Howard County Secures AAA Rating From Three Agencies
Howard County has again received a Triple-A credit rating from all three bond rating agencies: Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services. Of the more than 3,000 counties in the country, fewer than 30 receive Triple-A rating from all three agencies.
“While this is the 15th consecutive year Howard County has earned a Triple-A rating, we never take it for granted,” said County Executive Ken Ulman. “It’s great to be in the top 1% of counties nationwide who are judged to be doing the right thing when it comes to developing sound fiscal policies, budgeting conservatively and finding ways to do more with less.”
Moody’s reported the assignment of its “highest quality rating reflects the county’s sizeable economic base and wealthy demographic profile, a sound financial position supported by proactive management, comprehensive fiscal policies, satisfactory fund balance levels and an affordable debt burden.”
Fitch Ratings commented, “The county is among the wealthiest in the nation, featuring a highly educated workforce employed throughout a deep and diverse economy led by the federal government and defense build-up at Fort Meade, a major driver of long-term regional growth.”
Standard & Poor’s noted the rating reflects a view of “the county’s vibrant and diverse local economy … large and diverse property tax base … very strong wealth and income … low and manageable debt … substantial, but well-managed, capital improvement program.”
Maryland Live! Tabs Kronos as Slot Machines Arrive at Casino
As the first 100 slot machines have arrived at Maryland Live! Casino, the new $500 million gaming and entertainment destination currently in development at Arundel Mills, the cost of installing them and the return on investment has come into question.
Slot teams have started the process of installing 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games, with offerings including Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, Sex and the City, Wizard of Oz, Hot Shots and a full line of Quick Hits and Progressives. The 330,000-square-foot facility will also feature a variety of electronic table games, including Blackjack, Roulette, Mini-Baccarat and Pai Gow Poker.
But the state of Maryland is facing tens of millions of dollars in unanticipated costs in the purchase of slot machines to fill the state’s first three casinos, according to the Washington Post. The state is paying an average of about $10,000 per slot machine per year, more than double what officials estimated would be spent when lawmakers launched Maryland’s slots program in 2007.
On another note, it was also announced that the state has purchased a suite of workforce management solutions from Kronos Inc., including time and attendance, scheduling, human resources and payroll, and selection and hiring to help effectively manage its workforce. These solutions will enable Maryland Live! to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk and improve workforce productivity.
Fort Meade’s Golf Course to Close
The historic golf course that has served as the centerpiece of Fort Meade since 1950 is scheduled to close May 1. The date was moved forward to accommodate deadlines associated with major construction projects that will occupy the land.
Originally a 36-hole golf course with a driving range, putting green and clubhouse, the course lost nine holes and the driving range due to Base Realignment and Closure expansion when the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Media Activity headquarters buildings were constructed, leaving 27 playable holes.
Patronage of those remaining 27 holes drew more than 35,000 rounds of play last year, including those of golfers who participated in 41 tournaments at the course. Closure of the remaining holes was anticipated, but not expected until September.
“I know the golf course will be missed,” said Col. Edward Rothstein, Fort Meade garrison commander. “It has served me, along with the entire Team Meade community, helping our service members, civilian workers, retirees and families balance work and life activities. The loss of the golf course is an emotional issue. However, the decision to support national security, [Department of Defense] priorities and our partners is not difficult.”
Still, Rothstein said garrison staff is aiming their efforts toward a long-term solution. “Nothing is off the table. From building a new golf course on another location on-post to possibly purchasing a local golf course, we’re exploring many alternatives. In the short term, we are working to establish reciprocal agreements with county golf courses.”
SECU, Arundel Employee’s Federal Credit Union Merge
SECU, Maryland’s largest state-chartered financial cooperative, and Anne Arundel County Employees Federal Credit Union (AACE FCU) have announced their intention to merge, offering expanded banking services and greater convenience, flexibility and access for all AACE FCU members.
The merger is pending and subject to regulatory and member approval. SECU will be the surviving entity.
“I have seen [AACE FCU] grow from a very small institution, established in 1964, to an $80 million organization that is respected within the industry both locally and nationally,” said Rick Stoll, president and CEO of AACE FCU. “The merger with SECU is the next evolution in that growth and will provide our members the stability and all the expanded resources and newest banking technologies they have been wanting.”
With more than 225,000 members and $2.3 billion in assets, SECU brings electronic services like mobile banking with smartphone apps, in addition to expanded loan offerings in competitive residential mortgages, home equity lines of credit, flexible auto loan options and small business services to current AACE FCU members. Additionally, the merger will provide greater branch convenience with the addition of four existing SECU branches located in Anne Arundel County, 15 additional SECU branches in the surrounding counties, and the introduction of Saturday and expanded weekday hours.
O’Malley Announces $84M in Investment for Maryland’s Innovation Economy
The Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development (DBED) has announced that $84 million has been raised for Maryland’s Innovation Economy through InvestMaryland, an historic initiative created by Gov. Martin O’Malley and passed by the General Assembly last year to invest in the state’s startup and early stage companies.
The $84 million raised far exceeds a goal of $70 million and was generated through an online auction of premium tax credits to insurance companies with operations in Maryland.
While other states have sold tax credits to fund similar venture capital initiatives, Maryland is the first state to use an online auction to raise the capital for such a program. The inaugural round of investments will be made in innovative companies this summer through several private venture capital firms and the state’s successful Maryland Venture Fund (MVF).
“Our state is well-positioned to be a leader in the new economy as a global hub of innovation — a leader in science, security, health, discovery and information technology,” said O’Malley. “That’s why, last year, together with business leaders from across the state and the General Assembly, we chose to invest in our diverse and highly-educated workforce and the skills and talents of our people for the jobs and opportunity of tomorrow.”
The online auction attracted more than two-dozen insurance companies with operations in Maryland, who bid on the tax credits with a floor of $.70 on the dollar. The 11 companies awarded the credits include Agency Insurance, Chubb, GEICO and Hartford Insurance, among others. Insurance companies can claim tax credits beginning in 2015.
First Hotel Partners Sign Up for Military Program
Three major hotel corporations have agreed to participate in a new national program, Hotels for Heroes, which will allow American citizens to donate their hotel reward points to wounded warriors and their families.
Marriott International was the first hotel company to agree to participate in the program, followed by the Wyndham Hotel Group and AmericInn. Event participants called on the rest of the lodging industry to follow their lead and agree to participate by Memorial Day, when organizers hope to open the program to donations.
The program will be modeled off the national Hero Miles program, which provides free round-trip airfare to wounded warriors traveling to receive care through the military health system, as well as to friends and family visiting them. Flights are made possible by frequent flyer miles donated by the American public.
Hotels for Heroes was created by bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin that passed in December. As with Hero Miles, Hotels for Heroes will be administered by the Fisher House, a nonprofit organization in Rockville that opens its homes to military families visiting their injured loved ones at hospitals across the country.
TriColumbia, AMM Announce Joint Venture in Youth Triathlon Education
TriColumbia, an endurance event production company, and Alive with MissionMe (AMM), the Chicago-based multi-sport youth learning curriculum and development firm, have embarked on a joint venture for youth triathlon education in public schools in an effort to educate students on the benefits of triathlon.
In September 2011, TriColumbia launched Learn2Tri, a youth triathlon education program, in two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools throughout Maryland. In the Learn2Tri program, students participate in the elements of a triathlon (swim, bike, run) during regular physical education classes. The program provides students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle long after they graduate.
TriColumbia will integrate the AMM in-school curriculum and coaching program with the aim of standardizing activities in local public school systems. AMM’s curricula are aligned with the standards set by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education and are adapted to USA Triathlon competencies.
In April, TriColumbia and AMM will host a teacher training to educate physical education instructors on the AMM youth triathlon curriculum. In June and July, the Columbia Association will offer Learn2Tri camps for sixth- to 10th-grade students.
BoxTone Supports Apple’s New iPad in the Enterprise
Following Apple’s announcement of the release of the new iPad, Columbia-based BoxTone announced that it will support the latest version of Apple’s tablet and the latest version of iOS, iOS 5.1, for iPhones, iPads and iPods.
Apple’s new iPad was available on March 16, and immediately that day BoxTone enabled enterprises to deploy the tablet safely, reliably and efficiently, with its automated Enterprise Mobility Management platform, which simplifies the delivery of secure mobile services.
The launch of the newest iPad further advances the major trends of enterprise mobility. Employees are buying and connecting their own mobile devices and apps to enterprise networks under Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives, and enterprises are centrally procuring and distributing mobile devices to empower employees with access to mission-critical apps while on the go.
“Every new mobile device released by Apple includes critical features designed for enterprise use, and the new iPad is no different,” said Brian Reed, chief product officer for BoxTone. “The advancements of the new iPad make the tablet even better for business in the post-PC era. The higher performance A5X processor makes it easier and faster to work remotely on 4G LTE networks like Verizon, and a nine-hour battery life on 4G networks allow users to work all day long on the new iPad.
“The new Retina Display and quad-core video processor allow for more advanced apps and better designing and sharing of visual information from the field, including presentations, brochures, catalogs and videos,” Reed said.
Report: Maryland Receives ‘C+’ in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending
Maryland received a “C+” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the third annual report of its kind by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG).
“State governments across the country continue to be more transparent about where the money goes, extending checkbook-level disclosure of data on spending to contracting, tax subsidies, development incentives and other expenditures,” said Jenny Levin, state advocate at MaryPIRG, “But Maryland still has a C+.”
Officials from Maryland and 46 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency web sites. The leading states with the most comprehensive transparency web sites are Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Arizona.
Financial constraints pose challenges for state transparency web sites. While a number of states have made significant strides toward greater transparency using existing staff time and resources, many states (including Maryland) cite fiscal constraints as an impediment to implementing new online features.
Read the full report at www.marylandpirg.org/reports/mdp/following-money-0.