Ben Wu Credit: File Photo

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Aug. 3, 2022, to include more details and comments. It was updated at 5:10 p.m. Aug. 3, 2022, to include comment from County Executive Marc Elrich. It was updated at 6:20 p.m. to include more details.

Ben Wu, the president and CEO of the county’s Economic Development Corporation, is resigning, the organization announced Wednesday. His resignation will be effective Aug. 15, a news release stated.

The release does not list why Wu is stepping down. Bill Tompkins, executive vice president & chief operating officer of the economic development corporation, will become president and CEO, the organization stated.

Wu had been leading the organization since December 2019. Previously, he served in Maryland’s Department of Commerce as deputy secretary and chief operating officer, beginning in 2015. Prior to that, he served as a U.S. deputy undersecretary of commerce and U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under then-President George W. Bush.

Wu’s current salary is $265,000, according to Nicole Cantarella, a spokeswoman for the corporation.

The county’s economic development corporation helps connect businesses with incentives, tax credits and programs, and finds business support or loans for specialized minority-owned, women-owned, or veteran-owned businesses, according to its website.

Wu could not immediately be reached for comment via phone or text Wednesday. 

He had been a leader in accelerating the county’s permitting process for expansion of biotech facilities, and was involved in the Viva White Oak project in East County, a proposed community near the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s White Oak campus and Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center. That project would create up to 7 million square feet of commercial development and up to 5,000 residential units in a village and “life sciences hub.”

A county government source, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss details of Wu’s resignation, said the economic development corporation’s board of directors recently decided not to renew Wu’s contract with the organization. That contract was set to expire at the end of this year, the source said.

There have been complaints about staff retention and messaging for the economic development corporation during Wu’s tenure, the source said.

“There’s been a constant drumbeat of unhappiness about Ben [Wu] since I’ve been here … there’s been a feeling of stagnation with MCEDC,” the source said. 

The July agenda for the county economic development corporation’s board of directors included a closed session related to personnel matters. Kevin Beverly, the chair of the board, wrote in a text message that “while Ben’s resignation may appear to be a surprise, and the two-week timing abrupt, we have been in discussions for some time. We just chose today to make the announcement.”

When asked about why the board chose not to renew Wu’s contract, Beverly responded: “What I can tell you is that Ben resigned voluntarily and the separation was amiable.”

County Council Member Andrew Friedson, an ex-officio member to the corporation’s board of directors, said ex-officio members have not historically been involved in personnel decisions, and couldn’t comment further on why Wu is resigning. But he added that Tompkins is in a good position to lead the organization in the coming months.

“He has a significant amount of business experience, and brings operational experience from a variety of different roles,” Friedson said. “So I have the upmost confidence in his ability.”

County Executive Marc Elrich said in a prepared statement that he wished Wu well in his future endeavors and looked forward to working with Tompkins.

“With new Board leadership and a strategic plan, MCEDC is well poised to continue to grow our County’s economy,” Elrich said. Tompkins “has been a steady hand at MCEDC for the last three years, and we look forward to working with him on ensuring MCEDC is a force in attracting, recruiting, and retaining businesses, and marketing our County throughout the global economy.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com