Long before she became CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Jennifer Jones was a technologist first.
The public-private partnership (aka HCEDA or just EDA) focuses on economic growth in the Maryland county by supporting new and existing businesses in the region, and attracting established companies to move there.
Jones’ first degree was a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Purdue University. She then obtained both a JD and a master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University before stepping into the corporate world.
She spent 20 years working in business development, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions in Los Angeles and London before returning to her native Howard County in 2016 to be closer to her parents. There, she was Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball’s deputy chief of staff for four years. Jones continued to work in the county as an economic development consultant before the HCEDA CEO position opened up.
The HCEDA board of directors unanimously approved Jones’ hire after she was appointed by Ball. She started her role as CEO on July 5.
Jones spoke to Technical.ly about her background, what she has accomplished so far, her goals for the county’s business and economic development growth, and what she hopes for its tech space. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Technical.ly: How did you go from studying engineering to wanting to work in business
Jennifer Jones: Growing up, my brain just worked well with math and science. And so I did well in that, but what I took most out of engineering was it taught me how to think. When I got to the end of my four years [at Purdue], they were trying to get a lot of students to continue on to get a Ph.D., and I wanted to be more of a generalist, [to] step back and use that experience.
At first, I thought I would maybe want to work at a tech company or engineering company to solve problems — not necessarily internal engineering problems, but external problems, like in a certain jurisdiction or certain market, how does that business expand and thrive? Junior year at Purdue, [I thought] “You know, I really like this, but I want to look at it [in a] broader way.” And so that is why I went to law school and business [school]. Also, I feel like tech drives a lot of laws, and a lot of changes in the business environment. I wanted to be on that other end of change.