The Maryland Technology Development Corp. will receive $500,000 in state funding during fiscal 2015 to operate its well-received Rural Business Innovation Initiative program. Previously, RBI2 had been funded at a lower level through federal dollars or directly by TEDCO.

The new investment by the state will enable TEDCO to enhance the mentoring and business assistance offerings in rural Maryland and serve more startup businesses than in the past, according to a TEDCO news release.

RBI2 provides technical and business assistance to small and early-stage technology companies in rural Maryland, including Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

The program is designed to help companies overcome business and technical hurdles and advance to the next growth level, the release states. During the past three years, RBI2 provided more than 5,000 hours of no-cost guidance and mentorship to more than 400 companies across the state.

“In Maryland, our innovation economy is driven by entrepreneurs from every corner of the state — not just our population centers,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in the release. “The investment we are making in our rural communities through TEDCO’s Rural Business Innovation Initiative means technology startups from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore will have access to outstanding resources and mentoring to help them succeed.”

“I am proud to have worked with my fellow legislators to provide funding to TEDCO’s Rural Business Innovation Initiative for fiscal year 2015, which will support up-and-coming businesses in my constituency,” Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary’s) said in the release. “I have seen firsthand the impact that RBI2 has had in Southern Maryland and how it translates into growth for both our local and State economy.”

“We are incredibly grateful that Gov. O’Malley and our state legislators recognize the value of TEDCO’s Rural Business Innovation Initiative in bringing entrepreneurs across Maryland to the next level of business success by providing funding to the RBI2 program,” Rob Rosenbaum, president and executive director of TEDCO, said in the release.

Companies that meet the eligibility requirements receive ongoing mentoring at no cost.