Montgomery County elected officials, family and friends of the late William E. Hanna Jr. on Sunday formally renamed the Shady Grove Innovation Center in memory of the longtime Rockville mayor and County Councilman, whose vision helped shape the county’s biotechnology sector.
“Bill Hanna pioneered the county’s investment in life sciences, directly leading to Montgomery County’s preeminent position as one of the world’s leading biotechnology centers,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in a statement. “Renaming our first small business incubator facility after him pays tribute to his extraordinary efforts to make our county a leader in the field of biotechnology research, development and education.”
Hanna died in January 2011, just short of his 90th birthday.
Hanna worked with then-County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist in the early 1980s to create the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, a research and industrial park devoted to biomedical and health care research.
“Bill Hanna made a tremendous contribution to Montgomery County as an unremitting champion of innovation, technology, and economic development,” said County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac. “Honoring him in this way could not be more fitting.”
Leggett and Berliner presented a proclamation to the Hanna family and unveiled new signage at the center
The incubator now known as the William E. Hanna, Jr. Innovation Center at Shady Grove opened in 1999 at 9700 Great Seneca Highway in Rockville. It provides office and laboratory space for start-up and emerging information technology and biotechnology companies, according to a county news release.
“Bill Hanna was the greatest mayor in the history of the City of Rockville,” former Rockville mayor Steven VanGrack said in a statement. “He served as mayor when Rockville was awarded the All America City designation two times. His accomplishments include the creation of the senior citizens center, the enhancement of the police department, the establishment of the cultural arts and humanities commissions and the Art in Public Places program and the first regular city newspaper. With the development of Research Boulevard, he began the concept of economic development in the I-270 corridor. He was a visionary as a public servant, and he saw the future.”
During four terms on the County Council, from 1982 to 1998, Hanna, a Democrat, fought to reserve farmland on the west side of Interstate 270 for science and biotechnology companies.
Hanna’s daughter, Kathy Hanna Copmann, recalled her father in an email to Rockville Patch:
“From the earliest days, Dad was a forward thinker who sent all of us to college so we would have a wider perspective and appreciation for the world and all that was possible. He always tried to share his belief in the importance of education and serving the larger community. As he encountered people and cultures around the world he worked to rethink, expand, and implement ideas to benefit the city and county that he loved. This Innovation Center is a wonderful embodiment of the type of learning, creativity and collaborative accomplishment that Dad built his life around. Much like Don Quixote and his quest, he would Dream the Impossible Dream while believing that the Impossible Dream is Not.”
The incubator that now bears Hanna’s name is part of the county’s Business Innovation Network incubator system.
More than 100 companies have graduated from BIN, creating 1,700 jobs and occupying about 625,000 square feet of commercial space since 1999, according to a county news release. With locations in Shady Grove, downtown Silver Spring, Wheaton, Rockville and Germantown, the network’s five facilities occupy more than 150,000 square feet of office and lab space, house more than 150 companies and support nearly 800 county-based jobs.
For more information about the Business Innovation Network, call John Korpela in the county’s Department of Economic Development at 240-453-6348.