For many nonresidents the mention of Frederick County brings to mind images of rolling fields and grazing cows. While the agricultural industry remains an integral part of the county’s past and current economy, this once pastoral community has become the home of a burgeoning tech industry with downtown Frederick at its center.
With more than 80 technology-related businesses in the county, over two dozen of which are located within the city limits, Frederick is a place where tech companies are settling in for long-term growth. A stroll around the downtown area makes it easy to see why, too.
With an impressive selection of restaurants and shops, beautiful historic architecture, and Baker Park a quick walk away, Frederick city has plenty to offer. In fact, in 2015 Frederick was named one of the top 100 places to live in the country by Livability.
Richard Griffin, City of Frederick Director of Economic Development, had this to say about Frederick:
A combination of hip old buildings, vibrant sidewalks, coffee shops, eateries, and watering holes have led more than two dozen tech companies focusing on cyber, web design, energy, and analytics to locate in Downtown Frederick. [It] is home to more than 3,400 businesses representing nearly 50,000 employees in manufacturing, advanced technology, healthcare, retail, and services industries. Frederick is nationally and internationally recognized as a top place to live, work, invest, and play.
Downtown Frederick is home to a number info-tech businesses that opted for a downtown location, such as En-Net Services (supplier of IT solutions to the public sector), Yakabod (specializing in secure knowledge sharing systems), and GTI Federal (a government IT, process improvement, and product assurance service provider). Local business owner, Vaughn Thurman, who founded Swift Systems (an IT service provider) said to Tech Frederick:
In 1998, I chose to launch Swift in Frederick, Maryland because of the strategic location and great quality of life the region offers. Simply put, we have not only been able to build one great IT business and team, but also spin off another in large part because of the many benefits of this excellent and vibrant community.
In the midst of it all resides Cowork Frederick. With a mission to “be a catalyst for the success of freelancers, teleworkers and entrepreneurs by creating ways for them to come together to work, share ideas, and support each other,” Cowork Frederick has quickly become a gathering place for the growing tech community.
While Cowork Frederick is home to professionals from almost every industry, a significant portion work in the tech field. Some are teleworkers, like Kevin Lynch, a Senior Manager at FTI Consulting or Wayne Denier, a Principal Software Engineer at Clear Measure, Inc. Some have small businesses. IT Concierge provides strategic guidance and a wide range of IT services to small businesses. Talbotics Medical Virtual Reality is an award-winning developer of serious games and virtual reality applications. Cowork Frederick has also been the launch pad for tech businesses, such as Clickseed, who have moved into their own downtown office.
When asked about how being a member of Cowork Frederick has impacted him, Derrick Miller, founder of Axis 80 Interactive, a web design and digital marketing company, said, “[It] has exposed me to a lot of new information, ideas, and contacts. There are so many people working here in related disciplines, I am always learning something new.” Patrick Pierson, a DevOps Engineer at IonChannel and organizer of the Amazon Web Services Meetup, appreciates getting out of the house and working around others. Coworking provides an alternative to working from home, which can be boring, lonely, and can stifle productivity. Michael Garrett noted, "Cowork Frederick has the tools, location, and community to make ‘work from home’ a natural extension of the office. Without the commute to DC, I get 3 more hours of work done a day."
Pierson initially learned about Cowork Frederick by attending a Frederick Web Technology meetup, a group that meets monthly at Cowork Frederick to discuss anything and everything related to web technology. Organized by Eli White over seven years ago, Frederick Web Tech is an extremely active community of over 700 members. Other active technology-focused groups in Frederick include: Python Frederick, KeyLUG (Frederick Linux User’s Group), Frederick Game Development, and Amazon Web Services. All meet with a focus on learning and networking with others in their specific field, and many choose to meet at Cowork Frederick. This is exactly what founders Glen and Julia Ferguson envisioned when they opened Cowork Frederick over 4 years ago. Their hope was for it to be a space that would serve not just its members but the broader Frederick community.
By all evidence the growth of the local tech community is not slowing down anytime soon. With past events like Global Game Jam, an intense 48 hour game development event hosted at Cowork Frederick in January 2015, and recent ones like Hack Frederick, a unique one-day opportunity for experienced and novice coders alike to show off their programming creations, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for technology in Frederick.
Just on the horizon for Frederick’s tech scene is the much anticipated opening of a second location for the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI). This second location will be downtown, at 18 Market Street, and will focus on accelerating startups, including those in information technology.
No doubt the dynamic tech community plays a large part of the excitement and promising future in downtown Frederick.