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Can Montgomery become Cambridge or San Diego?

Montgomery County

A county council member Wednesday afternoon joined a burgeoning local government effort to try to answer that question.

Council member Michael Knapp, a former congressional aide and biotech executive, called for a broad-based program to expand research jobs in the county.

County officials are hungry to find new ways to lure more labs and firms to Montgomery, which they fear is being surpassed by biotech-friendly locales from Massachusetts to California. County executive Ike Leggett (D) has also locked onto the issue as a key priority.

It's a refrain you might hear from any good local booster anywhere in the country. Except Montgomery has the federal firepower that could make it more than wishful thinking. After all, the county is home to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

Among Knapp's proposals: partnering with those institutions and expanding a county incubator program to build federal ties; setting up a local biotech tax credit; and reviving a fast-track "green tape" approval process first launched in the 1980s.

Leggett is also pushing a far-reaching plan with Johns Hopkins University to build a "Science City" near the school's campus between Rockville and Gaithersburg.

There's been opposition in some quarters to building too large a science-jobs presence there, because of local development and traffic concerns, and the timing of Knapp's plans can be seen through a political lens. It's not clear how large a "Science City" the council will allow.

But the growing chorus of voices on the issue is prompting an interesting test of local government, and what it might do to try to remake itself as a "Science County."

By Michael Laris  |  September 30, 2009; 4:46 PM ET
Categories:  Michael Laris , Montgomery County  
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Comments

I don't see how Knapp can be re-elected, assuming he runs back. he has supported every tax increase to come down the pike, after not mentioning one in his campaign literature. He is bad for business.

Posted by: environmentvsdevelopment | October 4, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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