Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, buoyed by record capital investment along the "Biotechnology Valley" between Gaithersburg and Rockville, yesterday announced plans to lure Johns Hopkins University to open a major science teaching facility in the booming I-270 corridor.
"Tomorrow's industry and tomorrow's workforce require an expanded university presence here," Gilchrist told about 300 members of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. He added that a Hopkins facility, if built, would complement the planned Center for Advanced Research in Gaithersburg, a joint venture between the county government, the University of Maryland and the National Bureau of Standards.
Gilchrist said that Johns Hopkins officials will announce their decision on whether to establish a teaching and conference facility in Montgomery by the end of the year. Montgomery is in fierce competition with Howard and Fairfax counties and other jurisdictions for coveted high-technology business.
Ioanna T. Morfessis, the county's economic development director, said officials of the Baltimore university are "super excited" about a recent survey of 1,000 county scientists conducted by Hopkins and the county that showed "overwhelming" support for a Hopkins center.
Morfessis, who with others has negotiated for months to convince Johns Hopkins to open a major center in Montgomery, said the university envisions a teaching facility for postgraduate studies in chemistry, engineering and physics -- the scientific mainstays of the 400 foreign and domestic high-technology firms in the county.
Those and other private companies last year invested a record $592 million in Montgomery, a figure well above the $498 million recorded in 1983 and one that put the county at the forefront of all Maryland jurisdictions for investments for the fourth year in a row, Gilchrist said yesterday.
In the same period, 82 companies either opened or expanded in the county; 52 of those were high-technology companies, Gilchrist added.
Montgomery "is attractive to rivals who seek to capture this industry," said Gilchrist, whose administration has offered a wide array of economic incentives to attract and keep tax-generating defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies and research firms in the county.
Gilchrist's upbeat speech yesterday was tailored to fit his audience, which included several upper-level executives from the nation's largest corporate conglomerates.
One of them, J. Kenneth Driessen, a vice president of an IBM division in Bethesda that builds computers for the space shuttle, naval sonar systems and other military equipment, said his 6,000-employe division added 500 new workers this year.
"We intend to stay in Montgomery County," he said.