How small, minority-owned businesses are powering Maryland’s offshore wind revolution

How small, minority-owned businesses are powering Maryland’s offshore wind revolution

Contributed by Kevin Anderson, Secretary, Maryland Department of Commerce
The urgent need to address climate change is driving a global quest for renewable energy sources. It’s also thrown a spotlight on promising, sustainable, and scalable solutions like offshore wind energy.

With its strategic location, favorable policies, and commitment to environmental sustainability, the state of Maryland’s rapid development of offshore wind projects has the potential to reshape its energy future and serve as a “how to” for others looking to do the same. Among the drivers of the state’s ambitious offshore wind goals stands small and minority-owned businesses, emerging as powerful catalysts poised to reshape both the energy landscape and economic equality.

The emerging offshore wind landscape in Maryland

One of the driving factors behind Maryland’s success in the offshore wind industry is the proactive stance of the state government in promoting renewable energy development. Governor Wes Moore is taking substantial steps under the Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act to ramp up the state’s offshore wind production, geared towards the ambitious goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2035. In addition, Maryland has committed to a fourfold increase in offshore wind energy production, moving from around 2 GW to a substantial 8.5 GW, which would be sufficient to provide power for nearly three million households.

The passing of legislation, such as the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, paved the way for a framework that also fosters diversity and inclusion within the sector. Under the Act, Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) are designated as key participants in the business infrastructure of offshore wind projects.

To achieve these goals, the Act lays out specific measures, including diverse procurement practices, reporting requirements, and even financial incentives for surpassing MBE participation targets. Capacity-building initiatives sought to equip MBEs with the skills and resources needed to thrive. Through this combination of supportive policies, incentives, and regulatory frameworks, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 serves as a comprehensive legislative effort to marry the state’s renewable energy ambitions with a commitment to inclusivity and economic empowerment.

Ørsted and US Wind collaborate closely with MBEs in Maryland, combining their respective strengths to drive progress. MBEs bring agility and localized expertise to the table, while industry leaders provide resources and a global perspective. This has led to advancements in technology, streamlined processes, and accelerated project implementation. Thanks to this joint effort, Maryland’s four key offshore wind projects are set to be completed by 2026 and will provide over 15,000 in-state jobs across sectors, including manufacturing, construction, operations, and maintenance. Once complete, these projects will also generate a total energy output of over 2,000 megawatts—enough to power 600,000 homes in the state.

With a more diversified and resilient economy, the state can continue to offer opportunities for workforce development and technical advancements.

The role of small and minority businesses

At the core of Maryland’s offshore wind development are small businesses and MBEs that have played critical roles across all stages, from manufacturing essential components to providing specialized services and workforce training. Despite their size, they bring unique perspectives, expertise, and agility to a sector dominated by larger players. As Maryland continues to harness its wind potential, these enterprises are contributing to the renewable energy landscape as well as providing economic opportunity and social equity to the state.

MBEs in Maryland are actively shaping the industry’s trajectory while contributing to the state’s economic success. These businesses generate local jobs, stimulate economic activity, and invigorate communities, particularly those historically marginalized. The ripple effects of their contributions extend to sectors such as transportation, hospitality, and infrastructure, and create a network of sustainable growth that benefits the entire state.

Entering Maryland’s offshore wind supply chain as an MBE can bring both opportunities and challenges. These include the need to allocate resources for infrastructure and technology, securing funding, and understanding regulations. By continuing to build technical expertise and industry connections, MBEs’ fresh perspectives bring innovation and meaningful participation in this dynamic sector.

In Maryland, three MBEs in particular are taking offshore wind to new heights, proving that the transition to sustainable energy is as much about building a greener environment as it is about empowering the individuals and communities that inhabit it.

Leading the offshore wind charge: Success stories of MBEs

Crystal Steel Fabricators, Inc.: Pioneering steel fabrication for offshore wind structures

Crystal Steel Fabricators, Inc., a Federalsburg, Maryland-based MBE, is building 98 Boat Landings each weighing 17 tons and stretching 70’ long for Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 project. To master the serial production of these components, which has never been done in the U.S., Crystal has invested $7 million in cutting-edge technology to improve pipe processing, welding, plasma cutting, material handling, rubber vulcanization, and high-performance blasting and coatings.

Crystal also has engaged a team of more than 10 outside experts from Europe for technology transfer, advice, and training for 90 highly skilled machine operators, fitters, welders, painters, and managers. With these investments in technology and training, Crystal Steel will be a leading supplier for the 2,000 windmills expected to be completed within the decade. To build these massive steel components, Crystal plans to hire more than 200 fabricators.

Strum Contracting Co. Inc.: Driving Installation and Port Infrastructure Upgrades

Strum Contracting Co. Inc is a leading black and woman-owned heavy civil infrastructure contractor advancing Maryland’s offshore wind sector and empowering diversity within the state. Since 2014, it’s been a proactive advocate, championing offshore wind through legislation, and leveraging funding from the Maryland Energy Administration’s Small Business Program. Beyond business, owners Teaera and James Strum recognize that Maryland’s offshore wind industry has the potential to uplift local MBEs, foster diversity, and create green jobs within the state.

Arcon Training Center: Bridging the Skills Gap through GWO Training Courses

Situated on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is a women-owned certified MBE Arcon Training Center has established itself as a pivotal institution in the country’s offshore wind landscape by offering Global Wind Organisation (GWO) safety training courses. Arcon stands as one of the few facilities on the East Coast where individuals can receive the safety and technical training necessary for a career in the offshore renewables and wind energy industry.

The center’s proximity to offshore wind farms coupled with accessibility to nearby urban luxuries also differentiates it from many training centers located in rural areas. From beaches to local breweries to universities, its prime location offers students a mix of educational focus and nearby recreational options.

The team at Arcon, comprised of experts in firefighting, EMT services, wind turbine technology, and engineering, offers a unique approach to training by combining practical experience with personal attention. They continually seek participant feedback to refine their training programs and expand course offerings. Beyond its own center, it serves as a trusted consultant for various organizations nationwide seeking to establish their own training programs. Arcon has become a linchpin in Maryland’s offshore wind industry, addressing the skills gap and fostering a safer, more knowledgeable workforce.

Pivotal and permanent role of MBEs

The profound impact of MBEs on offshore wind projects and energy generation is undeniable, as they have not only conquered obstacles but also played a pivotal role in fostering local job growth and economic resilience. Maryland’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity has positioned itself as a potential blueprint for other states aiming to navigate the waters of offshore wind development in an equitable manner.

As the offshore wind sector continues to expand nationwide, the lessons gleaned from Maryland’s thriving business environment remind us that inclusivity isn’t just a goal—it’s an essential ingredient for a cleaner, brighter, and more equitable energy future.

About the author

Kevin Anderson is the Secretary for the Maryland Department of Commerce, where he oversees business operations for the state. He is also the Founder & CEO of Cardinal Atlantic Holdings, an economic and community development firm targeting scaled social impact and investment in urban centers.

A native of Washington, D.C., Anderson graduated from Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. He holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University, and has completed finance, leadership, and executive education at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, and the National Development Council. Anderson lives with his wife and children in Prince George’s County, Maryland.