CAMBRIDGE — Local business leaders, state and local dignitaries and members of the community celebrated what they hope will be a leap forward for Dorchester County business on Monday, Feb. 29, with the opening of the Eastern Shore Innovation Center in Cambridge. It’s the first such business incubator on the Eastern Shore.

The incubator, which broke ground in June 2015, gives startup businesses a chance to grow, while receiving assistance from local and state resources during its development. The idea is that businesses stay in the incubator for two years before graduating to their own local business space, and the incubator space will then be filled with newer startup businesses.

The 13,500 square-foot building, located at the new Dorchester County Technology Park adjacent to the Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport on Bucktown Road in Cambridge, could be home to up to 15 startup businesses. Six companies, Cambridge Federal, Quevera, Dell Com Engineering, Garvey Environmental, Mapping Technologies Inc. and Chef Patrick Fanning, already call the incubator home.

The incubator also is the home of Dorchester County Economic Development.

The $2.4 million Eastern Shore Innovation Center was funded with $1.2 million from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, $1 million from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation and $200,000 from Dorchester County. Cambridge and the Mid-Shore Regional Council have also partnered with the Eastern Shore Innovation Center, which will join about 30 other incubators in Maryland.

“I want to thank each and everyone of you for your commitment to come together to create a stronger and more prosperous community,” said Dorchester County Economic Development Director Keasha Haythe, who began working on the project in 2008. “The Eastern Shore Innovation Center is a facility that will spark creativity, collaboration and community, creating new opportunities and a prosperous future for economic development.

“Just as counties have done throughout Maryland, it was equally important for Dorchester County to provide a location for startups that provide services, support and the facilities they need to succeed in business,” she said.

“The incubator will allow people from here or who want to come here to have access to the same services they’d find in an urban area while enjoying our Shore way of life,” she said.

Comptroller Peter Franchot attended Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, and congratulated Dorchester County Economic Development, Dorchester County and the city of Cambridge for the incubator’s opening.

“On behalf of the great state of Maryland, I convey my sincerest congratulations and best wishes for continued success to the Eastern Shore Innovation Center,” he said. “Here is a special thing that Dorchester has that not a lot of counties do. Dorchester welcomes the new economy. A lot of places are putting up barriers. Dorchester has this wonderful facility.”

Franchot thanked Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and TEDCO for lending financial support to the project. He also credited Gov. Larry Hogan for bringing a business-friendly environment to Maryland.

“I think he has had a positive impact on the reputation of the state,” Franchot said.

Franchot said the new incubator is a testament to people working together.

“We can pull ourselves out of the economic recession that obviously has been very serious,” he said.

“We are going to see economic success in our rural areas,” he said. “You can make a company anywhere you want because the world is interconnected if you have a good idea. I happen to believe if we provide our small-business owners with some stability and certainty by committing to a multiyear moratorium on all new or increased taxes, fees and regulatory changes that businesses will have a chance to catch their breath and regain their footing.”

Franchot said it is important to have a consumer-based economy in Maryland, and not rely on public spending on government projects.

“When consumers spend money at our main street stores, main street stores grow higher and invest,” he said. “We need to make sure private sector business is recognized as the job creators and revenue generators.”

Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, and Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, along with representatives from U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ office also joined the ceremony.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Eckardt said. “Sometimes it is a matter of waiting until everything falls into place. What a magnificent space it is. This is an opportunity to grow our businesses.”

Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley commended Haythe with leading the project.

“I want to thank Keasha Haythe for her dogged leadership,” she said. “When I walked in today, the phase I use a lot when something fabulous is happening is ‘wow.’ This is a wow situation. I’m very proud to be the mayor and be in partnership with the county as well as with so many in the community who made the vision come to reality.”

Dorchester County Council President Ricky Travers echoed Jackson-Stanley’s thoughts about Haythe.

“I want to thank Keasha and her staff for the vision of this facility,” he said. “We ran into a lot of road bumps but we were able to clear them.”

Travers said 60 percent of the facility is filled, and the county looks forward to new additions.

“Here in Dorchester, water moves us to sail in a positive direction,” he said. “Come on board and go with us.”

With the project in the construction phase in 2015, the Dorchester County Economic Development Office hired Steve Dolbow as the new manager for the Eastern Shore Innovation Center.

As manager, Dolbow is responsible for developing programs and managing the business incubator located within the Dorchester Regional Technology Park. In addition, he is responsible for managing the innovation network for Dorchester County and providing community leadership regarding entrepreneurship and economic development innovations in the region.

“This is not only a physical facility with top-notch, first-class business facilities for our tenants, but it is a place where additional partners can come together, and help those tenants figure out how you take that inspiration that so many people have and turn it into real progress,” Dolbow said. “That is what we are about here — moving inspiration to progress.”

Two of the new businesses to move into the incubator include Quevera LLC and Cambridge Federal LLC, and both have partnered with Dorchester County Public Schools to provide technology training and experience for local students.

“I was back here in 2010, and Keasha and her team walked into my office and said ‘Hey, we are going to put together this nice incubator space to help small businesses,’” said Quevera CEO Lee Simms. “I’ve seen her and the city of Cambridge persevere to actually turn this vision into reality. I’m just so thankful and proud of what you guys have done.

“Things like this really turns small businesses and gives us an opportunity to do some great things,” he said. “I’ve seen what an incubator can do with the access to shared resources, and helping us minimize our costs as we figure out how to do this and make it in this world of business, as well as showing us different people who can kind of show us how to do things and put business plans together.”

The Dorchester Regional Technology Park also features 13 business lots, each about 4 to 5 acres in size.

For more information about the Dorchester Regional Technology Park and the Eastern Shore Innovation Center, call 410-228-0155 or visit www.ChooseDorchester.org.

Follow Caroline/Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_StarDem.

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