In Maryland, a New Leader Hopes to Unite Tech Firms

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By Kim Hart
Monday, July 20, 2009

After nearly eight months without a leader, the Tech Council of Maryland plans to announce Monday that it has tapped Renée M. Winsky, a current board member, as its new executive director.

Winsky, 46, spent the past nine years at the Maryland Technology Development Corp. -- she has been president and executive director since 2007 -- and has long been involved in the state's technology community. She previously worked at the Information Technology Association of America and the National League of Cities.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to my true association roots," she said last week. Winsky will start her new gig in September.

TCM had been searching since January for a replacement for Julie Coons, who resigned from the top job in November. (Coons is now president and chief executive of the Electronic Retailing Association in Arlington.)

Winsky said she wants Rockville-based TCM to expand beyond Montgomery County.

"There are technology companies on the Eastern Shore. There are technology companies in Allegany County. But I don't think [TCM] has tapped into those areas to be their voice and to be their go-to group," she said. "I don't think TCM is the tech organization for the state."

TCM has made efforts to join forces with other like-minded groups in Maryland. In 2006, it merged with MdBio, a group that represents biotechnology companies in the Washington suburbs.

But Winsky said she worries that TCM collaborates only when it wants to react to an issue. For example, last year, TCM joined the Greater Baltimore Technology Council and the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council to fight against a tax on technology firms being eyed by the General Assembly. She said the organizations should pool resources more regularly so they don't "scramble" at the last minute to protect members.

Part of that work involves staving off state budget cuts that could reduce the grants from Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development that help support TCM. Winsky also wants to ensure that the $6 million set aside for biotech tax credits does not get slashed.

"It will be significant to have a second physical presence outside of Montgomery County," she said. Annapolis may be an option, and that would be a shorter commute for Winsky, who lives in Anne Arundel County. "We're down there for 90-plus days lobbying the General Assembly. There's an off-season that's just as important for lobbying."

Like many trade associations, TCM has lost some members who can no longer afford to pay dues or are cutting expenses.

"In these tough economic times, some members are on the fence and have recently left," Winsky said. "We need to present a solid value proposition so that every organization couldn't live without us."


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