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Maryland launches affordable drug law

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Intended to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, a new Maryland law took effect on July 1 with the implementation of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will set maximum costs for certain medications. This is the first board of its kind in the nation.

The law marked “a major milestone in our campaign to make prescription drugs more affordable for people across Maryland,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative. “The new Prescription Drug Affordability Board will have the authority to be a strong public watchdog and will help bring down the costs of drugs. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them, but we want Marylanders to know that help is on the way.”

The new board will have the authority (with the approval of the Legislative Policy Committee) to set maximum costs for certain drugs purchased by the state and local governments. The measure will, in turn, help the state and local governments reduce expenditures, freeing public funds for other needs, such as education. The new five-member board will also play an important role by recommending action Maryland should take to make drugs more affordable for all Marylanders.

For more information, visit https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51052/images/SummaryofRxAffordabilityBoard_6-26.pdf.

Merkle releases ‘Customer Experience’ report

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Columbia-based Merkle has released its Experience Impact report, which analyzes how and why customer experience affects where consumers choose to spend their money. For its report, Merkle polled 500 U.S. residents in March 2019.

The research revealed that 66 percent of consumers care more about experiences than price when choosing a brand from which to purchase. Additionally, more than half (52%) of online shoppers reported having stopped shopping on a brand website due to poor site experience.

Nike, Amazon and Apple were cited as the top mentioned brands for delivering a personalized experience. These customer-centric brands were also the top mentioned for delivering the best online experience, with Amazon cited by over half of respondents for being fast and easy, as well as its overall customer service.

“Now more than ever, consumers expect brands to offer personalized and seamless experiences,” said Rives Martin, manager, customer intelligence & brand strategy, Merkle. “Marketers must focus on developing experiences that place customers squarely at the center. It begins with a comprehensive understanding of the entire customer journey, which allows marketers to learn and respond to the interests and needs of their customers. This ultimately results in more valuable, lasting relationships that lead to competitive advantage.”

To download the full report, visit www.merkleinc.com/thought-leadership/white-papers/experience-impact?utm_source=PressRelease&utm_medium=pr&utm_campaign=2019_DX_CX_Research.

HCGH elects new board chair

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Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) elected Elizabeth Rendón Sherman as chair of its board of trustees. Rendón Sherman is the CEO/CFO at Elkridge-based LG-TEK, a company she founded more than 22 years ago.

Rendón Sherman is skilled in analytics, government and customer relationship management, and leadership. An army veteran, she worked as a software engineer for several years before founding her own company, which provides software services and language support to government and private industry clients nationwide. Among her community service activities, Rendón Sherman has served on the boards of the Howard Hospital Foundation, Howard Community College Educational Foundation, Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Meade Alliance Foundation.

“As the business of health care and hospitals continues to change and adapt, I am proud to be selected to lead Howard County General,” Rendón Sherman said. “The hospital is striving to meet the needs of the community by expanding physically with its new addition and bringing increased services to area residents through its population health efforts. I am pleased to be a part of that growth.”

Rendón-Sherman has been joined by Kathleen White, professor at The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, who was elected as board vice chair. David Condron, member at DCMM & Associates, will remain board treasurer.

Howard Housing Department accepting MIHU applications

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The Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is accepting applications for its Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) program. Applications will be accepted through Wednesday, July 31.

DHCD will host three MIHU workshops to explain the program’s eligibility requirements and the application process. On Thursday, July 11, DHCD will host a MIHU Renters Information Workshop from 6-7:30 p.m., in Room 211 at DHCD’s offices at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia. To register, visit https://mihu_renters_info_workshop.eventbrite.com.

On Wednesday, July 17, DHCD will host its first of two MIHU Home Ownership Information Workshops from 6-8 p.m., in Room 211, at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia. To register, visit https://mihu_homebuyers_1.eventbrite.com.

The second MIHU Home Ownership Information Workshop will take place on Thursday, July 25, from 6-8 p.m., in Room 211 at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia. To register, visit https://mihu_homebuyers_2.eventbrite.com.

Open enrollment periods for the MIHU homeownership program are held quarterly. For more information, contact DHCD’s Housing Opportunities Programs Division at 410-313-6318 and select option two or visit www.howardcountymd.gov/MIHU_openenrollment.

Howard releases Human Rights report

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Howard County has released the 2018 Office of Human Rights (OHR) Annual Report. The report covers caseload analysis, hate-bias incidents, outreach activities, the human rights commission and MLK holiday commission.

For calendar 2018, OHR investigated and issued 54 findings, closed 90 cases and took on 78 new cases. Investigators responded to an additional 215 inquiries which did not become cases; the report documents 58 hate-bias incidents in 2018, defined as acts of prejudice, hate or violence directed because of race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation. These numbers represent increases from the previous year.

Last year also saw 61 reports of employment discrimination, 16 reports of housing discrimination and one report of public accommodation discrimination. Cases included at least 32 complaints based on race, 22 based on disability, 16 based on gender and nine based on sexual orientation, among others. In 2018, the OHR reported closing 90 cases.

The OHR was established in 1975 to investigate complaints of discrimination and enforce the Howard County Human Rights Law.

QS Ranking: UMBC Ranks in Top 500

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According to the recent QS World University Rankings 2020, UMBC is one of the top 500 universities in the world overall and among the best of the best in a key measure of faculty scholarship.

This new ranking recognizes UMBC as a state, national and global leader in the area of citations per faculty member. In this category, UMBC is no. 48 globally, no. 17 overall in North America and no. 1 in the state of Maryland. In addition to recognizing UMBC’s particular strength in citations per faculty, the report also categorizes UMBC’s research output as “very high.”

The World University Rankings list is produced annually by the British firm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). To create its list, QS takes into account six metrics: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.

It was initially developed through a collaboration with Times Higher Education. In addition to the newly announced QS ranking, Times Higher Education has again recognized UMBC as one of the world’s top young universities as part of the Golden Age University Rankings. This year, UMBC ranks no. 86 on the list and is one of 12 U.S. universities in the world’s top 100.

This list highlights visionary institutions that have quickly risen to prominence on the world stage – over decades rather than centuries. It specifically includes institutions established from 1945-1967 (UMBC was founded in 1966).

Anne Arundel 2040: How will it look?

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During a late May meeting at Arundel High School, in Gambrills, a group of county employees greeted members of the business and residential communities who gathered to read, to observe and to discuss the state of hyper local affairs.

Billed as a Small Area Visioning Forum, the event served as a precursor to completing the draft for Anne Arundel County’s General Development Plan (GDP), known as Anne Arundel 2040.

Many topics were discussed that evening, with the subjects ranging from development to transportation to the environment. One point several of the attendees noticed – or if they didn’t, were informed of – was that a significant number of projects included in the 2009 GDP have not come to pass.

During the last hour, members of the crowd pontificated about how to control development, alleviate traffic and discard refuse properly, among suggestions; the final draft of Anne Arundel 2040 is due to County Executive Steuart Pittman in early 2020 and will be sent to the County Council in March, with public hearings to follow.

Old SAPs

James Kitchin, community engagement and constituent services officer for Anne Arundel county, said his favorite part of the forums “is the first two hours of the open houses, when people see how much of the various plans from the early ’00s have not occurred. When [Pittman] ran [for office], he kept all of the SAPs in his car’s trunk to show people how many have not been completed.

“But the frustrating part” of that exercise, said Kitchin, “is to see that parts of the old plan now can’t be done, like [at routes 424 and 450] in Crofton, where building a traffic circle would have alleviated congestion. The land isn’t available now because of the new High’s” convenience store and gas station.

Kitchin also expressed doubt about the viability of an overpass that had been discussed to connect Crofton to the Waugh Chapel shopping area.

“That people are still interested in some of these projects and recommendations shows that when the communities are involved in planning, they come up with ideas that maintain their relevance,” Kitchin said. “That’s a testament into how much community input went into the initial plans, and I’m glad that Steuart values community-driven planning.”

Be Responsible

While the more casual information sessions are valued, “The GDP is the big picture and that comes first,” said Raj Kudchadkar, CEO of the Central Maryland Chamber. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. We, as a chamber, need to share our information with the county executive’s office and make decisions” based on that collaboration.

This GDP is crucial for Odenton, since during the past decade it has experienced more growth than any other area of the county, he said. “So at the CMC, we’re focused on density and development, so we can maintain that growth in the most responsible way possible. Numerous developers are members with projects in the pipeline and we want to see them through to fruition.”

A view of the Village of Odenton, a residential and commercial area located across the street from the Odenton metro station.
Courtesy of Baltimore Sun, photo by Tom Brenner

Kudchadkar pointed out that the Odenton Town Center Master Plan is only three years old, “but it identifies the need to have a town center and projects in the pipeline,” he said. “We want to make sure [various] projects move forward,” including Elm Street Development’s townhomes at the MARC station, the mixed-used project at Academy Yards Phase 2 and the parking garages in the transit-oriented development (TOD).

The county agenda also includes negotiations for the use of the former U.S. Naval Academy Dairy Farm and the Enhanced-Use Lease at Fort Meade, “which looks like it’s moving forward,” he said. “What happens in those two cases will impact what happens in Odenton.”

County Councilman Andrew Pruski (D-4), like Kudchadkar, is also concerned about responsible development and would like to see more TOD projects “to prevent sprawl.”
But on Pruski’s mind today is building an aquatic center, which has community support.
“We hoped to get a conference center, and that hope was realized with the opening of the Live! Hotel Event Center,” said Pruski. “Now, we’re hopeful of the county building an aquatic center by Fort Meade.”

But with traffic on virtually everyone’s mind, Pruski is also taking a closer look at construction and other issues concerning routes 3, 175 and 198. “We need to think outside the box,” he said. “Traffic is not getting any better, so we’re certainly looking at a longer-term plan for commuters.”

Getting Moving

As for the transportation plan, that section of the GDP is called Move Anne Arundel, which was endorsed after the 2009 GDP. It provides framework for the new GDP and “is being featured first because we have a culmination of plans from the last five years,” said Ramond Robinson, county transportation officer. “It has many different parts.”

It has five parts, to be exact: contained within is the Corridor Growth Management Plan, Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, Complete Streets Guidance, the Major Intersection & Important Facility Plan and the Transit Development Plan. “It’s truly comprehensive,” he said.

Robinson said his department plans to have Move Anne Arundel ready for the county council this fall, which is six months sooner than the GDP is due. It’s now in draft form “and we’re getting comments from the public.”

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Move Anne Arundel is its reliance on analytics. “This marks the first time the county has gone this route,” he said. “It’s already helped us establish goals and objectives, based on performance.”

Market Dictates

Stuart Title, vice president of brokerage and development with Odenton-based A.J. Properties, said the timing of this new GDP is noteworthy because “a new administration is trying to figure out [the appropriate direction].” With A.J. Properties heavily involved in the building of Odenton Town Center, Title weighed in on a project he, Kudchadkar and many others would like to see built.

“Building the garages is very important to Odenton Town Center and I hope the state works with the county to get that done. I think we’re struggling to find a purpose for the town center,” he said, while seconding Pruski’s enthusiasm to build the aquatic center. “That would help give it a sense of place.”

Speaking of place, Title has concerns about the place of developers in this mix.

“We’re called the problem in some quarters, though I think most people don’t think of us that way,” he said. “The county’s budget is built on the backs of developers,” he said. “We don’t need more fees, since they just get passed on to the homeowner or the renter.”
Title said traffic is the No. 1 local issue, adding that “it’s not the developers’ fault. It’s up to the county to use developer’s fees to take care of that issue, which it doesn’t always do.”

Still, he’s “not up in arms about this. All we’ve done was follow the county’s parameters. Part of this is just the life of a developer,” Title said. “The market ultimately decides what works and what doesn’t.”

The Enclave still a no-go in Crofton

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Many Crofton citizens were fearful that the saga of The Enclave, a community that would feature 66 two-over-two condominiums proposed by The Hogan Companies on the south side of Crofton’s front gates, might finally fall into the category of lost battles.

However, that’s not the case. The latest dust-up occurred in mid-May after the Anne Arundel County Department of Planning & Zoning asked the consultant hired by Hogan to resubmit a plan it deemed “not acceptable” after its latest review.

Many locals have been fighting the controversial project for three years, with numerous objections including a lack of communication between the developer and the community; poor access off of Route 3 at Crawford Boulevard, which would also require frequent U-turns to facilitate exits on its eastern end at Crofton Parkway; poor access for emergency vehicles; a lack of free space and amenities; and concerns about a wetland that parallels the highway.

Blunt Tone

There are three decades of history with this story. It began when the Crofton Civic Association gained approval rights in a 1988 agreement with William Berkshire, a Crofton resident who owns the property where various projects have been slated to rise over the years.

In 1988, Berkshire gave up 23 acres of land he owned in the suburb in exchange for development rights to the seven acres in question that front to Route 3. Eventually, a zoning variance permitted him to pursue a residential project on the site.

But the plan is still up in the air.

In a letter to Jeff Smith, principal with Bowman Consulting, Phil Hager, Anne Arundel County Department of Planning & Zoning officer, wrote that the department “is very concerned about the quality of the plans that were submitted for review.

“The comments are extensive for a project that is in the Final Plan stage that has already been reviewed multiple times” and that while new comments may be generated on a revised layout, Hager wrote that it was “not acceptable” to submit an update that did not address previous comments or meet code requirements.

He also added that is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the plans are “correct, readable and meet all applicable code requirements,” and pointed out that it is not the responsibility of his office “to act as your [quality assurance/quality control] staff.”

The final paragraph started with Hager stating, “Dramatic improvement is expected with your next submittal. Additionally, we require that you provide a project submittal that satisfies all code requirements and is capable of being approved.”

Sighs of Relief

When the letter made the rounds to the citizens of Crofton – many of whom were nervous about the result of the most recent plan submission and had been writing letters of their own to Hager, County Executive Steuart Pittman and others – there was a collective sigh of relief that the plan, while not permanently denied at this juncture, was still not approved.

Among those exhaling was Winnifred Overton, a four-decade-plus Crofton resident who was promptly in touch with Hager after his letter was sent to Bowman. “The Enclave is an inappropriate use of the site for which it is planned,” she said. “Despite the multiple submissions, the developer has never really ‘got it’ that code requirements and quality standards in Anne Arundel County must be met.

“Responsibility for actions requested is always up to the entity requesting the actions,” Overton said. “It is a sign of the times that this tenet is not how many companies choose to conduct business. Anne Arundel County residents, current and future, appreciate that [the office of planning and zoning] continues to hold the companies involved to the established standards.”

Marsha Perry, former delegate from District 33 and long-time Crofton community activist, offered similar, if not more emotional, observations.

“I had, of course, hoped that it would be a permanent ‘do not bother to submit any more such inappropriate, codebreaking, environmentally destructive and visually offensive site plans which still do not properly address structural, public safety, traffic, recreational, public street and walkway problems. This ‘final plan’ is denied for the enumerated many reasons.

“Clearly, planning and zoning is to be thanked for the time spent on this abomination of a submission,” Perry said. “Why would Hogan want his name on such a plan?”

Latest Twist

Yet another twist to the story occurred at press time for this issue of The Business Monthly, when Pittman called a press conference at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis to announce two new policies to improve the site development process and better protect wetlands and other natural areas.

And while the recent denial has not ended the saga, some of the locals are becoming more optimistic than they were a month ago that it may finally come to an end in favor of the opposition.

Count Perry among those who share that optimism about what they see as the positive result.

“The new, active young Croftonites joined with many long-time retired residents to write e-mails and letters, attend meetings, voice their opinion on social media and ask the correct questions of those candidates running for public office,” she said.
“The involvement on this issue,” she said, “mirrors the enthusiasm of the early years of Crofton, during which the residents strove to protect and preserve [founder Hamilton] Crawford’s dream of perfection in what was the county’s first planned-unit development.”

Q & A with Brian Darmody–Growing a Maryland research business

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What’s it like having two high-profile jobs at once? Ask Brian Darmody, who’s been serving the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) since 1982 and long ago ascended to the position of associate vice president. Darmody recently accepted a new position as CEO with the Association of University Research Park (AURP), which will keep him in the local focus as he works toward retiring from UMCP at the end of 2019 – while continuing to work out of the Discovery District at UMCP and pursue new challenges.

What instigated your career shift?

I joined AURP many years ago, when the College Park/UMD Metro station opened. At that point, I helped recruit the American Center of Physics to the site and UMCP built a research park adjacent to the station. Later, I was elected to the AURP board and served as president for a year. The AURP CEO position came open last year around the time I had organized AURP’s Annual International Conference at the UMD Discovery District and applied for the position.

What is AURP?

AURP is a nonprofit that represents research parks worldwide. The world’s first research park debuted in 1951 with the Stanford Industry Park, at Stanford University in partnership with the city of Palo Alto. That model was copied by other states, like North Carolina when it founded the Research Triangle, then countries around the world.

What’s a key difference compared to your former job?

This new position is like building a startup. We’re a membership association that doesn’t receive money from the government. I have to build it by offering a service people find beneficial or we’ll be out of business.

Will AURP accentuate its East Coast presence at what’s called its “HQ2”?

While we have our administrative headquarters at the University of Arizona Research Park, we’ve opened the new office in the UMCP Innovation District. The new office is important to our growth because many national organizations are in Washington, D.C., and international delegations often come to town that want the synergy of a major university. We aim to become a port of entry for other countries that want to do business here and along the Eastern Seaboard.

Are research parks changing?

The model is evolving, since they are no longer stand-alone properties. They’re being integrated into research parks and communities of innovation. For example, in the Research Triangle, there’s an area called Centennial Park at North Carolina State University. It was unpopular at first, since the faculty at the engineering school didn’t want to move from its old home. However, since other amenities grew around it, they now love it; it’s part of why the Research Triangle area has the great reputation it has.

To some extent, that’s what we’re trying to do in College Park. It’s all about building synergies. For instance, a housing project at UMD, called the Aloft, just opened near the Discovery District, on Baltimore Avenue. The apartments are geared for young professionals, as opposed to students. Know that we’re trying to get people employed where they work, which is the best thing you can do from an environmental standpoint. It helps reduce commuting and builds a sense of community. Housing is becoming an important element of research parks. UMD also opened a public charter school in its Discovery District that is headed by the UMD president.

Do we need more research parks in Maryland?

Maryland has a uniquely high amount of research development that places us in the nation’s Top 3. But can we always use more? Why not? We need to make sure that our universities and federal labs are accessible by the private sector and research parks are a tool to make that happen.

What is the role of incubators?

They are vitally important to the success of research parks. The short answer is they’re a big part of those facilities and communities, starting with students who are able to gain support for their ideas to faculty that want to develop their intellectual property to corporations that want to set up shop near the universities.

A new federal tax tool called opportunity zones are a way to defer capital gains to provide tax incentives. Many research parks are in the opportunity zones and the amount available to invest in real estate and companies could reach $100 billion nationwide during the next several years.

What are your thoughts about startups acquiring capital in Maryland?

I helped write the legislation when I was a lobbyist at UMD to found the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) about 20 years ago as a way to attract more capital to the state. The knock on Maryland is that you won’t get venture capital (VC) funding here because venture capitalists don’t find enough opportunities. So, we need to ensure that our research is presented in a way that the opportunities are known to them and that we have gap funding to facilitate it. That’s why the programs that TEDCO runs and the university runs, such as UM Ventures, are critical to help secure technology [that’s] investable by the time they reach that stage by angels, gap funders, VC investors, and so on.

Do you plan to add new programs?

Yes. We created the BioHealth Caucus for a segment of our members who are related to the biohealth and health science campuses, like UMB. It takes a very long time to develop new drugs, roughly about 10-15 years, and there are many regulatory challenges, so we need a group within AURP that can focus on that market.

We are working with BioHealth Innovation, in Rockville, to roll out a set of new programs for that segment of the research park community.

What do you feel were your high points of your long career at the University of Maryland?

I was fortunate to have worked with a series of presidents and vice presidents that gave me a lot of autonomy to develop new projects, which is unusual in a public setting. Helping start Maryland Day, which is the nation’s largest university open house that takes place the last Saturday in April; coming up and drafting the legislation that created TEDCO; organizing the university’s first tech transfer office; and working on the $62 million E-novate program, which matches state dollars with private endowment funds to bring smart professors in areas of economic growth to Maryland, are among the highlights.

Howard Bank offers stock buy back

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Howard Bancorp, the parent company of Howard Bank has received a non-objection letter from the Federal Reserve Bank, of Richmond, Va., to allow the company to repurchase shares of its common stock. Under the repurchase program, management is authorized to repurchase an aggregate amount of up to $7 million of the outstanding shares of the company’s common stock. The program will expire in December of 2020.

“Howard Bancorp remains committed to enhancing long term shareholder value and in this challenging market for bank stocks,” said Mary Ann Scully, board chair and CEO. “We see this program as an additional capital management tool to complement our continued growth, revenue and expense management emphasis.”

Under the stock repurchase program, shares of common stock may be repurchased by the company from time to time in open market transactions or in privately negotiated transactions as permitted under applicable rules and regulations or through a 10b5-1 trading plan under the Exchange Act, which would permit shares to be repurchased when the Company might otherwise be precluded from doing so because of self-imposed trading blackout periods or other regulatory restrictions.

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