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Q&A: COPT's Cathy Ward On What's Next For Howard County

COPT SVP of asset management and leasing Cathy Ward has been laser-focused on Howard County since the early '90s and is directly responsible for the financial performance of about 30 office buildings, totaling 3M SF there. We caught up with Cathy for more insight on the county as part of our United Bank Neighborhood Series. 


Bisnow: Why is COPT bullish on Howard County?

Cathy: As a philosophy and strategy, our company concentrates where we can have a dominant position. A major focus is on business parks tethered to a government agency. For example, our national HQ is at Columbia Gateway, a 2.2M SF park near Ft. Meade and one of the highest-growing office centers in Columbia. 

Bisnow: What are the biggest changes going on in Howard County?

Cathy: It’s done a good job of establishing itself as a place where businesses can find capital and mentorship to grow. More and more tech is coming to Howard County to be closer to places like the cyber command at Ft. Meade.

Bisnow: What’s your biggest competitor in attracting office tenants?

Cathy: Downtown Baltimore. It has a lot going for it and companies think it’s where their target employees want to work.

Bisnow: What’s missing in Howard County?

Cathy: Increasingly transportation is becoming an issue; a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the county’s growing cyber community; and lower regulatory barriers to allow more commercial growth. 

Bisnow: What will Howard County look like 10 years from now?

Cathy: It will be thriving and bustling—not quite like Reston is now, but there will be a continued influx of well-educated families. We’ll also see more vertical office density since there’s a limit on commercial density in the western part of the county. 

Bisnow: What’s the secret to being successful in commercial real estate in Howard County?

Cathy: It’s a very connected community, so people are involved socially and through nonprofits.