As the new executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center, David Speer wants to grow the organization that promotes bilateral trade and economic development between Maryland and Israel. He also wants to attract a younger and more diverse board.
“The MIDC functions as a matchmaker between the Israeli and American business community in a lot of different ways,” said Speer, who began work on Nov. 15.
He succeeds Barry Bogage, who was executive director for 30 years. Bogage is retiring next year and will serve as an adviser at the organization until then.
The two had collaborated on a number of programs in the past, Speer said, and considered each other friends.
Speer said that there was a great deal that interested him about MIDC and the position.
“It combined two of my greatest passions,” said Speer, who lives in Baltimore. “I’m a lifelong Marylander — except for college and a couple years after that — and a lifelong lover of Israel. So to combine those two was really exciting for me.”
Speer also noted that the position would give him the opportunity to have a local impact. “One of the main missions of the MIDC is job creation, basically, that’s what the economic development piece means,” Speer said. “So job creation in Maryland was very exciting, [getting] to help my home state. And then to be connected to Israel in that way was also extremely exciting.”
Speer previously worked at Americans for Ben-Gurion University as the director of intelligence and analytics and as regional director of the Baltimore/Washington region.
Speer said he was thrilled when he was offered the position at MIDC.
“I was feeling very fortunate and blessed, honestly,” Speer said. “Barry [Bogage] was the first professional for the organization and led it for 30 years, so I don’t think anybody ever thought he would retire, honestly. So to have that opportunity and to try to fill the enormous shoes that he has is incredible.”
Speer said that he isn’t planning any radical departures from what MIDC has done in the past.“For the moment it’s to stay the course,” Speer said. “It’s the old adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The leadership and staff are all incredible and wonderful. … So for the moment it’s to not upset the apple cart.”
He said he hopes, some months into the job, to begin formulating a vision for how MIDC can grow and expand. He is also interested in cultivating a younger and more diverse board, drawn both from the Jewish community and those who support Israel, as well as from the Maryland business community. He wants to build on the perception of MIDC as the go-to organization for Maryland companies looking to do business in Israel and for Israeli companies that want to do business in the United States.
In his new role, Speer said he will rely heavily on Bogage’s counsel.
Bogage said that some of the biggest challenges Speer will face revolve around the transition out of the pandemic. Speer will also need to deal with questions on the changing rules around travel.
Bogage noted that Speer’s skills in fundraising and in cultivating relationships would serve him well for the role.
“At this point, we need new energy to take over the reins and continue the growth after COVID,” Bogage said.