Baltimore Business Journal: Heather Mizeur moves to block Montgomery County from closing bio incubator

Maryland Delegate and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Monday asked appropriators to block state funds for the  upcoming closure of Montgomery County's largest biotech incubator if the county can't find an alternate site for its tenants.

In a letter to members of the House Appropriations Capital Budget Subcommittee, Mizeur (D-Montgomery) looked to wield budget language to prevent the county from carrying out the move, which would replace the William Hanna Center for Innovation at Shady Grove with a cyber security center run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Some three dozen startups, predominately biotech companies, are being evicted as a result.

Mizeur's proposal would bar the release of state dollars "if they result in the displacement or eviction of the majority of life science, medical or biotechnology companies now tenants at the incubator facility" in Rockville, unless an alternative site is set up encompassing a minimum 30,000 square feet with both lab and office space.

This isn't the first time the William Hanna Center closure has turned into a campaign issue, nor is this the first time Mizeur, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, has  protested the county's decision.

County officials say the facility is the most cost-effective site for the cyber center, which takes advantage of millions in funding secured by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

"I think [Mizeur's] language would jeopardize bringing the center for cyber security to Maryland and jeopardize Sen. Mikulski's hard work," said Montgomery County Economic Development Director Steve Silverman.

On Mizeur's demand for an alternative site, said Silverman: "Where is she coming up with the money to pay for this?"

The William Hanna Center represents a large portion, but not all, of the county's incubator wet lab space. The county also maintains the 32,000-square-foot Germantown Innovation Center, which contains 11 labs and houses 14 biotech companies.

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