Done Deal: BWCC, WCC Merger Is Confirmed
The board of directors for the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce (WCC) and the board of directors for the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) have officially voted to merge the two organizations into a single, new, regional chamber. The combined organization will be the largest chamber in a rapidly growing region.
Raj Kudchadkar, president and CEO of the new, yet-to-be-named chamber, said the focus moving forward is to promote economic growth, increase business connections and better coordinate the region’s marketing message and business networking activities to support the growth of business members. The leadership team will include Nancy LaJoice as the membership director and Kim Wirt as the operations director.
“The board of directors for both chambers are confident the new organization will be of tremendous value for regional businesses,” said Eric Harris, BWCC chair. “This will create economies of scale and efficiencies, enhance member benefits, increase legislative leverage, create a large base of 650 member businesses and provide enhanced staffing to support member needs. It’s all about adding value to the membership; these two successful organizations joining together is a huge asset to current members and future members who want to get engaged with the largest chamber in the region and one of the largest in the state.”
“Raj’s previous involvement with Fort Meade through the Base Business Initiative, his governmental experience through Howard County, as well as his vast contacts throughout the region position him well to take the helm of the new organization and guide it into new territory,” said Randy Fisher, WCC chair.
A strategic planning effort will help determine an official name, board structure and location for the new chamber. Immediate next steps include establishing a transition timeline and outlining the logistical requirements for gradually completing the merger. Some benefits of the merger will be seen early in the new year, such as joint events and increased marketing exposure.
MDOT Submits Automated Vehicle Technology ‘Proving Grounds’ Application to USDOT
Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn has announced that the state has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to designate a portion of the Interstate 95 (I-95) corridor in Maryland as a future Automated Vehicle (AV) testing and deployment area.
The application is in response to USDOT’s notice of intent to designate a select number of “proving grounds” across the country, which will help accelerate the development of AV technology to achieve a better understanding of the long-term impacts of self-driving vehicles. Maryland’s proposal includes the I-95 corridor from Aberdeen Proving Ground to the Fort Meade/University of Maryland region, and includes multiple public roadways, the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and existing public/private research and testing facilities throughout this region.
Maryland’s proposal takes advantage of existing development, testing, partnerships and investments in AV technology along the I-95 corridor and includes the following.
• Existing facilities already developing and testing AV technologies, including Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship in Howard County and the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory in Prince George’s County
• MDOT-owned facilities to provide future simulated and real-world testing environments, including the electronic toll lanes along I-95, the Port of Baltimore for freight operations and BWI Marshall for passenger shuttle transportation
• Private-sector companies already planning development and manufacturing of AV components within the next two years
The application does not allow immediate testing of self-driving vehicles on public roadways. Designated facilities should be ready to test AV technologies by Jan. 1, 2018. Although no federal funding is associated with the initial designation, it could lead to future federal funding and economic development opportunities for Maryland. Eligible entities include test tracks/testing facilities, racetracks, cities/urban areas, highway corridors and campuses.
The Kane Company Starts ‘Wind Down’ Operations
The Elkridge-based Kane Company, the nation’s largest commercial mover and a long-time presence in the Baltimore-Washington area, ceased operations at most of its locations as of Sunday, Dec. 8, and is laying off about 950 employees. The company is conducting what it terms “an orderly wind down of operations” and will eventually close the business.
“Having explored multiple paths with the assistance of financial and legal advisers, it has become clear that the best course of action for the company and its creditors is to wind down our operations. This difficult decision has not been made lightly and comes after many long discussions with key management, advisers and family. I am truly grateful for the hard work and dedication of our employees that has enabled us to provide ‘Best in Class’ service to our many loyal customers for 47 years in business,” said John Kane, president and CEO. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a strategic alternative that could generate a viable transaction within the time frame allowed by our limited cash resources and lender.”
The goal of the company during the wind-down process will be to divest the company’s assets and collect on receivables in order to satisfy obligations to creditors. This will include working with customers to phase out current contracts and projects. Kane will also continue running its Office Shredding and Office Archives operations until further notice.
Additionally, the company’s human resources team will be focused on assisting employees with finding other employment, including through partnership with the Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia Departments of Labor and Workforce Development.
The company, which had run its Baltimore-area operations out of Elkridge and its Washington operations out of Lanham and Alexandria, Va., also ran a staffing service center for Fort Meade in Severn, and its Office Movers division headquarters out of Elkridge. Kane also ran other offices in the Baltimore-Washington region, plus various locations in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and California.
Howard Solicits Proposals for Redevelopment of Long Reach Village Center
The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the Long Reach Village Center. Howard County purchased the 7.7-acre site in 2014 and 2015 under the county’s Urban Renewal Law for the purpose of revitalizing the property. The county and seller closed on the last piece of property on Feb. 20, 2015.
County Executive Allan Kittleman launched the Re-Imagine Long Reach Village Center effort with a series of five community meetings beginning in April 2015 to engage the community and lay the foundation to reimagine and revitalize the center. Those meetings helped shape the Re-Imagine Long Reach Center Plan, which identified revitalization objectives for the center, including economic sustainability, connectivity, community spaces and building and site design. The plan can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/longreach.
In an effort to ensure the community and the Long Reach Village Board will continue to be a part of the process and provide input on the future of the village center, the county executive will appoint three members of the public to serve on the RFP Review Committee. He has asked the Village Board and Councilman Calvin Ball, who represents the area, to each submit one nominee.
More than 17,000 people live in Long Reach, within 6,108 households. The median household income and the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher in and around the property is considerably higher than the population as a whole in Maryland. The deadline for submitting redevelopment proposals is March 1.
Cordish Plans $2.2B Hotel, Entertainment District in Madrid
The Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, owner of the Maryland Live! Casino, at Arundel Mills, has submitted plans to build a $2.2 billion entertainment resort district in Madrid, as it looks to expand its gaming division internationally. The Cordish Global Cities Madrid Live! SA affiliate submitted plans to the Madrid Regional Autonomous Government to develop Spain’s first Integrated Entertainment Resort Destination.
The proposed district will be located on approximately 300-plus acres in the Torres de la Alameda sector of Madrid, offering proximity to major infrastructure and attractions, including IFEMA (the Trade Fair Institution of Madrid), the Madrid Atocha Train Station, Barajas International Airport and the Madrid City Center, making the site easily accessible to the majority of the population in Spain, and allowing the majority of the western European population to access the site by air, car and/or train in less than two hours.
“The Live! Integrated Resort & Entertainment District in Madrid is one of the most exciting and unique integrated resort and entertainment developments in Europe that will not only enhance the regional resort and entertainment markets, but also serve as a major domestic and international tourism destination,” said Joe Weinberg, managing partner, The Cordish Companies, Global Cities. “We look forward to working with the Madrid Regional Autonomous Government and the entire community as we move forward on our proposal to develop the region’s first world-class integrated resort destination.”
The Live! District, at full build-out, would include up to 2,700 new hotel rooms, including destination spas and lagoon style pools; more than 1 million square feet of retail and shopping outlets; nearly 170,000 square feet of dining venues, offering Mediterranean, French, Asian, American and regional Spanish cuisine; nearly 275,000 square feet of convention and meeting space; approximately 450,000 square feet of luxury prime office space; and approximately 125,000 square feet of gaming entertainment.
It also would include approximately 200,000 square feet of entertainment and live performance venues, including Broadway-style theaters, comedy clubs, bowling, live music venues and movie theaters. The Great Central Plaza at the heart of the project will include a large Mercado, specialized bars, lounges, dance clubs and cafes.
Maryland Among Four States to Receive C+ on Adult Financial Literacy Report Card
Maryland is one of just four states that received a C+ on the 2016 National Report Card on Adult Financial Literacy on Dec. 12 as determined by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy in Burlington, Vt. The other states are California, Colorado and New York.
John Pelletier, director of Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, said that even those states earning higher grades — none received an A or A+ — are merely the best among a group of low-performing states. The Champlain College Center’s report card shows that more than three-quarters of adults live in states with poor grades.
“Our report shows that our nation has dramatic room for improvement, so one should not be misled by grades,” said Pelletier. “For example, while adults in Maryland perform well in important areas like spending within their means, they can improve in other areas, like household budgeting and having adequate life insurance.”
The report card assesses the problem of adult financial illiteracy nationally, and gives grades to each state based on data gleaned from national organizations that track Americans’ financial knowledge, credit, saving and spending, retirement readiness, investing and levels of insurance. Forty-eight percent of Maryland’s grades were C, D or F (34 out of 71 financial literacy grades).
Kittleman Introduces Bill to Expand Livable Homes Tax Credit
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has pre-filed legislation that would expand a tax credit for residents adapting their homes to allow them to “age in place.” The legislation is in response to recommendations from the county’s Commission on Aging.
Legislation filed with the Howard County Council would amend the Livable Homes Tax Credit to include a greater variety of projects that make it easier for seniors and individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes, such as accessible pathways between parking and residences, adding railings to hallways, installing slip-resistant flooring and improving stair design. The tax credit allowed would be increased from 50% of eligible costs to the full amount of eligible costs or a total of $2,500 per project, whichever is less.
“Seniors tell us they want to stay in their homes and age in place, if possible. If they are on fixed incomes, they may not be able to afford necessary improvements or renovations to make that possible,” said Kittleman. “We are working with our Commission on Aging and Office on Aging and Independence to create reasonable tax credits to help seniors and people with disabilities get these projects done, so they can more easily live in the homes and communities they love.”
The Livable Homes Tax Credit was enacted in 2012 to provide a tax credit for the cost of installation of accessibility features in existing owner-occupied residences in Howard County. There is an annual cap on total credits issued of $100,000, which will remain unchanged.
The county’s senior population continues to grow rapidly. In 2010, 10% of residents were 65 or older. By 2025, this will increase to 18%, and by 2035, to nearly 22%. The county council is scheduled to vote on the expanded Livable Homes Tax Credit bill on Feb. 6.
MDOT Introduces New Electronic Bidding System for Highway Contractors
The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to use an electronic system for contractors to submit bids on future transportation projects. Beginning in early 2017, MDOT will use Info Tech’s Bid Express, a web-based service for electronic bidding (e-bidding), which will save money for contractors and for the state.
“By bringing our highway project bidding into the 21st century, contractors can securely submit bids from any computer, download contract documents, immediately receive any addenda to the advertisement and collectively save $800,000 every year,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “The contracting industry has been asking for e-bidding for many years, and we are pleased this will allow them to spend more time being productive and less time navigating red tape.”
The Board of Public Works (BPW) approved the state’s participation with Bid Express, a service already used by approximately 40 transportation departments and thousands of contractors. MDOT previously required contractors to deliver a hard copy bid package to MDOT’s State Highway Administration’s (SHA) offices, in Hanover. Any minor error could result in disqualification of a bid.
For the state, the new system is secure; and bids include bond verifications and are instantly tabulated, results are ranked and reports can be exported. By using Bid Express, SHA also saves five days in the process and $68,000 a year because it no longer will need to send documents to Maryland Correctional Enterprises for data entry. The Invitation for Bids and contract documents will still be available for free on eMaryland Marketplace. SHA will fully implement e-bidding by summer 2017.