POCOMOKE — The Eastern Shore of Maryland is generally known for tourism and agriculture, but state and local officials met this week at Vorbeck Materials’ new location in Pocomoke to celebrate the expansion of technology, one of the area’s fastest growing industries.
“We have tourism, agriculture, small business and, you know what?” asked State Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38B). “We have a tech industry here.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley made similar comments this week at the Maryland Municipal League convention in response to Vorbeck opening a second location in Worcester County.
“It is exciting to see a cutting-edge, innovative company like Vorbeck creating high-quality manufacturing jobs on the Eastern Shore,” said O’Malley.
Headquartered in Jessup, Vorbeck specializes in and holds the exclusive license for “graphene,” a graphite-based nanomaterial that is only one atom thick that holds the potential to spark huge strides in several aspects of modern technology, from computers to cars and everything in-between.
“There’s an incredible amount of excitement around the world regarding this material,” said Vorbeck Materials CEO John Lettow.
According to Lettow, graphene is “the strongest material yet measured” and has incredible potential for technology applications. In computer circuitry especially, Lettow revealed that graphene could make huge strides, possibly rivaling or replacing silicon due to its flexibility and durability.
“One thing we hope to do is create a new Silicon Valley here in Maryland,” he said.
At the new 42,000-square-foot Pocomoke location, which is located right next to Hardwire LLC, another booming technology enterprise, the expectation for Vorbeck is the creation of 25 jobs their first year and 50 jobs within the next three years. Even better, those jobs will be in the sought after Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field.
“The addition of this innovative company, and make no mistake, they are garnering national and international attention for their technological advances is a key component in strengthening our community by securing skilled jobs for our workforce in the STEM field, making Worcester County, the State of Maryland and the nation overall viable entities on the world stage,” said Worcester County Commission President Bud Church.
Worcester County Director of Economic Development Bill Badger said he has never seen “a product like this Vorbeck product.”
Beyond the material, however cutting edge, Vorbeck’s move to Pocomoke was hailed as a continued sign that Maryland is finding its feet after the 2008 recession.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently ranked Maryland number one for entrepreneurship and innovation because of our commitment to high-tech industries and our willingness to invest in the talents, skills, education and innovation of our people. We are pleased that Vorbeck has chosen to expand in Maryland – a reflection of our state’s support for this growing high-tech industry and affirmation that we are a leader in the nation’s innovation economy,” he said.
State Secretary of Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) Christian Johansson revealed that an 845-acre swath near downtown Pocomoke and including the new Vorbeck facility has recently received an Enterprise Zone designation, which should make it even more appealing to companies scouting for a new location.
“It’s something that is important as an attraction tool,” he said
The latest data by the State Department of Assessment and Taxation shows that businesses in the State’s Enterprise Zones received property tax credits totaling $38.1 million in fiscal year 2012, based on real property investments made by those businesses totaling more than $3 billion.
Maryland could also be giving Vorbeck a helping hand in the form of other tax credits and incentives like the One Maryland Tax Credit and the Job Creation Tax Credit. So far, the company has received $650,000 in enterprise equity from DBED.
Johansson acknowledged that running or starting a business has been tough in the recession, but was adamant that the climate in Maryland is getting stronger, thanks in large part to the state’s commitment to education and chart-topping public schools.
Vorbeck was named one of “America’s Next Top Energy Innovators” by the U.S. Department of Energy this month and the company was recognized by R&D Magazine for developing one of the 100 most significant scientific and technological products or advances of the year with graphene. With that level of praise and support from the scientific community, Vorbeck seems poised to make its mark on technology. And Lettow promised that if Vorbeck does well, Maryland will benefit.
“Maryland has been a terrific location for us to start and grow our business,” he said. “We are excited by this opportunity in Pocomoke City. Along with our headquarters in Howard County, we look forward to continued expansion and to creating new jobs in innovation and manufacturing in Maryland.”