Ken Ulman is the CEO of Margrave Strategies, a full service consulting strategic advisory firm. With over a dozen clients in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region, Margrave Strategies provides planning and economic development services to businesses and institutions alike. The firm’s initial anchor client is the University of Maryland College Park, where Ken serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Economic Development. Margrave has since expanded its reach to other Maryland universities, including Towson University, where Ulman and his team will develop a comprehensive placemaking strategy to support a number of the President’s priorities, including BTU: Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore, the institution’s effort to give greater presence and purpose to the existing partnerships underway between TU and dozens of businesses and non-profit organizations within Greater Baltimore.
Prior to starting Margrave Strategies, Ken served as County Executive of Howard County, Maryland, from 2006–2014. His public service career spans nearly two decades with experience as a County Councilman and Secretary of the Cabinet, as well as Director of the Board of Public Works in Maryland Governor Parris Glendening’s administration.
Ken Ulman spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Can you describe Margrave Strategies?
KEN ULMAN: Margrave Strategies is our strategic consulting firm that I built over the last year and a half with our anchor client being the University of Maryland College Park. I wanted the opportunity to take on some other limited work because I get really excited,, as you can hopefully tell, about this intersection between, the public sector, the private sector, economic development, and real estate. We have a number of clients who are startup and existing companies who we give strategic advice to, open doors, interview and send to other folks—whether they be in industries as varied as a salad dressing company to folks in healthcare, in engineering, in real estate, in a number of different areas, including—obviously on top of this—higher education.
Q. Why focus on universities in working on economic development?
A. Taking a big picture view of the way universities play an outsized role in economic development, in place-making, you see it when you mention places that are thriving around this country. Virtually every place that is really thriving in the 21st century economy—the universities in that area are at the heart of that growth. The power of universities as anchor institutions in their community cannot be understated. If Baltimore City is going to become the thriving, economic development place that we all believe it can and should become, University of Maryland Baltimore with the BioPark efforts west of Martin Luther King [Boulevard], Johns Hopkins—both with the Homewood Campus and the Hospital campus—University of Baltimore on North Avenue: they all have to be at the heart of this. I’ve seen a lot of promise in the last couple of years—fast forward initiatives, both east and west near Hopkins—it’s an exciting time. But that’s what has to happen for regions to thrive. I mean, look at Pittsburgh: Uber opened up their self-driving car division in Pittsburgh. Why? They didn’t wake up one day in San Francisco and say, “Of all the places we can go to, we want to go to Pittsburgh.” They said, “Pittsburgh has Carnegie Mellon. And we can do the same between the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and so many others, but Carnegie Mellon is structured to have institutes that are much more collaborative with the private sector.” We’re now doing that here. You have to be set up to be welcoming, and to help your companies grow and thrive here.