Local Spotlight: The CSM Velocity Center in Indian Head, MD: A Great Example of How Project Collaboration Gets the Job Done

Planning Assistance in Action

An Interview with Dr. Maureen Murphy, President of the College of Southern Maryland by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Development and Infrastructure Planner and Sarah Lipkin Sularz, Regional Planner

Part of our mission in publishing Planning Practice Monthly is to highlight the great work of jurisdictions across the state. As we so often see, the projects and initiatives creating the largest impact are those in which a variety of stakeholders from the community are involved from the earliest stages of planning through to implementation.

Finding the right project and getting a myriad of groups and community members fully invested is not always easy, despite being the key to making things work. However, when a project is identified that meets the needs of stakeholders, the results speak for themselves. The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Velocity Center, a collaboration in the town of Indian Head, Charles County between CSM and numerous non-profit, public and private entities, is one such project. The Velocity Center is a shared educational, technological, and maker space, being constructed on the site of a vacant commercial center, which is designed to spur coordination and mutual benefit between the community, the Navy, and CSM. We reached out to Dr. Maureen Murphy, President of CSM, to find out more about the project’s evolution from concept to final construction:

Q: How long have plans for the CSM Velocity Center been discussed , from initial concept until the present, for the Indian Head community? 

A: Conversations regarding the CSM Velocity Center predate my tenure at the college. For more than five years, folks from the college, the base at Indian Head, and the community have been brainstorming about possible ways to collaborate. 

Q: Is there an anticipated opening date for the facility? 

A: The CSM Velocity Center will open in early 2020. 

Q: What were the perceived needs in the community and what are the goals of this project? Have they changed/evolved since conception? 

A: The vision for the facility has changed slightly over time; however, its original purpose has stayed intact. The CSM Velocity Center is designed to be a space for innovation and collaboration for the college, for the Navy, and for the community. Its purpose is to promote professional development for Navy scientists and engineers, to enhance the retention of talent, to provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and experimentation, to recruit young talent, and to build good will among the community outside the gate. 

Q: What will be the main activities at the facility and what functions will it fulfill? Who are the targeted users and beneficiaries of the project? 

A: The CSM Velocity Center contains dedicated space for Navy research, ideation, and design supporting small learning workshops and seminars, as well as vendors’ showcases. The center also facilitates the use of visualization tools while maximizing transfer of dual-use technologies and supporting educational partnerships. This space can be used for, but is not limited to: 

    •   Seminars and workshops 
    •   Hack-a-thons (competitions where computer enthusiasts do something to solve a problem, usually    leading to an understanding of a system’s weakness)
    •   Tabletop war-gaming and alternative futuristic exercises 
    •   Technical competitions 

Within that space, CSM will host classes such as Computer Aided Design, Cybersecurity, Digital Photography, Drones/Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Governmental Procurement, Social Entrepreneurship, Tech Transfer Entrepreneurship, and others. Additionally, the college will operate a makerspace, which will be open to the community on a membership basis. 

Q: Who are the key partners (community groups, non-profit organizations, local and state agencies) involved with the planning and development of the CSM Velocity Center? As the primary non-profit partner on the project, how has CSM collaborated with local government and, to your knowledge, how does this project align with local economic development plans/planning? 

A: The CSM Velocity Center is truly a product of regional collaboration. The partners are the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD), Military Alliance Council, Charles County Economic Development Department, Maryland Department of Commerce, among many others.

Q: How has the state assisted in this initiative? 

A: This project would not be possible without the support of the state of Maryland. The college has received three years of bond bill initiative funding totaling $300,000 and a recent grant from Rural Maryland Council (RMC) for $350,000. 

Tangentially, the College of Southern Maryland received $500,000 in matching funds from the Maryland E-Novation Initiative Fund (MEIF) from Maryland Department of Commerce which will help in the innovative and collaborative programming at the CSM Velocity Center. 

Q: What types of future projects/development do you foresee this project may spur in the community? In which of these might CSM participate/be a possible stakeholder? 

A: There is already a lot of community buzz surrounding this project, and the college, as a primary driver of economic development driver, always stands ready to help. 

Q: What was the largest hurdle to overcome in this process? 

A: The CSM Velocity Center operates outside normal college operations, and, as such, must be self- sustaining. The challenge has been ensuring the necessary start-up and capital funds; however, our partners caught the vision early on, and have been committed to the success of our project.  

Q: What lessons learned would you share with other communities and stakeholders seeking to embark on a similar project?  

A: Don’t over-program an entrepreneurial effort; be open to the possibilities. What emerges may be much more exciting than what was originally envisioned. 

Even the name, Velocity Center, effectively evokes the vision behind the project: capturing and encouraging the energy, ideas and forward momentum of innovative minds! To learn more about the CSM Velocity Center, visit the College of Southern Maryland’s website.

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