Home Archived Articles Q&A With Fort Meade Alliance President Steve Tiller

Q&A With Fort Meade Alliance President Steve Tiller

12
0

Recognized as Best Lawyers’ 2013 Baltimore Patent Lawyer of the Year and 2014 and 2016 Baltimore Intellectual Property Lawyer of the Year, Steve Tiller, a partner with the law firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston (WTP), is known as a top technology and intellectual property (IP) litigator in the mid-Atlantic. Tiller is co-chair of WTP’s Intellectual Property and Technology practice group, which is one of only 24 firms nationwide ranked in the top tier for technology by U.S. News & World Report.

He has handled a variety of business and IP disputes involving numerous technologies, including software, Internet applications, network architecture, manufactured products and biotechnologies. These matters have related to a broad scope of industries, including drug safety analysis, data access and replication, nuclear power plant safety, wireless telecommunications, sales management, academic admissions and fiber optics, among others.

Tiller, who earned his J.D. from the University of Kentucky in 1992, also regularly advises clients on IP risk management and other business issues, essentially acting as outside general counsel for several clients. Admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, he also assists clients in identifying, protecting and leveraging their IP assets.

His extra-curricular activities include running, playing golf and hanging out with his three children (including 6-year-old twins), but of more recent note has been his work with the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA), where he served as an executive committee member for three years before being named to succeed Deon Viergutz as president last July.

How has the FMA grown since it was founded?

The organization was founded 11 years ago by a few community leaders who held meetings in the children’s room of the West County Library, in Odenton. At that point, it consisted of a small number of prominent local individuals, notably then-President Jay Baldwin of TD Bank, who were trying to determine how they could best create an organization to promote various missions related to Fort Meade.

Today, we have more than 250 member companies representing more than 100,000 employees in the Fort Meade region.

What is the FMA’s budget?

We get a grant, as all alliances do, from the [state] Department of Commerce (DoC, formerly the Department of Economic Development); and we are supported through member dues that are based on the size of the organization, which are ranked between one and five stars, and pay an annual fee between $250 and $5,000.

How does the FMA differ from other military alliances?

Many other military alliances are registered lobbying groups, but we are not. We advocate on important issues related to the installation, but our main focus is on developing programs to support the needs of Fort Meade, the military personnel and their families who serve there, and the surrounding community. These initiatives are broad and include educational, transportation and military resiliency initiatives.

For example, Tech Mania is a program that we have sponsored for several years in partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), where ninth- graders from across the state participate in interactive demonstrations of cool defense and cyber technologies. This year, we had our 2,000th ninth-grader participate in the program, with the idea of getting young people excited about science, technology, math and engineering [STEM] and to demonstrate to them that they can use these disciplines to build a career — while helping to protect our country.

Another key initiative is our STEM Family Night at Arundel Mills, where local companies display interesting technologies to elementary and middle school students. Like Tech Mania, the idea is to get young people excited about science, math, engineering and other technology programs.

We also regularly invite business leaders to address our membership. For instance, we recently held a roundtable discussion with Norm Augustine, the former head of Lockheed Martin and chair of the Augustine Commission, which is investigating ways to promote Maryland’s business climate, and Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Gill, where they spoke on ways Maryland businesses can increase their visibility and sales.

The Alliance also sponsors quarterly micro events where small business representatives interact with other small and large business reps, and hear a brief talk from a timely speaker.

The FMA has also been a strong transportation advocate for the installation. On that note, we have tried to figure out how to use public transportation, to alleviate some of the traffic congestion around Fort Meade. It’s important to remember that approximately 55,000 people work on Fort Meade, and most of the workforce lives off-post.

What is the composition of the FMA’s membership?

About 54% of our membership has some kind of direct role with the post or one of its tenant agencies. The rest of the member companies run the gamut, which is why we bill ourselves as a truly community organization, not a government contractor organization. On that note, it’s important to understand that our small company members represent our largest category, proving that small business members want to help promote Fort Meade while growing their own businesses.

How does FMA membership build value for a member business?

By facilitating business connections, offering content-rich events, facilitating access to useful information and by helping small companies navigate the government contracting climate, we can assist members in becoming more successful; all while promoting the local community.

How are you deepening relationships with key community partners?

We regularly meet with our community partners including Fort Meade Commanding Officer [Col.] Brian Foley, Judy Emmel and Roland Jeffers at NSA, Gen. Mike Hayes at Department of Commerce, Maureen McMahon of Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Dawn Lindsey, president of Anne Arundel Community College, to name a few, to solidify our relationships with these key community leaders.

In addition, elected officials and their staff regularly attend our events. So, we make, and more importantly keep, strong community ties.

What is the advantage of being a member of the FMA versus a typical chamber of commerce?

Our motto is “Get Connected, Get Involved, Make a Difference.” Chambers are often about promoting businesses, but we want our people to get involved in the community and on-post so they can support our mission of supporting Fort Meade while making important connections in the process.

How do you run the organization while dealing with numerous members that operate under (many times top) secret clearances?

Members who are in the secured world have things they can talk about and things that they can’t, so we have sponsored both cleared and uncleared events to cater to that part of our membership. On one occasion, a group at NSA asked us to sponsor a cleared event at one of the government contractors. I heard it was a great event, but I couldn’t attend as I don’t have a clearance.

What are the FMA’s three most recent accomplishments?

We recently stood up a 501(c)(3) charitable institution called the FMA Foundation, which is about to kick off a capital campaign to renovate Kuhn Hall, which will be the center of the installation’s education and resiliency efforts. We also co-hosted Business in a Minute with the NSA Office of Small Business this summer, which is essentially “speed dating” where small businesses have the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with NSA and 18 large government contractors.

This was a one-day, sold-out event where more than 900 meetings were held. Former Oriole great Rick Dempsey was the keynote speaker, and he was really fun and provided a lot of entertainment.

We are also starting our Rising Star Network, a program that will enable the FMA to reach out to younger, emerging leaders. The next event will be held on Nov. 19 at Praxis Engineering at The National Business Park.

What are the FMA’s top three priorities moving forward?

To continue to strengthen our events, the multi-million-dollar effort to renovate Kuhn Hall and to enhance educational programs to ensure that area educational institutions are training students to meet market demands.

How do you identify and cultivate future leaders of the organization?

What we look for is someone who is passionate and energetic about the mission. We hope to get them to participate on committees and then to join our board.