By Henry Mortimer, Editor-at-Large
What’s another word for “economic development”? How about “marketing”? At least according to David Petr, whose new job is to help redefine both concepts for Montgomery County.
“I really believe that economic development is the ability to understand your assets and brand them accordingly,” says Petr, the inaugural president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.
Petr, who joined the Rockville-based organization in late 2016, says his main function is to help transform a government-run organization into a public-private partnership designed to accelerate business growth and retention in the area.
“There’s a brand new day for economic development in Montgomery County,” he says. “For the first time, private business is driving the strategic direction, the creative direction, and holding me accountable to provide great customer service, great communication, and really reinvent the way economic development is being done in Montgomery County.”
Petr, a former marketing and advertising executive, says he spent the first few months on the job researching and getting to know the different constituents — business associations, company owners, residents, trade groups, etc. — that comprise the region.
“I got a feel for the diversity of people, of thought, of assets within Montgomery County,” says Petr, who formerly served as President and CEO of the Central Florida Development Council. “That helped me to understand that Montgomery County really can’t be marketed and sold as one large land mass; it really needs to be understood and marketed as a series of places and people and assets.”
Now that the discovery phase is over, Petr says it’s time to get down to business — literally. In April Petr announced five new strategic initiatives designed to improve the county’s role as a hub for cybersecurity in the region, and to bolster his strategic plans within the community.
“We have the assets, the companies and the talent to be a leader in cybersecurity,” says Petr who enlisted a group of industry CEOs and others to help ensure the success of the initiatives. ”It’s really the first time at the EDC that the private business community came to the table to validate our thoughts and help us navigate how to execute out plan. It’s an emerging industry and an exciting industry, and we see great opportunity for Montgomery County.”
Other initiatives that Petr has undertaken so far include Outreach Montgomery, a retention and expansion program aimed at meeting with 1,000 businesses in the coming fiscal year to understand their growth needs, and Montgomery 365, an ambitious marketing campaign launched in July that will deliver a unique message, in a variety of media, every day for a year.
And, as a new organization, Petr says another important tool in his tool belt is the organization’s ties to the Maryland Technology Council.
“Working with the Maryland Tech Council is an ideal example of how we are going to leverage our partners,” he says. “We want to take advantage of the people who already have the connections, strength in advocacy, and the relationships that we can then maximize.”
Connect with David on LinkedIn