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Columbia places fifth on Best Places to Live list

Photo credit Karmen Osei/Howard County Tourism

Columbia, Maryland was been named the fifth best place to live in America by Money Magazine in its annual Best Places to Live list.

The list features 50 towns and cities where the economy, job growth, and housing market remained strong despite COVID-19 disruptions. This year, Money looked at towns and cities with a population of at least 25,000 and ranked the Best Places to Live putting the greatest emphasis on economic factors, like employment opportunities, as well as supply and demand for homes, cost of living, quality of schools, racial and economic diversity, and health and safety.

Money’s No. 1 pick for Best Places to Live this year is Evans, Georgia, which is brimming with good-paying jobs thanks to its proximity to Augusta as well as affordable homes, top schools, access to arts and culture, and a diverse population, which some residents attribute to its military presence. In June, Evans residents saw a low unemployment rate of 5.2%, which was well below the 11.1% national average. Evans also had the lowest cost of living of any place with similarly high-income levels. Parker, Colorado and Meridian, Idaho landed in second and third place, respectively. Both cities topped the list because of access to high paying jobs in the booming tech sector, a healthy economy, and remarkable proximity to nature and outdoor activities.

“This year, given the general uncertainty around where and how we’ll live, our list looks a little different,” said Prachi Bhardwaj, lead reporter of Money’s Best Places to Live. “We shifted our priorities to pay more attention to cities that aren’t just doing well now, but that show great promise and stability for the next five to ten years. We also included suburban towns situated further away from major metros and have more industry diversity than you’ve seen from our list in years past.”

Money’s Top 20 Best Places to Live include:

  1. Evans, GA
  2. Parker, CO
  3. Meridian, Idaho
  4. Rockwall, Texas
  5. Columbia, Maryland
  6. Westfield, Indiana
  7. Syracuse, Utah
  8. Franklin, Tennessee
  9. Woodbury, Minnesota
  10. Morrisville, North Carolina
  11. Ashburn, Virginia
  12. South Windsor, Connecticut
  13. St Peters, Missouri
  14. Chelmsford, Massachusetts
  15. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
  16. Mount Laurel, New Jersey
  17. Woodstock, Georgia
  18. Broomfield, Colorado
  19. Abington, Pennsylvania
  20. Midlothian, Virginia

For Money’s complete list of the Best Places to Liveclick here. To learn more on the methodology of the ranking, click here. 

Community colleges adapt to enrollment changes


Local community colleges reported a jump in summer enrollment, even amid challenges caused by COVID-19. College presidents expressed appreciation for both staff and students who responded with flexibility and creativity.

Dr. Kate Hetherington

“I am so appreciative of the incredible faculty and staff of Howard Community College,” said Dr. Kate Hetherington, Howard Community College (HCC) president. “While the college had long been an expert in online education, it was a herculean task to transition every class and every service online in only two weeks. I also appreciate the guidance and support provided by the college’s board of trustees.”

Dr. Dawn Lindsay

Dr. Dawn Lindsay, president of Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), said she is “extremely proud of the response from our faculty and staff who reacted to extraordinary circumstances with dedication, innovation and hard work. I am also proud of our students who adapted quickly and moved forward with success.”


Reopening safely

Like public schools and private universities, HCC and AACC have crafted reopening plans that consider the health, safety and well-being of faculty, staff and students.

HCC is offering a blended learning environment for the fall semester. Classes are in three formats: hybrid (learn both in-person and online), scheduled remote (meet at designated times in an online classroom) and flexible online (study on your own time).

“This approach allows for some in-person instruction for courses that benefit from hands-on experiences or labs, while also giving students formats to fit their needs and schedules,” said Hetherington. “It is an unbelievably challenging time, and yet I am constantly impressed by the ingenuity, adaptability and collaboration of faculty, staff, and students. Everyone has banded together to ensure the college can continue to live its mission of providing pathways to success.”

AACC was recognized with a 2019-2020 Community College Innovation of the Year award, noting that the pandemic prompted “resiliency and vigor” from the college.

“As early as February, AACC began work to ensure continuity of operations and delivery of our mission despite the growing pandemic,” said Lindsay. “The unprecedented times required an unprecedented response, and we did so swiftly.”

Part of that was going completely online. In January, AACC offered 524 online courses. In April, that number skyrocketed as 1,250 additional face-to-face credit and noncredit courses were converted to remote in response to COVID-19.

“It helped that we have long been a leader in distance education, starting with classes delivered by TV decades ago before shifting to online in the 1990s,” said Lindsay.

Purchasing more tech

Both colleges have had to evaluate additional technology to keep safely serving students.

HCC invested in Zoom and acquired new technological services, software, and other tools to assist employees with teleworking.

“We also provided faculty, staff and students with loaner laptops and hotspots to ensure they had the appropriate technology for a remote learning environment,” said Hetherington. “The college has had to critically examine its expenditures and make some difficult decisions to reduce costs. Already the state has cut the college’s funding by $3.3 million. As a result, the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic will affect the college this fiscal year and well into the future.”

For AACC, the need for online materials, laptops, counseling, the food bank and many other services multiplied significantly since the spring.

“Our college community has come together to donate PPE to local hospitals and support our community in many different ways,” said Lindsay. “As a leader in online education, we continue to offer a strong schedule of online classes going into our fall term. We know people need flexibility as they reset their schedules and adjust their goals.”

Lindsay said she also knows people are losing jobs and may need to retool, change careers or change their plans for higher education.

“We are continuing to adapt to meet their needs,” she said. “We are the community’s college, and we take that role very seriously.”

While the community colleges have been able to save some money through reduced use of buildings, that savings doesn’t offset the expenditures of transitioning to a COVID-19 safe environment.

“When COVID hit, we had approximately 30 percent of our courses online, so we had to transition 1,250 additional classes to that format,” said Lindsay. “Thanks to our great technology team, we were well-positioned to transition to online as all our credit courses had an online shell through our learning management system.”

AACC received funding under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act to help support students and the costs associated with the disruption of campus operations and the transition to online instruction.

“These funds are helpful in offsetting the additional costs we have incurred as we position our institution and our students to be flexible and adaptive in this ever-changing environment,” said Lindsay. “We continue to expand and improve our services and availability with additional technology equipment and software to support online services and instruction.”

AACC has expanded use of video conferencing and online exam proctoring services and is evaluating additional technology and services.

“We are really excited about the innovative ways our faculty and staff have addressed lab-related instruction through the use of virtual labs and at-home kits,” said Lindsay. “This will allow students the opportunity to have virtual and hands-on experiences while continuing their coursework at a distance.”

Students make difficult decisions

HCC and AACC saw a jump in summer enrollment. “We were up 10 percent for the first summer session and almost 20 percent for the second summer session,” said Hetherington. “For the fall, students took much more time to make their decisions about classes.”

In early August, several four-year colleges in Maryland reversed their decisions to bring students back to campus, choosing instead for online classes in the fall.

“I would suggest that Maryland families look instead at community colleges, which offer a supportive – and affordable – choice for students,” said Hetherington. “With so many resources available, including financial aid, academic advisors, transfer counselors, loaner laptops, not to mention a world-class faculty, students can get a great start at Howard Community College.”

AACC also saw a steady increase in fall enrollment. “We know these are confusing times for people to make concrete decisions, but we have resources to help people choose the right educational path,” said Lindsay.

She added, “Last year we provided more than $1 million in scholarships to students and continue to offer significant financial resources this year that our financial aid team can advise. We have built the capacity to deliver quality online instruction in the most affordable way for traditional-aged students, working adults looking to gain more skills and adults out of work who may benefit from additional education.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | September 2020 Issue

Anne Arundel to reopen theaters beginning Friday, Sept. 25


County Executive Steuart Pittman announced that Anne Arundel County will allow theaters and performance venues to reopen, beginning Friday, September 25. The decision comes after careful review of industry safety protocols and impacts of reopening on other jurisdictions, and in consultation with health experts, his recovery work group, and others.

“When Governor Hogan authorized limited re-opening of theaters earlier this month, our county’s coronavirus numbers were rising,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We chose a cautious approach. Since then, we have carefully reviewed the protocols developed by the industry, monitored the impact in counties that took the action before us, and considered potential impacts on community spread with our health officer, our recovery work group, and others. Like all other openings, this one has the potential to increase the spread of coronavirus at a time when we must reduce case rates to meet the school reopening metrics set forth by the state. Please, wear your mask and maintain social distance.”

Pittman’s decision comes after a rigorous discussion with his Recovery Work Group on September 17. In that meeting, Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman presented a series of data slides to outline the status and trends of COVID-19 cases in Anne Arundel County. That presentation is available via https://aahealth.org.

Beginning Friday, September 25 at 9:00 a.m., indoor theaters and outdoor venues in Anne Arundel County will be allowed to reopen under the following guidance:

INDOOR THEATERS. Indoor theaters where live performances occur or motion pictures are shown may open to the general public at 50% capacity, or 100 people per auditorium—whichever is less—with appropriate health and safety protocols in place.

OUTDOOR VENUES. Outdoor venues where live performances occur or motion pictures are shown outdoors may open to the general public at 50% capacity, or 100 people—whichever is less—with appropriate health and safety protocols in place.

Inc. 5000 names Maryland’s fastest growing companies in 2020

Photo courtesy Inc.

According to the Maryland Department of Commerce, a total of 149 Maryland businesses have been named to the latest Inc. 5000 rankings, the highest recorded amount for the state in nearly a decade.

These companies, now considered among the fastest-growing companies in the country, include 13 specifically named among the top 500 in the nation. Click here to read the full list and sort by Maryland companies.

The recent announcement highlights a variety of industries, with a significant number of companies falling within the Government Services, Information Technology, and Construction sectors throughout the state.

Topping the list for Maryland is Hunt A Killer, an interactive murder mystery game explored through a monthly subscription box delivered to your door. The company – ranking number six on the Inc. 5000 overall – has experienced more than 20,000 percent growth over the past three years.

Top Fastest Growing Companies in Maryland 2020
Rank Company Growth Industry City
6 Hunt A Killer 20485% Consumer Products & Services Baltimore
122 Four Twelve Roofing 3047% Construction Baltimore
127 mPower 2922% Government Services North Bethesda
128 Ad Hoc Research LLC 2885% Government Services Havre de Grace
140 Clear Ridge Defense 2650% Government Services Baltimore
226 Capital Brand Group 1954% Construction Silver Spring
276 Impyrian 1623% Engineering Fulton
304 DecisionPoint Corporation 1489% Government Services Gaithersburg
377 Hop Havoc 1209% Food & Beverage Williamsport
425 T-Rex Solutions 1080% Government Services Greenbelt
452 Confidio 1015% Health Towson
463 Premier Enterprise Solutions 989% IT Management Upper Marlboro
495 Grant Leading Technology 940% IT Management Riverdale

According to previous Inc. 5000 lists, the last highest rankings the state of Maryland had was 155 companies in 2012, and 153 companies in 2011, respectively. View this year’s Inc. 5000 list in its entirety.

Leadership Anne Arundel names Flagship Class of 2021


Leadership Anne Arundel (LAA), the premier leadership training and networking institute in Anne Arundel County, has announced the Flagship Program Class of 2021.

Flagship is the core LAA program. It includes an intense curriculum of civic information and leadership skills development. The class is composed of a cross-section of the Anne Arundel County community, representing our ethnically, socially, economically, and geographically diverse population.

The class members are:

Suzanne Antkowiak – Director, South County Senior Activity Center, AA County Aging & Disabilities

Gina Baldwin – Owner, Baldwin Homes, Inc.

Holly Bentley – Principal, Learning Cadence

Comacell Brown, Jr. – CEO / Lead Graphic Designer, Cell Spitfire Paintings & Designs Matthew Broyles – Tax Manager, TMDL CPAs & Consultants

Jon Bullough – Relationship Manager, M&T Bank

Gina Calvert – Manager, Gas Supply and Transportation, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company Jennifer Castellanos-Graham – Donor Engagement Manager, Hospice of the Chesapeake Candice Davis – Director of Marketing, Live! Casino & Hotel

LynAnn Dippel – Principal and Senior Advisor, Bay Point Wealth

Brandi Francis – Assistant Director of Community Relations & Planning, AA County Aging & Disabilities

John Frenaye – Publisher, Eye On Annapolis

James Gibbons – Audit Manager, TMDL CPAs & Consultants

Lieutenant John Gilmer – Commander-Personnel/Property Sections, Anne Arundel County Police Department

Laura Gratton – President, Ms Waterproofer Inc.

Roz Hamlett – Public Information Officer, Anne Arundel County

Chief Ed Jackson – City of Annapolis Police Department

Milena Kornyl – VP, Career Development and Community Services, AAWDC

Ashley Lyons – Chief Operating Officer, What’s Up? Media

Regina Macklin – Coordinator of College Service, Arundel Mills, Anne Arundel Community College

Sophia Minott – Senior Relationship Manager, United Way of Central Maryland

Karen Morsberger – Community Service Team, NSA State and Local Affairs

Andrew Noel – Senior Branch Manager/Vice President, M&T Bank

Amale Obeid – Senior Director, Strategy & Program Development, University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center

Wendy Penny – Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Anne Arundel Medical Center

Chad Phillips – Senior Web Developer, Liquified Creative

Matt Power – Chief Administrative Officer, Anne Arundel County

Captain Daniel Rodriguez – Commander of Western District, Anne Arundel County Police Department

Roxana Rodriguez – Operations Manager/Owner, Caliente Grill

Ashley Rogers – Branch Manager, Anne Arundel County Public Library

Koven Roundtree – Chief of Human Resources, Anne Arundel County Public Library

Ellen Shiery – Wealth Management Advisor, Merrill Lynch

Carol Sisco – Chairman of the Board, Annapolis Maritime Museum

Courtney Stafford – Director of Business Development, Hospice of the Chesapeake

Allison Taylor – Director of Government Relations, Kaiser Permanente

Susan Thomas – Executive Director, Anne Arundel County Food Bank

Julie Weber – Vice President, Accounting, Skyline Technology Solutions

The ten-month program kicked off on Sept. 9 at Historic London Town & Gardens and online with a two-day opening retreat.

Following the retreat, participants will build community knowledge meeting for one full day each month. Session topics include Government, Economic Development, Cultural Arts, Education & Technology, Health & Human Services, Law & Public Safety, Environment and Agriculture/South County.

Participants are introduced to critical regional issues, meet and discuss issues with leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors, and identify areas of community need and methods required to succeed as community leaders. Throughout the program, participants gain an understanding of what constitutes leadership, as well as, an introduction to the infrastructure, natural resources, and current political issues of Anne Arundel County.

According to President & CEO, Kris Valerio Shock, “Now, more than ever, local community leaders need resources, support and connection. We are deeply proud to launch the Flagship 2021 class, a remarkable mix of public, private, for profit, government, non-profit and citizen community leaders, during these extraordinary times.”

LAA, a non-profit 501c3 organization founded in 1993, is the premier leadership training and networking institute in Anne Arundel County. The mission of LAA is to provide people of diverse backgrounds with the education, resources and networks necessary to become successful proactive leaders. LAA has over 1500 graduates from its three (3) core programs. LAA graduates serve in leadership positions in public sector, private sector and non-profit organizations throughout the Baltimore-Washington metro area. For more information visit https://leadershipaa.org

Marley Station sold for $1.65M


A local investor purchased Marley Station, the 364,000-square-foot mall at Routes 2 and 100, at auction for $1.65 million Sept. 14, on the steps of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, in Annapolis.

However, owner Marley Station Mall LLC (a subsidiary of Dallas-based developer G.L. “Buck” Harris), is in foreclosure and filed for bankruptcy just before the auction. The sale is now subject to bankruptcy court and could be nullified.

The Marley Station property holds two loans: One for $15.6 million and the other for $1.6 million. It is the second loan that was foreclosed on; therefore, if the sale is upheld, the investor must pay the remaining $15.6 million.

More information on the sale is forthcoming by later this month.


Maryland gets funding for small businesses


With help from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Maryland has garnered additional funding to support the state’s small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has received an additional $3.4 million to recapitalize several state and county loan funds that provide assistance to small businesses. Specifically, the Maryland Department of Commerce received $770,000 to recapitalize the Maryland Economic Adjustment Fund program, a pre-existing small business Revolving Loan Funds program funded primarily through the EDA.

For more information, click here.


Ball removes Columbus Day from county

Calvin Ball

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month by announcing the newly formulated La Alianza Latina Workgroup (Latin Alliance) and recognizing Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day.

“Diversity is a hallmark of Howard County, and our Latino community serves a vital role in contributing to the cultural vibrancy that makes our County one of the most attractive locations to live, work and play in the country,” said Ball. “But for many of our new residents – and those who have lived in Howard County for years – certain services and programs seem out of reach. La Alianza Latina Workgroup will not only provide a seat at the table, but access to government to implement long-lasting change. Additionally, we’re pleased to take another step to rectify and recognize the impact of Native Americans and Indigenous people whose land we occupy today. Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day does not absolve us from our history, but we hope that it sets a tone and opens up discussions on the importance of restorative practices throughout our government and our community.”

La Alianza will be comprised of 16 Howard County residents, representing backgrounds throughout Central and South America. The workgroup will address many of the concerns and struggles of the Latino and immigrant community – such as how to access community resources, support for starting a business or buying a home, health disparities and outcomes, and ensuring there is adequate support for young Latinos in Howard County schools.

“La Alianza Latina will further the County’s commitment to equity and inclusion and will allow the Latino community to know their voices matter and are being heard. This workgroup will serve as the bridge between the Latino community and County Administration and the Office of Human Rights,” said Yolanda Sonnier, administrator, Office of Human Rights. “Indigenous People’s Day recognizes and affirms the legacy and contributions of Indigenous people here in Howard County and throughout this Country. This change will be an opportunity to also discuss history which will impact our future.”

For more information about the workgroup and/or to get into contact with them, email alianzalatina@howardcountymd.gov.

Christopher Columbus.

Ball also announced Howard County will officially observe Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day this year on Oct. 12 and on the same date moving forward.

Kennedy Krieger expands in Maple Lawn 

Photo courtesy KKI.

Kennedy Krieger Institute recently opened the second location of its International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, building upon a 15-year legacy of providing “Hope Through Motion” for adults and children with spinal cord injuries. This satellite location was made possible through a generous donation from Phyllis and Sidney Bresler, Sarah and Jonathan Bresler and The Robert I. Schattner Foundation Inc.

Fulton, the new 9,500-square-foot facility offers the same comprehensive, one-of-a-kind medical and rehabilitative approach as does the center’s original location in Baltimore City, with the latest in high-tech rehabilitation equipment and advanced robotic technology designed to improve functioning for those with spinal cord injuries and disorders. Additional highlights include a wellness gym, adult and pediatric therapy spaces, aquatherapy-based gait training, dual ground-level entrances and space for future expansion.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Bresler family and The Robert I. Schattner Foundation,” said Dr. Cristina Sadowsky, clinical director of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Their support allows us to impact even more patients through our evidence-based rehabilitative interventions based on comprehensive medical care. These interventions are meant to improve patients’ daily functioning by inducing positive neuroplastic changes in the brain and nervous system.”

Pittman launches eviction prevention plan

Steuart Pittman

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced a comprehensive strategy to provide legal assistance, information and referrals for county renters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected increase in the number of households facing eviction.

Pittman highlighted a list of legal resources for county residents that will complement the existing Eviction Prevention Program, which provides rental assistance on behalf of income eligible renters who cannot pay their rent due to a COVID related loss of income.

“As soon as this pandemic came to our county, our staff launched the state’s first eviction prevention program, using casino and general fund revenues. That program, and the wonderful counselors who deliver it, has already protected hundreds of hard-working families from financial ruin,” said Pittman. “As our residents approach the end of eviction moratoria and the reopening of our courts, we must intervene, and we will. We have brought together a team of nonprofit organizations and experienced attorneys to educate and represent the people who are the backbone of our economy and the most vulnerable among us. We call ourselves Operation Eviction Intervention, and we mean business.”

“We want to help renters facing eviction early on in the process – our staff and our partners can now help determine whether there is a legal basis to halt or prevent their eviction, and if they are eligible, we can help them with Eviction Prevention Program assistance to help get current on rent payments,” said Kathleen Koch, Executive Director of Arundel Community Development Services, Inc., which administers the county Eviction Prevention Program and administers the county’s contract with legal partners.

In addition, ACDS has hired a full time attorney to join the Eviction Prevention Program to provide legal guidance for clients and caseworkers and to negotiate payment plans or other arrangements with landlords.

The announcement comes in the wake of the recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order that temporarily halts evictions in most cases for failure to pay rent cases. Eligible renters must complete a CDC declaration form and present that to their landlord and the courts, if summoned.

Operation Eviction Intervention includes the following components:

Community Legal Services will implement the Tenant Representation Project in Anne Arundel County. Attorneys will provide representation to tenants in their landlord tenant hearings (in person or virtually) and/or will help clients facing eviction pre-hearing or pre-filing.  The Grantee will hire a temporary, dedicated Anne Arundel attorney and also utilize their network of pro bono attorneys, who will receive a small stipend for each docket. Anne Arundel County is investing $42,333 in Coronavirus Relief Funds into this effort.

The Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland, a project of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition – will hire additional staff to support their Tenant & Fair Housing Intake Line and tenant education and outreach efforts in Anne Arundel County.  FHAC staff will provide information about tenants’ rights, the eviction process as well as referrals to eviction prevention programs and legal assistance services.  There are no income limits for tenants, and landlords can also call for information.  The County is investing $35,000 in County general funds into this effort.

Maryland Legal Aid and its Anne Arundel County Office will provide legal assistance, including assistance for tenant-landlord cases, for very low income County residents seeking legal assistance. Anne Arundel County is investing $50,000 from the County Executive’s Community Support Grant funds, one of the largest awards made through the CSG Program in anticipation of an increased need for eviction prevention efforts due to COVID-19.

ACDS and our partners will continue to work with and refer clients to existing resources, including the Conflict Resolution Center and the Self Help Centers.

The Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center provides community mediation and can serve as a way for landlords and tenants to work out disputes and payment settlements before, or instead of, going to court. This process is free and does not take additional funding to support.

Self Help Centers, which are staffed by a subsidiary of Maryland Legal Aid, serve the District Courts located throughout Maryland including Anne Arundel County.  They do not provide legal representation but help clients navigate the legal process and guide them to prepare the right documentation necessary for self-representation in court.

With Coronavirus Relief Funds, ACDS has hired Lisa Sarro, J.D., an experienced housing attorney to work with Eviction Prevention Program caseworkers to accomplish three main objectives: establish an intake process for EPP clients who need help with the legal system, provide information, legal assistance and referrals as needed; negotiate agreements with landlords on behalf of ACDS to maximize the eviction prevention benefits of the Program; and provide training and support for EPP caseworkers to understand the legal process and be able to make appropriate referrals.


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