Maryland Tech Council expanding business mentorship program to Baltimore
By Morgan Eichensehr – Reporter, Baltimore Business Journal
The Maryland Tech Council will make use of new money and a network of experienced mentors to support businesses in Baltimore City and Baltimore County that need a little extra help recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tech council (MTC), which represents the interests of more than 450 life sciences and technology companies in Maryland, is using a grant of $378,000 from the federal CARES Act to significantly expand a program that it launched last year. The program, called the Business Continuity Task Force, makes use of volunteer mentors to assist Maryland entrepreneurs and business owners as they navigate the ongoing economic challenges of the pandemic.
The task force has been operating mostly in Montgomery County for several months, fueled by a $250,000 grant, and the new funding will help the program reach businesses in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County as well.
Martin “Marty” Rosendale, CEO of the MTC, said the task force has assisted about 37 Maryland companies to date, and he is excited to expand the program as a resource into additional jurisdictions.
Small and mid-size businesses can apply online to be paired with one of about 15 mentors who specialize in various areas of business including finance, accounting, engineering and leadership issues. Some of the mentors are high-level executives still working in the tech and life sciences industries, and others are retired and looking to give back to the local business community, Rosendale said. Their goal as part of the Business Continuity Task Force is to provide free practical advice for prioritizing and addressing specific problems a business may be facing as the pandemic rolls on.
Rosendale explained several of the mentors MTC works with have previously led businesses through challenging times, such as the 2008 recession. Those experiences make them qualified to assist companies with challenges from managing supply chain delays, to raising capital during difficult circumstances.
“Many of our mentors have guided companies through past economic downturns. Every recession is different, but there are a lot of similarities in how companies can approach problem solving in tough economic times,” he said.
Amid Covid, Rosendale said one of the most common challenges mentors have helped businesses deal with is the transition from face-to-face sales to entirely virtual customer transactions. Now that Covid-19 vaccines are spreading quickly throughout the local and national workforces, he expects mentors will be able to assist companies figure out the best balance for continuing to make the best use of virtual tools they’ve relied on for more than a year, but also capitalize on returning opportunities for in-person work and interactions.
Though the MTC is able to offer assistance through the task force for free, there may be some costs to businesses if a mentor directs them to some necessary outside service, such as a legal or accounting firm, Rosendale said.