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Association Bisnow
June 26, 2008



The Tech Council of Maryland has transformed itself into quite a different animal over the last four years: from $1 million in assets to $15 million, three foundations, two investment funds, and a stronger membership base than ever, 500 companies like IBM, MedImmune and Hewlett Packard. It's also got more moxie. Faced with surprise tax legislation earlier this year, it fought back on the Web. TCM used communities on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs as part of its successful campaign to defeat the six percent computer services sales tax (on things like hardware maintenance or disaster recovery), which was passed in November 2007 by the Maryland legislature and slated to become effective July 1.


What else has happened over the last four years? Julie Coons has been president. When we spent a thousand dollars in gas the other day to drive out to her Rockville office, the former Iridium and Teligent exec told us this unexpected law needed quick response as her members began to lose business in anticipation of the tax. So with the help of social networking (and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce), TCM held two rallies in Annapolis in February and March, each drawing 200-300. Julie says the rallies had a significant number of younger participants, which she credits to the Web campaign. Shortly after those gatherings, Gov. O'Malley sided against the tax and it was repealed. And Julie says TCM gained 15-20 new members thanks to the campaign.


The TCM has seen revenue more than double to nearly $4 million in Julie's three-year tenure. Part of her recipe for success has been focusing on the TCM's big-ticket events. When Julie came aboard TCM was putting on 80 events a year, but has since cut it to 40. Anything that didn't generate $7,500-$10,000 was dropped from the budget, and now the biggest event, the TCM annual tech celebration and awards, raises $150,000, three times more than when Julie arrived.   


Julie keeps it pretty low tech in her free time, sticking with gardening. (Special Bisnow factoid: her favorite plants are orchids.) She's also been known to sew curtains and bedspreads, and now she's into machine embroidery. She assures us she leaves business behind when she turns to her hobbies, and refrains from embroidering the TCM logo onto everything she owns.

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