Instead of the sharp boundaries that exist today, there should be a symbiotic relationship between the University of Maryland and College Park, with each providing resources and vision for shared projects that can improve both the University and the city.
The University wants to attract top-tier students and faculty. The city of College Park wants to provide a safe, enriching environment for citizens to live and grow. A culture of entrepreneurship can help realize both of these goals. Start-up companies will pay taxes to power the College Park economy, and help attract top academic talent to the University of Maryland.
So why has this not already happened?
With the variety of resources available in College Park, why are small companies not flocking to College Park? The area does not suffer from a lack of talent. The University of Maryland consistently ranks among the top research universities in the world. The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and a host of other organizations provide everything prospective business owners need to begin, or grow, their businesses.
One reason is clear: companies can move to better, more desirable cities, while still maintaining access to resources at the University of Maryland. Evidence shows that although many companies are started from the University of Maryland, many leave College Park as they become larger and more successful. As companies grow, they leave College Park for cities that are better able to support their company and provide more desirable benefits, such as safe housing and community centers. To compete with these other cities, College Park must provide suitable amenities for start-up companies.
The engine of entrepreneurial activity would also involve one of the largest, yet least invested groups in College Park: students of the University of Maryland. One reason students do not become involved is because many plan on leaving within four years. Four years is not enough time to warrant making a significant investment in the community of College Park. The existence of a thriving business community in College Park will provide an incentive for students to stay in the city after graduation.
I am not a city planner or psychologist. But it seems that a reasonable focus for our reimagining of College Park should begin with crime. As long as the specter of violence hangs over College Park, investment of time and resources will flow away from College Park to more developed, stable areas. By making the city more attractive to start-up companies, College Park and the University of Maryland will be able to reap the benefits of entrepreneurship.