire time as well as a strong and involved Board of Directors and leadership across various communities. To demonstrate that, currently there are over 25 Israeli companies with a presence in Maryland – whether that means an office, lab space, facility or manufacturing space. While my tenure as Executive Director of the MIDC will certainly be different for the organization, I am honored to be building on our past achievements and looking towards the future to continue to grow and to fulfill our mission.
I have been on a listening tour over the last three months since I began as Executive Director in November 2020 – meeting individually with our Board members, my colleagues at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Maryland Department of Commerce, Israeli companies with a presence in Maryland, established Maryland companies, key community leaders, municipal economic development agencies and our network in Israel. There are several themes I have noticed during my listening tour.
First, the MIDC is well-respected across all our different constituencies, and we have a well-established track record. In addition, Maryland has always had strong, historical connections to Israel and supporting Israeli businesses in our state is one of the best and most apolitical ways to support Israel. At the center of this support is The Associated, which has fostered meaningful connections to Israel. As Israel grows from just being the “start-up nation” to a highly-sophisticated and sought-after business leader, we are witnessing an unprecedented export of Israeli technology and resources. Israeli technology is omnipresent all over the world across numerous sectors and especially in the U.S. where there is a strong desire to cultivate business relationships across the Atlantic. And finally, Maryland’s business landscape provides opportunities for innovation, a solid support system both in the public and private sectors and a community that cares deeply about our state and the Department of Commerce is at the center of creating this landscape.
There are, of course, opportunities that exist both inside and outside of our historical record. While we will certainly continue to operate under the same mission that informs our past success, I am excited and proud to announce my vision for the MIDC, which is broken into three different buckets – building our brand and spreading awareness, growing and strengthening our volunteer network and executing one or many ambitious and large-scale projects (e.g. “big ideas”).
Building our brand and spreading awareness
The MIDC is well-known in many different communities, but one of my goals, along with our Board and staff, is to ensure that anyone who cares about Israel knows who we are and that we aim to position Israel at the forefront of innovation. This includes solidifying a social media and outreach strategy, as well as growing our presence in Baltimore, the DC area and across Maryland. There is no project that is too far-fetched or out-of-the-box for our state – we have so much to offer Israeli companies, and not just the usual sectors that makes Maryland so well-known. In fact, Maryland recently welcomed three Israeli agritech businesses and I want to continue to grow the idea that an Israeli business in any sector or vertical can thrive here.
Coming from the nonprofit, resource development field, I know how important volunteers are to fulfilling the mission of an organization. The MIDC already has a vast network of volunteers who are ready to devote their time and energy and I want to codify, organize and energize this network. Whether that is through working groups who can serve as our ‘go-to’ group for specifical sectors or focusing on diversifying our Board in all ways, I am confident that our committed volunteer base will continue to grow and thrive.
One of the benefits of being the new lead professional of a successful organization is having the opportunity to develop ideas that require special care, time and resources. During my listening tour, I have identified a few large-scale projects that will further our mission, with a focus on attracting Israeli businesses to Maryland. These include, but are not limited to, instituting our accelerator program on a regular basis, setting up an incubator in Maryland for Israeli startups, putting together a network of investors in Maryland that have interests in Israel and looking for unique partnerships for programs and networking opportunities. I have been learning from other similar organizations in different states and we all function differently. While a successful program in Boston or Silicon Valley might not work here, I have a lot to learn from my colleagues. Over the next several months, I am looking forward to working with our staff and leadership on identifying one or more of these big ideas and calculating our strategy.
On a personal level, I am incredibly grateful to the MIDC Board who has entrusted me with the responsibility of leading our organization on the professional level. I am a lifelong Marylander who cares deeply about Israel as well as helping the Maryland economy grow through jobs created by Israeli companies. In many ways, I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for this role without knowing it. I look forward to meeting everyone in the MIDC community, if I haven’t already. In the meanwhile, please reach out to me if you have any ideas or thoughts about my vision or the MIDC in general at email@example.com.
Read the Maryland Department of Commerce recent interview with David Speer>>>.