Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to launch your own business or a longtime business aiming to expand, it can be challenging to know where to start; however, Jennifer Jones, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), stresses that her organization has the resources and tools to help.

“It can be managing the permitting process or a restaurant needing assistance with the health department, or obtaining working capital or identifying a commercial property for expansion—for any business issue, we are here,” says Jones. She adds that there are over 10,000 businesses located in Howard County.

HCEDA’s Director of Business Development, Jinal Contractor (L) and Director of Business Finance, Darshni Patel (R) consult with a business owner.

“HCEDA helps businesses thrive and focuses on retention, expansion, and attracting new businesses,” says Jones, who gains inspiration from her father, who owned an engineering firm in Howard County for 30 years. She boasts two decades of experience in business development and support and spent four years working in the office of County Executive Calvin Ball as his Chief Strategy Officer & Deputy Chief of Staff before being named CEO of HCEDA.

The HCEDA’s business development team reaches out to local businesses to provide assistance and—most importantly, Jones notes—to listen to them to better understand their needs and challenges.

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Attaining necessary capital is a focus for most businesses, and the HCEDA can lend a hand. The HCEDA Catalyst Fund, which employers have used for expansion, has been instrumental in retaining Howard County jobs, and for new businesses, the new Leveraging Investment for Future Transformation Fund, “LIFT” Fund, enables HCEDA to provide microloans ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 to small businesses for a 3-5-year term. “Microloans are great for new businesses who may not have a banking relationship,” says Jones, who notes that the HCEDA does cultivate relationships with local banks, as well as other capital sources such as TEDCO. “Those who use the LIFT Fund can also get mentoring on issues such as cash flow and lines of credit.” HCEDA can also provide resources supplement funding through its Maryland Innovation Center, where business leaders can take classes and receive one-on-one mentorship.

Jones strives to raise awareness for HCEDA’s resources and is excited to have a marketing team for the first time in HCEDA’s 30-year history. She connects with local incubators and economic development offices statewide as well as the Greater Baltimore Committee.

“We all want our businesses to be able to compete locally, nationally, and globally.”

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