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AAEDC CEO Walker exits, Seamon named interim CEO

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Jerry Walker, who served as CEO of the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC) since County Executive Steaurt Pittman took office in November 2018, has resigned from his position. Jill Seamon, formerly the AAEDC’s administrative officer, is serving the organization as its interim CEO.

Walker offered a letter of resignation to Pittman that pointed out accomplishments at the AAEDC under Walker’s stewardship, most notably the strategic planning process that outlines strategies to grow various industry sectors.

Hogan announced $175M assistance to businesses

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Governor Larry Hogan announced March 23 that Maryland has allocated more than $175 million to assist small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak. Up to $130 million in new funding, through the Maryland Department of Commerce, will help support new loan and grant programs as well as manufacturers, and $7 million in funding through the Maryland Department of Labor is designed to help small businesses retain their workforce.

“We know that the steps we have taken to protect the health and well-being of all Marylanders have made a significant impact on our business community. Today, in addition to funding through the U.S. Small Business Administration, we are making new financial assistance programs available to help our businesses continue to operate during this unprecedented crisis,” said Governor Hogan. “These programs will offer the kind of much-needed support our businesses need right now, and help them to pay bills and retain their workforce as much as possible.”

  • The Maryland Department of Commerce will offer up to $125 million in loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits through the Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. A $75 million loan fund and a $50 million grant fund, with $1 million in grants dedicated to non-profits, will provide working capital to be used for payroll, rent, fixed-debt payments and other mission critical cash operating costs. Businesses and nonprofits with under 50 full- and part-time employees will be eligible, and loans will range up to $50,000 and grants up to $10,000. Additional eligibility requirements can be found here.
  •  Maryland Commerce is also working on creating a $5 million fund to incentivize businesses to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to satisfy the increasing needs of the healthcare industry.
  • The Department also has a number of existing financing programs, like Advantage Maryland, which provides conditional loans for new businesses or business expansions; the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority and Fund (MIDFA), which provides loan guarantees; the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA), which provides financial assistance to economically disadvantaged businesses; and the Non-Profit Interest-Free Micro-Bridge Loan Program, which provides loans to nonprofits to support ongoing operating costs while waiting on a future government grant or contract. A total of about $40 million is available through these existing programs.

“It is our top priority to support our business community as much as we can during this difficult time,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “We have heard from hundreds of businesses about their greatest need right now which is working capital, and designed these programs to have the most significant impact possible.”

  •  Governor Hogan has allocated $5 million and the Maryland Department of Labor has allocated $2 million to collaboratively launch the COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund. A total of $7 million in funds will be available to provide flexible rapid response services to proactively support businesses and workers undergoing economic stresses due to COVID-19. Funding can help Maryland’s workforce adhere to social distancing policies by purchasing remote access equipment and software to allow employees to work from home, providing on-site cleaning and sanitation services at businesses who have workers delivering essential services, and implementing other creative strategies to mitigate potential layoffs or closures in the business community.
  • The Department’s Division of Unemployment Insurance is fully operational and remains dedicated to helping both employers and employees who have been affected by COVID-19. Marylanders that have been laid off can immediately file a claim by phone, email, or submit an application online. Maryland does not have a waiting period like many other states do. No matter when or how they file, Marylanders become eligible for benefits starting after the day after they separated from employment.
  • During this state of emergency, the department will allow workers who have not been terminated to collect unemployment insurance if their employer has been closed due to COVID-19, if they have been quarantined, or if they are caring for a family member who is quarantined. Labor has temporarily waived work search requirements for all current and new unemployment insurance benefit recipients. For more information about eligibility for benefits during COVID-19, visit the frequently asked questions page.
  •  Due to an unprecedented volume of inquiries, Labor has also extended call center hours and added network servers to allow more users to simultaneously file a claim online. Bulk Claims Services are now available for any employers with 25 or more employees who will be impacted by a coronavirus-related layoff or shutdown. For more information, visit mdunemployment.com

“As state and federal governments take unprecedented actions to save the lives of Marylanders during the coronavirus outbreak, the Maryland Department of Labor is here to support and protect our state’s businesses and workforce,” said Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. “Through the new COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund, we look forward to implementing creative strategies to keep Marylanders working and to help businesses continue operations.”

This assistance comes in addition to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), for which Maryland received the designation last week. The program provides low-interest federal disaster loans for small businesses impacted by the Coronavirus and will help alleviate financial strain and allow businesses to pay bills, payroll, and accounts payable, with long-term payments stretching up to 30 years. Small businesses and private non-profit organizations can apply directly to the SBA for financial assistance at this link.

For additional business resources available during the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus.

Cardin, Van Hollen call for FEMA to help

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U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) are urging President Trump to exercise authorities used in the wake of natural disasters to provide direct emergency assistance to individuals and families and waive local cost sharing in order to pump more federal resources into states and communities responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now, as the entire nation faces the challenges of a global pandemic, we are asking that your administration unlock the full capacity of the federal government so that we can work on the frontlines to save lives and protect our most vulnerable populations,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Trump. “Unfortunately, since the original emergency declaration made last week, cases have only grown more rapidly and the worst is likely still to come.”

Typically, state and local governments are required pay 25% of the total cost.

The senators argued the strain on the American people and local and state governments during this public health emergency is no different than dealing with the impact and aftermath of a natural disaster.

“It is vital that the federal government leverage all of its resources to help state and local governments fight to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19,” the senators

continued. “Increasing the federal cost share for FEMA PA to 100% and unlocking IA for affected families are important steps that will help our nation combat this massive threat.”

The full text of the letter can be found at www.cardin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/20200319%20Ltr%20to%20POTUS%20cost%20sharing.pdf.

State to get $10.2M in federal funding for coronavirus response

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U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Andy Harris, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin and David Trone have announced $10.2 million in federal funding for Maryland’s response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“This funding represents our collective commitment to responding with strength and unity to this public health emergency. The decisions that we all make today will have enormous consequences for lives and livelihoods throughout Maryland,” said the lawmakers. “Team Maryland will continue to work closely with Governor Hogan and Maryland state and local officials as these resources are put to work in communities throughout the state.”

These resources are made available through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act passed with the strong support of the Maryland Congressional Delegation. That legislation directed resources be made available to states, localities, and territories for planning and operational readiness, the development of tools and strategies, technical assistance and program support, and communication and coordination among public health agencies and partners. This funding follows the initial $500,000 announced by the delegation on March 5.

Per the CDC, funds made available may be used for many of the following activities, including, but not limited to, the following.

● Epidemiology

● Surveillance

● Laboratory

● Case identification

● Public health management and risk assessment of travelers and other persons with potential COVID-19 exposures and confirmed diagnoses

● Travelers health

● Data management

● Equipment, supplies, and shipping

● Infection control

● Surge staffing

● Distribution and use of medical material

● Emergency operations and coordination

● Risk communications

More resources for Marylanders can be found at www.cardin.senate.gov/information-regarding-the-coronavirus-outbreak.

Maryland offers SBA Economic Injury Loans

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Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland has received official designation from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides low-interest federal disaster loans for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the SBA, the loans will help alleviate financial strain and allow businesses to pay bills, payroll, and accounts payable, with long-term payments stretching up to 30 years. Small businesses and private nonprofit organizations can apply directly to the SBA for financial assistance at www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.

“Our first and foremost priority is protecting the health and safety of Marylanders, but we are also deeply concerned about the economic impact of this pandemic, which is why we worked quickly with our federal partners to apply for this designation,” said Hogan. “This program will offer immediate relief to our small business community and help them to remain afloat during this difficult time.”

In order to receive designation, the state was required to provide at least five examples of companies that have suffered a significant economic injury due to COVID-19. With the recent executive order closing restaurants, bars, fitness centers, and theaters, along with the prohibition of gatherings of more than 10 people, several businesses across the state have reported substantial impacts and are in need of immediate financial assistance.

“This assistance is available to those businesses who have suffered economic hardship as a result of COVID-19,” said Russell Strickland, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). “MEMA worked closely with local emergency management agencies to expedite the request for assistance from the SBA. These loans will help those hit hardest by the effects of COVID-19.”

For additional business resources available during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus.

For details on the administration’s ongoing response, visit governor.maryland.gov/coronavirus.

 

AAEDC waives late fees for business loans

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Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC) Interim CEO Jill Seamon announced that it will waive late fees for businesses that have loans th

rough its finance program and whose operations are disrupted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In addition, affected business loan clients are encouraged to contact AAEDC if other payment modifications are needed.

“We continue to monitor the outbreak’s impact on small business and will consider a variety of actions that can help mitigate financial hardship,” said Seamon. “We are in close contact with federal and state agencies and other partners to understand what resources are available and how quickly they can be deployed to assist area businesses.”

The organization administers three loan programs to benefit area businesses. The VOLT program, backed by 1.5 percent of casino revenue and overseen by the Maryland Department of Commerce, finances business and commercial real estate acquisition and expansion, lease-hold improvements, equipment, and working capital. The Arundel Community Reinvestment (ACR) Fund assists business and commercial property owners in the county’s nine revitalization districts. The Next Stage Tech Fund helps innovative companies scale up to commercialize technology or meet the requirements of a government contract.

AAEDC is curating information on the Newsroom section of its website with links to state and federal efforts available to assist impacted businesses. Topics include employer and worker assistance, financial assistance and taxes and licensing and permitting. It is also offering a survey to compile information about businesses and organizations affected or impacted by the COVID-19 national emergency. This information will be provided to county, state, and federal resource partners. To participate, go to https://aaedc.typeform.com/to/FQpIzV

 

Annapolis film festival to bring 2020 festival into homes

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The Annapolis Film Festival’s (AFF) audience will be able to see the 2020 Annapolis Film Festival in the comfort and safety of their homes March 27-29, 2020.
Because AFF was unable to “physically” share its 2020 Annapolis Film Festival with its audiences due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the non-profit film organization is bringing its Eighth Annual Film Festival to viewers through a virtual presentation.
Programming can be accessed on the AFF’s new secure streaming platform, The Annapolis Film Festival Channel, www.annapolisfilmfestival.com/AFFchannel, in partnership with FilmFestivalFlix.com.

Aging facilities, new needs

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Redevelopment and new construction are in full swing in all of downtown Columbia’s neighborhoods.

Merriweather Post Pavilion has undergone a major renovation.

Revitalization efforts have breathed new life into several Village Centers, and others are now moving in that direction.

One thing they all share is a connection with the Columbia Association (CA), the management organization that oversees the financing and maintenance of the planned development’s common-use facilities.

The CA is pursuing its own efforts to evolve alongside the community it serves, but that story has gone largely unnoticed in the shadow of all the noise and activity downtown.

“We’re trying to make sure that we are positioning our services to reflect the demographics of the individuals that will live here,” said Milton Matthews, the CA’s president and CEO.

To get the word out, the CA launched a new Live Life Larger brand campaign in January targeting print ads, online digital banner ads, television and radio commercials and other marketing avenues.

“We’re evolving along with the community, but we want to make sure people in Columbia and Greater Howard County are aware of the role the Columbia Association plays in the high quality of life here,” said David Greisman, the CA’s communications manager.

Strategic Changes

As the third largest landowner in downtown Columbia, Matthews said the CA has a responsibility to work with the primary developer, Howard Hughes Corp., to ensure the downtown’s atmosphere remains seamless and consistent.

“We worked with the same design firm they used in looking at the Lakefront area to come up with concept plans to improve our own area,” he explained.

Similar thought went into interior design at CA’s recently upgraded fitness and athletic clubs, noted Dan Burns, CA’s director of Sport and Fitness.

“The facilities are better equipped and more usable,” he said, recognizing that most 18 to 34-year olds are no longer looking for circuit workouts on weight machines. “We’ve added more programming to reach broader audiences.”

A new Member Management Index System now solicits quarterly open-ended feedback from members, Burns said, and its text analytics engine alerts managers to both specific and systemic issues that require attention.

Meanwhile, the CA has implemented 98 percent of its 2012 Aquatics Master Plan.

“We’re currently looking at ways to reallocate the space we have within our current pools and we’re moving programs around to become more efficient,” he said, precipitated by a growing demand for lap lanes. “The Master Plan has been a success, and we have a significant amount of pool space to deal with the growth that Columbia is expecting.”

A strategic shift in focus at Haven on the Lake, a 27,000 square foot wellness center next to Whole Foods, led to usage there to increase from 47,000 annual visits in fiscal 2017 to more than 73,000 visits in fiscal 2019, he added.

“It was designed as a retreat when it originally opened in December 2014,” Burns said. “With downtown changes and a better understanding of what people really want, we’ve moved away from the retreat concept to focus on programming and classes, that’s really what has driven the usage.”

Insight Driven

Two very important areas of focus for the CA are the up and coming Millennials and the here and staying Boomers.

According to Michelle Miller, CA’s director of Community Services, a Millennial Advisory Committee helps to shed light on the needs of members between 18 and 34 years of age along with ways to attract and retain them.

“We hired an Older Adult Program Coordinator and made adjustments and modifications to many of our programs and services to accommodate more seniors,” she said

Additionally, the CA has begun work on each of the 51 recommendations in its Comprehensive Plan for Serving the Older Adult Community that it finalized in 2014.

Beyond Facilities

The CA’s facilities are aging, with most of its neighborhood centers approaching 35 years of age and many buildings well beyond that.

“In the last couple of years capital budgets have been around $20 million, greater than at any time in the past,” said Dennis Mattey, director of Open Space and Facilities Services. “We’re reinvesting in buildings and replacing pathways on a shorter cycle. I would say there’s no specific piece of [our infrastructure] that needs a lot of money, but all of it needs some. It’s just part of aging.”

He added that the CA is 100 percent carbon neutral in terms of electricity and has reduced its power consumption by more than 20 percent in three years through solar installations, efficiency management and a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system at the Supreme Sports Club.

Beyond its facilities, the CA maintains master plans for its lakes, ponds, tot lots and other open space amenities, including the management of trees, turf areas and meadows.

“Our 51-acre Symphony Woods Park is prime green space that’s not going to exist elsewhere in the redevelopment and density coming to downtown,” Matthews said. “We need to make sure that remains the gem it has been.”

And in light of the all the new development proposed for downtown Columbia, “We’re always open to having discussions with potential partners about ways we can cooperate on amenities or programs,” Matthews said. “Funding is always a big challenge … but we will always be in the quality of life business.”

By George Berkheimer | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly March 2020 Issue | www.bizmonthly.com

Howard Community College to move instruction, services online March 30

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As the situation continues to evolve with coronavirus (COVID-19), Howard Community College has taken the following steps to protect faculty, staff, and students and to slow the spread of the disease:

The college remains closed for spring break through March 22. All credit and noncredit classes are canceled through March 29. Campus access is restricted.

Beginning March 30, the college will move to remote (online) delivery of instruction and services for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.

The Dragon athletics teams have suspended all athletics activities for the remainder of the spring season.

All events on campus are canceled through April 27. This will be reassessed on or before this date, as new developments arise.

“The health, safety, and well-being of all faculty, staff, and students are the highest priorities as Howard Community College makes critical decisions in this unprecedented time,” said Dr. Kate Hetherington, Howard Community College president. “There continue to be unknowns as to what this new environment will mean for Howard Community College. I am committed to keeping the community informed and continuing to provide pathways to success.”

Updates to the college’s operations, and more detailed information for faculty, staff, students, and the community will be shared on the college’s coronavirus webpage at howardcc.edu/coronavirus.

Photo courtesy of HCC.

Since 1970, Howard Community College (HCC) has been a preferred college choice for students and families in Howard County, Maryland. A public community college, HCC offers associate degree and certificate programs, as well as workforce development training and continuing education classes, to nearly 30,000 credit and noncredit students each year. HCC received the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s only presidential-level honor for performance excellence in organizations.

During pandemic uncertainty, ‘business leaders need to lead’

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In the face of rapidly-changing pandemic response and prevention efforts, business leaders are having to shift to remote operations, cut workers’ hours, or put staff in high risk situations.

Needless to say, the landscape has shifted dramatically, said Kimberly Prescott, founder and president of Prescott HR. “At first it was ‘how do I stop people from being afraid?’ Then, it completely shifted: ‘how do I manage a remote workforce?’ How can I tell people they’re not going to be paid?’ ”

Now, more than ever, business leaders need to lead, said Prescott. “Your people need to hear: don’t get panicked. Don’t watch too much news. Your company is still here to support you.”

Try first to answer the question: “How do you set deliverables and handle this remotely?”

Prescott believes a large percentage of companies are in the process of doing that, though, she said, “we don’t really have anything to reference.”

On a vastly smaller scale, “Snowmageddon” – the Feb. 5-6, 2010 North American blizzard was a paralyzing situation with widespread impact in the northeastern United States.

“That was a state of emergency and only essential personnel were on the road,” she pointed out.

The difference was, we knew it would end within a couple of weeks, Prescott said. “Right now, we have no idea. It’s the panic of the inability to measure the impact. You can’t measure the impact of being closed until August, as some people are estimating.”

But even if the message is ‘I don’t know,’ communicate with your employees, suggested Prescott. “The first thing is to make sure that leadership has a clear and constant communication plan because even if people aren’t working in your office, have a way to communicate with them and let them know what the company plans to do.”

Business leaders should understand that they are not off right now, she added. “When people are left to their own imagination about what can happen, they start to think the worst. Business leaders need to make sure they are providing resources to people.”

If you do have the ability to have employees work from home, keep in mind that people are not working from home under normal circumstances. “What does a responsible workload look like?” she asked. “Many of us are home schooling our children at the same time.”

She projected that companies will continue to cope, and often business leaders will put together whatever plans they can, often on the fly.

Ryan Miller, principal of Critical Functions, LLC, has been busy helping several companies develop basic business continuity strategies, recognizing the fact the plans have to be simple and developed under pressure.

Miller said he’s actually been impressed by the capability of local business owners and leaders to put in place a disaster management strategy. “This is without them having any training or preparation and they are doing an incredible job,” Miller said. “The side benefit is that they are cutting to the core of what is most essential to their business and getting on paper what is necessary to make it happen.”

In the midst of uncertainty, Miller said he’s already looking at a silver lining of sorts: “I can only imagine the business benefits this process will bring for them, not to mention the head start they will have on the development of more comprehensive plans.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | www.bizmonthly.com

Kimberly Prescott
Ryan Miller

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