For Art Jacoby, the new CEO of the Tech Council of Maryland, the right leadership can be a “game changer.”
Jacoby hopes to be such a catalyst as he assumes this role at the Rockville trade group, which has more than 400 members. The council — which supports Maryland’s 10,000-plus technology businesses, including more than 500 life science businesses — is working to address six areas: education, advocacy, access to capital, access to new markets, community support and membership benefit.
Jacoby takes over from Renée Winsky, who resigned in December after two years. He spent almost eight months as interim CEO before taking the job on a more permanent basis in August.
He faces the growing challenge of nurturing Maryland’s young technology businesses and keeping them in the state, even as some of the more prominent ones are being acquired by larger out-of-state companies.
Most recently, British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline swept up one of Maryland’s star companies, Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, for $3.6 billion this summer. In the last year, the state also has seen the acquisition of Rockville’s Micromet by California’s Amgen for $1.2 billion.
“It’s the natural life cycle of a business to grow enough to make itself valuable and then look for an exit, either through going public or mergers,” Jacoby said. “We want to keep those jobs here. We hope they grow and hire from our universities. We’d like to see Maryland be more often the acquirer.”
He said the state must do everything it can to retain and attract executive talent and encourage innovation.
Jacoby launched Maryland Cyber Investment Partners in Catonsville in 2011 with Larry Letow of Convergence Technology Consultants in Glen Burnie and Joe Tedesco. The company’s goal is to invest in growth-stage cybersecurity businesses in Maryland.
‘A long-term journey’
Through the tech council, Jacoby has launched an initiative with the Maryland Biotechnology Center in Baltimore to bring together all of the state’s life science groups. To date, the initiative has 16 members, including economic development representatives, with hopes to reach 45 members, he said. Jacoby said he wants to do something similar for the rest of the technology industry.
“Imagine what we could do if we got everyone together,” he said. “It’s a long-term journey. We need to figure out what specific things we need to do as a business community to provide value.”
The council is a sponsor, along with the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association and the Virginia Biotechnology Association, of this week’s Mid-Atlantic Bio Conference in North Bethesda. A major goal of the three-day gathering is to bring together investors and businesses, he said.
“We want to be a nationally recognized center of excellence,” Jacoby said of Maryland. “I feel we have just amazing assets here. We need to do a better job of telling our story. I’m quite excited about being able to help leverage our phenomenal skills.”
Jacoby lacks association experience, but he has the years of business experience necessary for the job, Letow said. Letow also is chairman of the tech council.
“Art is a terrific individual with very high energy,” Letow said. “He brings passion to everything he does.”
Besides connecting its members with new markets and helping them access capital, the tech council hosts regular seminars with industry leaders, which can reach 250 in attendance, Jacoby said. The council has a 60-person government relations committee to help influence legislation, particularly focusing on raising the state’s research and development tax credit, for which $6 million is authorized. A bill to boost the credit program to $18 million mission failed to pass the General Assembly this session. The council also is a big proponent of the state’s biotech investment tax credit program.
The council wants to increase membership benefits by expanding cost savings with suppliers and sellers that work with members and increasing its programming from 28 to 42 events annually, Jacoby said.
Membership fell from 500 during the Great Recession, so the council has responded with more outreach and in-person meetings, he said.
“I get around a lot,” Jacoby said. “We describe our sales/service effort as relentless.”
‘He wants to be involved’
Jacoby has spent more than 20 years consulting businesses.
After graduating from the College of William & Mary, he spent four years conducting economic research at the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. He then moved to Minneapolis, where he worked for the growing Target Corp. as a business unit financial planner before doing merger and acquisition work at Carlson Cos. and Tonka Toys.
His time with all three of these companies taught him to “bet on the jockey, not the horse” in terms of focusing on leadership, he said.
“I learned that if you can get a really good working group together, that’s huge. That’s where one plus one equals three,” he said. “You want a good diversity.”
Jacoby said he also learned that “the customer always comes first,” a lesson he still uses at the council when determining what members want.
He later set up his own consulting business, after friends started seeking his advice and recommending him to others.
“First and foremost, Art focuses on relationships,” said Steven S. Edwards, president and CEO of Edwards Project Solutions in Hanover. “It’s not transactional with him. He wants to be involved. He wants to know how an organization ticks.”
Edwards worked with Jacoby to grow his 15-employee project management company to 31 employees.
“He helped us get our focus back on track and get processes in place around business development and sales-tracking to keep growing our business,” he said.
Edwards has known Jacoby since their time as members of the Greater Baltimore Technical Council.
Jacoby will be CEO through at least May, with the council to vote in January on a permanent CEO.
“He will be considered favorably,” Letow said.