Where Education and Innovation Meet
With more than 1,300 virtual onlookers and a handful of in-person attendees, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) celebrated the completion of the Velocity Center in Indian Head, Maryland with a ribbon cutting and a procession of praise and congratulations.
“Certainly, this is a transformational time for all of us, even beyond the effects of COVID-19 and the changes it is bringing. Here in the CSM Velocity Center, transformation awaits,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy when she kicked off the Sept. 17 Facebook Live event. “We have created a place specifically for innovation, learning, and collaboration for academia, the Navy, and our community. We are truly showcasing collaboration at its best.”
The celebration also showcased the power of partnerships.
“The CSM Velocity Center simply would not be possible without the shared vision and entrepreneurial spirt of our federal, state, and local partners,” said Murphy, who added that the CSM Velocity Center has been embraced by the state, the Southern Maryland Delegation, Charles County and the Economic Development Department, the Town of Indian Head, and the Charles County Chamber of Commerce with the Military Alliance Council. Funding was provided at state and local levels, and a handful of partners were on location to participate in the event.
“Let me describe this space for those who are joining us virtually,” offered Murphy. “It is one giant professional playground for innovation. It is approximately 13,000 square feet and located outside of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head. Here Navy scientists and industry leaders can interact with students, have a place to tinker or conduct unclassified research, as well as one where the community will have future access to CSM courses.”
The CSM Velocity Center aligns with the strategic plans of the region’s naval bases, as well as state and local economic development plans. The project cost $2.2 million. To launch it, CSM was awarded $500,000 as one of three academic recipients of the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative.
“In fact, that was when I first met Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford,” shared Murphy. “He visited CSM a little over three years ago and announced our award—the first awarded to a community college. The state has continued to be a strong partner, in particular Departments of Commerce and Housing and Community Development.”
On site for the celebration in addition to Rutherford were State Senator Arthur Ellis, Charles County Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins II, Indian Head Mayor Brandon Paulin and Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) Technical Director Ashley Johnson; as well as Carol Gilbert representing Maryland’s Housing and Community Development and Steve Wall representing the state’s Commerce Department.
“This new center is a wonderful opportunity for CSM to take a significant step forward in its role as a leader in innovation and technology workforce development here in the Southern Maryland region, and the Hogan-Rutherford administration is proud to have provided significant funding through the Department of Housing and Community Development and our Department of Commerce,” Rutherford told the audience. “We know the potential of this region—with its naval bases and research facilities—and its ability to attract talent from around the country and the world, in terms of both students and world-class educators. This new center will be a huge part of that potential that will have lasting effect in Southern Maryland the rest of the state.”
Murphy pointed out that Ellis and the Southern Maryland Delegation were also among the strongest advocates to help get funding for the CSM Velocity Center with their support of Maryland bond bills over the last three years totaling $525,000.
Promising ongoing support from the state, Ellis offered praise. “Thank you so much for this facility and for the potential it brings to Indian Head, Southern Maryland, Maryland and the United States,” the senator said. “With economic activity, we also have a tremendous opportunity to bring revenues into Indian Head and our state.”
“The CSM Velocity Center is a catalyst for the economic revitalization of the Town of Indian Head,” agreed Murphy. “Located in an Opportunity Zone, the Velocity Center will not only support revitalization, but enhance regional economic mobility. Charles County through the Economic Development Department has committed $100,000 per year for three years for programming efforts at the CSM Velocity Center through 2022. We are grateful for that commitment.”
“There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a concept transform into actual brick and mortar,” replied Collins. “When I walked in here this afternoon, it became abundantly clear to me that the numerous discussions that took place early on in our community transpired to creating this Velocity Center.”
Calling the center a “bridge between the college, the Navy and the community,” Collins said that the facility will revitalize commercial activity in the Town of Indian Head.
“We are already seeing renewed interest from outside businesses in part as a result of the Velocity Center’s presence in the community,” he said. “This is an excellent opportunity to support and cultivate the town’s economic rebirth.”
“It is a pleasure to have you all here in the beautiful Town of Indian Head for a very momentous occasion,” Paulin said. “There were many times throughout the process where I could tell that some were more skeptical that it was ever going to come to fruition. To those people, I say, ‘welcome to the hub of innovation and collaboration in Southern Maryland!’ The Velocity Center will be a true catalyst for economic development for Indian Head and Western Charles County.”
From the NSWC IHD perspective, Johnson took the podium to wrap up the line of in-person partners sharing well-wishes and gratitude. The base is less than a quarter mile from the Velocity Center.
“This month, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division marks its 130th anniversary,” he said. “The command celebrates a long and storied history here in the Town of Indian Head.”
For the last six years, Johnson said he “evoked the term energetics renaissance – with purpose.”
“I wanted collaboration, partnership and collegial culture to manifest itself as an analogue to our Velocity Laboratory on base,” and spur economic development in Indian Head to attract world-class talent, he added.
“This facility is one of the purest examples of that,” Johnson continued. “In 2016, the command put out a Request for Information or RFI to see if the community was able to provide a facility that we could utilize and CSM was able to answer our call.”
Johnson pointed out that NSWC IHD serves as the principal agent for the development of energetic materials and systems to the U.S. Navy’s fleet and that the command keeps the nation’s forward deployed forces postured “today, tonight and tomorrow” against grave threats.
“The CSM Velocity Center will provide an ideal environment to drive innovation by facilitating collaboration among representatives from the Naval Research Enterprise, academia, small business, industry, and other government organizations,” according to Johnson. He added NSWC IHD will use the Velocity Center to conduct Technology Transfer events, such as technology showcases, invention discovery forums and hack-a-thons.
“[The Velocity Center] will provide us with a state-of-the-art facility to hold conferences, meetings, and learning interventions for our workforce right here in the Town of Indian Head,” said Johnson. “The command will benefit from the interest and excitement generated in the STEM career fields at the Velocity Center as well as new and stronger business and entrepreneurial relationships.”
Citing shared conviction and will, he thanked everyone for partnering to build the Velocity Center.
“We owe the Navy and the nation our best, and as we continue to look forward to the future and dedicate ourselves to providing our warfighters with best products and services we must avail ourselves with every tool available to make it happen,” he summarized. “Having this facility where employees can exchange thoughts and ideas with our partners is critical to the defense of our great nation. We are proud to be a part of the CSM and Town of Indian Head communities.”
Because of safety and CSM’s physical distancing protocols, many officials chose to watch the occasion via Facebook Live and praise for the completion of the CSM Velocity continued to pour in throughout the day.
“The College of Southern Maryland has been working for years to make the Velocity Center at Indian Head a reality,” shared U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen. “I was able to visit the center while it was under construction last year, and I am glad to see it now ready to open its doors and fulfill its mission – to train the next generation of our STEM workforce, boost the regional economy, and continue to build partnerships with the local community. I was proud to work successfully with the College of Southern Maryland to secure federal funds for this vital effort.”
“The Charles County delegation has consistently supported the Velocity Center and look forward to the opportunities that will be afforded our citizens,” said Md. State Del. Edith Patterson.
“I would like to say a warm “congratulations” to the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) on the opening of its Velocity Center in Indian Head, Maryland,” offered Charles County Commissioner Thomasina Coates. “This project, a collaboration with Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC IHD) and others, is a welcoming addition to the educational growth and economic drive not only for the Indian Head community but for Charles County overall. The CSM Velocity Center is a much-needed resource tool that will be able to provide an ‘innovative learning space as well as support workforce development’ for all of our residents. I am proud to have this venture in our county and especially in District 2.”
“Located in one of Charles County’s designated Opportunity Zones, the Velocity Center will serve as an important catalyst for redevelopment and economic growth in Indian Head,” said Gilbert. “This project is a great example of how state revitalization programs like the Strategic Demolition Fund are helping to change communities for the better throughout Maryland.”
“The Maryland Department of Commerce is proud to support the Velocity Center and to celebrate its opening today,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “We are using 2020 to celebrate innovation in Maryland and the Velocity Center is a prime example of how we support and cultivate the best new ideas and the brightest minds. This center will allow Navy scientists and innovative entrepreneurs to work together and turn these ideas into economic growth and new jobs. This is great news for the College of Southern Maryland, great news for Indian Head and Charles County, and great news for the State of Maryland and all of our partners on this project.”
At the end of the ceremony, Murphy acknowledged more partners.
“The MEIF award, mentioned earlier by Lt. Gov Rutherford, was matched by the CSM Foundation, with Michael Chiaramonte as our primary contributor,” she shared. “Additionally, last fall Maryland Governor Larry Hogan celebrated with us when the Rural Maryland Council awarded us $350,000 from the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund. CSM itself has provided more than $400,000 toward Velocity Center operations, and we also acknowledge other funding partners Dominion and ETC.
“Simply put, it is partnership and collaboration that have made the CSM Velocity Center a reality,” Murphy offered. “We are incredibly grateful.”
To learn more about the Velocity Center, visit https://www.csmd.edu/about/locations/velocity-center/.
Watch the ceremony in its entirety on the CSM Facebook page.
The following photos are provided by Patrick Siebert, Deputy Chief Photographer, Office of the Governor: