Archived Articles: January 2018

The 2018 Forecast: The Arrow’s Still Moving Up

It is once again, dear readers, time for that question: Where is the economy headed in 2018?

Upward, it appears. The Corridor’s high educational levels, high incomes and access (though often on clogged arteries) to important things and places for work and play within aren’t beyond compare on the national level, but they’re close enough for the locals.

While upward is usually a good thing, know that the economy has been creeping, rather than zooming, upward for upwards of the last decade. And what is often thought of as an economic “cycle” hasn’t really displayed a particular big bang of growth that observers have been hoping for.

Still, economists seem to have generally good things to say about where the U.S. economy is headed for the next year or two, though some caution that different factors could eventually point toward another r-e-c-e-s-s-i-o-n.

The below observations from movers and shakers of the local business community offer a keener look at what’s going on in their respective markets, industry by industry.
These forecasts are provided by the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Business Monthly.

Banking
Joe Thomas, president and CEO, Bay Bank

The outlook for the banking industry in 2018 is very favorable. Positive tailwinds are emerging across the waterfront — strong economic growth supporting loan demand, increasing interest rates bolstering revenue growth and relaxed regulatory requirements enabling higher profitability. This will translate into community banks in Maryland focusing on serving customers, investing in communities and improving shareholders’ returns.

The new, $1.5 trillion tax bill is expected to stimulate corporate investment, hiring and growth in small businesses. Our strongest industries in Maryland, health care, professional services and manufacturing/logistics, will benefit and buoy loan demand for community banks, which began to stagnate in the second half of 2017.

The Federal Reserve increased the Federal Funds Rate in 2017, and it has indicated the possibility of four rate hikes in 2018; the fixed income market is pricing in only two hikes. The 10-year Treasury has been anchored around 2.25%, but is expected to be closer to 3% by the end of 2018. This will increase the net interest margin of banks and overall revenue growth.

The Senate recently passed the Community Bank Regulatory Relief bill, which prescribes more tailored regulation, such as longer exam cycles, less onerous reporting and simpler capital requirements. Community banks in Maryland will begin to divert resources from compliance functions to customer-facing capabilities. This will drive down expenses and improve profitability.

The industry outlook has driven up bank equity prices, but technology innovation and non-bank entrants favor ongoing consolidation among community banks in Maryland. Financial technology companies are disintermediating banks with digital capabilities serving customers solely online and without a bank charter. To sustain a competitive advantage and protect against cyberthreats, banks must invest in talent and technology, which requires size and scale.

Cybersecurity
Gina Abate, CEO, Edwards Performance Solutions; and chairperson, Cybersecurity Association of Maryland

Here in the Corridor, much like across the U.S., cyberdamages will continue to increase in 2018 — as will the use of automation and expanded workforce to protect against them. More frequent business breaches means that more local businesses will suffer financial and reputation damages. This is one 2018 list on which you don’t want to be.

The cybersecurity industry has a severe workforce shortage with 45% of organizations nationally struggling with cybersecurity headcount, according to Jon Oltski, an analyst at Massachusetts-based Enterprise Strategy Group. Locally, public and private education and training has expanded and adapted to meet some of this need.

Some companies are taking a “new collar” approach of hiring employees without a traditional four-year degree, but with strong analytical skills and inquisitive natures to learn how to do cybersecurity work on the job. And we’re seeing the expansion of apprenticeships into the information technology and cybersecurity arena. This “greening” and inexperience of the workforce may lower average starting salaries in the cybersecurity industry.

The workforce shortage is also directly fueling the adoption of automated solutions to perform not only work well-suited for computers, but also to replace some work that a human could (and perhaps should) perform. Interesting advances are occurring in the areas of artificial intelligence, threat intelligence and blockchain technologies. Locally, this means greater sales and jobs for cybercompanies selling automated solutions.

Our local ecosystem has rich assets to meet the expanding threats and damages of cyber adversaries, including a skilled workforce and hundreds of cybersecurity providers here in Maryland to help ensure the cybersecurity of our state’s businesses, as well as local, state and federal agencies.

Legislative
Scott Dorsey, chairman, Maryland Business for Responsive Government

“Workplace interference.”

It’s the phrase that has predominated the lexicon in recent years as the business community contemplates and laments the actions of the Maryland Legislature. The election year of 2018 will be no exception, as the General Assembly wedges many of its key priorities squarely in the middle of the employer-employee relationship.

The effects of these legislative priorities are expansive and often have consequences far beyond the stated objectives of the delegates and senators who enact them. For every benefit, unfortunately, there is a job-stifling cost.

The paid sick leave bill is at the top of this list. Last year, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed House Bill 1 because he understood that the bill would hurt the very people it purported to help, because jobs would necessarily be eliminated. But the Democratically-controlled legislature, with its veto-proof super majority, is poised to overturn his veto near the start of the 2018 Legislative Session. Ideally, the legislature will vote to sustain the veto, having heard from thousands of employers that this is a very bad bill. We hope that they will pause this year — unlike last year — to consider and deliberate over the governor’s alternative sick-leave bill that would gradually enact the new rules. Last year, the governor’s moderated bill didn’t even receive a hearing.

Other workplace interference examples include an expected bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 (which multi-non-partisan bodies, such as the federal Congressional Budget Office, have determined to be a job killer), as well as a prescriptive scheduling bill. You read that correctly: The legislature wants to be involved in how employers schedule their employees.

We expect these bills to be on the docket, and will look to the business community to educate their legislators about the very damaging aspects of these bills.

Manufacturing
Mike Galiazzo, president, Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland

The forecast for manufacturing in Maryland, including the Corridor, can be described in a word: fantastic.

Pro-business policies and attitudes from the Hogan administration have fueled optimism and investments, which are leading to growth in sales and hiring. Hogan’s More Jobs for Marylanders Act has resulted in more than 450 new jobs in the pipeline, according to manufacturers who signed up for tax incentives for hiring. A new 2.0 version of the act is on the agenda for Annapolis during the upcoming session, and that makes the outlook for job growth in manufacturing even brighter for 2018.

On that note, the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland (RMI) recently surveyed our statewide council of 100 manufacturers, who were asked to describe business sales. Ninety-seven percent of the 83 respondents indicated that business sales were good, very good or extremely good. That is a significant fact that speaks even more directly to more growth in 2018.

Technology is dramatically influencing manufacturing growth. Last year, I spoke about the 4th Industrial Revolution (also known as Industry 4.0) and how advanced technologies are disrupting business processes. The rate and scale of technology in manufacturing are ever-increasing. The bottom line is that we are experiencing what we’re calling a Techtonic Shift (yes with an “h”). Technology is increasing productivity and profits, while creating significantly higher paying jobs in manufacturing.

There is also a shift in the talent needed. Our future workforce depends on today’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Manufacturing) students, as it’s become ever more apparent that the arts play a major role in a region’s economic success. That’s one prediction we can count on being accurate.

The Market
Rob Carpenter, president and CEO, Baltimore-Washington Financial Advisors

On the road of life, is it better to be a tortoise than a hare? Real Gross Domestic Product growth picked up to better than a 3% pace during the second and third quarters of 2017, and with solid momentum going into the fourth quarter, we feel confident about our call for 2.7% growth in 2018. While it is comforting to see this improvement, just about any additional good news today is greeted with an unusual amount of trepidation.

The past three business expansions lasted an average of only 94 months, a benchmark the current expansion surpassed six months ago. Expansions do not die of old age; they tend to be killed off by policy missteps or exogenous shocks. Recessions typically occur due to a buildup of excesses within the economy and then an event leads consumers, businesses and policymakers to suddenly become more risk averse.

But the unusually slow pace of this economic recovery has left the economy in pretty good shape. There are few visible excesses present today. Inflation and interest rates remain low, consumers do not strike us as overleveraged, corporate balance sheets are in good shape and profits are improving now that global growth is reviving and commodity prices have rebounded. Housing, with the exception of some apartment markets, and commercial real estate are in relative balance.

Finally, fiscal policy appears set to become more expansionary. Given this policy mix, our forecast of 2.7% real GDP growth in 2018 and 2.5% in 2019 seems appropriate. The lack of negatives is rather remarkable for this stage of the business cycle, but is no reason for complacency. The one persistent theme of the past decade is that interest rates have remained near generation lows, setting off a search for yield by investors and dramatically lowering borrowing costs for households and businesses.

Retail
Cailey Locklair Tolle, president, Maryland Retailers Association

There was a positive feeling in the retail industry at the end of 2017. The Maryland Retailers Association presented a holiday forecast with the National Retail Federation that estimated the average consumer would spend about $1,000 each, and we’ve received optimistic early returns.

Not surprisingly, during the past two years, nationally more holiday sales occurred online than in brick-and-mortar stores; but while the industry has seen an uptick in sales and employment during the holidays, local sales have been a little flat. That’s due, in part, to consumers preferring to spend money on experiences, rather than just goods.

But brick-and-mortar isn’t dying, despite the various news reports about the closings or consolidation of about 3,500 stores; those retailers could be selling the same products as many other retailers, including discounters like T.J. Maxx and, of course, Amazon.

A cooling off of online sales may be happening, too. That’s because consumers want to see and touch products. Even Amazon is building brick-and-mortar locations. But what’s odd is that Amazon is creating an app that prevents consumers from comparing prices — though the corporation is getting a huge tax incentive from the state to build its expansive distribution centers, which are taking out the small retailers. It doesn’t make sense.

The jobs created by mom ’n pop type employers stabilize neighborhoods; together, via direct and indirect employment, they equate to the state’s largest private sector employer that pays lots of taxes.

I’m optimistic about 2018, but know that artificial intelligence is an issue. Estimates are that about 25% of all jobs, including many in retail, will be gone in about 20 years. We’re about to see massive changes in our economy, and policymakers must be cognizant of this issue as more burdens are placed on employers. Maybe other jobs will come along to replace those we lose, though none of us know what they will be.

Small Business
Mike O’Halloran, state director, National Federation for Independent Business

As we look forward to the 2018 legislative session, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) will be keeping its eye on a few crucial policy initiatives. As everyone knows, small business is the backbone of our economy. According to the Small Business Administration, more than half of Maryland’s workforce is employed at small businesses. That means that legislative action doesn’t just impact the owners of small businesses, it has a direct impact on hard-working Marylanders as well.

While Maryland’s unemployment numbers are at 3.8%; below the national average of 4.1%, its imperative that our state elected officials do everything they can to continue to incentivize employers to do what they do best: create jobs for workers seeking employment opportunity.

There’s been a lot of talk about implementing mandatory paid leave in Maryland, and it is imperative that voters understand that doing so would have a negative impact on the state’s employment market. NFIB has been closely monitoring this issue and will continue to advocate for keeping harmful regulations out of the private sector to that our economy can continue thriving.

NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index neared an all-time high this past month with gains in Expected Better Business Conditions, Sales Expectations and Job Creation, but employers still find it hard to find qualified employees. Recent efforts by the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation encouraging workforce training and apprenticeships help mitigate this issue.

Empowering employees to advance their skills and further their education are exactly the types of policy ideas that keep economies strong and ensure success for everyone in the work sector. NFIB looks forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this upcoming year to ensure their focus is where it should be: the small business community.

Technology
George Davis, CEO, Maryland Technology Development Corp.

The state of Maryland boasts a strong track record of technological development, due largely to a vital educational pipeline and formidable government agency footprint. Our world-class universities ensure a steady stream of innovation and research as well as a high pedigree of human capital, and the business-friendly Hogan administration in Annapolis promises to help transition these ideas and talent pool into the commercial world.

We expect 2018 to see crossovers play out between our traditionally strong life sciences industries and our burgeoning cyber and advanced computing and data sciences scene. A continued focus on this intersection will ensure Maryland continues to lead the country in information technology, and technology (in general) — which generates more than $39.55 billion in economic activity for our state.

By setting a goal to continue to develop, build and leverage a strong pipeline of great technology-based innovation companies in 2018, we will continue to establish the anchor necessary for Maryland to reach pre-eminence in cyber and advanced data sciences.

Additionally, we will continue to see major growth in the life sciences industry, including capital and talent. (Maryland now ranks as the sixth market in the U.S. in bioscience.) This growth will be driven as more ideas move from lab to market. We strive to aggressively foster university research startups into high-growth, leading companies like MedImmune, Harpoon Medical and Personal Genome Diagnostics.

With Maryland’s well-oiled STEM funnel, increased collaboration across sectors and an ongoing dedication by state actors to early-stage development, we can reasonably expect to see an increased flow of much-needed venture capital and highly-skilled talent. Our state has a strong infrastructure of support set up to foster innovation; the only limit to our potential as a leading innovation economy state is our own imagination.

Transportation
Paul Comfort, transportation consultant, The Trapeze Group

Most prognosticators would agree that public transportation holds the promise of more innovation in the coming years than almost any other arena, other than medicine. In the last year, we’ve seen the implementation of autonomous (driverless) buses in open traffic in Las Vegas, which will also happen in places like Gainesville, Fla. Google’s Waymo, Uber and Intel’s Mobileye are testing self-driving (or autonomous) cars, which could become the new model for sedan or taxi service in the near future, with their low cost (no labor) rivaling public transit fares.

Microtransit companies, car sharing (private shared cars, like the ZIP car), crowd-sourced transportation services (VIA/Bridj, pop-up mass transit style services), Hyperloop (tube-based, high speed transport) and Mobility as a Service (MaaS, with monthly subscription or a là carte payment for all public and private transportation/mobility options in a region) are all on the verge of becoming “tipping point” technologies that alter the landscape for traditional public transportation.

The old model, where public transit agencies’ buses and rail services have a monopoly on public mobility, is fast becoming an anachronism. Large employers who need park and ride services for their employees have begun looking for lower-cost models, such as privately operated autonomous shuttles; could this be a cost-effective option for locations such as the National Security Agency’s sprawling campus and associated business parks?

Dallas and other U.S. cities will begin testing MaaS models in 2018 that will include Lyft, private shuttles, bike share and more as part of their smartphone app-based electronic trip planning and fare paying solution. Transit options in Central Maryland must take heed and stay at the forefront of these innovations.

Venture Capital
Rick Kohr, CEO, Evergreen Capital

2018 has the makings for a strong year for venture capital.

With a robust merger and acquisition market, liquidity in the public capital markets, corporate cash and continuing earnings growth in many sectors, the next two years should turn in strong performance for venture capital. With two weeks left in 2017 [as this forecast was written], capital invested was more than $44 billion, up almost 18% from the $37 billion invested in 2016.

For the mid-Atlantic, even though the area saw 1,266 deals funded year-to-date in 2017, this is down from the 1,367 deals funded in 2016. Total capital invested to date in 2017 reached $9 billion, which exceeds the $8.9 billion invested in 2016.

For our region, one of the highlights in 2017 was the opening of AllegisCyber, an affiliate of Allegis Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that is collocated with DataTribe, which is located in Maple Lawn. DataTribe applies an investment element to its model by providing seed financing of up to $1.5 million to its cohort companies. Both firms have announced plans to expand their investments into Maryland-based cybercompanies in the coming year.

The biggest highlight, however, came late in the year, with the sale of Harpoon Medical, of Baltimore, to Edwards Lifesciences. The completion of the deal had the company’s local investors, such as Maryland Venture Fund, TEDCO, UM Ventures, Epidarex Capital and the Abell Foundation, enjoying an impressive exit. In addition to the acquisition of RedOwl Analytics, by ForcePoint (a unit of Raytheon company), these liquidity events will spur reinvestment into local startups that are important to the fabric of our ecosystem.

Individual Health Care Subscribers May Feel Pinch From Federal Tax Reform

Congress set an unprecedented land speed record on Dec. 20, passing the first major overhaul of the nation’s tax code along party lines in both chambers in the span of hours, with only Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona absent from the proceedings. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation in January.

One result of the changes will be the repeal of the individual mandate penalty for individuals without health insurance. Depending on how the penalty fee is calculated — the higher value of either a percentage of household income or a per person rate — it could put a sizeable amount of money back in uninsured taxpayers’ wallets.

As a percentage, the penalty amounts to 2.5% of household income, maxing out at the total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the marketplace, while the per person cost amounts to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18, with a maximum cap of $2,085.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that people without coverage won’t pay, one way or another, or that there won’t be widespread repercussions.

As with any universal legislative change, there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unpredictable consequences.

Significant Increase

Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individual plan costs and federal subsidies have steadily increased year by year. The current 2018 enrollment season saw the largest jump by far in the individual marketplace.

On Maryland’s individual market, the 2018 increase for CareFirst Blue Choice’s metal plans amounted to 34.5% for HMOs and 49.9% for PPOs, while rates increased an average of 22.6% for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States policyholders.

In October, the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) announced an amended premium increase for Silver plans purchased through the Maryland Health Connection exchange, amounting to 58.2% for CareFirst HMOs, 76% for CareFirst PPOs, and 43.4% for Kaiser HMOs.

Two other carriers, Cigna and Aetna, decided to exit the Maryland market for the 2018 enrollment season, leaving Marylanders with limited choices for individual coverage.

In response to the GOP’s attempts to repeal or otherwise disrupt the provisions of the ACA, many health insurance carriers made drastic changes to their plans this year.

“They are changing their formularies from what’s going to be considered generic and non-generic, they’re changing co-pays for some of the medications, they’re changing plan designs, all of that is going to be completely different,” said Beth Brigham, a sales executive with Commercial Insurance Managers, of Elkridge.

On top of the changes, the federal government shortened the enrollment cycle to 45 days, creating a heavier workload for the companies that help individuals acquire insurance, she said.

Some customers with individual plans have the option of joining a group plan through their employer, Brigham said, but others may face a loss of subsidy or even loss of coverage depending on how a particular employer’s benefits package is set up.

Plan price structure is also unbalanced in some cases.

“CareFirst increased the rate of the Silver plan on the exchange so that it’s [now] less expensive to buy the Gold Plan, because the Silver plan is so heavily subsidized,” Brigham said.

Disarray

While individual plan markets are in disarray, “I can tell you that rate increases for 2018 have been minimal in the group market,” said Martin Yost, a Columbia-based insurance broker.

On the individual side, one of the reasons Kaiser customers did not see as much of an increase as CareFirst customers can be attributed to Kaiser having a little more control over its medical plans, he said. “They do a lot more in-house.”

In August last year, CareFirst President and CEO Chet Burrell addressed the MIA’s approved rate increases, acknowledging that the market has reached the point where individual health care premium rates are too high to be readily affordable by the general public.

“At the same time, CareFirst has experienced enormous financial losses over the past four years ($550 million) in providing coverage to individual subscribers,” he said. “Such financial losses due to inadequate premium rates, despite being as high as they are, are simply not sustainable.”

Without changes made at the federal level, he said, “the promise of the ACA cannot be fulfilled, and its sustainability will cease.”

Provision Hurts Individuals

Judging from the provisions of the GOP’s tax overhaul, darker clouds loom ahead.

In November, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that a repeal of the individual mandate would reduce federal budget deficits by about $338 billion between 2018 and 2027, but the number of people with health insurance would decrease by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027.

Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson labeled the repeal of the individual mandate a “setback” for millions of Americans.

“Kaiser Permanente believes any changes to health policy should provide more Americans with access to high-quality, affordable health care, and maintain or expand access to health coverage,” Tyson said, in a statement. “The elimination of the individual mandate runs counter to this belief.”

He encouraged policymakers to move in a more positive direction by supporting currently pending bipartisan legislation to improve health care and coverage.

“Health insurance really is cost sharing, and as socialist as it sounds, it requires the healthy to buy in to cover the sick,” said John Krahel, assistant professor of accounting at Loyola University’s Sellinger School of Business. “This may lead to a downward demand spiral … then we’re going to have to raise the premiums [even more] because we’re sharing costs only among people who are incurring those costs. People who don’t get insurance through their employers may be forced to pay much higher premiums, die or get much sicker.”

The tax plan does not eliminate federal subsidies, however, and what happens in that arena is still anybody’s guess.

“What might happen is that the government may have to increase federal subsidies,” Krahel said. “Instead of healthy people covering the sick via insurance premiums, we may be forced to pay more in taxes to support those subsidies, so you’re paying one way or another.”

Still, he said, repeal of the individual mandate is not the repeal of Obamacare that President Trump claimed by default after Congress passed the tax reform bill.

“It’s going to hurt people,” Krahel said. “This will only really affect individuals; if you get your insurance through your employer, you’re not going to notice much of a difference.”

What’s Next for Historic Ellicott City?

By Mark R. Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Many comments can be made about the flash flood that tore through Historic Ellicott City’s Main Street on that fateful night of July 30, 2016.

The bad parts — the shock, the damage, the financial losses, the horror that included three deaths — have all been extensively documented; and the positives — the quick response of police, fire and rescue; and the support of governments, the business and nonprofit communities, and area residents — created a recovery that has been described in the most respectful tones.

Today, Downtown Ellicott City has reached an intriguing crossroads. The flood actually facilitated planned upgrades that are getting done sooner, rather than later; at the same time, the new master plan that was recommended after the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study earlier this year (see The Business Monthly, February 2017) is moving toward its latter stages.

Back on the street, while the public sympathy factor helped boost many of the businesses that were badly affected during the early stages of the recovery during the 2016 holiday season, this year’s strong holiday showing proved equally, if not more, encouraging.

While it’s overstating the case to say that Main Street has come all the way back, it’s now in an interesting juxtaposition of being in post-recovery while key decisions are being made about its future.

Watershed Watch

As for the master plan, the next part of the presentation is set for public workshop No. 4, which is tentatively scheduled for February at a date and location to be determined.

Karen Besson, board president for the Ellicott City Partnership, is “encouraged that the development for the master plan is, so far, progressing on schedule, and I’m impressed by the county’s investment in it. The next step will be to continue to seek public input concerning several components, including the market study, the watershed protection and infrastructure design, and the overall improvements.”

Completing that part of the project will be followed by another public workshop during the week of March 5, at which point the public will be invited to see the draft. The final plan will be presented by Mahan Rykiel Associates, an architectural firm from Baltimore, hopefully in mid-May.

Referring to the PowerPoint presentation that was made available to the public on Nov. 14, Besson said local business owners’ two biggest concerns were addressing parking issues and, of course, future flooding concerns.

The latter issue is why obtaining information and feedback about controlling the watershed has been prioritized while drafting the master plan.

“The original plan was to have a draft from the lead consultant, Mahan Rykiel Associates, by May 2018,” said Pete Conrad, deputy director of the Howard County Office of Planning and Zoning. “However, we’ve opted to take a closer look, and we’re trying to make sure we get a better handle on what that would entail. We want to look at it from policy, infrastructure, historic, engineering and economic revitalization objectives to come up with the best possible approach.

“So,” Conrad said, “the schedule may be pushed back, but we plan to have that part of the study done by May.”

Still, while “one recommendation of the ULI study that was completed earlier this year was to create a master plan,” said Tom McGilloway, a principal with Mahan Rykiel, “we are being careful not to reinvent the wheel. Our role is to focus on flood mitigation and reinforce the business district and retailers, as well as overseeing connections for open space and pedestrian networks.”

One challenge that the firm is facing is that Ellicott City is not a municipality. That means “to implement the plan, there must be many partners, including the Ellicott City Partnership, the county and local residents, the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, etc., and finding out how they can work most effectively together,” McGilloway said, adding, “Could there be a special benefits district?”

Findings from May’s hydraulic hydraulogy study, by McCormick Taylor, have been key to learning more about what can be done. “We’re working with them on effective intervention,” he said.

Whatever the recommendations, Downtown Ellicott City “will never be flood proof,” McGilloway said, “but we want to make it more flood resistant. But by adding wider stream channels, for instance, water conveyance can be an amenity, and become a gathering area and open space. And most of the time, it won’t be flooded.”

Inspirational Recovery

The other side of what’s going on in Ellicott City has to do with what’s happening on the street, which is considerable, especially given the circumstances of the past 18 months.
“Interestingly, we’re [above 90%] occupancy of historic district real estate, which is pretty much unprecedented for these types of situations,” said Conrad.

Unprecedented, and maybe then some. “What we’ve accomplished, from the business recovery side, is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Phil Nichols, assistant chief administrative officer for Howard County. “Much of the credit goes to the business owners. They buckled down and made this happen. Of the 104 businesses were impacted, 100 of them came back.”

To illustrate the depth of the recovery, Nichols cited figures from the Small Business Administration, which reveal that only 25% of businesses usually return after a disaster of this type and magnitude. “And Downtown Ellicott City has a 98% occupancy rate, as well as 190 residents back in place.

“And,” he said, “we’ve also attracted 18 new businesses since the rebuild took place, giving us a total of 118, since some spaces were divided upon the rebuild. More are on the way.” Perhaps the most prominent of the businesses that closed, Cacao Lane, “was more of a landlord decision. It is being converted to first floor retail, with apartments above. And The Rumor Mill will be apartments, too,” Nichols said.

But for now, Nichols said that the stakeholders are anticipating the three design plans that will speak to the flooding mitigation issue.

“The [2016] storm was a one-in-1,000-year event,” he said. “We had a smaller flood in August where the water came up above the channel on the west end of downtown, over the banks and onto the roadway. There was some minor property damage, but that was it.”

Debt Remains

While the business owners in the historic district are encouraged by what’s happening with the master plan and on the street, they’re not pretending their balance sheets are back where they want them yet, either.

“We had a better Christmas this year than we did last year by the 20th,” said Robin Holliday, owner of HorseSpirit Art Gallery, on Main Street, “and Midnight Madness was crazy busy. I couldn’t have been more pleased.”

That’s because the majority of today’s shoppers are coming Downtown because, simply put, they enjoy Ellicott City. “Last year, it was also about people being supportive, but now it’s everything that follows,” said Holliday. “That includes many of us still dealing with the emotional aftermath of the flood, as well as the financial setbacks.

“Many of us are still in debt, including me,” she said, “and I still have trouble sleeping because I think about holding my gallery door closed as the flood rushed by.”

Still, the large helping of community spirit that has been bestowed upon Main Street business owners and residents has resulted in a positive emotional investment on many fronts.

For instance, the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) put together the Recreate Relief Grant to help artists whose work was destroyed. “After the storm, I owed my artists $55,000,” Holliday said. “The HCAC gave out $27,000 in grants to artists in my gallery alone to replace their damaged work; many other artists in town received grant money, as well. That was especially important because my insurance company wouldn’t reimburse me.”

And there was help from building owners, too. “Don Reuwer [president of Waverly Real Estate Group] owns a significant amount of the property down here, and he’s our landlord,” she said. “He had all of his people up and running by late fall [2016] and made sure we were ready for the holiday season.

“That was an absolute blessing,” said Holliday, noting that, soon enough, Reuwer’s buildings had new floors, new heating and air conditioning systems, etc. “He went above and beyond. My building is better in the long run, thanks to him.”

Much Appreciation

Like many of her fellow stakeholders in the historic district, Holliday is very appreciative of the various people who have dedicated time and energy to the master plan.

“Some are employed by the county and state, but there are countless others involved who are doing so out of the goodness of their hearts. I wish I had more time to do likewise,” she said, “but I’m busy running the business.”

That seems to be a good thing to be doing in the historic district these days. Howard County Councilmember Jon Weinstein said he walks up and down Main Street “about every weekend, and I’m seeing what looks like a great number of people shopping.”

Those people will be getting an even better experience in the coming years, when the recommendations of the master plan are implemented, including changes that might take place at the 174-year-old Circuit courthouse property, which is now out to public bid.

“When the court moves in three or four years, the old one will be up for some reimaging, said Weinstein. “In 2018, we hope to start looking into that, maybe for arts, visual arts, restaurants and other activity, including parking, sidewalks and connection to Main Street.”

While work on the master plan begins to wind down, Besson feels that Historic Ellicott City’s future looks bright.

“Going forward, we’re looking for continued recovery and business retention. Many of the returning businesses along Main Street are still recovering from losses of inventory, fixtures and equipment,” she said, “so we’re aiming to strengthen our practices to make those businesses more resilient.”

Most encouraging, perhaps, is the positive way that the outside business community is viewing Main Street. “This town has always been very resilient and keeps bouncing back,” Besson said, recalling its rebirth after the Hurricane Agnes flooding in 1972.

“But,” she said, “know that this is a continuing process.”

And considering that the most recent main event [in 2016] was a 1,000-year flood, a little more patience to refine the master plan doesn’t seem like a big request.

“The flood was a disaster that could have torn the community apart,” said Weinstein. “Instead, it drew us closer together.”

Route 1 Continues to See Increased Investment

For more than a decade, the calls for redevelopment have echoed throughout the Route 1 Corridor. Plans have emerged, ideas have been tried and slow, methodical progress has been made.

But what has remained consistent through all this process is that Route 1 continues to be a tough nut to crack.

Like other projects in the county, the Route 1 Corridor faces a special set of issues that are uniquely its own. Intersecting more than 11 miles of the county, its lack of a central location, combined with its different personalities and the needs of each section, result in unique challenges.

In other words, what ends up being the right solution for one part of the Corridor often does not work with another part, making it impossible to apply a “one size fits all” answer to its overall needs.

New Projects

However, during the past five years there have been new projects springing up along the eastern edge of the county. Led by the private sector, the public sector and the State Highway Administration, change is slowing occurring along the Corridor.

Large communities like Howard Square and Blue Stream have created vibrant and desirable residential communities and brought residents to Route 1. Additional residential projects are in the plan for years to come, including a 1,000-unit transit oriented development (TOD) project at the Laurel Park MARC station.

There also has been an increase in the private sector investment along Route 1. Many new commercial buildings have been constructed or are under construction, especially those catering to the rapidly expanding food distribution industry. This will bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in investment.

In addition, it was recently announced that BTS Bioenergy had selected two potential locations along Route 1 to construct state-of-the-art biodigestion facilities to recycle food waste, with the company investing $40 million to construct the facilities.

And last year, it was announced that Freshly would locate its new east coast facility in the former Coastal Sunbelt location, bringing 500 new jobs and private investment to the region; that building was only available because of Coastal Sunbelt’s decision to remain in the county and construct its 330,000-square-foot building that will employ 1,500 people. It opened in 2016.

Additionally, there has been increased investment from retail and restaurants opening along the route. In 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Co. opened its doors and has since expanded several times; in Jessup, CVS completed construction on its building, while up the road the announcement was made that Mutiny Pirate Bar selected Troy Hill Drive for a new location.

Also, the Guinness Tap Room selected a location directly north of the county line to build its first tap room in the U.S. since the 1950s.

New Amenities

The Howard County government has also played a role in bringing new amenities and services to the Corridor during the last five years. At 101 acres, Troy Hill Park became the county’s eighth regional park, offering residents access to new athletic fields and a playground right near the intersection of routes 1 and 100. In 2013, the county opened the doors of Duckett’s Lane Elementary, in Elkridge; and in the nearby community of Oxford Square, the county also completed the construction of the Thomas Viaduct Middle School, in 2014, and plans to open Elementary School No. 42 next door in August 2018, both of which service the residents of the Route 1 Corridor.

In 2013, the county relocated the Savage Volunteer Fire Co. into a new location on Route 1, and in 2018, it will open the new Elkridge Volunteer Fire Station. Construction continues as well at the Elkridge Branch Library and 50-Plus Center, which will open in 2018.

Even as new developments are being made, the key challenge continues to be striking a balance between the area’s industrial base and residential base. Route 1 has a long-standing tradition of being a major distribution and manufacturing hub, not just for Howard County, but for the entire region. The central location between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as major projects like the Maryland Food Authority, have been attracting businesses to the area for more than 50 years. These businesses, and their large warehouses and trucking fleets, have also brought many of the county’s jobs with them.

In Howard County, the trade, transportation and utilities industries, when combined, represent the second-largest employment sector, with more than 20% of the jobs in the county classified in these categories. A large number of those jobs are located along the Route 1 Corridor.

The only industry sector larger is the professional and business services category, with 27% of the market share.

Key Tenants

However, the businesses that call the Corridor home have been slowly evolving over the years, as well.

Nestled in the business parks are many technology and advanced manufacturing companies, showing a change in the winds for the area. These businesses include wind tunnel manufacturer Aerolab, which moved to Route 1 in 2015; drone manufacturer UAV Solutions, which expanded by 60,000 square feet in 2014; Autobahn Indoor Speedway, which invested $1.75 million on an indoor electric go-kart racing facility in 2013; biopharma distributer Cavalier Logistics, which invested heavily in a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical cold storage facility this past year; and Coastal Sunbelt, which opened the nation’s most advanced food processing facility in 2016.

As the county looks ahead and building vacancy rates remain low, it is expected that even more high tech companies will begin looking to the eastern edge of the county to grow their business.

Development and investment continues all along the Corridor in small pockets, but it is these combinations of projects that will lead to a greater Route 1 community. The redevelopment of the Corridor does not just effect the residences, but also the businesses, as well.

To be successful in redevelopment, the needs of both groups need to be considered and balanced to create an environment where they both can grow together, even side by side.

Howard County: A Message From County Executive Allan Kittleman

If you’ve heard me talk about Howard County during the three years I’ve been county executive, you know that getting the chance to have this job has been the one of the greatest experiences of my life. Like you, I’m extremely proud of our community.

We know Howard County is a desirable place to live, and we know that businesses want to locate here. We have great schools, wonderful parks and recreational facilities, and quality job opportunities. No wonder Howard County is considered one of the greatest places in America. We’re proud that we are a welcoming community, a place where all people are treated equally. Howard County is a place where people can thrive. The goals of my administration are simple: We strive to be efficient, transparent and supporters of both the needs of people and the business community. It’s a balance that helps keep Howard County that great place to live, work and play.

During 2017, my administration joined with the state to begin the Route 32 widening project, secured the Harriet Tubman School as a future home of an African-American cultural center, expanded our senior and aging-in-place tax credits, launched Achieve 24/7 (a program aimed at increasing opportunities for children and youth) and found a developer to revitalize the Long Reach Village Center.

We’ve invested in our communities. In Elkridge, we’re building a new fire station and a new library/50-Plus Center. In the Savage, North Laurel and Jessup areas, we have made progress on a community pool, completed aesthetic improvements to the Bollman Bridge and continued to provide better transportation options.

And let’s not forget Ellicott City, the success story of the year, if not the decade. Ellicott City is redefining the meaning of resilience since the Main Street area was hit by the July 2016 flood. As of last month, 96% of businesses have returned and 18 new ones have moved to Main Street. I hope everyone visits Historic Ellicott City to see how far it has come.

Now, as we move into 2018, my administration has established several priority projects focused on continuing to improve the quality of life in Howard County.

We continue to attract businesses to the Columbia Gateway Innovation District. During the next decade, we will transform the 920-acre site near routes 175 and 95 with leading-edge companies working alongside educational institutions and startups on new technologies and services. We plan to relocate the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship there, as well.

Our emphasis is to help businesses create jobs in the county. Since I took office, the county has added nearly 4,000 new jobs, driving the unemployment rate down to 2.8%. Along with Montgomery County, the county’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the state and well below national averages.

We will increase our economic development efforts along the Route 1 Corridor this year with a holistic approach that takes into account prior county studies for revitalization, infill development, design and transportation. We will begin to implement short-term projects while creating long-term strategies with the help of many stakeholders who live, work and own businesses along Route 1.

Since I took office, I have heard from many of you that our zoning and land development regulations are too complicated and difficult to understand, so I have directed our Department of Planning and Zoning to have an independent review of the county’s zoning and land development regulations completed. I expect to see a draft of the assessment this month. We will hold two days of public meetings to hear feedback before a final assessment is released this spring.

In early 2018, the second phase of the Community Resources Campus will become a reality. Last year, we took the first step by helping several critical nonprofits relocate to the Columbia site. In the next phase, several county and state agencies will relocate to this campus, making it easier for those in search of human services.

Opioid addiction continues to have a horrific impact on Howard County, as it does the rest of the country. Last year, we partnered with the county health department to raise awareness and train county employees and members of the community in the use of the life-saving drug naloxone. During 2018, we expect to develop a plan to build a detox and treatment facility to help those addicted get the help they need.

We will receive bids this spring to build a much-needed Circuit Courthouse, on Bendix Road. From there, we will select a contractor and submit legislation to the County Council by fall to finalize the scope of work.

I’ve lived in Howard County my entire life: I’ve worked for this community for nearly that long, and I can’t think of a better place to live. We have great schools, a thriving economy that’s friendly to businesses and consumers, and Columbia, a community that Money Magazine calls the Best Place to Live in America.

I look forward to another year of serving the residents of Howard County.

Anne Arundel County: A Message From County Executive Steve Schuh

The new year is an opportune time to reassess the past year and plan new initiatives that will move Anne Arundel County forward. As we look in the rear view mirror, I am proud of our continuing efforts to find efficiencies while making targeted investments that create a dynamic economic climate that is attractive to businesses.

This year’s budget demonstrates our commitment to reducing the burden of taxes and fees on our residents and businesses. In addition to enacting more than $64 million in tax and fee relief over the last two years, we eliminated completely three unnecessary taxes that hurt working families: the movie tax, the athletic facility tax and the mobile home tax.

Our economy cannot be strong without an educated and highly skilled workforce to support it. Since the start of our administration, we have been strong partners with the school system to create learning communities that foster academic success. This effort includes improving current schools where possible and developing smaller, neighborhood high schools where children are known and nurtured.

Within our six-year capital plan, and included in our fiscal 2018 budget, we have allocated for the revitalization of six elementary schools and the construction of three new schools, including the development of a new Crofton High School. The project will construct a facility of more than 275,000 square feet to serve approximately 1,700 students when completed by the fall of 2020. It is the first incrementally new high school constructed in the county since 1982 when Broadneck High School was completed.

For companies doing business with the county, we continue to see improved service times from efficiencies we have put in place in our agencies. During the past two calendar years, the time to process permits has been reduced significantly. Three years ago, the percentage of permits issued, same day, to a commercial tenant, was 9%. In 2016, that number improved to 22%.

Our administration has also made targeted investments that speak to our reputation as an innovative county with the amenities and skilled workforce to support high-value industry.

One exciting initiative is our investment in a fiber optic network. The county, which owns about 500 miles of fiber, is part of a nine-jurisdiction consortium connected to a 216-strand fiber network called the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN). This system connects government buildings and other anchors across central Maryland.

In October, we highlighted our $3.4 million investment to allow every school in Anne Arundel County access to high-speed Internet. Schools will be provided with 10-gigabit connections that are critical to transferring large data, accommodating multiple devices and accessing the Internet to all schools. Each school would have broadband capacity 400 times the average home cable modem.

We continue to work on setting up this valuable infrastructure and partnering with neighboring jurisdictions to expand the fiber connection down to Herndon, Va. It is my hope that our goal to be able to sell high-speed fiber network connections directly to businesses will be realized in the near future.

Three years ago, our administration committed to making Anne Arundel County an economically vibrant community and the shining example of good, effective government for the rest of the state. While we have achieved a number of accomplishments that put us nearer to our goal, there is more work to be done. We look forward to continuing our work with you in making our county the best place to live, work and start a business in Maryland.

Tap Into an Emerging Industry

The future is bright for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Anne Arundel County and the entire mid-Atlantic region.

For existing businesses to continue to grow and stay relevant, they will need to consider how to connect with customers and how they get paid. Gen-Zers love Snapchat and Instagram, for instance, so part of upcoming marketing strategies may soon need to include Instagram “stories” and use of a few influencers on social media.

An influencer is a social media user who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience that can be persuaded because of the influencer’s authenticity and reach — think a fitness Instagrammer talking about how great a certain brand of shoes is or a chef live on Facebook, chatting up his favorite brand of chocolate.

Whatever entrepreneurs choose to do online, it will have to be mobile friendly. Invest in creating a few apps to keep your customers engaged before, during and after the sale.

Speaking of the sale — payment methods like Apple Pay, Android Pay, Masterpass, Visa Checkpoint, PayPal and Venmo are all here to stay. However, remain skeptical about cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, gaining traction. If you are looking to raise funds for your business interest, rates for traditional lending are likely to increase, and crowdfunding will remain an option for many startups.

In the region, recently passed Maryland laws will bring growth to the local economy. Lawyers, accountants, packaging companies, transportation providers, security professionals, commercial real estate brokers and product safety consultants will all see a boost in business.

The medical cannabis industry, in its infancy, will create opportunities along the entire supply chain, from budtenders to product designers for extracts, oils, edibles and more. To quote AACC Professor Shad Ewart, who teaches a class exploring business opportunities around the country’s expanding marijuana market, “The people that made the money in the gold rush were not the guys with the nuggets. … [They were] the people who sold them the picks, the shovels, made the blue jeans and opened the banks.”

The Reform on Tap Act of 2018 will brew up new opportunities for the craft brewing business. Finally, we will continue to see the “maker movement” grow, as more spaces become available for people to bring their ideas to life. Local spots include the Annapolis Makerspace; The Foundry, in Baltimore; and Unallocated Space, in Severn. These spaces provide the necessary tools, technology and platforms for rapid product design, prototyping and fabrication. It is hands on, engaging, creative, fun and functional.

Tips for your business for the new year are as follows.

• Create a signature, unique customer experience;

• Pick one new social media strategy to implement; and

• Identify a new opportunity that you can tap into for your business. Consider how you can serve or partner with one new or emerging industry mentioned herein.

Experiment, learn from failures, celebrate success, make the world around you a better place — and most of all, have fun.

Carlene Cassidy is a professor and chair of the Entrepreneurial Studies Institute at Anne Arundel Community College. She can be contacted at 410-777-2161 and cmcassidy@aacc.edu, and via www.aacc.edu/esi.

Howard County: A Message From HCEDA CEO Larry Twele

Even though 2018 has only just begun, we at the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) are already hard at work and excited about what the upcoming year will bring. This excitement stems from the continued growth and prosperity of the economy from the previous year, and from the big initiatives and projects coming during the year ahead.

Howard County’s economy had another positive year in 2017. The latest unemployment numbers indicated that Howard County was at 3%, well below Maryland’s 3.8% and the national average of 3.9%. Commercial vacancy rates in the county continue to remain equal to or below last year’s, despite more new construction coming online each month.

We also saw continued growth and development in Maple Lawn, as well as witnessed the completion of several new buildings in Downtown Columbia, furthering it along its 30-year plan. A-year-and-a-half after an historic flood ripped through Ellicott City, we watched as the owners of Portalli’s cut the ribbon and reopened their business — joining the 97 other businesses that have reopened since and bringing the reopening rate up to 94%, in what is being called an unprecedented recovery.

In addition, the Howard County community experienced quite a few accolades of its own in the previous year. Still enjoying the 2016 ranking as the “Best Place to Live in America,” Columbia celebrated its 50th anniversary in a year-long celebration looking at Columbia’s past, present and future. And as the county continues to grow and expand, the U.S. Census upped the county to the second position in both counties with advanced degrees per capita and in counties with the highest median household income, making Howard County one of the country’s most affluent and well-educated communities.

Our team at the HCEDA had a great year of helping businesses. Combined, we worked on 61 different projects, which created 1,500 new jobs and kept 546 jobs here in the county. And there was no lack of passion from our team towards helping the business owners in Ellicott City, as they continue their recovery. While the town has come a long way, we understand that the recovery is not done, and we look forward to continuing our support in the years to come.

Building upon our successes from last year, we are looking forward to launching some exciting new initiatives that will help us to better serve the business community during the years to come. Last year, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced his plans to begin the evolution of Columbia Gateway Business Park into an Innovation District. An important component of this plan will be relocating our existing business incubator, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, into a larger Innovation Center in the heart of the Columbia Gateway community. This incubator will become a main component of a larger innovation ecosystem and nearly double the size of our existing incubator. With this additional space and premier location, we will be able to create an environment that will better serve businesses of all types and sizes.

This Innovation Center will be a place where businesses can find the resources they need to grow their business to the next level. For some, this will mean the jump into entrepreneurship, but for others it will be access to the resources needed to grow their existing company. No matter what milestone people are looking to cross, we plan to have the resources and tools available to help get them there.

We plan to accomplish this through various tactics. The first is to identify and partner with strategic business support organizations by bringing them in-house to create a more robust business development center. Additionally, we plan to look beyond providing space for just startups, and will instead use some of the newly-acquired space to house successful and growing second stage companies as they transition from the incubator to the business community. By having these successful early stage companies located here, it provides the next generation of entrepreneurs with mentorship and guidance from today’s successful entrepreneurs.

While this project is progressing during the upcoming year, we will never lose sight of serving the remainder of the Howard County business community. More than 80% of the businesses in Howard County have fewer than 25 employees, yet research shows that this is where we will see the most economic growth in the years to come. We feel so strongly about helping these businesses to grow and expand that we added it as a part of our five-year strategic plan and made them a primary audience of the Innovation Center.

As we look back on 2017 and look ahead to 2018, Howard County’s economy remains strong and continues to grow. While we have played a small part in this, the success is thanks to your hard work. Thank you for being here and choosing to do business in Howard County, and we look forward to serving you in the year to come.

Anne Arundel County: A Message From AAEDC CEO Julie Mussog

As I look back on my first year leading the talented and hard-working team at the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC), I am most proud of the new initiatives we have rolled out to help our community of businesses and look forward to continuing these efforts in the new year.

Our Arundel Defense Tech Toolbox, which was launched in July, has been warmly received from many businesses that compose our technology community. As home to Fort Meade and premier defense agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and U.S. CyberCommand, Anne Arundel County is the nation’s most prominent government and cybertechnology hub. The toolbox’s purpose is to make sure our companies serving our national security efforts get the right resources to help them grow and create jobs.

The toolbox’s signature piece is the Next Stage Tech Fund, which offers 0% loans ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, with flexible payment terms. For small government contractors awaiting payment to entrepreneurs wanting to expand the market for their commercial product, the Next Stage Tech Fund gives businesses the bandwidth to expand their workforce and upscale their operations.

Such is the case for Penacity, the first company to benefit from the Next Stage Tech Fund. The Pasadena-based cybertechnology firm plans to use the financing to hire additional staff and continue operations as it awaits payment on various federal contracts. This tech startup is showing impressive growth and also has tasked the AAEDC to assist in its search for office space in Anne Arundel County. We’ve been pleased with the strong pipeline of applications for our Next Stage Tech Fund and look forward to highlighting more of these businesses in the coming months.

This past fall, AAEDC unveiled a wonderful new initiative called the Runway to Success Program, Powered by Southwest Airlines. With the help of two travel reward certificates, an Anne Arundel County business can travel to out-of-state conferences and meetings as a way to enhance its marketing and sales or provide for workforce training.

Runway to Success is targeted to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that generate annual revenue of less than $10 million. These travel rewards were distributed to 12 companies in December through an application process and are expected to be used to travel to training workshops and industry conferences in locations such as Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; San Diego; Jacksonville; Dallas; and Las Vegas. We look forward to hearing feedback on how these travel opportunities helped their businesses.

In the past year, the AAEDC team has put greater effort into strengthening industry connections. The Arundel Defense Tech Toolbox, for example, is the result of discussions we have had with a cohort of technology companies. Along this vein, we recently convened a hospitality workgroup to learn more about industry challenges and developing solutions.

The hotel industry is a critical driver in our economy, especially in Anne Arundel County. Not only are there 25,000 hospitality jobs in the county, but there is also a higher concentration of hotels in Anne Arundel County than in most other areas around the state. The most recent projections show high demand for this industry through the year 2024.

Given the economic impact of our hotel industry, it is important for these businesses and resource organizations, like AAEDC, to partner together. We’re pleased to facilitate this effort and be joined by other organizations, such as the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., Anne Arundel Community College, North County High School, the BWI Business Partnership and others.

Through monthly meetings, this workgroup has begun to address issues such as workforce recruitment and retention, and transportation. Although the initial constituency of the group is focused on BWI Business District hotels, we expect an expansion in the near future to engage hotel properties in other parts of the county. In addition, we plan to convene workgroup discussions for other industry areas, such as health services and health technology.

In 2018, we will continue our commitment to put in place resources that are effective and valuable to our business community. As we grow our industry engagement, we expect to develop new programs that are responsive to the market and highlight Anne Arundel County as a premier location to do business.

For more information on the AAEDC’s programs and services, visit www.ArundelBiz.org.

Biz Roundup

Sheraton Columbia Sold: Extensive Upgrades, New Flag Planned

Columbia-based Costello Construction has purchased the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel and will soon proceed with a $10 million renovation of the property, which is nestled amid the major redevelopment of the Lakefront area.

Costello recently purchased the 290-room hotel from New York-based Brookfield Asset Management for an undisclosed price. Brookfield acquired the 197,194-square-foot property in 2007 for $34.4 million, according to state property records.

As part of the renovations, David Costello, president of Costello Construction, said the property will no longer bear the Sheraton brand and will take on a luxury hotel moniker under the management of Bethesda-based Marriott International, which owns the Sheraton name.

In addition to room upgrades, Costello plans to build a 33-room addition to the South end of the hotel. The developer is also completely gutting the HVAC setup in the building to bring every room onto the same system; currently, each room has an individual unit. In addition, renovations to the lobby and the amenities areas will bring the hotel up to the level of a four-star property.

The upgrade will begin by summer 2018, with minimal disruption of the hotel’s service. Buying the hotel was a natural move for Costello, a co-owner of Little Patuxent Square, a recently opened mixed-use building along the Lakefront. The company also owns the office building at 10211 Wincopin Circle, which houses its headquarters.

More Than $275K to Fight Opioid, Heroin Epidemic Coming to Maryland

The U.S. government has issued $288,445 in federal funding to help state and local authorities fight the ongoing heroin and opioid epidemic. The funds — issued by U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office — will go to the Maryland State Police to support their efforts investigating unlawful activities related to the distribution of prescription opioids and heroin.

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic is a public health crisis that hurts every state in our country, and every part of Maryland. Some rural parts of our state have the highest per capita rates of heroin and opioid drug use in the United States,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. “Facing this challenge head-on means supporting our state’s law enforcement with every tool and every resource they need. This federal investment in the Maryland State Police represents a commitment to that.”

The funds come from the Anti-Heroin Task Force Program (AHTFP), a competitive grant program that assists state law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids.

AHTFP grants are managed and dispersed through COPS, the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing through information sharing and financial assistance.

Kittleman Unveils Partnership With Aetna to Combat Opioid Crisis

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced a unique partnership with Aetna to combat the ongoing opioid crisis by training county employees in the use of naloxone kits donated by the Aetna Foundation. The foundation delivered 408 Narcan kits (the brand name for naloxone) to Howard County, the first donation of its kind to a county in Maryland. The kits, valued at more than $30,000, will be located in every Automated External Defibrillator (AED) box in county-owned buildings.

“We are battling the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history, and Howard County, like communities across the country, is experiencing the horrific impact of this crisis every day,” said Kittleman. “Tragically, we have already lost 55 residents this year to overdoses. But 161 lives have been saved, and in 90% of the cases, it’s because of naloxone.”

Kittleman committed to giving administrative leave to any employee who signs up for naloxone training. County police and fire department personnel are trained in the use of naloxone and carry it when responding to calls. And the county’s Health Department has trained more than 2,000 individuals, from motel and treatment center staff to concerned family members and friends.

According to the Howard County Health Department, heroin-related overdose deaths here have more than quadrupled since 2010. Kittleman said the county continues to ramp up its response to the crisis, having hired a full-time heroin coordinator at the police department, adding an opioid project administrator at the health department and increasing the availability of crisis intervention services through the Grassroots Crisis Center.

The county is also working to secure a site to build a detox and residential treatment facility and hiring a behavioral health court liaison to improve access to community resources for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.

UMD, Capital One Partner to Fuel Talent Pipeline in Data, Machine Learning

The University of Maryland (UMD) and Capital One announced a partnership aimed at developing a pipeline of students to join the workforce in areas of key national need, such as machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity.

A cornerstone of the new partnership will be the launch of an innovation lab in the university’s Discovery District. Situated along Baltimore Avenue, the lab will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom — in topics like data science, technology and automation — to real-world problems and experiences.

Capital One also has invested $3 million through an endowment gift to help advance machine learning leadership at the university. The gift’s impact includes $2.1 million used to endow a faculty chair in the Department of Computer Science, and $900,000 to help support research and educational initiatives in machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity. In addition, the university will collaborate with Capital One to develop academic courses offered through its First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program.

In August, the Maryland Department of Commerce, through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, provided the University of Maryland with $2.1 million in matching funds for its Capital One Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Science. These funds will endow an additional two professorships in the field, and will help elevate research, education and entrepreneurship activities.

Bowie State, Laurel College Center Partner to Increase Programs

Bowie State University (BSU) President Aminta Breaux joined Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) President Charlene Dukes, Howard Community College (HCC) President Kathleen Hetherington and Laurel College Center (LCC) Program Director Nancy Grinberg to announce an agreement that provides opportunities for more students to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

With this new partnership, students pursuing associate degrees at PGCC and HCC will be able to take courses in BSU’s accredited program at the LCC, located at 312 Marshall Avenue in Laurel, leading to a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The program enables students to take courses exploring a wide range of business fields, including banking and finance, information systems and entrepreneurship. The university will begin offering courses at LCC in fall 2018.

BSU has a hub for entrepreneurship as the home to Maryland’s first business incubator at a historically black university, the Bowie Business Innovation Center; and the Entrepreneurship Academy, which facilitates programs aimed at supporting budding business owners.

BSU will be the only institution allowed to offer business administration programs at LCC. Students enrolled in the Bowie State program at LCC will receive the same benefits and support as students at the Bowie campus, including access to academic and research facilities, educational resources, social events and the university bookstore.

Draft Update to WalkHoward Pedestrian Master Plan Released

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced the release of a draft of WalkHoward, an update to the county’s 2007 Pedestrian Master Plan. The plan provides a framework for improving conditions for people walking in Howard County, promoting this mode as a safe and convenient travel option.

Kittleman said the latest WalkHoward is the result of extensive field evaluation of sidewalks, intersections and bus stops and includes input received from three community open houses, state and county agencies, boards and commissions. “Walkability is good for public health, the local economy and quality of life,” he said. “This updated WalkHoward plan will help prioritize improvements to maximize these benefits.”

Produced by the county’s Office of Transportation, the draft identifies pedestrian network improvements needed beyond those completed under the 2007 plan. The Office of Transportation will host a public meeting to discuss the plan and hear from members of the public on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kittleman Room in Duncan Hall at Howard Community College.

The public is invited to view the draft plan at walkhoward.org, and to submit comments online at walkhoward.org/provide-feedback by March 31. Those who have specific questions about the plan should contact Albert Guiney Engel of the Office of Transportation at aengel@howardcountymd.gov or 410-313-4360.

BGE’s New STRIDE Plan Proposes Further Modernization of Natural Gas Infrastructure

During the first four years of BGE’s Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement (STRIDE) natural gas system modernization plan, more than 150 miles of gas mains and more than 32,000 service pipes connecting customer properties to gas mains have been replaced with modern, durable gas equipment.

The progress has been made possible by Maryland’s 2013 STRIDE law, which enabled gas utilities to replace equipment faster by authorizing recovery of some pipeline modernization costs as the work is performed. Now, approaching the final year of the initial five-year plan, BGE has filed a new five-year STRIDE work plan with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) that further accelerates the pace of the work.

Since the start of BGE’s STRIDE plan, the company has invested nearly $380 million in gas system modernization, including an estimated $130 million in 2017. Projects range from neighborhood-wide gas system upgrades through Operation Pipeline, gas main replacements along single streets and area-wide projects that replace thousands of service lines that connect customers to the gas mains.

Natural gas modernization projects have a positive economic impact on the regional economy. To date, more than 850 full-time jobs statewide have been created, 600 of which are on BGE projects. STRIDE also creates significant environmental benefits as pipe replacements have reduced emissions by more than 1 million pounds of methane — a major greenhouse gas (GHG). Once improvements to BGE’s natural gas system are complete, GHG emissions will be reduced by an estimated 210,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, compared to 2013. This equals taking 44,000 cars off the road.

Year One: MGM National Harbor Hosts 6 Million Guests

Since officially opening its doors one year ago, MGM National Harbor has engaged more than 6 million guests while making significant contributions to Prince George’s County, notably contributing more than $170 million (as of Nov. 30) to various sections of the local economy, thus becoming the largest contributor to Maryland’s Education Trust Fund.

The resort has contributed a higher dollar amount to the state than any other gaming facility, becoming the highest contributor of tax revenue in Maryland. The MGM has contributed more than $17 million in local impact grants since opening (as of Nov. 30, in accordance with Maryland law); and created new career opportunities for 3,700 employees, nearly 50% of whom are Prince George’s County residents; and contributed more than 5,000 cumulative volunteer hours to date in 2017.

It also has provided more than $1 million in philanthropic contributions to institutions including Prince George’s Community College, Bowie State University, University of Maryland College Park and the Community Foundation of Prince George’s County; and established the MGM National Harbor Endowed Veterans Scholarship to provide educational support for veteran students at the University of Maryland.

The MGM National Harbor has also consistently demonstrated its commitment to supporting women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) in Maryland: paid more than $367.9 million to MBE-certified companies, awarded construction contracts to 170 MBEs and paid more than $158.4 million to Prince George’s County Minority Business Enterprises.

Howard: $2.2M in New Tax Credits Issued Since July 1

Howard County residents have taken advantage of more than $2.2 million in new tax credits since the beginning of fiscal 2018, which began July 1. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said county government approved 3,022 tax credits to residents through Nov. 30, with 2,489 credits (82%) going to those who have applied for the senior and aging-in-place tax credits.

The Senior Tax Credit is available to homeowners who are at least 65 years old and have a combined household income that does not exceed 500% of the federal poverty guidelines for a household of two. For tax year 2017, that limit is $81,200. The amount of credit is 25% of the county property tax due in the current year after applying the Maryland Homestead Credit.

The Aging-in-Place Tax Credit is available to homeowners who are at least 65 years old and have lived in the same dwelling for at least the preceding 40 years or are a retired member of the military. The credit is equal to 20% of the eligible county tax and may be granted for up to five years.

Residents may apply by visiting www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Billing-and-Payments/Real-Property-Taxes/Tax-Credits-Copy. Senior Tax Credit applications for 2018 will be available in mid-February 2018; residents who do not know the tax credit for which they qualify can visit www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Billing-and-Payments/Real-Property-Taxes/Tax-Credits.

Q&A With Howard Tech Advisors Managing Partner Ananta HejeebuBy Mark R. Smith, Editor-in-Chief Ananta Hejeebu is founder of Howard Tech Advisors (HTA), an Elkridge-based technology services firm. Founded in 2009, the company has grown to 25 workers and serves more than 100 business and nonprofit clients; its stated mission is to “build community” to make Howard County a better place. HTA’s primary service is providing a complete information technology (IT) department for businesses that otherwise would not be able to afford one; it supports the community by providing various services to Grassroots, Hope Works, Junior Achievement, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Howard County Autism Society Community Action Council and others. For its approach and success, HTA was recognized as 2016 Small Business of the Year by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC). Prior to founding HTA, Hejeebu served in leadership roles for Workspace.com, a Baltimore-based cloud software provider; F5 Networks, a Seattle-based network infrastructure provider; and Southwestern Company, a Nashville-based book publisher. While at West Virginia University (WVU), he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and received an Army ROTC scholarship, then served in the U.S. Army 18th Airborne Corps. Later, Hejeebu earned an MBA from The Johns Hopkins University. Hejeebu and his wife, Stacia, have lived in Howard County since 1994 and have three children who attended Howard County public schools. In May 2017, he was appointed as a member on the Howard County Board of Education and has served on the boards of the HCCC, Leadership Howard County (LHC), the Community Foundation of Howard County and others.     What was your goal when finishing college and entering the workforce? When I went to WVU, I studied engineering because I participated in a high school engineering program and was told that engineers made a good income. That was enough for me. My motivation wasn’t to be rich; rather, I just wanted to provide well for my family. But some of my earliest work experience included spending my college summers selling children’s books door-to-door — and it was then I realized that I could be paid commensurate with my efforts. I finished my engineering degree, hung it on the wall and, after my military service, joined the business world.   What was your main takeaway from your earlier jobs? I worked at Wendy’s, and it was frustrating that people who didn’t work hard got paid the same $3.35 per hour as those who worked extremely hard. Effort didn’t seem to matter. Money alone doesn’t motivate me, but I appreciate incentives for excellence or going above and beyond.   What was your military experience? I was commissioned via ROTC at WVU, completed the Ordnance Officer Basic Course and Airborne School, and then served on active duty at Fort Bragg, N.C. While there, my dad suddenly died, and I was discharged early so I could help my family. I then served five years in the U.S. Army Reserves. Technically speaking, what does your company do? We offer technical support services for businesses that are too small to have their own IT departments. We also have clients that have in-house IT staff, and complement them with project support, software tools and other niche services. How were you able to establish HTA? I was with Workspace.com when the stock market crashed in fall 2008. We struggled to raise venture funding, so I needed to find my next opportunity. While looking for my next job, several friends told me their frustrations with IT firms. Since I wanted to stay local and couldn’t find the perfect job, I decided to start my own business. While I’m more technical than most people, I’m primarily interested in business issues and have hired technical people to work with our clients.   Do you find it unusual that your company takes such an integrated approach to serving the community? It might be unusual compared to other companies, but is an intentional part of our business strategy. During my F5 days, I traveled globally for work and felt I had a disconnected life ­— my clients, employees, kids’ activities, volunteer efforts, church, etc., were all in individual silos. I dreamed that I could tie all that together, and that’s what HTA has done for me. It’s also a great quality check, because I run into our clients in my neighborhood, church, restaurants, kids’ sports, school functions, local stores — everywhere. We have to do a good job because our clients can definitely find me. But that’s a good thing.   What was the best thing you learned from LHC? I learned about the breadth and depth of people who work and live here. I had lived in Howard County for a long time, but had no idea about the variety of needs, community groups, serving opportunities and more that I learned through the program. LHC helps people get the big picture perspective on Howard County and offers each person a way to connect.   Do you think enough is being done to train STEM students in Howard County? Kids who are interested in STEM are given tremendous opportunities and have many options, but we have to help kids with other interests, too. We can be more sensitive to the variety of interests and motivations of our students, and the broader needs of our community and marketplace. There are many career paths that have great demand, including HVAC, automotive techs, farming and more, where technology and traditional careers intersect. STEM is more than just working in computers, and our educational systems need to see the bigger picture. I’m eager to help align individual student goals with the market’s needs, so that all of our young adults and future workers can actively participate in and contribute to our community. What are your thoughts on the importance of entrants to the workforce having a four-year college degree? A four-year degree and the college experience is great for most young adults, but I don’t feel it is necessarily for everyone. For those who want a professional job, a degree is a foot in the door, but they need other skills such as problem-solving, communication and self-motivation. I don’t think a degree is the panacea that it was hyped to be a generation ago, and I’m concerned about the amount of debt that many students have coming out of school.   What led to your appointment on the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) board? I think [County Executive] Allan [Kittleman] chose me because of my perspective on the county and on life. I’m an immigrant, run a business, have kids in the school system, have a child with disabilities, and been long involved with local social services and nonprofits; I’m a champion of all things Howard County, and maybe he thought I could make a positive contribution.   What are the most important topics that you think need to be addressed by the HCPSS? We need to come together as a school system and community. There has been significant turmoil in the system over the years, and there has been a trust gap. If adults can find a way to better work together, we can take a very good school system and make it better. It feels like we’re making progress, and I’m very hopeful.   Might you consider running for public office? In 2002, I filed to be a candidate for the Howard County Council, but withdrew after a few months due to my son’s diagnosis. As for running in the future, I have no idea.   What do you see as your greatest professional challenge? Far and away, we struggle with finding qualified employees. We need really smart technical people with great communication skills that fit within the pay scale for our small business clients. That’s a needle in a haystack. There are tons of technical people in this area, but the federal government and defense contractors employ many of them. Their salaries and benefit structures heavily skew the private market for IT people, and it makes competing for qualified staff extremely hard. All of the IT companies in the Baltimore-Washington area have the same challenge.   What do you see as your greatest accomplishment? Without a doubt, it’s my family. Stacia and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary next year, and we continue to work hard on our marriage. Our kids are amazing, and we are so blessed by each of them. We don’t have the perfect marriage or family, but we love each other deeply and are trying to make a positive impact on the world.   What are your goals for the future? I’ve got tons of business and personal goals. Like everyone, we’re striving to launch our kids into the world as productive citizens. The disability thing requires a little extra planning, but we’re working on it. From a business perspective, I love growth and spend lots of time thinking about how to grow wisely, serve our clients better, deal with cybersecurity, employee retention and competitive challenges. Business is fun when we’re growing, but we have to be careful about the how and when.

Ananta Hejeebu is founder of Howard Tech Advisors (HTA), an Elkridge-based technology services firm. Founded in 2009, the company has grown to 25 workers and serves more than 100 business and nonprofit clients; its stated mission is to “build community” to make Howard County a better place.

HTA’s primary service is providing a complete information technology (IT) department for businesses that otherwise would not be able to afford one; it supports the community by providing various services to Grassroots, Hope Works, Junior Achievement, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Howard County Autism Society Community Action Council and others.

For its approach and success, HTA was recognized as 2016 Small Business of the Year by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC). Prior to founding HTA, Hejeebu served in leadership roles for Workspace.com, a Baltimore-based cloud software provider; F5 Networks, a Seattle-based network infrastructure provider; and Southwestern Company, a Nashville-based book publisher.

While at West Virginia University (WVU), he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and received an Army ROTC scholarship, then served in the U.S. Army 18th Airborne Corps. Later, Hejeebu earned an MBA from The Johns Hopkins University.

Hejeebu and his wife, Stacia, have lived in Howard County since 1994 and have three children who attended Howard County public schools. In May 2017, he was appointed as a member on the Howard County Board of Education and has served on the boards of the HCCC, Leadership Howard County (LHC), the Community Foundation of Howard County and others.

What was your goal when finishing college and entering the workforce?

When I went to WVU, I studied engineering because I participated in a high school engineering program and was told that engineers made a good income. That was enough for me. My motivation wasn’t to be rich; rather, I just wanted to provide well for my family.
But some of my earliest work experience included spending my college summers selling children’s books door-to-door — and it was then I realized that I could be paid commensurate with my efforts. I finished my engineering degree, hung it on the wall and, after my military service, joined the business world.

What was your main takeaway from your earlier jobs?

I worked at Wendy’s, and it was frustrating that people who didn’t work hard got paid the same $3.35 per hour as those who worked extremely hard. Effort didn’t seem to matter. Money alone doesn’t motivate me, but I appreciate incentives for excellence or going above and beyond.

What was your military experience?

I was commissioned via ROTC at WVU, completed the Ordnance Officer Basic Course and Airborne School, and then served on active duty at Fort Bragg, N.C. While there, my dad suddenly died, and I was discharged early so I could help my family. I then served five years in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Technically speaking, what does your company do?

We offer technical support services for businesses that are too small to have their own IT departments. We also have clients that have in-house IT staff, and complement them with project support, software tools and other niche services.

How were you able to establish HTA?

I was with Workspace.com when the stock market crashed in fall 2008. We struggled to raise venture funding, so I needed to find my next opportunity.

While looking for my next job, several friends told me their frustrations with IT firms. Since I wanted to stay local and couldn’t find the perfect job, I decided to start my own business. While I’m more technical than most people, I’m primarily interested in business issues and have hired technical people to work with our clients.

Do you find it unusual that your company takes such an integrated approach to serving the community?

It might be unusual compared to other companies, but is an intentional part of our business strategy. During my F5 days, I traveled globally for work and felt I had a disconnected life ­— my clients, employees, kids’ activities, volunteer efforts, church, etc., were all in individual silos.

I dreamed that I could tie all that together, and that’s what HTA has done for me. It’s also a great quality check, because I run into our clients in my neighborhood, church, restaurants, kids’ sports, school functions, local stores — everywhere. We have to do a good job because our clients can definitely find me. But that’s a good thing.

What was the best thing you learned from LHC?

I learned about the breadth and depth of people who work and live here. I had lived in Howard County for a long time, but had no idea about the variety of needs, community groups, serving opportunities and more that I learned through the program. LHC helps people get the big picture perspective on Howard County and offers each person a way to connect.

Do you think enough is being done to train STEM students in Howard County?

Kids who are interested in STEM are given tremendous opportunities and have many options, but we have to help kids with other interests, too. We can be more sensitive to the variety of interests and motivations of our students, and the broader needs of our community and marketplace.

There are many career paths that have great demand, including HVAC, automotive techs, farming and more, where technology and traditional careers intersect. STEM is more than just working in computers, and our educational systems need to see the bigger picture. I’m eager to help align individual student goals with the market’s needs, so that all of our young adults and future workers can actively participate in and contribute to our community.

What are your thoughts on the importance of entrants to the workforce having a four-year college degree?

A four-year degree and the college experience is great for most young adults, but I don’t feel it is necessarily for everyone. For those who want a professional job, a degree is a foot in the door, but they need other skills such as problem-solving, communication and self-motivation.

I don’t think a degree is the panacea that it was hyped to be a generation ago, and I’m concerned about the amount of debt that many students have coming out of school.

What led to your appointment on the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) board?

I think [County Executive] Allan [Kittleman] chose me because of my perspective on the county and on life. I’m an immigrant, run a business, have kids in the school system, have a child with disabilities, and been long involved with local social services and nonprofits; I’m a champion of all things Howard County, and maybe he thought I could make a positive contribution.

What are the most important topics that you think need to be addressed by the HCPSS?

We need to come together as a school system and community. There has been significant turmoil in the system over the years, and there has been a trust gap. If adults can find a way to better work together, we can take a very good school system and make it better. It feels like we’re making progress, and I’m very hopeful.

Might you consider running for public office?

In 2002, I filed to be a candidate for the Howard County Council, but withdrew after a few months due to my son’s diagnosis. As for running in the future, I have no idea.

What do you see as your greatest professional challenge?

Far and away, we struggle with finding qualified employees. We need really smart technical people with great communication skills that fit within the pay scale for our small business clients.

That’s a needle in a haystack. There are tons of technical people in this area, but the federal government and defense contractors employ many of them. Their salaries and benefit structures heavily skew the private market for IT people, and it makes competing for qualified staff extremely hard. All of the IT companies in the Baltimore-Washington area have the same challenge.

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment?

Without a doubt, it’s my family. Stacia and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary next year, and we continue to work hard on our marriage. Our kids are amazing, and we are so blessed by each of them. We don’t have the perfect marriage or family, but we love each other deeply and are trying to make a positive impact on the world.

What are your goals for the future?

I’ve got tons of business and personal goals. Like everyone, we’re striving to launch our kids into the world as productive citizens. The disability thing requires a little extra planning, but we’re working on it.

From a business perspective, I love growth and spend lots of time thinking about how to grow wisely, serve our clients better, deal with cybersecurity, employee retention and competitive challenges. Business is fun when we’re growing, but we have to be careful about the how and when.

C3 Offers Employers Path to Help Vets Build Civilian Careers

Returning from a nine-month deployment in Kuwait, a U.S. Army Reservist at Fort Meade found himself unemployed.
But after accessing the Military Corps Career Connect (C3) program, he got a seat in a 16-week Amazon Cloud training program and rapidly secured a senior systems engineer position with a government contractor, earning $45.68 per hour.

From July to September 2017, another 17 transitioning service members joined the C3 program and were placed in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program (CFP), a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative that places transitioning military and veterans in internships with private sector employers. Upon graduation, 82% had secured permanent employment with an average salary of $126,000.

During the same period, transitioning service members, active duty spouses and recently separated veterans who completed a training program offered through C3 posted a 92% success rate at landing employment.

53%

Those results would be impressive among any population. Among a military population, however, they really stand out.

Consider, for instance, that 53% of veterans experience a period of unemployment during the first 15 months after leaving service. In addition, the challenge of translating military service into civilian job competitions leaves many veterans underemployed or dissatisfied with their jobs; in addition, military spouses experience unemployment rates at four the rate of the general population. On average, 35% to 40% of spouses are unemployed or underemployed.

The two-year statewide C3 program is administered by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. (AAWDC), which works with partners such as the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) to carry out the objectives of a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The FMA is working to improve employment rates among transitioning military, active-duty spouses and recent veterans throughout Maryland. C3 partners with military installations, regional workforce development agencies, education institutions, business groups and individuals to identify needs and opportunities in training and employment. C3’s veteran navigators work one-on-one with transitioning military, spouses and veterans to clarify employment goals; access training, internships and other services; and find jobs.

“This is only the second grant of its kind in the country, and the cool thing about this grant is that it tells us who we can serve, but not how we can serve them,” said Shauna Donahue, C3 director.

Connecting Correctly

That flexibility has enabled C3, which has only been operational since June, to try a variety of initiatives, forge partnerships and seize opportunities. It has made it easier for Maryland companies to make meaningful contributions to efforts to help veterans and military spouses build successful civilian careers.

“This is the first time that I have seen all three pieces of the overall effort to hire veterans connected through one grant,” said Tim O’Ferrall, general manager of the FMA, which is working to fuel employer engagement in C3. “There is the education piece, there is the business connection piece and there is the veteran navigator piece, which pushes the veterans, the educators and the employers together to make sure all the right connections are made, the right services and training programs are offered and ultimately that job placements occur. I’m impressed by how easy it is for a company to have impact in that environment.”

Spurred by a request from some of his project managers, Leidos Vice President Jack Terry was searching for an opportunity for his staff to give back to the community when he met Donahue.

The C3 team wanted to organize a training cohort for individuals interested in earning their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. He enlisted the support of PMI Baltimore [a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating project managers and promoting professionalism in Project Management], and together they identified ways to support the C3 program. Leidos and PMI participated in an initial listening session for C3 clients who might be interested in pursuing a PMP certification.

Once the training cohort formed, Leidos and PMI held a half-day session to walk participants through the details of PMP requirements and how they related to military experience and training.

“We had members of the whole community, not just the government contracting community, participate,” Terry said. “We had [project managers] from across Baltimore who descended on Leidos in support of the 22 people in that cohort.”

C3 Gives Back

After the cohort completed the five-week training program, Leidos and PMI held a second session to prep the participants for certification. And the aid didn’t stop there.

“There were PMs from Leidos and PMI Baltimore who gave out their business cards and said, ‘If you want one-on-one instruction, call me,’ ” he said. “One lieutenant colonel gave his package to a Leidos PM, and that PM sat on the phone and helped him write his application.”

Many companies want to help veterans gain employment, but often struggle to find a way to provide that help, Terry said.
The C3 program “makes it easy to give back,” he said. “If there are 20 steps involved in providing a service to veterans, C3 is doing 17 of them. If you can identify how you can contribute your expertise, then it’s easy to plug in and deliver a meaningful service. Your effort isn’t diluted with administrative work or worrying if lunch got ordered.

“You can hit the ground running,” Terry said, “and deliver an incredibly important benefit to veterans and military families.”

Howard Innovation Center to Provide New Services for Businesses In March 2016, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman stood outside the county-owned building at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive and announced the relocation of the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s (HCEDA) business incubator, The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), as the first step in creating the next generation of business resource center, the Howard County Innovation Center. With the building already located in the Columbia Gateway Innovation District, his plan was to have the HCEDA convert the lobby, and the third, fourth and fifth floors into an Innovation Center and become an anchor tenant in the newly-established district. “This Innovation Center presents us with a unique opportunity to make a defining impact on our business community,” said Lawrence Twele, CEO of the HCEDA. “This center will be able to serve the entire business community, as well as facilitate connections among businesses both locally and across the region.” Local Growth Located along the I-95 Corridor between the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., metro areas, the Innovation Center has attracted attention as a possible catalyst between what are two local, yet disconnected, innovation communities. Due to its central location between the districts, such a center in Columbia Gateway can be a place to bring together innovators from both districts, while still catering to businesses that already call Howard County home. Part of the new focus for the center will be to cast the vision beyond the startup. “There can be a gap in services for businesses based upon [a] business’s size. Incubators target early stage and startup companies, while some economic development agencies tend to focus on a jurisdiction’s largest employers. We are looking to change the model and dedicate our resources to those second stage and mid-size companies, because they are the job creators that may not have the all right resources they need to grow.” More than 80% of Howard County’s 9,900 businesses employ fewer than 25 people. Twele acknowledged that it was this audience that would bring the greatest amounts of economic growth in the years to come. “Having 30 companies gain 10 employees each adds up to the same number of jobs as attracting a headline-grabbing 300-employee company to the county, but those big projects are few and far between and take more resources to acquire,” he said. “Additionally, it is better for the economy to grow these local companies, as our current customers are our best customers.” With this goal in mind, the center aims at providing support to these companies. While the incubator will still be an active participant, the center looks at adding additional specific resources to support businesses growing beyond the incubator or for businesses in the community looking to continue their expansion. Twele indicated that those involved were currently meeting with strategic partners and organizations to come up with the best combination of resources for the community. More ‘Housing’ Another unique service the center will provide is post-graduate housing for companies coming out of the incubator. As latter-stage startups, these companies may no longer need the intensive mentoring services of the incubator, but are still gaining market share and can benefit from the innovation center environment. Plus, these companies play an important role in the creation of an innovation ecosystem by giving back and guiding other startups. “We have come to understand that mentorship plays a key role in a startup’s success,” said Twele. “While we will continue to offer guidance from our staff, it is just as important for the next generation of CEOs to engage and learn from their already established peers.” The HCEDA already has begun locating some of these companies into the innovation center as early space has become available. In July, it welcomed three companies from the recently closed Chesapeake Innovation Center and in early December it welcomed MCE resident company VitusVet. The HCEDA plans to relocate all incubator services by the end of 2018. Add HCC The Innovation Center sections of the building will encompass approximately 50,000 square feet. This will double the capacity of the existing incubator and will allow for the expansion of services and the addition of new partners. Another added resource is Howard Community College’s (HCC) Business Training Center, which is already located on the first floor of the building. Twele said the HCEDA is working closely with the team at HCC to make sure its services are a part of the ecosystem. “The MCE grew out of the NeoTech Incubator as it found success in helping to start small companies,” he said. “In the new building, we will have the opportunity to grow upon this success by designing a space and service package that will even better serve our clients and the community.” The Innovation Center will be renovated and transformed in several phases. Plans include open floor plans and common spaces aimed to bring people together, as well as private office spaces for companies needing it. Twele admits that it is an ambitious goal, but it’s a goal the organization is up for. Phase One renovations are expected to begin in the summer. “This is the type of place our business community deserves to have,” he said, “and while it may take some time to reach the final product, we are confident that we can continue providing superior services in the interim, which is the No. 1 priority.”

In March 2016, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman stood outside the county-owned building at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive and announced the relocation of the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s (HCEDA) business incubator, The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), as the first step in creating the next generation of business resource center, the Howard County Innovation Center.

With the building already located in the Columbia Gateway Innovation District, his plan was to have the HCEDA convert the lobby, and the third, fourth and fifth floors into an Innovation Center and become an anchor tenant in the newly-established district.

“This Innovation Center presents us with a unique opportunity to make a defining impact on our business community,” said Lawrence Twele, CEO of the HCEDA. “This center will be able to serve the entire business community, as well as facilitate connections among businesses both locally and across the region.”

Local Growth

Located along the I-95 Corridor between the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., metro areas, the Innovation Center has attracted attention as a possible catalyst between what are two local, yet disconnected, innovation communities. Due to its central location between the districts, such a center in Columbia Gateway can be a place to bring together innovators from both districts, while still catering to businesses that already call Howard County home.

Part of the new focus for the center will be to cast the vision beyond the startup.

“There can be a gap in services for businesses based upon [a] business’s size. Incubators target early stage and startup companies, while some economic development agencies tend to focus on a jurisdiction’s largest employers. We are looking to change the model and dedicate our resources to those second stage and mid-size companies, because they are the job creators that may not have the all right resources they need to grow.”

More than 80% of Howard County’s 9,900 businesses employ fewer than 25 people. Twele acknowledged that it was this audience that would bring the greatest amounts of economic growth in the years to come.

“Having 30 companies gain 10 employees each adds up to the same number of jobs as attracting a headline-grabbing 300-employee company to the county, but those big projects are few and far between and take more resources to acquire,” he said. “Additionally, it is better for the economy to grow these local companies, as our current customers are our best customers.”

With this goal in mind, the center aims at providing support to these companies. While the incubator will still be an active participant, the center looks at adding additional specific resources to support businesses growing beyond the incubator or for businesses in the community looking to continue their expansion.

Twele indicated that those involved were currently meeting with strategic partners and organizations to come up with the best combination of resources for the community.

More ‘Housing’

Another unique service the center will provide is post-graduate housing for companies coming out of the incubator. As latter-stage startups, these companies may no longer need the intensive mentoring services of the incubator, but are still gaining market share and can benefit from the innovation center environment. Plus, these companies play an important role in the creation of an innovation ecosystem by giving back and guiding other startups.

“We have come to understand that mentorship plays a key role in a startup’s success,” said Twele. “While we will continue to offer guidance from our staff, it is just as important for the next generation of CEOs to engage and learn from their already established peers.”

The HCEDA already has begun locating some of these companies into the innovation center as early space has become available. In July, it welcomed three companies from the recently closed Chesapeake Innovation Center and in early December it welcomed MCE resident company VitusVet.

The HCEDA plans to relocate all incubator services by the end of 2018.

Add HCC

The Innovation Center sections of the building will encompass approximately 50,000 square feet. This will double the capacity of the existing incubator and will allow for the expansion of services and the addition of new partners. Another added resource is Howard Community College’s (HCC) Business Training Center, which is already located on the first floor of the building. Twele said the HCEDA is working closely with the team at HCC to make sure its services are a part of the ecosystem.

“The MCE grew out of the NeoTech Incubator as it found success in helping to start small companies,” he said. “In the new building, we will have the opportunity to grow upon this success by designing a space and service package that will even better serve our clients and the community.”

The Innovation Center will be renovated and transformed in several phases. Plans include open floor plans and common spaces aimed to bring people together, as well as private office spaces for companies needing it. Twele admits that it is an ambitious goal, but it’s a goal the organization is up for. Phase One renovations are expected to begin in the summer.

“This is the type of place our business community deserves to have,” he said, “and while it may take some time to reach the final product, we are confident that we can continue providing superior services in the interim, which is the No. 1 priority.”

2018 CRE Market: Growing With What We’ve Got

The area’s commercial real estate industry continues to cycle along, most recently on an upward swing — with the caveat that properties operated within 50 miles of the capital of the free world may perform differently than those located along Main Street USA.

Office

The waters continue to muddy in the office market, as the existing stock ages in place, generic (but often well-located) buildings continue to underperform and new wrinkles to the fabric of the market, most notably office sharing and “authentic space,” become buzzwords while providing an impetus for change.

While this trend seems to be gaining momentum, know that property owners cannot ignore the cost of having to abruptly re-tenant spaces and total floors, but also know that speculatively designed creative space is not here on wide scale; firms like Regus, WeWork and CIRQL offer temporary space, often to millennials, with permanent hipness.

Mixed-use projects are much harder to build backwards, meaning engineering the desired projects into older spaces, so look for minor refurbishments by landlords as they aim to accommodate the needs of new tenants.

Neighborhoods matter, as the popular Town Center concept demonstrates. However, those amenities come at a price.

Prediction: Older single-story office should fare O.K., as it can layout well after removing the ceiling grid and walls to create an open space environment that can be made to feel more modern. As for commodity suburban boxes with invisible amenities, tired common areas and fatigued ownership, they’re DOA.

Industrial

Logistics is defined by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals as the process of planning, implementing and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods including services and related information, from the point of origin to the point of consumption, for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements.

While that’s a mouthful, this continues to drive the warehouse-occupying community as “better, cheaper, faster,” and becomes the mantra for those retailers who are experiencing success online.

And last-mile delivery has given way to a new term: last touch, neither of which offer a clear vision of their optimum facility. Occupiers continue to debate whether retail store fulfillment should be in the same building as e-commerce uses and labor issues (too few applicants and too expensive) continue to dog the industry.

Prediction: The warehouse market will continue to strengthen, as evidenced by increased rental rates, increases in the number of and aggression of buyers, the continuity of sales activity and the overall quality of the buyers and occupiers. E-commerce users are defining and redefining their requirements each quarter and the concept of last mile (read: last touch) delivery are just coming into view.

Flex

Flex space is where America works. Small bay industrial is home to thousands of local companies, most of which are not household names. The plumber, the electrician, the utility contractor, etc., stay in their spaces until extraneous forces apply pressure otherwise. Retirement via selling to a competitor often forces the new company to move to larger quarters, or skillful management into new business lines which boost growth beyond the confines of their current space.

Occupancy in these buildings is driven by a landlord’s ability to grow a tenant in its portfolio, so scale matters, as does service — just ask the tenant who told his landlord to send the plumber.

Prediction: As long as the economy is in decent shape, rents will continue to inch up and landlords will be slower to introduce new product, primarily as a function of the slowing pace of entitlements and the bottled-necked permitting process of local governments.

Retail

The analogy of a corn maze comes to mind as landlords contemplate the asset class known as retail and how it can fit in a field of Internet mouse clicks, pop-up stores, co-branding and clicks-to-bricks operations (e.g., eyeglass retailer Warby Parker).

As has been the case for many years, malls dying, malls being redeveloped into senior housing, malls being demolished for big box centers and malls being repurposed for higher education continue to make headlines.

Savvy retailers are reinventing their in-store experience (visit your local Bed Bath & Beyond to see how) at the same time they are refining the customer’s online experiences.

But in many circles we hear that retailing is not dead — rather, it’s undergoing a profound cleansing — but there will be winners and losers. Those that survive will include a meaningful digital infrastructure and omnichannel marketing as retailers figure out who their customer is.

Prediction: More bankruptcies will be part of 2018, but also part of how the retail industry unfolds in a competitive, but digital, sea of alternatives. Pop-ups, startups and spinoffs will be the order of the day.

Owen Rouse is senior vice president, director of capital markets, with Manekin LLC, in Columbia. He can be reached at 410-290-1400 and orouse@manekin.com.

Health Care, Social Assistance Slated for High Growth in ’18

In 2017, overall employment in Howard County reached 150,495 positions, an increase of 1.9% from 2016. The professional and technical services industry composed the greatest number of jobs, with 29,400 positions. This sector also had one of the highest wages in the county, at $106,080, which greatly exceeded the 2017 average county wage of $69,472.

The second- and third-highest employment industries in Howard County in 2017 were represented by the retail trade, and health care and social assistance, respectively. The county’s greatest job growth was in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, increasing by 8.9% between 2016 and 2017. While this industry had an average annual wage of only $27,248 in 2017, this represents an increase of 9.6% since 2016.

Employment in administrative and waste services represents the second-highest employment increase in Howard County, with 5.2% job growth and a 2017 annual wage of $52,208. Employment growth in the manufacturing industry followed administrative and waste services, having 4.8% growth and an annual wage of approximately $87,984 in 2017.

Total employment in Anne Arundel County reached 219,038 positions in 2017, an increase of 2.1% from 2016. Retail trade represented the greatest number of jobs in 2017, with 33,120 positions having an average wage of $30,992 — significantly below the average county wage of $57,200. The second- and third-highest employment sectors in Anne Arundel County were health care and social assistance (29,925 positions), and the accommodation and food service industry (28,834 positions), respectively.

Between 2016 and 2017, the county experienced the greatest growth in the transportation and warehousing industry, with a 13.4% increase in employment, and an average wage of $62,764 in 2017. Employment in real estate, rental and leasing represented the second-highest increase in Anne Arundel County, having 7.9% job growth and an annual wage of $48,100. Increases in education services employment followed closely, behind real estate, with 7.2% growth and an average wage of $43,836 in 2017.

Looking forward to 2018 in central Maryland, the health care and social assistance industry is expected to have the highest growth rate of 2.5%. The second-highest employment growth rate of 1.9% is expected in the professional, scientific and technical services industry, followed closely by construction, with growth, anticipated at 1.8% in 2018.

These 2018 estimates align more closely with current employment in Howard County, where professional, scientific and technical services positions, as well as health care and social assistance positions were, in the top three employment sectors for the county in 2017.

In Anne Arundel County, health care and social assistance represented the second-highest employment sector in 2017. The most-significant declines in employment in the central Maryland region are anticipated in the federal civilian (-2.5%), utilities (-1.8%) and farm industries (-0.8%).

Daraius Irani is chief economist at Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute. He can be contacted at 410-704-6363 and dirani@towson.edu.

Clearing the Picture on Tax Cuts, Jobs Act

The House and Senate conferees released their conference report after finalizing negotiations on the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The conference report now goes to the House and Senate, which were expected to pass the legislation and present it to President Trump by press time.

In order to stay within the budgetary constraints, some of the provisions have sunset dates, in which the items will expire and revert back to the law in effect today. The key features of the act are the following.

• The lowering of the corporate tax rate and the conversion of the U.S. tax system to a territorial tax system, both in attempt to make the United States more competitive with other countries worldwide.

• The lowering of the individual tax rates, along with simplification of some of the individual provisions, which is projected to save a typical American family of four with amedian income of $73,000 an estimated tax savings of $2,059 along with the ability to file a simpler tax return.

Below are highlights of some of the provisions that are contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There are many other provisions included within the act, along with many details and limitations to the provisions.

Individual Provisions

• Retains the current seven brackets, but reduces the overall top tax rate to 37%

• Increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers and $12,000 for individual filers, indexed for inflation.

• Elimination of the personal exemption deduction.

• Generally allows up to a 20% deduction on flow-through income.

• Increase of the child tax credit to $2,000, which is up from the current amount of $1,000.

• Allows the use of 529 plans for elementary or secondary private school tuition.

• Additional limitations on the amount of losses that an individual may deduct from pass-through entities.

• Itemized deductions

• Repeal of the 3% reduction of itemized deductions for higher income individuals.

• For new mortgages, interest on mortgage debt up $750,000 will be deductible. Existing mortgages will remain subject to the $1 million limitation.

• Eliminates the deductibility of interest on home equity loans.

• Limits the deduction for state and local income taxes and property taxes to a combined $10,000.

• The current 50% limitation for cash charitable contributions increased to 60% of adjusted gross income.

• Elimination of miscellaneous itemized deductions such as.tax preparation fees, brokerage fees, employee business expenses and investment expense

• For 2017 and 2018, medical expenses will be deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% (down from 10%) of adjusted gross income.

• For divorces entered into after Dec. 31, 2018, alimony payments will not be deductible by the payor nor includible in income of the payee.

• No deduction for moving expenses allowed.

• With respect to net operating loss (NOL) deductions

• Limits the amount that may be deducted to 80% of income

• For NOLs incurred after 2017, the NOL can only be carried forward; NOLs cannot be carried back to previous taxable years.

• The conference report retains the alternative minimum tax for individuals, but increases the exemption amount to $109,400 for those taxpayers filing as married filing jointly, and $70,300 for taxpayers filing as single or head of household.

• Estate and Generation-Skipping transfer taxes: increases the basic exclusion from $5.6 million to $11.2 million (indexed for inflation) per individual.

• Repeals the tax on individuals that fail to have minimum essential health coverage

Business Provisions

• Replaces current graduated rate structure with a top rate of 35% with a flat rate of 21%.
• Generally allows for 100% expensing of qualified property placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023. For tax years beginning after 2022, bonus depreciation will be allowed as follows.

2023: 80%
2024: 60%
2025: 40%
2026: 20%
2027: 0%

There is a phase down of bonus depreciation percentage with property placed in service during 2017 eligible for 50% bonus depreciation. This is for qualified property purchased prior to Sept. 28, 2017, but not placed in service until after Sept. 27, 2017.

Also, the provision expands the property eligible beyond original use property to used property that is used by the taxpayer for the first time.

• Increased Section 179 limits to allow up to $1 million of property to be immediately expensed with an increase phase out limits of $2.5 million. This would apply to tax years after 2017.

• Allows for accounting method simplification for entities with less than $25 million in gross receipts in the following areas.

• Cash method of accounting, including entities with inventory

• Exemption from the Section 263A UNICAP rules

• Exception to percentage-of-completion method

• Exemption from the new interest limitation provisions below

• Generally, limits the amount of interest deductible to 30% of the business’s adjusted taxable income, which is taxable income computed without regard to interest expense, interest income, net operating losses, depreciation, amortization and depletion.

• Repeals the ability to defer gains on sales of personal property by utilizing like-kind exchanges.

• Repeals Section 199 Domestic Production Activity Deduction.

• No deduction allowed for entertainment, amusement or recreation activities, facilities or membership dues relating to such activities or other social purposes. The current 50% limitation would still apply to food or beverages and to qualifying business meals, with no deduction allowed for other entertainment expenses.

• Will treat the gain or loss from the disposition of a self-created patent, invention, model or design (whether or not patented) or secret formula or process as an ordinary gain or loss.

• For taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2021, specified research or experimental expenditures must be capitalized and amortized over a five-year period.

• Changes to the following business credits.

• Repeal of the 10% rehabilitation credit for pre-1936 buildings

• Establishes a new employer credit for paid family and medical leave

• With respect to net operating loss (NOL) deductions.

• Limits the amount that may be deducted to 80% of income

• For NOLs incurred after 2017, the NOL can only be carried forward; NOLs cannot be carried back to previous taxable years.

• Key foreign provisions

• A 100% dividend received deduction will be allowable on dividends to a U.S. corporate shareholder that owns 10% or more of the foreign corporation.

• Taxation of pre-2018 offshore earnings of a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. shareholder that owns at least 10% of the foreign corporate subsidiary. The tax would be 15.5% of the earnings that are in cash or cash equivalents and 8% for earnings that have been re-invested in the foreign subsidiary’s other assets. The U.S. shareholder will have an election to pay the tax for a period of up to eight years. If the U.S. shareholder is an S corporation, the tax will not apply until the corporation ceases to be an S corporation, substantially all of the assets are sold or liquidated, the S corporation ceases to exist or conduct business, or stock for the S corporation is transferred.

• The conference agreement also imposes a new minimum tax on global low-taxed intangibles and other anti-base erosion measures.

Harold Mohn is managing partner with UHY LLP. He can be reached at hmohn@uhy-us.com.

State Political Analysis: State’s Schools: They’re Not as Good as We Think

A key Democratic narrative this election year is that Maryland used to have the best public schools in the country, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has shortchanged them so much that they have now slipped to fifth place.

The problem with this partisan talking point is that the Education Week Quality County report card, on which the claim is based, has always been a dubious indicator of how good the schools actually were. The top grade was only a B and very little of the score was based on student outcomes ­­— rather, they were based on how well they could actually read, compute and understand.

Even if the complicated Quality Counts rating standards were not questionable, Maryland’s slipping ratings are based mostly on lagging data from test scores in O’Malley budget years. And except for Hogan’s first budget, where one optional school aid formula was only partially funded, the current governor has increased education aid every year. Just as the law mandates him to do.

Kirwan Commission

Brit Kirwan, the former university system chancellor who now chairs the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, has been trying for the past 16 months to persuade both its members and anyone else who will listen that “Maryland public schools are not as good as we think.

“Maryland is very much in the middle of the pack on these NAEP scores,” Kirwan said at a recent commission meeting, referring to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the only standardized tests administered nationally in reading and math.

“People are, quite frankly, shocked when they see this,” he said.

A key problem with the report card from Education Week, a Bethesda-based publication read mainly by administrators, is that only one-sixth of the report card that first placed Maryland No. 1 was based on K–12 student achievement. The rest of the report card was based on inputs like school aid, demographics and curriculum.

What consultants have told the Kirwan commission — and was widely known by education experts when the “We are #1” buttons we’re being handed out — is that Maryland students consistently score behind students from Massachusetts and New Jersey, not to mention behind students in Shanghai and Singapore.

Kirwan also notes that, despite its wealth, Maryland actually ranks 11th in per student expenditures and, surprisingly, overall spends 5% less on schools with students at-risk from poverty and poorly-educated parents than it does on other students.

“Taken altogether, it is not a pretty picture for our state,” Kirwan said.

The “good work going on in Maryland is far from systemic.”

“We have a good system of education, we have a lot to be proud about, but we can, and we must, be better,” Kirwan said, in September. “Good is not good enough in this day and age. … The state will need to invest significant money at the state level and from the local jurisdictions.”

Gaps and Formulas

The Kirwan Commission was tasked with closing these achievement gaps and recommending new education funding formulas. It was supposed to make its final recommendations to the governor and legislature last month. But Kirwan determined in October that its report was taking shape too slowly, and it would not be able to finish until June.

The postponement avoids a major fight in this election year’s legislature over education aid and funding formulas that can put jurisdictions at odds with each other.
The commission is about to wrap up a preliminary report with an ambitious agenda. During the next decade, based on studies of best performing schools elsewhere, the commission envisions a major overhaul of public education.

Universal Pre-K

That overhaul includes making pre-kindergarten available everywhere in Maryland for all 4- and 5-year-olds. Some legislators had already proposed this in past sessions and, after being told to study it, the commission has agreed it’s worth doing. They haven’t figured out how much it will cost, who will pay for it, who will provide it and whether it will be free for all students.

In an interview last month, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh commented: “It’s going to be immensely expensive for our county, and it’s also a very sad statement about the country that the government needs to take children away from their parents because the parents are so incompetent … the parents aren’t doing the job at home.”

Teacher Pay Hikes

The commission is also recommending big increases in teacher salaries along with the creation of a statewide career ladder that would put teacher pay in line with other “high-status professions.” The commissioners hope this will increase the size and quality of the pool of people interested in teaching, which has recently shown a decline.

The pay hikes and career ladder leading to the position of master teacher would be based on teaching performance, not academic credentials and seniority. They are an attempt to bring Maryland in line with best practices in high-performing school systems in other countries, particularly Shanghai and Singapore.

The commission will also recommend teams of teachers be given greater autonomy and spend less time in the classroom, and more time collaborating on teaching strategies and methods.

Another major recommendation will be reviving career and technical education at the high school level, in partnership with the businesses that need the trained workforce and the community colleges that are currently providing much of the certified training.

Costs a Lot

All these items and more will cost lots of money — billions more than is currently being spent, it has been estimated. Stephen Guthrie, Carroll County’s school superintendent and a commission member, pointed out, “We cannot afford any of this.” The commission is creating four work groups that will meet during the legislative session to try and arrive at firm estimates of what their recommendations will cost.

Kirwan is also insisting that the commission create accountability standards and new, higher benchmarks for student success to justify the new money.

“In this era, simply asking for more money to continue with existing practices has little or no chance of success,” Kirwan told the commissioners. “We need a bold plan with a high degree of accountability. Anything less will relegate our report to the round file.”

Prospects are dim for actually paying for the policy changes without new taxes. A presentation by legislative budget analyst David Romans showed structural deficits recurring in a few years, just based on existing programs for health and education; because of existing health entitlements and education aid formulas, state spending is rising faster than state revenues.

“There doesn’t appear we have an easy way to fund new initiatives,” Romans said.

The only representative of business on the commission, Scott Dorsey, chairman and CEO of Merritt Properties, agreed that the salary jumps were “necessary” to retain teachers, but “we need to think of ways to be creative. It’s not just about the money, it’s about innovation.”

Sick Leave, Violence

The Maryland General Assembly convenes Jan. 10. One of the first items on the agenda — which is required by the state constitution, in fact — is the consideration of the governor’s vetoes. The focus will be on Hogan’s rejection of the paid sick leave bill that passed last year.

The governor has offered another alternative plan for earning and accounting for sick leave. Democratic legislators dismiss it as too little, too late. Business groups are trying to round up a vote or two in the Senate to prevent an override, but prospects look dim.

The vote to override has become a party call. Democrats would love to stick it to Hogan on an issue where polls show him on the wrong side of public opinion, which is why he has proposed alternatives to the vetoed Democrats’ plan that provide broader benefits for more employees, including part-timers.

Legislators will also introduce bills to help Baltimore City cope with its horrendous murder rate and rising violence, even in neighborhoods that used to be safe. The violence undermines positive things going on in the city and hurts efforts to attract more people to live there, such as the Amazon headquarters. No matter how attractive a package the city and state put together to bring Amazon to Port Covington, news clips showing violence dropping in most U.S. cities are accompanied by a flag showing Baltimore with the highest murder rate in any major city.

Forget about rates. With about 350 murders, Baltimore again has dozens more people killed than New York City, a city 14 times larger with a growing population. Until the murders and street violence are under control, little else matters.

Schrader’s New (Paid) Position

It looks like Dennis Schrader, the former Howard County Councilmember, will start getting paid again. Gov. Larry Hogan gave up his fight over Schrader’s appointment as acting health secretary, and replaced him with Bob Neall, the former state senator, Anne Arundel County executive and Johns Hopkins medical administrator. Schrader becomes chief operating officer of the health department, where he went six months without pay because of legislative budget language.

A Circuit Court judge ruled last month that Schrader must be paid, but the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s high court, stayed the judge’s order and said it would take another six months before it would take up the case.

Howard County Politcal Analysis: Martirano Chosen as Permanent HCPSS Superintendent

At its regular board meeting on Dec. 19, the Howard County Board of Education (BOE) announced its unanimous decision to select Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano as the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) permanent superintendent. Martirano has served as interim superintendent since May 2017, when previous Superintendent Renee Foose resigned.

Board Chair Cynthia Vaillancourt and Martirano signed a letter of intent to begin the negotiation process that will lead to a contract extending from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2022, pending the approval of State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon. Martirano’s contract as interim superintendent expires on June 30 this year.

Although the board approved a request for proposal for superintendent search firms on Aug. 17, Vaillancourt said the board decided to forego the process based on Martirano’s performance.

Board Member Sandy French said she initially believed the board should conduct a national search, but changed her mind based on the board’s similar decision to offer Interim Superintendent Sydney Cousin the permanent position without a superintendent search in 2004.

“What we found [with Dr. Martirano] was a very caring, humane, dedicated educator who, for one thing, listens to the board and hears our concerns, doesn’t do everything and pushes back when he believes he should push back,” French said. “We have a good dialogue, and that’s what I appreciate.”

In his role as interim superintendent, Martirano “exceeded our expectations as to what could be accomplished in such a short time,” said Council Member Bess Altwerger.

School Start Times

During its December meeting, the BOE voted to rescind changes implemented for the start and dismissal times during the 2018_19 school year and retain the existing model instead. The board action concludes an extensive study and analysis process that began in 2013.

According to the HCPSS Interim Auditor’s analysis of the four alternative models under consideration, each would have required the use of more school buses, adding costs to the school system budget ranging from $6.2 million to $9.1 million per year.

The board asked Martirano to consider developing a program to help mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable students who experience issues with the currently scheduled start times.

During the BOE’s Dec. 7 meeting, board members unanimously selected Cynthia Vaillancourt as chairperson and Mavis Ellis as vice chairman, serving one-year terms.

New Council Officers

During its December legislative session, the Howard County Council elected new officers to serve through the end of the council term in 2018.

The council elected Mary Kay Sigaty (D-Dist. 4) as the new chairperson, with Calvin Ball (D-Dist. 2) serving as vice chair.

Councilmember Jen Terrasa (D-Dist. 3) will serve as chair of the Zoning Board, with Calvin Ball serving as vice chair. The board also elected Greg Fox (R-Dist. 5) to serve as chair of the Board of License Commissioners, more commonly known as the Liquor Board, with Councilmember Jon Weinstein (D-Dist. 1) serving as vice chair.

Terrasa will serve as the board’s representative on the Maryland Association of Counties Legislative Committee, with Ball as the alternate. Fox will serve as the National Association of Counties liaison, with Weinstein as alternate, and Sigaty continues her role with the Patuxent River Commission.

Also in December, the council approved the transfer of $6,300 from the Grants Fund, Contingency Reserve, to the Department of Recreation and Parks for new historic signs at the B&O Railroad Museum, in Ellicott City.

The council approved a payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the county and the Shalom Heritage Limited partnership for a rental housing unit to be known as Shalom Square in Columbia.

Tabled legislation include a request from K2 Properties LLC to amend zoning regulations that would permit hotels, motels, country inns and conference centers as a matter of right in the B-1 zoning district, and would also allow for extended stay lodging.

The council passed resolutions to adopt comprehensive revisions of Volumes III and IV of the county’s Design Manual, revising criteria and standards for the design of road systems, and revising standards and specifications relating to the construction of roads and utilities, respectively.

Pre-Filed Legislation

In December, Ball filed legislation to establish property tax credits up to $2,500 for public safety personnel who work and own their residence in the county.

“Having first-responders living in our neighborhoods reinforces our community policing policies, assists in emergency situations and helps reduce criminal activity.” Ball said.

Kittleman filed legislation in December that would help veteran-owned businesses more easily obtain county purchasing contracts.

The goal, he said, would be for 1% of the county’s total procurement dollars to go to veteran-owned businesses under the newly formed Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise Program.

New Buses

Last month, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the introduction of seven new transit buses to serve Howard County through the Regional Transportation Agency (RTA) of Central Maryland. The new buses will replace seven older buses in the fleet.

“There does come a time when you just need to get a new bus, and that’s what we’re working on now,” Kittleman said. “We want to improve our fleet for our drivers, our employees and our folks who ride throughout Howard County.”

Fleet improvements during the past three years have begun to pay dividends, he said. “With more than 60% of bus riders using this service to get to work, there is strong economic benefit in ensuring we provide a reliable transit service.”

The seven 2017 El Dorado EZ-Rider II buses will help the county reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce maintenance costs and provide more reliable, comfortable service, he said.

“When I took office there were a lot of complaints about the routes, and we’ve been working on that with our Office of Transportation, trying to make them more user friendly and run more often,” Kittleman said. “All of it, of course, takes money. If we make them user-friendly and have more buses, we’re going to have more people ride. It will be better for our environment, for our employees, for our residents and better for Howard County.”

Anne Arundel County Political Analysis: Schuh Loves His Job, Hopes to Keep It

Steve Schuh loves his job as Anne Arundel County executive and he hopes to keep it.

In a normal re-election year, a county executive would keep his job if he has been fairly successful and hasn’t screwed up, as he believes is true and a recent poll seems to indicate. But this election year is not normal.

“Democrats are very angry,” said the Republican county executive in his third annual year-end interview with The Business Monthly.

The evidence couldn’t be closer to home. Mike Pantelides, the young Republican mayor of Annapolis, was both popular and fairly successful, according to Schuh; yet he got just 38% of the vote against progressive Democrat Gavin Buckley, an Annapolis restaurateur.

Energized by resistance to President Trump, the number of Democratic voters “surged,” and “they voted strictly party line,” said Schuh.

“If that happens next year, we’re all going to be in trouble,” Schuh said. “I’m only in this office because a very large percentage of Democrats voted for me. Same for Larry Hogan.”

Schuh now has a credible Democratic challenger. Hundreds of Democrats gathered Dec. 16 in the “big barn” on Dodon Farm, in Davidsonville, as horse farmer and former community organizer Steuart Pittman announced his run for Anne Arundel County executive. “We’re growing too fast,” Pittman said in one of his key themes, citing a fundraising letter from Schuh cheering that the county was “growing by leaps and bounds.”

“If we raise $1 million, we can beat Steve Schuh’s $3 million easily,” said Pittman, as he collected a $1,000 check from the county’s firefighters union.

Land Use Issues

Schuh doesn’t doubt that there are some people upset about development issues. “Overdevelopment mainly means traffic,” Schuh said, like in the Waugh Chapel area of Route 3, where the commercial areas and accompanying traffic seem to grow every year. Schuh said the county is pushing the state to solve the Route 3 problems.

“Wherever we want to build a park, wherever we want to open a beach, wherever we want to build a boat ramp [or] … a bike trail, the immediate neighbors get upset,” said Schuh, mentioning the quality-of-life projects that have become part of his governing agenda. But it comes down to “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Schuh said in the next three to four years, the county executive’s office will be preoccupied by land use issues, as the new General Development Plan is put together.

“That will have major repercussions for many years to come,” Schuh said. His plan will have two major goals. One is to “preserve the rural land that remains. About 51% of the county is rural.”

Pittman doubts Schuh’s commitment to this goal, but the county executive is puzzled by Pittman’s complaint, since he said they’ve worked together on rural issues.

The second major goal is smart growth — guiding development to where infrastructure already exists for water and sewer, schools, public safety and roads.

Schuh said, “We’re going to be very focused on land use issues,” followed by economic growth and job creation, where he said Anne Arundel is already doing well.

“Household incomes are growing at a very rapid clip,” much faster than the state as a whole. “The overall [county] economy is well over $40 billion,” and unemployment is at 3%. “Our ability to expand our services are far more determined by the income tax than the property tax,” Schuh said.

Polling Confirms Positive Outlook

Schuh’s positive outlook on his job and the county’s conditions are confirmed by a poll taken in October by the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College, run by Professor Dan Nataf.

Among the key points relevant for Schuh are the following.

“The percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction was up from 51% last spring to 60% this fall ­— the highest level in recent years,” Nataf said, in his analysis. “County Executive Steve Schuh’s job approval rose to 49%, his highest mark thus far.” His disapproval rating is only at 18%; but surprisingly, three years into his term, 33% gave no answer, indicating lack of knowledge about Schuh.

Respondents also gave the county good marks on other issues the Nataf poll tested.

• “Ability to get a good public school education,” 39% were very satisfied, 43% somewhat satisfied, 82% combined;

• “The responsiveness of local elected officials to key problems,” 13% very satisfied, 45% somewhat satisfied, 58% combined;

• “The county’s ability to maintain and improve infrastructure like roads,” 13% very satisfied, 39% somewhat satisfied, 52% combined;

• “The effectiveness of the county’s response to rising opioid use,” 12% very satisfied, 34% somewhat satisfied, 46% combined;

• “The tax levels in this county compared to levels in other counties,” 10% very satisfied, 36% somewhat satisfied, 46% combined.

Schuh is particularly gratified by the response on taxes, showing he’s been effective in fulfilling a campaign promise to reduce taxes and fees. “The number of people concerned about overtaxation has plummeted,” Schuh said. And the awareness of opioid abuse “is five times what it was three years ago,” he said, an issue he’s championed for several years.

In the poll, 32% said crime and drugs were the most important problems facing county residents, while 12% cited growth and development, and 9% cited traffic.

The poll contacted 553 Anne Arundel County residents by landline and cell phone, and has a 4.5% margin of error.

Concerns about growth and development have grown in the last two years, coinciding with the improvement in the economy. In Nataf’s twice-a-year polling, development concerns fell drastically during the Great Recession from 2008 through the spring of 2015.

Support for Moore

Democrats blasted Schuh last month for a $1,000 contribution the executive made to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after he came to the county for a fundraiser in the fall.

“He gave a good speech,” Schuh said. “I didn’t know much about the guy.

“If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have contributed or attended the event.”

County Councilmember Michael Peroutka, recently elected chair of the council, has been a long-time supporter of Moore. They share a Bible-based view of the U.S. Constitution. In the past, that view has led Moore as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to defy federal court orders to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and to approve same-sex marriages.

Those widely-reported incidents all happened long before the recent allegations of Moore’s dating of teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Democrats have also called on Peroutka to resign from the council, which he refuses to do. The Democratic Party also filed a formal complaint against Judge Mark Crooks, who attended the same event and had his picture taken with Moore. Crooks was Hogan’s deputy counsel before the governor appointed him to the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Crooks must run for election this year to retain his seat, and he said he attends many political events. He also said he knew little about Moore.

Schuh has already endorsed Peroutka’s re-election, and he will also be supporting candidates for other offices in Anne Arundel County, such as its first election for the non-partisan Board of Education. “Because of my position as county executive, people expect me to be involved in all the campaigns. I have put a lot of time and effort to get to know all the candidates for the school board, and share our opinions with the electorate.”

Re-Election Bid?

Last month, I bumped into Sen. John Astle, who lost the Democratic primary to Buckley, on his way to his office in Annapolis. Astle said: “Thank God I lost. I’m the happiest loser you’ve ever met. What was I thinking?”

He agreed that Annapolis has a weak mayor by charter, “but you get blamed for everything.” Asked whether he was planning to run for reelection, the six-term senator said, “I’m mulling it over.”

Government Contracting: Here’s What’s New in Government Contracting

The federal government is taking steps to bring contracting processes into a new era through the development of the Acquisition Gateway, a new website and portal developed by the General Services Administration (GSA).

The initial intent is to provide “A workspace for acquisition professionals and federal buyers to connect with resources, tools and each other to improve acquisition government-wide” as an introduction on the home page states. The website, at hallways.cap.gsa.gov, follows the current style favored by those who use their phones as a primary Internet access tool, with large graphics and photos, and little written content readily available.

However, this belies the value to both government decision-makers and contractors.

What It’s Got

The welcome video is helpful and states that the Acquisition Gateway is the online hub for acquisition professionals and their daily activities. This is a crowd-sourcing site for (and by) contracting officers, contracts specialists, program managers, project managers and end-users, and it has two iterations: one for government employees and one for everyone else.

Within the website, currently 10 “hallways” are listed to organize category-specific information and tools. These tools include data, acquisition vehicles, market intelligence, prices paid information and analysis. Also included in a library are statements of work, a tool to locate appropriate government-wide acquisition vehicles, a project center to organize the acquisition and a community feature for live interaction with other professionals.

The current 10 (reduced from the original 17) “hallways” are facilities & construction, human capital, industrial products and services, information technology, medical, office management, professional services, security and protection, transportation and logistics, and travel.

However, what is there today will be different tomorrow, as the site is under constant change, adapting to the recommendations and feedback of the community using it. User involvement includes live discussions, contributions of statements of work, objectives, performance work statements and emailed feedback.

An Evolving Site

The constantly-changing nature of this website incorporates the agile development process, which is driven by user-centric design and a constant feedback loop — resulting in a growing resource or a maddeningly ever-changing website.

As a government decision-maker, any one of the professionals involved in the contracting process may use the solutions tool to identify specific contract vehicles for the needed product or service. They can find a library of documents as they create their own contract, as well as a live chatting function to ask and answer questions.

Another tool is the “prices paid” data set, which provides a historical tracking of labor rates and product pricing. These specific tools are available only to government users with appropriate credentials.

The Contract-Awarded Labor Category (CALC) Tool is now available to the government and to vendors. The intent is to help contracting professionals conduct market research and pricing analysis on professional service labor categories. The results shown are awarded hourly rates from GSA IDIQ service schedules; CALC is available at www.calc.gsa.gov.

From the contractor perspective, vendors see both benefits and challenges in this new tool. Hurdles are created because category management is a recent buzzword that roughly translates into fewer opportunities, but much larger contracts. The CALC Tool is a quick way to check competitive labor rates, a time-saver for contractors.

Another publicly available tool is the Forecast of Contract Opportunities. This forecast is searchable by keyword, place of performance, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, projected solicitation date, contract type and acquisition strategy. As of the late December 2017, there were 3,432 forecasted opportunities listed, which is just a fraction of what is ultimately available.

For instance, a recent test for forecasted opportunities including the keyword “cyber” yielded 14 results with the places of performance located from Maryland to California, with estimated contract values ranging from $1 to more than $327 million.

Another Tool

Success of this forecast listing will depend largely on the adoption of the tool by agencies and their willingness to post them on this GSA-built website. As a point of clarification, the site is not limited to GSA-only vehicles, but allows many types of government-wide and individual contract vehicles.

One of the Acquisition Gateway tools not yet public is the Vendor Finder Tool. The purpose of this tool is to help acquisition professionals with market research and analysis in identifying possible vendors for specific needs. The raw data resources used to populate the Vendor Finder Tool are www.SAM.gov, the SBA Profile at www.dsbs.sba.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System.

The intent is to eventually provide a full range of industry searches. Contractors of all sizes would be well served to immediately improve all federal registrations with appropriate NAICS codes, keywords and phrases, as well as past performance listings, so this new tool can immediately identify the best-matched vendors with the acquisition professionals requiring their services or products.

Gloria Larkin is president and CEO of TargetGov, in Linthicum. Email glorialarkin@targetgov.com, visit www.targetgov.com or call 866-579-1346 for more information.

AWARDED CONTRACTS

The following information regarding awarded contracts can be used to develop prime contractor, subcontractor and teaming partner relationships on these and other opportunities. For more information, contact TargetGov at 410-579-1346.

• Elta North America, Annapolis Junction, won a $39,270,867 contract from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center for counter unmanned aerial system supplies. http://eltanorthamerica.com/contact

• John C. Grimberg Co., Rockville, won a $46,630,000 contract from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command for replacement of a middle school and high school at the Marine Corps base, Quantico, Va. The work to be performed provides for the demolition of the existing middle school/high school and construction of a new, two-story middle school/high school, baseball field, related field lighting and parking lot improvements. www.grimberg.com/Subcontractors

• KBR Wyle Technology Solutions, Columbia, won a $69,301,409 contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division for the procurement of installation, systems integration, test and evaluation, in-service engineering, logistics, repair and validation, training, lab maintenance, quality assurance and technical management services for the Multi-Mission Datalink System. ww2.wyle.com/contracts/index.html

• Leidos Innovations Corp., Gaithersburg, won a $22,626,937 contract from the Army Contracting Command for service to Intelligence and Security Command G-3 Foundry Service, in Korea. www.leidos.com/contact

• ManTech Advanced Systems International, Lexington Park, won a $35,884,175 contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division for engineering and technical services in support of the Combat Integrated and Identification Systems (CI&IDS) Division for Systems Engineering and Technical Services Department (AIR-4.11.2) including systems engineering, research and analysis, technology assessment, requirements analysis, risk analysis, performance analysis and design engineering, test bed design and development, system test and evaluation, interface engineering, system integration engineering, installation and checkout planning, field engineering and technical support, engineering documentation, training services and quality assurance in support of CI&IDS. www.mantech.com/Pages/suppliers.aspx

• Melwood Horticultural Training Center, Upper Marlboro, won an $8,008,672 contract from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command for custodial services, including trash removal, cleaning, vacuuming, floor cleaning and scrubbing, re-lamping, specialized cleaning of the John Paul Jones Crypt, and basketball floor installation and removal at the U.S. Naval Academy. www.melwood.org/contact-us

• Raytheon Co. Space & Airborne Systems, Aberdeen Proving Ground, won a $30,377,500 contract Air Force Life Cycle Management Center for new and upgraded APX-119 identification friend or foe transponders in support of C-130H and C-130J programs. www.raytheon.com/contact/index.html?id=corporate

• The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, won a $125 million contract from the Virginia Contracting Activity for essential engineering, research and development capabilities to the Defense Intelligence Agency. www.jhuapl.edu/aboutapl/default.asp

• The Scale People, Columbia, won a $19,395,495 contract from the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support for hospital equipment and accessories. www.scalepeople.com/index.php/contact_us_the_scale_people_maryland_virginia

• Unity Technologies Corp., Myersville, won an $8,994,990 contract from the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution for professional support services. www.unitytec.com/government-services.html

Letter From the CMC Board Chair

Dear Business Monthly Readers,

The board of directors, staff and members of the Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) welcome you to this special publication by The Business Monthly.

The CMC formed in early 2017 when two successful chambers, the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber and the West Anne Arundel County Chamber, merged together. The CMC has already established a strong legacy of connecting and strengthening the Central Maryland business community through advocacy, education, professional development and creating powerful relationships.

With a growing membership of nearly 550 businesses representing approximately 100,000 professionals, the CMC is considered one of the top business associations in Maryland, and the largest multi-county regional chamber in the state. From the Baltimore Beltway to the Washington, D.C., Beltway, the CMC serves members principally located in Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George’s counties.

Having more than 30 years of banking experience in the Central Maryland region, I am excited about leading this organization and its members. The CMC already has made a strong impact on the regional business ecosystem, and we are excited about our plans for the New Year.

In 2018, more than 100 events and programs are planned to provide members and guests with networking opportunities that lead to relationships with new clients and strategic partners. We will offer programs focused on advancing pro-business legislation, encouraging women in business, offering guidance to small business owners, and giving recognition to those most deserving — our military, first responders, teachers and our growing businesses.

The CMC board and staff are dedicated to supporting members and helping to grow the regional business economy. If you are a member of the chamber, I encourage you to take advantage of your membership and engage with the chamber. If you are not a member yet, I invite you to join the chamber and get involved. From personal experience, I can say that your business will benefit from being a part of the Central Maryland Chamber.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey S. Armiger
BB&T
Market President

Economic Development Partnership Role Is a Natural Fit for CMC

In the intervening year since the merger of the Baltimore Washington Corridor and West Anne Arundel County chambers of commerce, the Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) has made some confident strides in establishing a well-defined identity.

It’s still primarily a business resource and regional business advocate. But much like the character of any wine is affected by terroir, the circumstances of territory, economy and historic context have helped shape the CMC’s transition, allowing certain unique aspects to be more fully expressed in the final blend.

“We just stood up a Regional Economic Development Committee,” noted CMC’s inaugural CEO Raj Kudchadkar. “We’re exploring how we can maximize our role and our unique position as a regional chamber.”

It’s certainly no coincidence that Kudchadkar initially was hired as CEO of the West Anne Arundel Chamber and asked to continue in that role for the CMC. His background as executive director of the Base (formerly BRAC) Business Initiative (BBI) and deputy director of Howard County’s Department of Planning and Zoning made him “a natural choice,” said former West County Chamber Board Chair Randy Fisher in a 2016 interview with The Business Monthly. “He has the type of entrepreneurial spirit any chamber would want.”

Likewise, it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of the CMC counting the economic development organizations of Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George’s counties as close strategic partners.

“I think the Regional Economic Development Committee is really going to define the unique role we play as a chamber in this region,” Kudchadkar said.

Opportunity Abounds

The CMC held its first Economic Forecast Luncheon last year on Oct. 30 at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum, featuring a regional economic development panel as part of the program. Speakers from the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC), Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) and Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. (PGCEDC) provided updates on their respective jurisdictions.

“We continue to see tremendous growth in the western part of the county,” said AAEDC President and CEO Julie Mussog. “BWI [airport] continues to show incredible growth in both cargo and passenger traffic, with a $60 million new expansion … and six additional international gates.”

In Howard County, the historically low unemployment rate is translating to a key challenge in the war for talent in the high tech sector.

“Across sectors we’ve got … sub-10% vacancy rates and very strong property fundamentals,” said HCEDA Vice President of Business Development Mark Thompson.

David Lewis, director of economic development for PGCEDC, said his county led the state in job growth for the initial three quarters of 2017, adding 11,000 net new jobs.

Opportunity abounds in Howard County’s Maple Lawn and Annapolis Junction Town Center developments, at Arundel Gateway and Brandon Woods III in Anne Arundel County and in the Westphalia Town Center in Prince George’s County.

“The Purple Line light rail transit system broke ground on Aug. 28,” Lewis said, highlighting the $2 billion construction project that will connect New Carrollton and Bethesda along 16 miles with 21 stations.

“Konterra Town Center East in Laurel is scheduled to begin construction in 2018,” he added, encompassing 350 acres already entitled for 12 million square feet of mixed-use development.

According to Kudchadkar, the CMC will be looking closely at some of the additional larger projects and actions that will be impacting the region. These include the state’s interest in developing a high-speed superconducting magnetic levitation transportation system, the Camden Line Coalition’s efforts to increase capacity and ridership on the MARC line, and the expansion of Tipton Airport’s runway alongside its growing role in regional commerce.

Chamber Strengths

Speaking to the benefits the CMC is working to bring to the region, “We appreciate the efficiency that the consolidation [of chambers] brings,” Mussog said. “Through the CMC, AAEDC continues its connection to many of the businesses in West County and those located along the Parkway.”

The chamber doesn’t just focus on business engagement, resources and advocacy, she said. “It also is a stakeholder in moving forward development projects in West County … and has a role in promoting Fort Meade. We envision working with them for many years to come to amplify the business opportunities and development efforts in what is one of the fastest growing communities in Maryland.”

Looking back on a year of working with the CMC, PGCEDC Vice President Pradeep Ganguly said his organization is “pleased with the new leadership, focus and direction. We look forward to a continued partnership with the CMC.”

HCEDA CEO Larry Twele said the CMC is providing a unique forum to bring the three counties’ economic development organizations together to talk on a regular basis about what’s going on — and the opportunity that exists — in each of the adjacent jurisdictions.

“It allows us to reach a little further into those jurisdictions than we’re used to doing,” he said. “The businesses we deal with don’t survive on their own, they have to be networked, and this extends our ability to help and support them. It’s a great example of a collaborative effort.”

Breaking It Down

Post-merger, the CMC’s membership has been hovering around 600, making it one of the largest chambers in the state.

“About 45% of our membership is headquartered in Anne Arundel County, 35% in Prince George’s County, 15% in Howard County and the other 5% comes from Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City and a sprinkling of District of Columbia companies,” Kudchadkar said. “Our catchment area covers roughly 30 miles in diameter centered on a pin in the middle of Fort Meade, covering about 75% of our membership.”

The densest concentration is located in western Anne Arundel, eastern Howard and northern Prince George’s counties, ranging from sole proprietors to businesses with more than 20,000 employees.

“The largest portion of our businesses, more than 30%, have 10 employees or fewer,” Kudchadkar said, and include corporations, nonprofits and government entities.

The CMC is still tweaking its brand and identity focus, though it’s now finalized for the most part.

“When you go through a merger, things will be different for both sets of memberships,” Kudchadkar observed. “One was regional to begin with, the other was more localized. You’re not going to meet everybody’s needs.”

Strategic Plan

Now that a year’s worth of financial and legal due diligence has put the chamber on stable footing, the focus in 2018 will be on developing a strategic plan.

“We can begin looking five years or 10 years out,” Kudchadkar said. “We’re actively engaged in regional transportation and small business support, but we don’t have a Workforce Development Committee; is that something we need to look at? We also don’t have a government contracting committee; as a regional chamber that’s something we should be looking at more closely.”

Kudchadkar’s experience of running the BBI program and matching up small businesses with opportunity generated by the growth around Fort Meade is now beginning to pay dividends, not only for himself and the companies he’s worked with, but for the region’s entire economic ecosystem.

“I’ve had many different jobs in government, the private sector, nonprofits, practicing law and teaching, but this is the best job I’ve ever had, and I absolutely love working with the businesses here,” Kudchadkar said. “I have the easiest job in the world because this chamber is in such a vibrant area. Selling this area isn’t hard, it’s just making sure people know about it.”

Central Maryland Chamber ‘A Sweet Spot’ for Networking

Gary Haynes, a Realtor based in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County for seven years, became involved in the West County Chamber early on, eventually serving on its board of directors. “I just thought it was a great chamber for businesses, and it did a lot of things to help its members instead of just sitting there and hoping things went well,” he said.

Now he is equally enthusiastic about the new Central Maryland Chamber, believing it combines the positive attributes of the merged West County and Baltimore-Washington Corridor chambers into a strong combination. “It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s a sweet spot for what’s going on in the region, in my opinion.”

He has been involved with the Central Maryland Chamber’s Ambassador Committee for 10 months. The committee serves as a liaison to new members, orienting them to chamber activities, events and committees, and develops outreach programs to recognize existing members. The Ambassador Committee also develops and implements a strategic membership development plan, including sector analysis, benefits match and prospect identification, and supports the Ambassador Club’s retention efforts.

Simply put, “it’s a great way to get people to go meet other people,” said Haynes, who was in financial services executive management before becoming a Realtor. “In other words,” he joked, “it’s the care and feeding of new members.”

Fueling Chamber Membership

On the Ambassador Committee, Haynes has a chance to observe new members and offer them recommendations on how to get the most out of their chamber membership.

“A lot of people join the chamber and then sit back and wait for the business to roll in, and it just doesn’t work that way,” said Haynes. “That’s why we try to stay in touch with members and make sure they are participating.”

Becoming a chamber member can help people learn how to network, he added. “I do a lot of networking through the chamber and through other sources. At these events, you just watch people. If they don’t try to nurture relationships, not much business comes in, and there’s a reason for it.”

Haynes is a Realtor with the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate part of the J. Melvin Group. In addition to providing personal and professional assistance, he also offers online real estate tools enabling prospective buyers and sellers to find, buy and sell homes in the Annapolis metro area, including Annapolis, Edgewater, Crofton, Arnold, Davidsonville, Severna Park, Crownsville, Bowie, Odenton and the rest of Anne Arundel County.

A Flood of Possibilities

With regard to the severe flooding that struck Ellicott City in the summer of 2016, Haynes said the offices of the J. Melvin Premier Properties “had really bad luck and really good luck.” After staffing a new office in Ellicott City in May 2016, and opening the storefront on July 1, the office was left in ruins by the flood on July 30.

When nearby Main Street businesses — including A Journey from Junk and Salon Marielle — were inundated by floodwater that took out the front sidewalk and exposed their underlying structures, the water and debris washed into the realty offices. The structural integrity of the building was completely compromised. That was the bad news.

But two pieces of good news soon followed. The first was that real estate agents who worked out of J. Melvin Premier Properties donated 10% of their commissions from selling homes to fund relief efforts in Ellicott City.

The second good news, said Haynes, “is that we moved down the street to an old bank building built in 1905. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and that’s where we are now. It’s got three stories, and the top story is available for the community to use. We just had an art exhibit up there last week.”

Haynes and his colleagues enjoy being part of the once-again-thriving Ellicott City, and regularly participate in community events there.

A Thriving Market

For Haynes, 2017 has been, overall, “a good year,” he said, though he quickly added: “but all Realtors have different opinions.”

“The spring was the best spring I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We would have multiple offers coming in at higher prices than asked, and that continued over the summer.”

“I had a house in southern Bowie on the market for nine days, and I got $10,000 more than the asking price. I just closed last Friday,” he added, saying he sees robust markets in both Anne Arundel and Howard counties. Haynes credited the connection to major cities and major places of employment with keeping the local housing market strong.

As fall winds on, the market is still “really robust,” Haynes said, “and if you have a house that’s reasonably priced and well-cared-for, and it shows really well, it will sell quickly.”

With Orthotics and a Team Approach, Dankmeyer Changes Patients’ Lives

Dankmeyer Inc., the largest provider of orthoses and prostheses in Maryland, has an ear for patients’ requests — and they never stop coming.

“There is always a constant request to make a better limb replacement — one which is more comfortable, more durable and more like the limb that was lost,” said Mark Hopkins, president and CEO; who was joined by Joseph DeLorenzo, COO; and Barbara DeLorenzo, accounting manager for Dankmeyer. “Technology has been able to provide much of that,” said Hopkins. “The biggest changes have come from advances in prosthesis technology and materials.”

The three executives collaborated in describing the company’s culture, growth and membership in the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

“We have grown from the days where devices were heavy and cumbersome, made with wood, leather and steel, to today’s advancements where lightweight devices are made of materials such as carbon and epoxy for sockets and feet, titanium components, silicone liners for skin protection and specialized suspension techniques that allow for improved movement and comfort,” they explained. “The advancement of microprocessor technology for prosthetic knees, prosthetic feet, prosthetic hands and prosthetic elbows is just amazing.”

Orthoses — custom-designed external devices such as braces and splints used to control or counteract the effect of an actual or developing deformity — have advanced as well, with microprocessor knee joints, and lightweight yet strong and flexible carbon and epoxy materials. “These advancements in technology have helped patients walk better and longer than the older version of metal and leather braces attached to the shoe,” said the team.

Building Community Trust

Dankmeyer, known for its community involvement, has gradually and quietly become a trusted presence throughout the state and even nationwide. This involvement grew gradually, said the team.

“Sixty years ago, people with disabilities were not looked upon favorably. They were not hired due to their disabilities; they were not promoted. They did their best to hide their problem, whether it be missing a limb or having a limp,” they said. “Today the view about disabled individuals has changed drastically for the better. We have always fostered partnerships and relationships with local hospitals, physicians and therapists.”

This has led to teaching opportunities within hospitals, which leads to colleges needing more classes and programs. More college students than ever are interested in the field of prosthetics and orthotics, and Dankmeyer often gets requests from college students to visit and shadow at its facility for a day to get an idea of what is happening in the field. High schools and grade schools also reach out.

Collaboration to the Core

From Dankmeyer’s perspective, “multi-disciplinary” refers to a collaboration, and a medical team with the patient at the center: patient-centered care.

“The goal of multi-disciplinary collaboration is to discuss and come up with a comprehensive care plan with many views for a specific patient, to work together to figure out how best to help the patient achieve his or her goals,” said the team. “This includes determining the best device for the patient, as well as what physical or occupational therapy treatments are needed.”

Patient-centered care also includes follow-up with the patient to see if adjustments need to be made. “It also helps when all the professionals who are working with the patient are seeing the patient together at one time,” said the Dankmeyer leaders. “Having a collaborative team working together to answer questions about a wound, limb loss, therapy and the appropriate device helps to achieve a positive outcome for the patient.”

The typical core multi-disciplinary team includes a physician, physical therapist or occupational therapist, and a prosthetist or orthotist. Some settings and situations also include nurses, rehabilitation psychologists, social workers and other specialists.

Dankmeyer has several research projects in the works, and all are focused on a team approach to patient-centered care. “Several of them involve digital fabrication and our plans to move our clinical practice to a primarily digital and collaborative platform,” said the Dankmeyer team. “This involves all aspects of our practice and would include mobile apps, web-based portals, paperless medical records, digital body scanning and direct digital fabrication.”

Looking Ahead, and Saving on Energy Costs

As Dankmeyer looks ahead, the team wants to fully develop their mission to enrich the lives of all they serve by creating a true business model for all four of their primary objectives: patient care, research and development, education and business, and process effectiveness.

Dankmeyer joined the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce after hearing about the cost savings on gas and electric bills through the chamber’s energy cooperative. “We have been a part of the co-op for many years, and although we have not taken advantage of many of the networking opportunities the chamber has to offer, we like being a part of the chamber,” said the team. “We especially like being kept informed about what is happening in the Baltimore-Washington area business community and knowing we are a member of a great organization.”

Stability’s the Watchword for Bormel, Grice & Huyett

For four consecutive years, Accounting Today magazine has named Laurel-based certified public accounting firm Bormel, Grice & Huyett P.A. (BGH) as one of the nation’s best accounting firms to work for.

The annual list, created by Accounting Today in partnership with Best Companies Group, comprises 100 CPA firms nationwide.

“We like to think we’re doing something right,” said BGH Partner Larry Bormel, who has served with the firm for 40 years. “I think it really has to do with the atmosphere of our firm. We have a great collaborative atmosphere that emphasizes flexibility to suit our staff’s personal schedule, and giving everyone a lot of responsibility and a lot of opportunities to learn and grow.”

Founded in 1968 by Henry Pear, the firm will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018. Throughout those years it has provided high quality accounting, tax, audit, financial, business and professional services.

“Some of the areas we focus on are real estate and construction, not-for-profit organizations, professional service providers and a wide array of businesses,” Bormel said. “We are a business-oriented firm, but we also have more than 500 individual income tax clients in addition to all of our businesses.”

Most of BGH’s clients are located within the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, “although we do have clients in virtually every state in the country,” he noted.

Steady Seas

The steadiness with which BGH appears on Accounting Today’s Best Companies list attests to the stability that the firm and its partners have worked to achieve.

Partners Kathy Grice and Anna Huyett have each been with the firm for 35 years, while relative newcomer Ray Plummer has spent 14 years at BGH.

Moreover, the firm has been located in Laurel since its inception.

“We have 25 people on staff, and the average tenure with us is 16 years,” Bormel observed. “We have a very unique accounting firm with virtually no turnover, which is unusual because accounting firms typically see a lot of turnover.”
Adding to that sense of stability is the customer base BGH serves.

“We’re really blessed with great clients, and in fact, our 10 largest clients have been the same clients for the last five to 10 years,” Bormel acknowledged. “[Our stability] comes down to having great staff and a great client base that continues to expand and keeps doing things that help keep us expanding along with them.”

Longtime Chamber Involvement

Community service is an important consideration for the firm, Bormel said, an outlook that has driven BGH’s involvement with most of the community organizations in the Laurel area.

Bormel serves on the Howard County Hospital Foundation Board, Kathy Grice serves on the Laurel Regional Hospital Foundation Board, and Anna Huyett is involved with the Community Action Council of Howard County.

“There are so many organizations we are supportive of, but we have been involved with the Baltimore Washington Chamber, and now the Central Maryland Chamber (CMC), for our entire 50-year existence,” Bormel said, the firm having provided no less than four different chairmen on that organization’s board.

“Ray Plummer has continued that involvement and was part of the leadership to help ensure a smooth transition to the CMC,” he added.

According to Plummer, the transition has gone smoother than anticipated.

“One of the reasons we joined the chamber is networking, and getting information from local governments and state government,” Plummer said. “Raj [Kudchadkar]’s connections there have been very helpful.”

Membership pays big benefits for smaller members like BGH, he stressed.

“We just attended the Economic Forecast Luncheon, which was a great event to help small businesses learn about what’s going on in the local economy and what’s going on in the regional economy,” Plummer explained. “It’s not like we’re a big bank or a big business where they have this kind of [information] coming in all the time. [CMC] is trying to provide members with what they need, especially from the small and local business aspect.”

Plummer said he plans to attend an executive meeting in the coming weeks to discuss new members coming on to the CMC board. “Our firm will stay very involved with the chamber,” he said.

Planning the Future

As an added service, BGH publishes a blog on its website that addresses trends and current events that affect or concern clients and others interested in the areas that the firm specializes in.

Recent topics have included information on tax relief for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma victims, as well as student loan debt relief for Maryland residents.

“We’re always monitoring changes in tax laws,” Bormel said. Right now there are so many people speculating and waiting for what the new tax laws will be under the [Trump] administration, we’re trying to see how that’s relevant to our clients.”

Because BGH has been around for such a long time and has such a stable clientele, the firm has begun to see increasing demand for multi-generational planning services.

“A lot of our clients are on second- and third-generation ownership,” Bormel said. “Transitioning to those future generations of owners and trying to help them by catering to their needs and the things that are important to them is something we’re really focused on”

As for BGH’s own longevity, “It’s not any deep, dark secret,” Bormel said. “It’s just a lot of hard work and a lot of great people keeping on top of our clients’ needs. Our clients love the fact that they’re working with the same people year in and year out, building trust and familiarity.”

CMC Monthly Committee Meetings

• Business Owners Roundtable
Led by: Ed Coogan, Business and Personal Insurance Services
Meets: 2nd Friday of each month, 8:30–9:30 a.m.
Confidential think-tank/sounding board for business owners to give and receive the benefit of their experiences to help solve business challenges. Discussions help business owners make better strategic decisions, focus on “the right things” and build relationships with other business owners.

• Chamber Ambassador Committee (CAC)
Led by: Matt Slovick, AFLAC, and Nancy LaJoice
Meets: 2nd Wednesday of each month, 8:30–9:30 a.m.
Serves to welcome and engage new members, educate and encourage existing members to take advantage of their member benefits. Helps recruits new members to the chamber.

• Legislative Committee
Led by: Allyson Black, BGE, and Raj Kudchadkar
Meets mainly by conference call while the General Assembly is in session.
Establishes legislative priorities and reviews bills affecting the business community, identifies those requiring action by the CMC, and coordinates chamber testimony before the General Assembly.

• Military Affairs Committee (*$100 additional fee)
Led by: Lynn Nichols, Keller Williams Flagship of MD
Meets the 2nd Thursday of the month at 9 a.m. in the Odenton Chamber Conference Room
Plans events in support of the personnel and families at Fort Meade in an effort to build a strong connection between the local business community and the Fort.

• Odenton Action Coalition
Led by: Linda Schuett, Blumenthal, Delavan, Powers and Palmer P.A., Chairman
Meets: 1st Thursday of each month, 9–10:30 a.m.
Advocates for the growth and development of the Odenton Town Center and regional development issues. Ensures transportation and infrastructure issues in the growing community receive public support.

• Regional Economic Development Committee
Coming Soon. Contact the chamber office for more information.

• Small Business Council
Led by: Chris Barber, Cheaper Than A Geek
Meets 6 times a year, on the 1st Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. in the Odenton Chamber Conference Room
The Small Business Council (SBC) supports the chamber’s small business members through a variety of efforts that include The Business Resource Center, Small Business Series, Shop Small and Shop Local, as well as other programs, all designed to enhance members’ business growth and profitability.

• Women Mean Business
Led by: Nikki Colea, SERVPRO Crofton /Odenton/Severn
Meets: 6 times a year on the 4th Wednesday of the month, 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Locations vary.
To empower women in various stages of their careers as they seek growth through relationship-building.

CMC members are invited to join a committee in three quick steps:
1. Pick a committee of interest.
2. Call the chamber office to confirm the date/time/location of the meeting, 410-672-3422.
3. Attend the next meeting.
For information about these events and committees, visit www.centralmarylandchamber.org.

2018 Networking and Business Development Opportunities

• Small Business Series – Professionally delivered, educational business topics designed to help you grow both personally and professionally. Each offers great networking opportunities. 6–8 programs a year. Free for members. Non-member fee.

• Business Connections Network – Highly effective leads group meets monthly. Members only, free.

• Membership 101 – Introductory program highlights how to get the most value out of membership. Meets monthly. Free for all.

• Networking Mixers – Evening networking events hosted by members who want to showcase their business. 30-plus attendees. 4–6 events per year. Free for members. Non-member fee.

• Power Breakfast Meetings – Speed networking events in partnership with other organizations. Attended by 50-plus. Locations and dates vary.

• Women Mean Business Luncheons – Educational seminars geared towards the needs of businesswomen. Productive conversations paired with food and a variety of educational topics designed to help build and improve business skills. Topics/locations vary. 4–6 programs per year.

CMC Energy Cooperative Gives Members Group Buying Power

When electricity and natural gas deregulation legislation was fully implemented in 2004, very few options were available for chamber members to choose an alternate supplier. The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC, formerly the BWCC) established a purchasing cooperative based on the premise that the buying power of the group would result in long-term savings and budget stability to each participating member.

The approach worked, and today members are able to receive lower prices than they can receive on their own by participating in the cooperative buying program. The pricing is typically an all-in fixed price with no usage restrictions for a set contract period, usually 24 to 36 months in duration. Regulated utility delivery fees are not included and are set by rates published by the local utility.

The average chamber member’s annual savings, when compared to the utility standard offer service rate, as of the fall of 2017 is $2,150 per year. The overall annual savings of the group in 2017 is $487,400.

The fall enrollment campaign has secured rates for contracts through to 2020, which will increase the savings when compared to the members’ prior contracts to $2,450 per year. The reduction in cost helps offset the cost of chamber membership, which is an added benefit from participation.

Similar results are reported for members who have natural gas accounts in spite of record low market rates in 2017. Members participating in the natural gas cooperative are looking more for budget stability during the winter heating season. Cooperative members were able to avoid the “winter vortex” price increases in 2015 by being on a fixed rated contract through the cooperative.

The cooperative consultant, CQI Associates, professionally manages the procurement program and has 23 years of industry experience in Maryland. The firm is licensed by the Maryland Public Service Commission to represent buyers in what has become an increasing complex procurement process. The chamber and CQI Associates conduct competitive bids to multiple suppliers to seek the best price and contract term for the participating members, unlike other programs where the members have only one supplier option.

Learn how your business and home can benefit from joining the Energy Purchasing Cooperative by calling the Central Maryland Chamber at 410-672-3422 or by email to Nancy LaJoice at Nancy@centralmarylandchamber.org.

2018 CMC Signature Events

Signature events are large events that are held once a year.

Spirit of Community Awards
Monday, March 19
A celebration of people who make our region special, this dinner honors educators, public safety officers and military personnel for their community contributions.

Annual Meeting and Business Awards
Tuesday, May 1
Keynote speaker – Dr. Freeman Hrabowski
Celebrating accomplishments, highlighting upcoming plans and showcasing annual Hall of Fame award-winners.

Power Connections Breakfast
August, TBD
Largest speed-networking event of the year. Sold out in 2017 with 290 attendees. Highly productive two-hour event.

Central Maryland Tasting
Thursday, September 20
Restaurants showcase their foods for free to attract future diners. A delicious, fun and productive evening of networking for attendees.

Economic Forecast Event
Friday, November 9
This annual luncheon features expert economists who share their national and local outlook for the new year. Business leaders attend to gain valuable insight that helps them plan and budget for the year.

Holiday Mixer
Wednesday, December 5
A popular holiday event with great food and networking. Bring the whole team and make this your holiday party.

600 Reasons to Grow With the CMC

The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) is making things happen.

Formed when two successful chambers (Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber, BWCC, and West County Chamber, WCC) merged, the CMC has a strong legacy of connecting and strengthening the business community through advocacy, education, professional development and powerful relationships. Today, with a growing membership of nearly 600 businesses representing more than 100,000 professionals, the CMC is considered one of the top business associations in Maryland and the largest regional chamber in the state.

Advocacy, Promotion, Information, Connections

Through membership in the CMC, you have the opportunity to make valuable connections, find new clients and save money. Some of the benefits to membership include the following.

• Regional Connections: CMC’s unique regional focus offers one of the easiest ways to build strong connections and an affordable way to market and promote your business.

• Committee Networking: CMC’s active committees give members an opportunity to make a difference, perfect leadership skills, build relationships, gain new clients, get referrals and work on projects that benefit their business and the business community.

• Marketing, Free Business Promotion: CMC features member news, milestones and announcements in its newsletter and on its Facebook page and website. Additionally, new members are mentioned on the radio (WNAV 99.9FM/1430AM).

• Regional Information: Members stay informed of regional developments, procurement opportunities, trends and issues that are important to their business success.

• Exclusive Member Discounts: Members can save money on everything Office Depot/Office Max sells, email marketing and more. There is free sign-up for members.

• New Business Referrals: CMC is frequently contacted by people seeking products, services and information. Member businesses are referred.

• Energy Program: Since 2004, the program has saved businesses a substantial amount of money on their electric and natural gas costs. Sign-up is free for members.

• Added Seal of Credibility: A recent study shows that “consumers are 80% more likely to buy from a chamber member.” Your membership shows potential buyers your commitment to excellence in business and a commitment to the community.

For more information, contact Nancy LaJoice, membership director, at 410-672-3422, ext. 4, or Nancy@CentralMarylandChamber.org.

New Year, New Rules, and Some New Horizons for Businesses

Most diehard sports fans have an uncanny ability to instantly cite rules and recent rule changes, no matter how esoteric or obscure. Many business professionals, by comparison, find themselves paying particular attention to very specific parts of their rulebooks and playbooks, happy to overlook things that don’t appear to concern them.

It’s difficult and rarely productive to commit everything to memory, or even to attempt to produce a succinct summary of the most recent changes in business law. Nevertheless, there are some recent developments and trends that businesses should be aware of.
One of the most obvious topics relevant to the business environment in Maryland focuses on changes made to the state’s General Corporation Law (MGCL) during the General Assembly’s last session.
“Many of the changes were based on corporate governance,” said Randy Fisher, founder of the Annapolis-based Fisher Law Office that focuses on business law and estate planning. “Some of the changes include making ownership easier for shareholders for their own personal planning purposes.”

A new provision in the law establishes jurisdiction rules for adjudicating internal corporate claims, permitting a corporation’s bylaws to require such claims to be filed only in courts sitting in one or more specified jurisdictions, provided the bylaws not prohibit filing in a Maryland state or federal court, he explained.

Other MGCL changes prohibit Maryland corporations with capital stock or a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) from imposing liability on a stockholder who is party to an internal corporate claim for attorney fees or other expenses; establish new rules for corporations and REITS regarding appointment of a resident agent for service of process in civil actions; expand the list of documents available for expedited processing by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation; and clarify the role of directors during the period when a charter is forfeited.

The new provision also simplifies the process of merging a Maryland corporation with or into a direct or indirect subsidiary to form a holding company.

Sick Leave

By far, 2018’s most anticipated proposed legislation in the corporate arena involves paid sick leave.

According to Fisher, Gov. Larry Hogan’s forthcoming bill would phase in paid sick leave benefits for businesses with 25 or more employees over a three-year period, and would allow businesses finding the provisions too burdensome to seek a hardship waiver.

“The proposed 2018 legislation would be accompanied by a separate $100 million plan to extend tax credits to businesses that offer paid sick leave, commuter benefits and other employee incentives,” he said. “What form any sick-leave bill takes will need to be watched by all small businesses.”

Likewise, Fisher said he continues to watch the drama in Washington regarding the Republican-backed overhaul of the federal tax code, which was passed by the Senate on Dec. 20 and approved by the House of Representatives later that same day, and is likely to be enacted by President Trump before this issue of The Business Monthly is published.

Social Media

Sole proprietors and owners of very small businesses may know the value of an online presence and the attendant social media accounts that are useful for branding and marketing, but many of these business owners overlook the question of what happens to those accounts in the event of their death.

According to Cynthia Lifson, a Columbia-based family law attorney, both private individuals and owners of very small businesses should be aware of their ability to designate who has access to their social media accounts after death.

Facebook, for example, allows account owners to designate a legacy contact, and Google makes provisions through its Inactive Account Manager service, while Twitter and other social media providers each have their own processes for dealing with this contingency.

“The Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act of 2016 also addresses some issues business owners should consider in either planning business succession or making sure someone has access to these accounts after they die,” Lifson said.

There are, however, limits to what these designees may do with any given account.

“You have to [plan] control of those accounts so that they can be transferred to new ownership,” acknowledged Fisher. “Those are often key elements to any small business marketing plan.”

Artificial Intelligence

As information technology advances, there are more than a few major questions that still need to be addressed concerning artificial intelligence (AI), specifically when it comes to legal theories of liability and aspects of intellectual property.

It ultimately will rest with the courts to decide who is at fault when, say, two autonomous vehicles collide, or when a smart contract system incorrectly records a transaction, or when a machine decision results in property damage or loss of life.

So far, any repercussions in the intellectual property arena stemming from the use of artificial intelligence appear to be a question for the future, provided existing patent law and intellectual property laws are up to the task of dealing with any accompanying legal implications.

At the moment, legal professionals are hardly in agreement on how to view the question.

“I don’t see an area of concern here,” Fisher said, noting that conventional thought places low odds on a patent resulting from computer-generated or computer-assisted claims.

His own research, he said, suggests that improvements to existing inventions are the more likely outcome.

Jun Lee, a registered patent attorney and principal at the Rosenberg, Klein & Lee law firm in Ellicott City, suggested that any resulting product of AI might not be considered intellectual property because it wouldn’t result from an intellectual process.

“United States patent law and patent law in most other jurisdictions deem that patents can only be issued for inventions generated by natural persons,” Lee said.

Another possibility, according to Managing Director Paul Skalny of the Columbia-based Davis, Agnor, Rappaport & Skalny law firm, could lie in the traditional view of patents, which acknowledges both the inventor and the patent owner.

“If that piece of technology invents something else, it’s like a piece of software that does computations,” Skalny said. “It’s going to revert back to the owner of the underlying artificial intelligence technology. It’s possible that a third party would have some claim or right to the new invention … but that will be strictly dictated by the terms of the license agreement itself, as a contractual issue.”

Tax Reform Is Here: Here’s How You Might Be Impacted

Here are some highlights from the newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and how the changes may impact you.

When does the new law go into effect?

Note that none of the changes are retroactive to 2017 and will take effect for the tax filing year of 2018. That being said, many Americans will see some of the bill’s impact by February in the form of lower income tax rates.

According to the Tax Policy Center, 143 million Americans will pay lower federal income taxes in 2018, compared to 8.5 million who will probably pay more.

What kind of changes can we expect?

There will now be seven tax brackets, which are generally lower than current income tax brackets. However, unless extended, these brackets expire in 2025 and return back to our current rates.
Because the income tax rates will be lower, employers will take out less money from workers’ paychecks. Therefore, many Americans will see their take-home pay rise.

On average, people earning $10,000 or less per year can expect to keep an extra 0.1%, $500,000 or more per year an extra 4%, and those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 per year an extra 1.5%. The Joint Committee on Taxation reported similar results.

The people who are not likely to see a benefit will be those that live in states where there are high state and local income taxes and/or high real estate taxes, similar to Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (The new laws limit those deductions to $10,000 a year in total.)

The new law also eliminates personal exemptions; and many expenses, such as moving expenses, casualty losses, tax preparation services, work-related expenses, etc., no longer will be deductible. In exchange for losing these exemptions, the standard deduction, which is currently $6,350 for individuals and $12,500 for married couples, will almost double.

Because of the loss of personal exemptions and the limitation on state and local income and real property taxes, some families and individuals will not see a reduction in their overall income taxes, but may actually see an increase.

The higher child care and dependent care credit may be helpful to those with children.

The good news for participants in 401(k) and 403(b) or government savings plans is that the contribution limit rises $500 in 2018 to $18,500 ($24,500 if you are 50 or older). You should consider taking advantage of this by contributing more, thereby lowering your taxable income.

How are corporations impacted?

The law permanently reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

The law also repeals the current 20% corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), exempts companies from paying tax on money earned overseas, and lowers the repatriation tax from 35% to between 8% and 15.5%. This is expected to drive higher earnings for a large number of companies.

The tax overhaul limits the net interest payments a company can deduct to 30% of its earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization. Levels above that would be taxed.

How is the estate tax impacted?

The effort to repeal the federal estate tax failed.
For the next eight years, until Dec. 31, 2025, the estate, gift and Goods and Services Tax (GST) tax exemption doubles to about $11 million per person (or $22 million for a married couple). On Jan. 1, 2026, the exemption is cut in half.

If your assets are greater than $11 million per person (or $22 million for a married couple), consider using the entire exemption for estate, gift and GST tax during the next eight years; this may be a “use it or lose it” situation.

If the political winds in Congress change before Dec. 31, 2025, the estate, gift and GST tax exemption may also change. Therefore consider “estate freeze” techniques, such as Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), Irrevocable Trusts, Defective Grantor Trusts, etc.

Unless you are sure you are going to die prior to that date, still plan as if the estate, gift and GST tax exemption were at the current $5.5 million level, with a 40% estate tax on anything above the exemption amount.

Review and revise your current estate plan to check to make sure the provisions of your estate documents are still consistent with your family situation, given the new temporary increase to the estate, gift and GST tax exemption, and to make sure that your assets will pass to your desired beneficiaries in the most advantageous manner, such as to protect the inheritance from your beneficiaries’ lawsuits, creditors, nursing home costs, divorces and second marriages.

The Bottom Line

The new tax bill will impact all Americans one way or another. Now is the time to speak with your accountant, financial adviser and estate planning attorney to determine how you will personally be affected by the new laws and to discuss what, if any, adjustments you should make in turn.

Gary Altman, Esq., is principal and founder of Altman & Associates, which has offices in Columbia and Rockville. He can be reached at 301-468-3220.

Are Your Trade Secrets Actually Protected?

Does your business have trade secrets? Many people may respond “no” to this question. One reason for this answer may be that trade secrets often are viewed as a very special type of information, such as the Coca-Cola formula, possessed by only a few companies.

In reality, nearly all businesses potentially have trade secrets. Trade secrets may, in fact, be the lifeblood of a business, representing the information that your business uses to compete successfully in the marketplace.

Secrets of the Trade?

What are trade secrets? As set forth in 18 U.S. Code § 1839(3), “the term ‘trade secret’ means all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if —

(A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and

(B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.”

In other words, trade secrets may include any of your confidential information that has independent economic value. Your customer relationship management (CRM) data, operational practices and data, financial data, employee information, etc., all may be trade secrets, because that information has independent economic value.

Reasonable Measures

Whether or not your business information that has independent economic value is a trade secret may depend on whether your business takes reasonable measures to protect the information. In most businesses, reasonable measures generally involve executing Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with individuals and entities with whom they engage in business, in which the parties to the NDA agree to protect the confidential information of the other party. NDAs are one of the many agreements executed by companies on a regular basis as part of the ongoing operations of the business.

Despite the seemingly low-level, day-to-day nature of these agreements and their specific intent to protect confidential information, including trade secrets, NDAs may include terms that may not meet the reasonable measures standard. As such, trade secrets disclosed pursuant to NDAs may lose their trade secret and confidential information status over time.

The most common issues encountered with NDAs and the loss of protection generally involve the term of the NDA. For many valid reasons, NDAs often include a fixed term for the agreement, e.g., two to three years, along with early termination provisions. It is not the fixed term, per se, that results in the loss of trade secret and confidential information status, but the fact that after the termination of the agreement, 1) any further information disclosed is not protected, and 2) the obligation to protect confidential information that has already been disclosed may end with the termination of the agreement or after a period of time following the termination of the agreement.

When an agreement terminates or the obligation to protect ends, it can, and has been, argued that reasonable measures are no longer being taken. As such, your business information may no longer meet the test for a trade secret or even confidential information and may be freely used by entities that have received the information for purposes that may not be in the best interests of your business.

Staying Protected

What steps can your business take to help protect its trade secrets and other confidential information?

1. Review the NDAs that you currently have in place to make sure that the obligations to protect confidential information do not end over time, identify any other terms that may negatively impact the trade secret and confidential status of your information, and consider whether additional protections for trade secrets should be included.

2. Update your NDA for future use to remedy any deficiencies identified in step 1.

3. Execute updated NDAs to replace NDAs that you have identified as potentially deficient.

4. Begin docketing/calendaring the termination dates for your NDAs and assign a person to actively manage your NDAs.

5. Evaluate whether your business has trade secrets that have such a significant economic value that “reasonable measures” may require more than NDAs to protect the trade secret status of the information.

6. Document the measures that your business takes to protect its trade secrets and other confidential information.

By taking the above steps, your business can be well on its way to meeting the reasonable measures standard and answering the title question “yes.”

Michael Antone is an attorney with the Business and Transactional practice group at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC. He may be reached at 410-995-5800 or mantone@darslaw.com.

What Top Labor and Employment Issues Can We Expect to See in 2018?

The Maryland General Assembly legislative session begins Jan. 10, 2018. It most likely will begin in much the same way as the last session ended. One of the top priorities for this session will be House Bill 1, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.

This legislation would require employers to allow full-time and part-time employees to accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. All employers will be required to provide time off for sick leave. Employers with 10 or more employees would be required to provide paid sick leave. In addition, this bill provides costly fines and penalties if an employer fails to comply.
HB1 was vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan at the end of last session and is scheduled for a vote to override that veto this session.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Hogan introduced a paid leave compromise proposal to provide paid leave benefits to Marylanders while addressing the most problematic elements of HB1. The Paid Leave Compromise Act of 2018 would require businesses with 25 or more employees to offer paid leave to their employees by the year 2020. To give businesses time to prepare, the benefits will be phased in, starting in 2018 for businesses with 50 or more employees, in 2019 for businesses with 40 or more employees, and extending to all applicable businesses in 2020.

In addition to the issue of paid sick leave, the General Assembly most likely will be debating other labor and employment issues.

• Fair Scheduling: This proposed legislation would require employers to schedule all employees three weeks in advance or pay significant penalties for non-compliance and any changes made after that date, unless all affected employees agreed to the schedule change in writing.

• $15 Minimum Wage: This legislation would increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. On Nov. 13, 2017, Montgomery County signed into law a $15 minimum wage to become effective July 1, 2021, for businesses with 51 or more workers; July 1, 2023, for businesses employing 11–50 workers; and July 1, 2024, for businesses with fewer than 11 workers.

• Job Announcement and Salary History Information Disclosures: This legislation would require employers with 15 or more employees to include specified salary information in a job announcement in recruiting an employee or independent contractor to fill a position within the employer’s organization; prohibit specified employers from paying less than the minimum rate of pay included in a specified job announcement to a specified employee; and prohibit specified employers from seeking salary history information for an employee by specified methods.

In an election year, these labor and employment issues surely will be hotly contested.

Cheryl Brown is an attorney with Davis, Agnor, Rapaport and Skalny LLC, in Columbia. She can be reached at cbrown@darslaw.com.

Computer and Social Media Policies for the Workplace

Since virtually every company relies on computers, email and the Internet to operate its business; and has employees who, every day, use the company’s computers, email and Internet access to perform their jobs and communicate with co-workers and with others outside the company, it is imperative that companies have in place effective acceptable-use policies. However, there are issues that businesses often overlook or get wrong when drafting and enforcing these policies.

Effective Policies

To be effective, policies addressing the use of company computers, email and Internet should be crafted to meet the following key objectives.

• Promote Acceptable Business-Related Use. It may be obvious, but it should be clear that computers and other devices are made available for business-related use only and not personal use. Where companies are required to comply with certain industry regulations or laws that concern employee use of computers or restrict use and disclosure of certain electronically-stored information, the policy should specifically refer to those regulations and describe any prohibited conduct.

• Specifically Prohibit Abusive and Harassing Conduct. As employees often communicate with each other through email and text messaging, employers face an ever-increasing liability should employees use them inappropriately, such as sending derogatory and harassing emails or making unwanted advances towards a co-worker via text message.

To reduce this potential liability, employers must make sure acceptable-use policies clearly define and prohibit unacceptable behavior and conduct. In addition, the policy should require employees to report any conduct that they believe is unacceptable.

• Diminish Employee’s Expectation of Privacy. It should be made clear to employees that they should have no expectation of privacy with regard to their use of company computers or other devices. This includes the information contained on their computer, emails they have sent or received and their history of online activity. The policy should clearly state that the computer system and devices are subject to monitoring at any time, with or without notice.

• Protect Confidential Information. Along with confidentiality policies, an acceptable-use policy that specifically addresses the access, use and disclosure of the company’s electronic proprietary information and data is one of the main tools a company has available to it to protect both its own confidential and proprietary business information as well as that of its customers. It should also include guidelines regarding the access, use and disclosure of the confidential personal information of employees.

• Govern Use Across All Devices. Often overlooked, it is imperative that acceptable-use policies extend to employees’ use of all company devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. In addition, the policy should cover employees’ use of their own personal devices when they are being used for company-related business or when the device is connected to the company’s wired or wireless network.

Social Media, Social Networking

Given the prevalence of employees’ use of social media and social networking sites for both professional and personal use, companies are encouraged to have policies in place regarding the acceptable use of these services. However, companies should be mindful when they go about crafting and enforcing these policies.

Although a company’s main objective in having a social media policy is to prohibit employees from saying things on social media that are either critical of the company or that negatively impact the company’s reputation, companies should approach these policies with caution. Employers do not have the unfettered right to restrict and discipline employees who are critical of their employer or who communicate to each other about their working conditions. Certain laws prohibit this. Accordingly, companies need to craft these policies carefully so that they do not run afoul of these laws.

LinkedIn Profiles and Contacts

Professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, raise some additional issues that companies need to consider. As employees utilize sites like LinkedIn to make professional connections, the employee is generating valuable contact information of clients, potential clients or other business connections. However, as long as this valuable information is maintained solely on an employee’s LinkedIn page, the company has no control over how this information is maintained or used by the employee.

Accordingly, employers should consider implementing a policy that makes it clear that the company, not the employee, owns all contact or other information provided to the employee by clients and other business connections, that employees may use client information for business-related purposes only and that employees will be required to turn over client information maintained on the employee’s LinkedIn page upon separation from employment.

Given the everyday use of computers, mobile devices, email and social media in the workplace, companies must have in place effective acceptable-use policies. Companies who do have such policies in place are encouraged to review their policies to see if they are in need of being updated.

Eric W. Gunderson is an attorney and partner at Farrell & Gunderson LLC. He may be contacted at 410-290-1955 or eric@farrell-law.com.

Can I Speak to My Employees About Their Marital Issues?

There are two responses to the topic of this article (at each extreme end).

Response No. 1: Did you really just ask that? Haven’t you been reading about harassment allegations against famous — okay, notorious — athletes, politicians, journalists, actors and others? What, are you looking for trouble?

Response No. 2: You have to be the best supervisor, manager, boss, business owner I have ever heard of. How human of you. How marvelously compassionate. We all care about each other at our place of employment, and all any of us want is to help you however we can.

Which response did you prefer? In other words, what type of employer are you, and what type of employer do you want to be?

There are many employers who believe that they need to be wary of an employee with marital or other family legal issues because anything they say to the employee about the issue can come back to bite them with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, lawsuit or even worse. And these “defensive” employers would not be wrong. They have a business to protect, other employees who rely on their employment and more.

But it is kind of inhumane to have the emotionally traumatized employee spilling his or her guts out to you while you stand or sit there like an automaton, offering no consolation, words of hope or active assistance.

So, what are you supposed to do? Here are a few alternative responses and their consequences.

The Hands-Off Boss

You are not the type of boss who feels comfortable talking with employees about emotions and problems. You would rather jump off a bridge, repeatedly. That is OK; you are not alone. You are highly protective of your business. So, you simply say nothing and walk away from your highly emotional employee.

Do you see the problem here? Do you value your employee? Well, the employee might not value you anymore, which could be a problem if the person is a valued employee.

The Listening Boss – For Awhile

Initially, you want to let your employee vent and let you know what is going on in his or her life. And the employee needs that outlet. You understand that. But enough is enough.

Once the person’s divorce has been going on for months — or years — it is not reasonable for an employer to have to hear about it repeatedly in the workplace. Those are the employees who need to be counseled to see a therapist. If it is affecting the individual’s performance, consult your Human Resources (HR) specialist or employment attorney. You might need to take greater action.

The Rules and Referring (to HR or Others) Boss

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of employer. It would be helpful to add a bit of humanity, of course, but let the professionals do their job.

The Scared Boss – It’s All a Trap for Me

This is today’s boss. The employment culture, as reported by the media, is at an all-time low. No more fun holiday parties for fear of being labeled an abuser. Everyone is on edge at all times, especially if there are employees who you think are watching you like a hawk, waiting for you to cross some boundary and then report you.

So, what does this boss do? Refer the employee to HR, and keep your distance.

The Empathetic Boss

This is also today’s boss. But it is the boss who values his or her employees, wants what is best for them, and is willing to listen, but act within appropriate boundaries. That employer is going to be there for his or her employees, but also will know when it is time to let the employee know it is time to get some help, time to stop talking about his or her problem at the workplace and time to find a way to move forward and make work a happy place.

The Overly Involved Boss

Some employers also have been through difficult divorces. Their agenda is to help their employee with his or her agenda. That is a dangerous employer.

Expect everything bad to happen to you if become your employee’s champion: complaints, lawsuits, investigations, potential criminal actions and more. Ever hear of transference? That is when your employee makes you the bad person. And then expect bad things to happen to you.

What’s the Answer?

Know who you are as an employer or other type of supervisor. Know the rules where you work. Then apply your personality.

If you are the type of employer who does not want to get involved with an employee going through a life-changing event that will make him or her a less productive employee for a significant period of time, do your business a favor and get your employee to someone who will.

On the other hand, if you are an employer who wants to be a hand-holder and champion for your employee as
s/he goes through his or her traumatic life transition, do your business a favor and read your employee manual, talk with other employers and back off to a discreet distance where you can be supportive but not a future defendant in a harassment action, and certainly not a fact witness in your employee’s divorce trial.

There are many resources from which employers can get advice. They include internal HR managers, external HR companies and employment attorneys. They also include speaking to a highly experienced divorce attorney, asking the attorney for advice to forward to the employee.

There are many resources for employers to suggest their employee turn to. First and foremost, get the person to a highly experienced divorce attorney who can educate and advise the employee and get him or her back to you, quickly and productively. If you feel comfortable, advise the employee to get a mental health counselor. Some employers have the ability to get an employee to an internal or external Employee Assistance Program or equivalent. Check your employee manual.

Be human. Be humane. Be helpful. Act to get your employee back on track. But be safe. Protect your business. Protect yourself.

Harry Siegel, the managing partner at SIEGELLAW, is a divorce and family law attorney in Howard County. He may be reached at 410-792-2300 or hsiegel@siegellaw.net.

Mediation Confidentiality: Guidance From Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals

Mediation is a popular dispute resolution tool. During a typical mediation, the parties sit down with an impartial mediator who facilitates discussions between the parties with the goal of having them reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

A mediator may help identify issues and options, assist the parties and their attorneys in exploring the needs underlying their respective positions, and upon request, record points of agreement expressed and adopted by the parties. The mediator does not recommend terms of an agreement.

The Mediator

Parties in a dispute can always engage the services of a mediator before filing a claim in court. Over the past 20 years, courts also have recognized the utility of mediation and have routinely made referrals to court-appointed mediators in civil cases, notably family matters, but also in relation to business disputes and probate actions. By using mediation to facilitate settlements, courts can clear their dockets and operate in an efficient manner.

While disputes may be resolved in courts, most people prefer to avoid the expense and lengthy time commitment associated with a trial. Court records also are generally open to the public, while mediation places a premium on privacy. Standards of conduct for a mediator, including procedures related to confidentiality, have been incorporated into Maryland law and continue to evolve.

A Maryland Case Study

The recently reported Maryland case, Sang Ho Na v. Malinda Gillespie, gives us insight into the matter of confidentiality during a mediation procedure. The mediation in the case involved a custody dispute between two parents. Prior to a hearing before a court on custody, the parents attended a private and voluntary mediation. As a part of this procedure, the parties and their attorneys signed an Agreement to Mediate with the mediator by which they agreed to maintain the confidentiality of statements made and documents created during the mediation.

The parties then proceeded to engage in mediation, which ended when a snowstorm developed. Due to the snow, the parties ended their mediation without putting any of the verbally agreed-upon terms into writing. It was understood by all concerned that the attorneys for the parties would prepare a consent order reflecting the oral agreement reached during their mediation for submission to the court.

After the mediation session ended, the attorneys for the parties attempted to draft a consent order that contained what each party thought was the agreement reached by the parties during the mediation. Unfortunately, the parties could not agree on the wording of the consent order and on the elements of their agreement.

Mr. Na, the father, believed there was an oral agreement between the parties and wanted to enforce this agreement. To prove the existence of and the elements of the parties’ alleged agreement, he filed a Motion to Enforce and sought to use the documents generated during the mediation, along with testimony of the mediator, at an evidentiary hearing before the Circuit Court. Gillespie, the mother, opposed the father’s Motion and asserted that information generated during the mediation session was confidential and inadmissible in a court proceeding.

Addressing Confidentiality

What did the court do here? In the initial ruling on this case, the Circuit Court held that confidentiality is one of the fundamental principals of mediation and that a party can say anything in the mediation without fear that such disclosures can be used against the party. It further held that anything that came out of the mediation that was not a written agreement was inadmissible, and denied the father’s Motion to Enforce.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court, but added some commentary to provide guidance on mediation procedures. It noted that the father was correct that no Maryland statute or rule protecting mediation confidentiality applies to voluntary private mediation. Such rules apply to court-ordered mediations.

However, because the parties entered into an Agreement to Mediate, a binding contract to maintain the confidentiality of all communications and documents related to the mediation, information obtained through this particular mediation process was inadmissible in a court proceeding.

The father’s effort to prove the terms of what he thought was an agreement achieved through mediation would be futile because he previously had agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the information.

Lessons Learned

What lessons can be learned from Sang Ho Na v. Malinda Gillespie? First, note that the freedom of parties to enter into a contract is given great deference. If parties agree to enter into a private and voluntary mediation and they agree as a part of the procedure to keep information generated during mediation confidential, the court will honor their agreement.

Second, note that there are differences in the rules of confidentiality that apply in cases when mediation is purely voluntary between the parties and when mediation is a part of a court-ordered procedure and is governed by Maryland statute and rules. Although the Court of Special Appeals did not interpret Maryland law with respect to court-ordered mediation procedures, the distinction between these two types of mediations should be considered.

Lastly, while we cannot know all of the details that occurred in this case, if parties sincerely cannot agree on the specific wording of their settlement, it seems appropriate to continue the mediation and return to the mediation table to try to work through tedious details and achieve a mutually satisfactory agreement. While the snowy weather made continuation of the mediation session difficult on that particular day, returning to mediation later to clarify and finalize the elements of a settlement agreement likely would have saved these parents a great deal of time and trouble.

Cynthia Lifson is an attorney and mediator who practices in Howard County. She can be reached via www.lifsonlaw.com or at 410-531-1619.

Privacy Law in Maryland: An Introduction

The United States stands nearly alone in the world in that it does not have a unified, overarching privacy law. Instead, privacy law in the United States is a mesh of interlocking, often overlapping, and sometimes contradictory federal and state laws.
Despite the lack of a single source of privacy law, privacy is still highly protected in the U.S. As a result, businesses must ensure their policies and practices are fully compliant to minimize the risk of a data breach and the often-accompanying monetary and reputational harm in the event of a breach.

Federal Law

At the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is broadly empowered to police “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” Under the FTC Act, “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” has been interpreted to include protecting consumer privacy. That authority has been upheld by courts, and has been encouraged by Congress and the president. Because the FTC is empowered to police acts or practices “in or affecting commerce,” its oversight extends broadly, with few exceptions.

Beyond the FTC Act, federal laws typically cover specific categories of information (financial or health information) or particular activities (debt collection, telemarketing or commercial email). Some examples include the following.

• The Financial Services Modernization Act (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) – Protects financial information and is broadly applied to financial institutions.

• The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – Protects medical information and is applied to any entities that contact medical information.

• The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Applies to consumer credit information and agencies which deal with that information.

Maryland Law

In Maryland, the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) provides the broadest protections to an individual’s personal information. If your business collects an individual’s first and last name in conjunction with his or her Social Security number, driver’s license number, taxpayer identification number or any financial account number (such as a bank account or credit card number), PIPA most likely applies to your collection, use and protection of that data. And most importantly, PIPA defines what you must do if any of that information is disclosed through a security breach.

If your business collects personal information, or contracts with a company that does, it is imperative that you assess your privacy and security policies and practices. A data security breach could carry with it large monetary fines and require you to notify affected customers of any such breach. You may wish to contact an attorney to talk through your policies and practices and to receive practical advice on how to minimize your risk moving forward.

Greg Ewing is a litigation attorney at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC. He may be contacted at 410-995-5800 or gewing@darslaw.com.

Your Financial Life: A Month-by-Month Guide

Every year, millions of Americans resolve to get their financial house in order. Then, as the year slips away, so do their good intentions.

Does this approach sound familiar? If so, don’t give up. Maybe you just need a different approach. This month-by-month financial checklist focuses on specific financial tasks. If you manage to accomplish just a few of them, you should be in better shape financially and be in better control a year from now.

The Big Chill

January: Reviewing and updating your budget at the beginning of the New Year can get you off to a good start. Evaluate last year’s income and expenses, and adjust your plan accordingly. Try to revisit your budget throughout the year to see how much progress you’re making or to identify areas for improvement.
February: By February, you should have your Form W-2 from your employer(s). Gather the rest of your tax documents — property tax receipts, mortgage interest, donation receipts, etc. — so you’re ready to meet with your tax adviser as soon as you have all your information. If you’re getting money back, filing in advance of the

April deadline can mean an earlier refund.

March: This might be a good time to check your retirement and other investment portfolios, and compare their performance with a benchmark index. And if your asset allocation has changed, rebalancing can bring it back to its original mix.

Spring Ahead

April: Federal income tax returns are due on (or around) April 15. If you are expecting a tax refund, consider directing the extra money toward your retirement. Every little bit can add up. Remember, you have until the tax filing deadline to contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) for the prior year.

May: Consider designating May as “check your credit report” month. You’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Check all three reports at the same time or at different times throughout the year. Log on to AnnualCreditReport.com to stay on top of changes or suspicious activity.

June: In June, review your estate plan, beneficiary designations, and the individuals you’ve named as executor and as guardian for your minor children. Changes in your family situation might require adjustments to your plan.

Summertime

July: July is a good time to schedule an appointment with your financial professional to check that you’re on track with pursuing your goals. Summer is also a good time to start teaching your children valuable lessons about money. Help them establish a savings account at your local bank and encourage them to set aside money each month for wish-list purchases.

August: Make sure your summer fun didn’t upend your budget with a review of your credit card accounts and personal loans. If you’re not making progress with reducing your debt, come up with a plan to pay down your balances faster.

September: September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, so review your coverage to make sure it’s adequate for your family’s needs. Check your disability coverage as well, and consider the need to supplement any employer-provided coverage you may have.

Fall Into Habits

October: October is generally the time for reviewing employee benefits and making choices for the coming year. Contributing to a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account for health and/or dependent care can potentially lower your tax bill.

November: Begin year-end tax planning by November to take advantage of strategies that may help minimize your income tax obligation. Waiting too long can deprive you of opportunities. As part of your assessment, consider your investments. Holding on to investments in a taxable account for more than one year will typically qualify you for a lower tax rate when assets are sold.

December: Consider donating to charitable organizations before year-end. Contributions charged to a credit card or paid by check by Dec. 31 may be deductible on this year’s tax return.

John E. Day is a financial consultant with LPL Services, in Columbia. He can be reached at 410-290-1000, john.day@lpl.com or www.daywm.com.

Pounding the Keyboard: 2018’s Fearless Predictions

“And is there no relief?” — “Othello: A Tragedy,” William Shakespeare

Yes, the Fearless Predictions column has returned for … what, its 15th (20th?) year of pointlessness. Speak up if you’ve heard these before.

Net Hostility

Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc., will be permitted to block or throttle any website that doesn’t pay premium fees. Are you nostalgic for the days of dial-up? You’ll soon be able to return to the pioneer days of the Internet.

However, fear not: Representatives of your chosen carrier will be calling to set an appointment for the installation of a coin slot on your computer for faster access. Credit/debit cards (and Bitcoins) also are happily accepted.

Google and Russia

Fact: Google has deranked the Russian propaganda sites Sputnik and RT (Russia Today), considering their content unreliable, and saying it was “working to curb misleading and exploitive material.” Russian telecom regulators have vowed to retaliate.
Prediction: People wanting this kind of information will have to go directly to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

iPhone X

It’ll be replaced by iPhone XXX, which comes pre-programmed for porn channels, so besides facial recognition, it will have other recognition choices, as well.

The ‘Bit’ in Bitcoin

The “Bit” turns out to be “Bernie in Tulsa,” who came up with this idea while trying to find a way to pay his rent and has been riding the wave ever since. Next: HitCoins, created by “Hannibal in Trenton,” and suitable when you want to make someone an offer that they can’t refuse.

Driverless Cars

One from Google and one from Uber, will come to a four-way stop sign and never move, not wanting to cut someone off — thus being unable to make a decision to go. They will eventually be plowed out of the way by a driverless truck from Tesla.

Fact: PepsiCo has placed an order for 100 of Tesla’s “big rigs,” joining Walmart and Sysco in reserving electric trucks. They will be used primarily for delivery of snack foods from its Frito-Lay subsidiary, although they may move to heavier loads of sodas for shorter runs. Tesla trucks are expected to incorporate technology that will allow convoys of trucks to be controlled by one driver in the front.

Another Fact

GM is planning on joining the autonomous vehicle fray with a fleet of battery-powered Chevy Bolts that are being developed for ride-sharing service that will compete with Uber and Lyft. Its desired timeline is for deployment in larger cities in 2019, and they are being tested in San Francisco and Detroit. Unlike Uber’s first tests, the GM cars are not expected to have backup drivers; they will be remotely monitored, however.

GM is far from alone in this sector. Google and Ford are aiming for the same market, and Volvo has announced plans to supply Uber with 24,000 vehicles for driverless taxis, also expected on-street in 2019.

Prediction: The fact that these cars are programmed for conservative driving, such as obeying speed limits, will produce immense frustration in regular drivers who pull around them and want to flip off the driver — but find no driver to insult.

The Internet of Things

It will be revealed as, well, hype. Do we really need garage door openers that are connected to the Internet? Isn’t this just a way for hackers to get easily into your house? If your alarm is connected (and most are), they can disarm that, too, and turn on your stereo and TVs so they make sure they hear them all and don’t miss anything.

O.K., I’m being overzealous, but so are advocates of this technology. Samsung has made a very large deal about its remote assistant, Bixby, and how it can communicate with its new, $5,000 refrigerator with the built-in flat screen, and internal cameras that allow you to check your food supply. Really.

What is rarely talked about is how much this stuff costs and if it’s worth it. Remotely turning off your lights is nice, but what’s the cost of Internet-connected switches and a central controller?

This just highlights the divide between the tech freaks who simply must have this (and show it to you constantly) and normal people who want real reasons. The tech freaks also write for computer magazines and work hard to get their opinions in the business pages of your paper, making it all seem inevitable.
No, it’s not.

Alexa for Kids

Sales will plummet when kids start asking, “Where are Mommy and Daddy?” — and get an answer of “Mommy and Daddy just downloaded a very interesting movie to their bedroom TV, so you shouldn’t try to get their attention for a while.” Oops.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval — when not hiding his midnight raids of his refrigerator from the cameras. (Not.) He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.

BBB Advice: New Research Confirms Santa Claus Was Right

In the 1947 Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street,” Macy’s accidentally hires the real Santa Claus to work in its flagship store in midtown Manhattan. Surprisingly, Santa directs parents to other stores for hard-to-find toys.

“The only important thing,” he tells a bewildered but delighted mom, “is to make the children happy.”

In the 20th Century Fox movie, the public’s reaction is overwhelmingly positive. The character of R.H. Macy (based on the real company founder) immediately embraces the new policy. “You cannot argue with success,” he exclaimed to a roomful of dubious executives. “Never in my entire career have I seen such a tremendous and immediate response to a merchandising policy. I’m positive that if we expand our policy, we’ll expand our results, as well. We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart, the store that places public service ahead of profit. And, consequently, we’ll make more profits than ever before.”

Santa Claus and R. H. Macy were both right, according to a new report released by the Council of Better Business Bureaus entitled, “BBB 5 Gestures of Trust: A New Framework to Evaluate Customer-Business Relationships “The research suggests that trust boils down to five critical behaviors trusted businesses tend to exhibit: Be Honest. Be Transparent. Be Proactive. Be Humble. Be Equitable.

“Customers demand more from businesses today,” said the report’s co-author, Craig Honick, of Metro Tribal. “As consumer expectations evolve, especially among younger generations, we see a demand for more than just a smooth financial transaction. To be a better business in today’s marketplace is to see business as a series of ‘human’ transactions. In many cases, this might require businesses to be customer-centric, employee focused, [and] forward thinking and innovative, as well as environmentally and socially conscious.” (Download the full report at www.BBB.org/5Gestures.)

“BBB’s motto is Start With Trust, and this research really digs into exactly what that means,” said Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Most businesses want to be trustworthy, and BBB has long been there to help them with guidelines on honest advertising, privacy protection, responsiveness and other good practices. Now, we can offer insight into the intrinsic, deeply personal values that greatly influence their customers’ marketplace behavior, even when people sometimes have trouble articulating those values.”

To get to that level of understanding, BBB began with in-depth conversations with a variety of consumers who related their marketplace experiences, positive and negative. Researchers listened to how consumers structure the mental framework they use to evaluate their experiences, and how that influences whether or not they will do business again with a company.

Then that framework was tested in surveys of consumers across the U.S. and Canada. Researchers also visited with several companies with good reputations and positive customer growth and retention. Finally, BBB surveyed approximately 1,500 businesses (a balanced mix of BBB accredited and non-accredited businesses) to learn what they believe builds trusted relationships and whether they use any or all of the Five Gestures of Trust in their day-to-day practices.

Although customer trust in business is eroding (along with trust in government, institutions, the media, etc.), BBB’s research was conclusive: businesses that see themselves as trusted were more likely to put into practice 15 different actions that demonstrate they value their relationships with their customers. These actions included making things right, treating employees well, putting customer service ahead of profits and — yes, Santa Claus — even recommending a competitor if that is better for the customer.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.

Chamber Corner: Central Maryland Chamber

CMC Rings in the New Year, New Programs

The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) is rolling out new programs for the new year and inviting the business community to get involved.

One new program, the Business Connections Network, is a premier networking group focused on connecting B2B professionals throughout Central Maryland. The first group launched last November and was so successful that a second group is forming and will meet Jan. 16 at the CMC office.

There is an exclusivity rule of one member per business category. Anyone interested in the program should contact Nancy LaJoice at the CMC office. This is a free benefit for CMC members; non-members are welcome to attend one meeting as a guest.

Think Regionally

Do you have interest in regional economic development issues? If so, a new group, the Regional Economic Development Committee, is available to CMC members so they can stay informed of regional economic impacts, as well as work together to promote growth in Central Maryland. To learn more, contact the chamber office.

Referral Rewards

The new CMC Member Referral Rewards Program makes it rewarding and easy for members to refer their friends, clients and vendors. It also helps the chamber grow, which leads to a larger member base that provides more business connections, strengthens the chamber’s advocacy voice and enables it to enhance services for members.

Also, know that, when the business you refer joins the CMC, you will receive a $50 gift certificate to a local chamber member business.

New Members

We’d like to introduce CMC’s newest members. Each has made an important investment in its business by joining the chamber, and we’re pleased to highlight them here as we continually strive to connect them to the membership and to the community at large.

The latest additions are BDC & Associates, Grotto Pizza, the Maryland Jockey Club, Navy Federal Odenton Branch, Paychex, Riva Trace Baptist Church, Staybridge Suites-BWI, The Law Office of David Charles Douglas and Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar.

Upcoming CMC Events

January
9: Networking Mixer at The Hideaway, 5 p.m.
16: Membership 101, Laurel, 9 a.m.
17: Business Seminar: “How to Build a Business Plan,” 9 a.m.
18: Anne Arundel County Legislative Forum Breakfast, 7:30 a.m.

February
8: Multi-Chamber Breakfast, 7:30 a.m.
15: Membership 101, Laurel, 9 a.m.
22: Networking Mixer, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., 5 p.m.
28: Women Mean Business Luncheon, “Managing Stress in the Workplace,” 11:30 a.m.
For more event information and to register, visit www.centralmarylandchamber.org.

Chamber Corner: Howard County Chamber

Taking Action

Although the topic of paid sick leave, and the future of legislation dealing with it, dominated the discussion at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) 2018 Legislative Preview Breakfast last month, there are many other policy areas the chamber will focus on during the coming legislative session.
In the policy area of labor, employment and health care, the HCCC has identified legislation involving mandatory paid sick leave, predictive scheduling, minimum wage, equal pay and Maryland exemptions from overtime pay as areas of major concern.

Through the chamber’s Legislative & Government Affairs Committee, work by chamber staff and lobbyists, the HCCC will also continue to advocate for the interests of Howard County’s business community in the legislative process for the Main Street Fairness Act, economic development strategies and related incentive policies, village center redevelopment, the Howard County Public School System, zoning and land use regulation and many other areas.

The HCCC will provide weekly updates as the 2018 legislative session proceeds and, for the first time, we also will be able to share real-time updates on legislation of particular interest to our members on social media and via www.howardchamber.com.

A Jingle Mingling Junction

The HCCC’s 2017 Jingle Mingle Holiday Party is in the books and it was truly a night to remember. More than 250 HCCC members, sponsors and guests packed The Great Room at The Residences at Annapolis Junction, which was decked out for the occasion.

Attendees dined on small bites from Clyde’s of Columbia, sipped on Signature Pomegranate Champagne Cocktails and networked for hours. When guests needed a break from talking, they enjoyed complimentary massages from Tocar Spa or put their feet up in the movie room to see a holiday movie montage and eat fresh popcorn. A roaming magician had crowds amazed at his sleight-of-hand tricks and the celebrants had fun taking pictures with the Santa Claus ice sculpture.

The event would not have been possible without months of planning by the members of our Jingle Mingle Committee and its sponsors, including Capital One Spark Business; The Residences at Annapolis Junction; St. John Properties; Strat Wealth; bgr CPAs; The Howard Hughes Corp.; Training by Design; PNC Bank; KatzAbosch; First National Bank; KCI Technologies; Bay Bank; Edwards Performance Solutions; Offit Kurman; The RMR Group; Oxford Planning Group; Pessin Katz Law; Joseph, Greenwald & Laake; Commercial Insurance Managers; Keller Williams/Juanita Matthews; NFM Lending; Endeavor Electric and Prime Lending; and our in-kind sponsors, Millennium Marketing Solutions, Anderson Minuteman Press, Pam Long Photography, Lord & Taylor, SL Nusbaum Realty Co. and Tocar Spa.

Focus on Health Care

With portions of the Affordable Care Act set to be repealed as part of the massive tax reform bill making its way through Congress, and the opioid abuse epidemic, health care is part of an ongoing conversation with residents and in the business community.

The HCCC is taking a cue from the public discourse and focusing our first member lunch of 2018 on the State of Health Care in Howard County. Moderator Paul Skalny, managing director of Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny, past chair of the chamber’s board of directors and current vice chair of the board of trustees of Howard County General Hospital, will serve as moderator for a panel discussion. Panelists will include Howard County General Hospital President Steve Snelgrove, Howard County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman, Columbia Medical Practice’s Dr. William Saway and Howard County General Hospital’s Vice President of Population Health Dr. Elizabeth Kromm.

Join the HCCC on Jan. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel. Register at www.howardchamber.com.

Business Briefs

Capitol Seniors Housing Breaks Ground on Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn

Capitol Seniors Housing, a senior living investment and development firm, has started construction on Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn, an assisted living and memory care community in Fulton. The $27.5 million, 73,000-square-foot community will have 86 apartments and be located adjacent to Maple Lawn Market Place and Reservoir High School. It is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Designed by Baltimore-based BCT Architects, Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn will have an exterior that suggests a boutique hotel and takes cues from the contemporary architecture of nearby retail stores, which were also designed by BCT.
Amenities will include a casual seating bistro/sports lounge featuring an open-concept kitchen area, as well as a library, a theater and a multi-purpose room, all of which encourage engagement throughout the community. Also under roof will be an art studio, salon and spa, and a fitness/rehab room for other activity and socialization spaces.
“Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn will foster an intergenerational community by virtue of its close proximity to the nearby elementary, middle and high schools, which will present opportunities for Arbor Terrace residents and area students to engage with one another,” said Joe McElwee, principal – development, Capitol Seniors Housing. “We expect Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn residents to have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren in these schools. … When we build a senior living community, we seek to create an experience which benefits its residents and the overall community.”

Grace to Acquire Polyolefin Catalysts Business for $416M

W. R. Grace & Co., of Columbia, signed an agreement to acquire the Polyolefin Catalysts business of Albemarle Corp. for $416 million. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.
The Polyolefin Catalysts business focuses on proprietary and custom-manufactured single-site catalysts, as well as metallocenes and activators. The acquisition also includes a comprehensive series of highly optimized Ziegler-Natta catalysts for polyethylene production. The acquisition significantly strengthens Grace’s catalysts technology portfolio, commercial relationships and manufacturing network. Approximately 175 employees will join Grace’s global team. The manufacturing operations in Baton Rouge, La., and Yeosu, South Korea, add important flexibility to the company’s global catalysts manufacturing network.
“This transaction aligns perfectly with our strategy to expand our leadership position in polyolefin catalysts,” said Grace Chairman and CEO Fred Festa. “I am excited about the opportunities created by adding the talent, advanced technology and manufacturing capabilities of the business. Both the catalysts and activators product lines are tied to high-growth applications, and the manufacturing assets bring important scale and capital synergies.”

Arundel Announces Eight-Month Industrial Solar Operations Ban

At the urging of environmental advocates and the newly-formed Agriculture, Agritourism & Farming Commission, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and the Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning have announced an immediate eight-month moratorium on the issuance of any approved dispersed energy operations. They cite concerns regarding the impact of industrial solar energy operations, also called “solar parks,” in rural areas of the county.
Before the implemented moratorium, activities like industrial solar energy parks were permitted in lands zoned RA (rural-agricultural). In accordance with the County Code, allowing such industrial activity in rural lands reduces land use consistency and increases the likelihood of industrial land use encroachment into the rural and agricultural areas of the county.
The moratorium will provide an opportunity for Planning and Zoning, in collaboration with the Commission’s Dispersed Energy Committee, to study existing regulations and recommend appropriate measures and processes for current and future proposed energy operations.

TEDCO Invests $800,000 in Innovative Tech, Life Science Startups

The Columbia-based Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) has announced that six companies have received a total of $800,000 in seed funding. They include Linshom Management, in Ellicott City, which develops a respiratory monitor capable of improving patient outcomes. The others include Rise Therapeutics, Rockville; Discourse Analytics, Bethesda; Workspace Software, Hunt Valley; and MD Diagnostics and Knowledge Diffusion, both of Baltimore.
“At TEDCO, our mission is to foster entrepreneurship and innovation across all regions of the state, and we aim to discover, invest in and build great companies that grow, stay and last in Maryland,” said TEDCO CEO George Davis. “TEDCO helps entrepreneurs bring innovation to market by being the connective tissue to all available assets in the ecosystem, including capital and business development tools.”

Schuh Announces Paid Leave Plan for Anne Arundel County’s Temporary Workforce

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has announced a paid sick leave proposal for county government personnel. Currently, temporary/contractual employees are not eligible for any paid leave with the county. As part of the paid time off initiative, the temporary/contractual employee must work at least 30 hours per week and must have worked for the county in his or her current position for at least 120 continuous days.
Once the eligible employee meets the 120 days of continuous employment, temporary/contractual employees will begin to earn one hour of paid time off for each 30 hours that they work, not to exceed 40 hours. The paid time off could be used when an employee is sick or for other personal reasons.
The proposal would affect approximately 850 of the county’s eligible contractual, temporary/seasonal employees. The estimated cost of extending paid leave to the county’s contractual employees in fiscal 2018 is $100,000. The initiative would be funded as part of Schuh’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal. The target date for the policy to become effective is February, pending County Council approval.

VitusVet Expands to Howard County Innovation Center at Gateway

VitusVet is relocating from the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) into the future location of the Howard County Innovation Center, inside the Columbia Gateway Innovation District. The company has resided in the MCE since May 2015 and expanded into a new space following a period of rapid growth.
VitusVet was founded by CEO Mark Olcott, a certified veterinarian who has practiced for 20 years. He was frustrated by the archaic technology used to document pet health records and history of treatment. He met his business partner, Kalpesh Raval, who helped develop the technology, during business school. The company, which is also expanding its work force, provides full-service capabilities for veterinary practices to book appointments, make insurance claims and contact pet owners.
“The great thing about the MCE is the excellent mentorship they offer. It’s not the sort of place you go to get subsidized real estate; they really want you to succeed,” said Olcott. “Even if you start with a half-baked idea, they will bring you to the drawing board and help you evaluate your business plan and help you grow it.”

Sprouts to Hire 120-Plus Employees for Ellicott City Store

Sprouts Farmers Market, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the country, soon will finish construction on its first mid-Atlantic store, which will be located in Ellicott City. The new Sprouts represents the grocer’s eastern expansion and will help meet the growing local demand for fresh, natural and organic foods.
The 30,000-square-foot store will be located at 9150 Baltimore National Pike and will open on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 a.m. Details about the grand opening celebration are to be announced. The new Ellicott City location is bringing approximately 120 full- and part-time opportunities to the area. Sprouts’ “Healthy Living for Less” approach to grocery shopping means potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store.
To learn more about available career opportunities or to apply, visit sprouts.com/careers or call 866-925-2396 for non-managerial roles. Sprouts offers competitive pay, excellent benefits, team member discounts, a fun and rewarding culture and great career advancement opportunities. In 2016, Sprouts’ team members saved more than $9 million through store discounts and received $150,000 in scholarships.

MDOT SHA Garners Federal Funding to Advance E-Construction

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) will further advance the state’s e-construction initiatives with the purchase of new electronic devices. Through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts program, MDOT SHA has received $100,000 to buy iPads that will be used to document construction projects. Using these electronic devices will allow MDOT SHA to shift from a paper-based process which relied on the copying, printing and mailing of documents.
MDOT SHA will buy 156 iPads for inspectors to use for the electronic collection of field data, along with accessing MDOT SHA’s new Wiki-Spec Book, Office of Construction manuals, directives and plans. Similar e-construction efforts are already underway in Pennsylvania and Alabama.
In cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), FHWA’s Every Day Counts program aims to speed up delivery of highway projects by increasing funding.

Heffner &Weber Makes Bid for Amazon Headquarters 2

The owner/principal of Heffner & Weber, developer of the BWI Aerotropolis, has made a proposal for the Amazon Headquarters 2. Company Owner/Principal Mitch Weber said Anne Arundel County has submitted its Aerotropolis plan to the Maryland Department of Commerce as the county’s best-suited site for the project.
The county did not make its own submission in response to the Amazon RFP; it is instead supporting Gov. Larry Hogan’s endorsement of Under Armour CEO and Chairman Kevin Plank’s Port Covington project. “To the extent our BWI Aerotropolis South makes the Amazon short list and Port Covington does not,” said Weber, “Anne Arundel County will strongly support Aerotropolis, and we believe the Gov. Hogan will, as well.
“Although ours is one of the 238 proposals being assessed by Amazon, given that we are a private developer and not a municipality, our proposal is not known to the general public,” he said, “and, as such, the Aerotropolis has not been mentioned in any [media coverage on the new] Amazon [2] headquarters.”

BGE Sets Pace for Region in Power 2017 Customer Satisfaction Study

BGE ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among large utilities in the East Region, according to the annual J.D. Power study. BGE ranked highest in the survey’s Large Utilities in the East group with a score of 790, more than 38 points above the 11-company average of 752 for electric utility business customers. Companies are ranked on a 1,000-point scale.
The award recognizes BGE’s strong performance in six measures of customer satisfaction: power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship, price, billing and payment, communications and customer service. BGE engages its business customers via stakeholder meetings, on-site visits and dedicated communication tools that complement programs like BGE’s Smart Energy Savers and Smart Energy Economic Development (SEED) initiatives.
Expectations are that, for 2017, BGE customers will have experienced the fewest outages on record, and when outages did occur, BGE restored power faster than at most times in the company’s 201-year history. While outages are caused by a wide range of factors, including weather events, BGE is focused on reducing all potential causes through investment in infrastructure upgrades, enhanced maintenance and innovative programs.

Shake Shack Open at The Mall in Columbia

Shake Shack has opened a new location at The Mall in Columbia that features an outdoor patio and seating for more than 100 guests. In keeping with the company’s commitment to green architecture and eco-friendly construction, the tabletops will be made by CounterEvolution, using reclaimed bowling alley lanes; chairs will be designed by Uhuru using sustainable materials; and booths will be crafted by Staach, using lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Guests can wash their burgers down with local seasonal brews from Jailbreak Brewing Co., Flying Dog Brewery, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. and Full Tilt Brewing Co., plus Shake Shack’s exclusive Brooklyn Brewery ShackMeister Ale; wine lovers can have a glass of Shack Red and Shack White wine from Napa-based Frog’s Leap Winery.
As part of Shake Shack’s mission to Stand for Something Good, the Columbia location will donate 5% of sales from its Pie Oh My concrete to Grassroots, Howard County’s only emergency shelter and crisis intervention center.

Air Canada, Spirit to Add Routes From BWI Marshall

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport will add two international routes at its growing William Donald Schaefer International wing in the first half of 2018. Air Canada will add daily service to Montreal starting in May, with a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ aircraft.
Also, Spirit Airlines announced that it would offer nonstop service between BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and two new markets: Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Denver. The new Spirit flights are scheduled to begin on March 22. Montego Bay will be the second international route for Spirit Airlines at the airport. In November, the carrier started service to Cancun, Mexico. With the two new markets, Spirit will operate flights between BWI Marshall and 21 destinations.

Accenture Selects Annapolis-Based Celedon Partners as Small Business of the Year

Accenture Federal Services (AFS) has selected Annapolis-based Celedon Partners as the recipient of the Small Business of the Year award for its outstanding work helping AFS deliver innovative solutions. Celedon, a technology firm specializing in cloud computing, custom development and business consulting, played an integral role in the successful execution of Accenture’s Task Management Tool (TMT) solution.
The AFS solution focuses on collaboration and task management by allowing for the seamless exchange of tasks within government agencies. It helps digitize the back office, addressing critical business capabilities for full enterprise-wide task management.

Ciena Announces $300M in Share Repurchase Authorization

Ciena, a network strategy and technology company in Hanover, announced that its board of directors has authorized a program to repurchase up to $300 million of the company’s common stock through the end of fiscal 2020.
“Our share repurchase program reflects the strength of our balance sheet, the stability of our business today and the confidence we have in our future. It also demonstrates our intent to incorporate the return of capital to shareholders in our strategic and operating plans as the business continues to grow and generate cash,” said Ciena’s Chief Financial Officer James Moylan, Jr. The program may be modified, suspended or discontinued at any time.

‘Bienvenidos’ Debuts on Arundel TV

Anne Arundel County Community Television premiered a new Spanish-language show, “Bienvenidos,” that highlights people, issues and events in the Latino community. The program will be produced monthly and broadcast via the county’s social media and cable channels. The show is produced by Maria Casasco, Latino and immigrant relations officer; she co-hosts the show with Sergio Polanco, executive director of Centro de Ayuda, and Carlos Camino, bilingual health director at the county’s Department of Health.
Viewers can find Anne Arundel Community Television, also known as Arundel TV, on Verizon channel 1962, Comcast channel 998 and Broadstripe channel 498, in high definition, and at www.aacounty.org. The first episode of Bienvenidos is available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lej7teYx5U&t=187s.

ADG Creative Acquired by Chenega Corp.

ADG Creative, a Columbia-based strategic communications and innovations agency, has signed a definitive agreement with the Chenega Corp. to become the newest company in Chenega’s portfolio of professional services organizations.
Chenega, an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC), supports myriad customer requirements across more than 250 federal contracts and numerous commercial engagements. In addition to its military, intel and operations support capabilities, the company provides expertise and services in the areas of security, environmental and health care, among others.
“ADG’s strategy-first approach will enhance Chenega’s offerings and the solutions we can deliver to our customers,” said John “J.C.” Campagna, president of Chenega’s MIOS Business Unit. “There is a critical need for digital transformation throughout the federal government, and the addition of ADG will help ensure that Chenega is there to meet that need.”

Pearson Opens at Two Merriweather

Pearson, an online education firm, has held an official ribbon-cutting and now calls Columbia and the new Two Merriweather office building home. The office supports Pearson’s Online & Blended Learning K–12 group, which has roots in Baltimore from when it was known as Connections Education. Founded in 2001 to provide online education to schools and school districts in the U.S. and abroad, it was acquired by Pearson in 2011.
The company serves more than 400,000 students via full-time virtual schools and programs, offering students a personalized and flexible approach to their education; Two Merriweather offers Pearson a modern and fully flexible workspace that is designed for a staff that splits its time between working remotely and in the office.

Northrop Team Launches Home Listing Ads on Waze

The Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate is among the first real estate teams in the nation to enroll in Waze Ads by Homesnap, a service that highlights all active Northrop Team home listings for drivers using the Waze mobile navigation app.
Waze users will see the Northrop Team’s logo featured on the Waze map for all of its active listings; potential buyers can click the logo to receive directions to a listed home; Homesnap is a home search platform for agents and their clients, which accesses the listings through its real-time MLS RETS feed.

Endurance Factory Opens in Savage

The Endurance Factory, a Spartan SGX Certified group fitness, obstacle race and ninja warrior training facility, is officially open for business on Bollman Place, in Savage. The facility specializes in building strength, endurance and mental fortitude for a variety of athletic levels, from obstacle course race (OCR) competitors to users who are simply looking to get into shape.
Grounded in functional bodyweight exercise, Spartan SGX, Spartan Race’s official training program (that the Endurance Factory follows), focuses on improving agility, athleticism and power, with progressive workouts that vary in exercise volume, intensity and specificity. With annual OCR participation surpassing that of traditional and full marathons combined (according to Running USA’s 2015 data), the market for this type of training facility is growing. For more information, visit https://ocrendurancefactory.com.

Schuh Announces Expanded Sexual Harassment Education Program

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh announced that every appointed member of his cabinet will attend an expanded sexual harassment education program seminar implemented by Compliance Officer Alanna Dennis.
The Compliance Office also will incorporate additional gender discrimination and sexual harassment training material into the mandatory Diversity Compliance Training that all county employees will receive. These actions will ensure training of all employees as to the policy, law and expectation of appropriate behavior at the workplace.
In September, Schuh unveiled a comprehensive human relations plan that included Anne Arundel United, a community outreach campaign to engage every citizen and community in the fight against hatred through a community ambassador program. For more information, residents can go to www.aacounty.org/departments/county-executive/county-initiatives/aa-united.

Annapolis Parking Moves to New Office

Annapolis Parking has moved to a new office at 60 West Street, Suite 106, and welcomes residents, businesses and visitors to stop in and learn more about Annapolis parking options. Citizens are invited to visit the new office for assistance with annual and temporary residential permits; citation payments; all validations, including Park & Shop and employee validations; in-person monthly parking requests; contractor “No Parking” signs; and two-hour residential validations.
Annapolis Parking will hold a grand opening and regular Pizza & Parking Q&A sessions with the community in the new office in early 2018. Annual and temporary residential permits and citation payments still can be made at www.AnnapolisParking.com.
The recent repairs at Hillman Garage are complete and all parking spots are available to visitors. Contact Annapolis Parking with questions at 443-648-3087 or annapolisparking@spplus.com.

Schuh, Altomare Break Ground on New Police Academy

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Police Chief Tim Altomare and other county officials recently broke ground on the new Anne Arundel County Police Department Police Training Academy, in Davidsonville.
The project is an $18.8 million, 30,000-square-foot facility that will train new recruits to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, as well as personnel from the Sheriff’s Office and other regional law enforcement agencies. “This is a historic day for our department,” said Altomare. “At last, Anne Arundel County will have a first-rate training facility to support the best public safety professionals in the state.”
Construction is slated to be complete by the spring/summer of 2019. The state-of-the-art facility will be named in honor of Charles “Butch” Troyer, a retired county police officer who heroically prevented a hijacking at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in 1974.

Kittleman Announces $12.3M Taxpayer Savings From Bond Sale

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced that the recent annual bond sale conducted is expected to save county taxpayers $12.3 million, demonstrating the county’s strong value in the marketplace.
Kittleman said that the successful sale is due in large part to the county’s AAA credit rating, which Howard County has earned for more than 20 years. The sale offered Consolidated Public Improvement (CPI) new and refunding bonds and Metropolitan District Bonds via competitive bidding.
“With moderate revenue growth projected, we are focused on making sustainable budget decisions that help us maximize taxpayer dollars,” said Kittleman. “Just like refinancing a home, achieving lower interest rates for our bonds makes our money go farther. This means county taxpayers pay less for needed capital and infrastructure improvements.”
Kittleman has continued to dedicate Capital Budget funds to school construction, investments in public safety, parks and infrastructure projects, and replacement of the outdated Circuit Court house. “By prudently refinancing existing bond debt, we will save taxpayers $8.1 million for the General Fund and $4.2 million for the Water & Sewer Fund,” County Finance Director Stan Milesky said.
At the end of March, Howard County was one of just 43 counties (among more than 3,000 in the U.S.), to earn an AAA credit rating from all three bond ratings agencies.

Kittleman Announces Legislation to Give $2,500 Property Tax Credit to First Responders

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced plans to file legislation that would, when fully implemented, provide a $2,500 annual property tax credit for public safety members who reside in Howard County. Kittleman said the legislation, if approved by the County Council, would provide a partial tax credit for county police, sheriff, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel and paid and volunteer firefighters in 2019 with full credits implemented in 2020.
The legislation is expected to be pre-filed with the council soon. Once enacted, the legislation would save county first-responders a combined estimated $1.6 million in property taxes in 2020, the first full year that the credits would be in place under the Kittleman proposal.
Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly passed enabling legislation that allowed local jurisdictions to enact laws giving public safety officers a tax credit up to $2,500 annually.

Crews to Shut Down Section of Ridgely Avenue During January

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) has closed a portion of Ridgely Avenue (Route 436), in Annapolis, until early February to perform maintenance work on the Weems Creek Bridge. The closure will take place between Weems Creek Drive and Arundel Place.
During the closure, the Weems Creek Bridge will be open to marine traffic, but closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Contractors will repair the hydraulic system, reducing the likelihood of unplanned repairs related to issues with the mechanical elements of the swing span structure. MDOT SHA scheduled the repairs to be complete with the bridge closed until Feb. 2.
Covington Machine & Welding, of Annapolis, will complete the $120,000 project. Residents and businesses will have access to their properties during the closure. Bridge repairs will begin at approximately 6 a.m. each morning and continue until approximately 6 p.m. each evening.
Motorists will be directed to Rowe Boulevard (Route 70). For the latest real-time travel information, log onto www.md511.org. Questions may directed to the SHA District 5 Office, in Annapolis, at 410-841-1000 or aross1@sha.state.md.us.

Howard County Named to AP District Honor Roll

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) has been named to the 8th Annual AP District Honor Roll. HCPSS is one of 447 school districts in the U.S. and Canada, and one of only two Maryland districts, being honored by the College Board.
To be included on the 8th Annual Honor Roll, HCPSS increased the number of students participating in Advanced Placement (AP) while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher since 2015. Inclusion on the 8th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on a review of three years of AP data, from 2015 to 2017, looking across 38 AP Exams.

HCGH Named Blue Distinction Center in Maternity Services

To help prospective parents identify hospitals that may deliver quality maternity care, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced that Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) has been designated to receive the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care designation, a new title under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.
Nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. annually, making childbirth the most common cause of hospitalization. This new program evaluates hospitals on several quality measures, including the percentage of newborns that fall into the category of early elective delivery; compared with babies born 39 weeks or later, early-term infants face higher risks of death and respiratory ailments. These babies also have a higher rate of admission to Neonatal Intensive Care Units.
HCGH’s Maternal/Child Services welcomes more than 3,500 babies into the world each year. For more information, visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinction.

Waterloo Elementary Named 2017–18 Blue Ribbon School

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) announced that Waterloo Elementary School is one of six Maryland public schools to receive the state’s Blue Ribbon award for 2017–18.
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a state and national program that recognizes and honors schools that exhibit high performance and/or significant improvement in reading and mathematics achievement, as measured by Maryland assessments. Each 2017–18 Maryland Blue Ribbon School was selected in the category of exemplary high achieving school, having scored in the top 15% of all state schools on the 2017 PARCC assessments.
Sixty percent of all Waterloo students met or exceeded expectations in math and English language arts on the 2017 PARCC assessments. Student teams from Waterloo earned top three honors in the Rube Goldberg and Safe Racer Engineering Challenges.

GP Strategies to Acquire Hula Partners

Global performance improvement solutions provider GP Strategies Corp., of Columbia, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire certain assets and the business of Hula Partners, a provider of SAP SuccessFactors Human Capital Management (HCM) implementation services.
Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Houston, Hula Partners delivers the full lifecycle of HCM solutions, from planning to implementation and support, and its diverse customer base includes energy, technology, pharmaceutical, utilities and other commercial clients. It estimates revenues of approximately $7 million expected for 2017. The transaction was expected to close by Jan. 2.
“Hula brings deep complementary core HR technical and functional expertise to the existing GP Strategies SAP SuccessFactors team,” said Bill Finegan, vice president, Enterprise Technology Solutions for GP Strategies.

Heneson Receives Icon Honors From TDR

Bonnie Heneson, founder and CEO of Bonnie Heneson Communications, received an Icon Honors award from The Daily Record (TDR). Icon Honors recognize Maryland business leaders over age 60 for their success and demonstration of leadership both within and outside of their fields.
In 1990, she founded her firm, which has grown into a full-service communications firm with offices in Owings Mills and Columbia. In addition, Heneson serves on the board of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and chairs the marketing committee of the latter; Heneson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Relations Society of America–Maryland Chapter in 2014 and is a three-time recipient of TDR’s Top 100 Women Award.

Severn Bancorp Repurchases Outstanding TARP Warrant From the U.S. Treasury

Severn Bancorp, parent company of Severn Savings Bank, has completed the repurchase of a warrant held by the United States Department of Treasury. The 10-year warrant was issued on Nov. 21, 2008, as part of the company’s participation in the Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program (a part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP), and entitled the Treasury to purchase 556,976 shares of Severn Bancorp common stock at an exercise price of $6.30 per share.
The warrant was repurchased by Severn pursuant to a letter of agreement between the Treasury and the company for a total repurchase price of $520,000, or approximately $0.93 per warrant share. Alan Hyatt, president and CEO of the bank, said, “The repurchase of the warrant at the agreed-upon price underscores our continued commitment to increasing long-term value for our shareholders. The capital position of the company continues to be strong and to significantly exceed the ‘well capitalized’ thresholds established by regulators.”

Pinnacle Prize Awarded at HCC’s Fall Entrepreneurial Celebration

Thirteen Howard Community College (HCC) students pitched their innovative business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial business professionals at the Fall Entrepreneurial Celebration. The bi-annual event is sponsored by HCC’s Center for Entrepreneurial & Business Excellence (CEBE), Pinnacle Advisory Group and Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC).

At the event, students from HCC’s introductory entrepreneurship and creativity course have five minutes each to present their business ideas to the panel. The Pinnacle Entrepreneur Prize is presented to the top scorers, with an award of $1,800 for first place and $700 for placing second; the CEBE also awards a cash prize to the third-place winner and People’s Choice.

In addition, the HCCC will host the top two student winners from the fall and spring events for an entrepreneurial showdown at an evening event in late May 2018.

HCC President Kate Hetherington awarded the following students.

• First Place: Lacey Carpenter for her presentation of Rosiieecheekz Cosmetics, a brand designed to break gender stereotypes and create a safe, friendly community for makeup lovers.

• Second Place: Lashay Howard for her presentation of Aston Bands, customized hair bows and bow ties with unique designs appealing to young adults.

• Third Place: Azmain Faeque for his presentation of The Smart Mug, a mug that allows the user to set and maintain temperature control, as well as identify the health benefits of the beverage.

• People’s Choice: Nathan Raifsnider for his presentation of The HoCoLocal Foundation, a one-stop Internet destination and homepage for Howard County community members.

Visit howardcc.edu/CEBE or call 443-518-1520 for more information.