Archived Articles: March 2018

BikeExpress, Complete Streets Hint at Potential for Bicycle Infrastructure

Avid cyclists and bicycle commuters are anxiously watching several bills introduced to the Maryland General Assembly that could make their lives easier — and safer, too.

They are also guardedly celebrating Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s recently announced BikeHoward Express strategy to secure funding and provide nearly 48 miles of bicycle infrastructure improvements in the county.

At the fourth annual Bike Symposium, held last month in Annapolis by the statewide bicycling advocacy group Bike Maryland, attendees received good news and bad news, and met with legislators to help them understand cyclists’ concerns.

“Unfortunately, we lost the vote on contributory negligence,” said Bike Maryland Executive Director Josh Feldmark.

That legislation would have established a comparative negligence standard in civil actions for damages arising from negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and involving a plaintiff who is a pedestrian or operating a non-motorized vehicle.

Currently, Maryland is one of only five jurisdictions in the nation that still adhere to the archaic doctrine of contributory negligence, which bars plaintiffs from damage recovery based on any fault, however slight, the injured party may have contributed to an accident.
“This is meant to be a multi-year effort,” Feldmark said. “In D.C., it took them three years to do it. Expect us to be coming back on this.”

Complete Streets

Kim Lamphier, advocacy director for Bike Maryland, said safe passing and vulnerable road user legislation round out the biggest issues the organization is targeting in this year’s legislative session.

“Safe passing puts into law what most of us do naturally, anyway,” she said, making it legal to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist, farm vehicle or pedestrian when it is safe to do so.

As for vulnerable road user legislation, “We want to make sure there are specific penalties for drivers who seriously injure or kill vulnerable road users,” she said.

Proposed measures include a license suspension of at least seven days, community service and increased fines of up to $2,000.

“Delay means more injuries and deaths on the road for people who are riding bikes,” said Baltimore County Del. Steve Lafferty, who served on Gov. Larry Hogan’s Bicycle Safety Task Force and is sponsoring both the vulnerable road user legislation and an effort to expand the application of the Complete Streets concept to benefit pedestrians, bicyclists, people with disabilities and transit riders.

“The first piece of Complete Streets will help local governments better develop and implement Complete Streets policies by creating and funding some of the front-end policy work,” Lamphier said. The Senate version of this legislation is sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone of the Howard County delegation.

Another component would require all agencies under the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), and not just the State Highway Administration, to comply with Complete Streets.

“We think that will be a key as we look into more roads to get the bus lanes that we need in some roads, in some of the construction projects that have been proposed, and make sure we can get bicycle and pedestrian planning as a regular part of MDOT’s work,” Lamphier said.

Rethinking Transportation

According to statistics compiled by the League of American Bicyclists, Maryland ranks 11th in terms of bicycle friendliness, dropping from 10th two years ago and seventh in a previous survey; that’s a downward trend that Feldmark would like to reverse.

“At the end of the day, Bike Maryland is a transportation organization,” he said. “We see our overall function as being a catalyst that changes the way we think about our entire transportation structure so that cyclists, pedestrians, scooters or mass transit are considered and have appropriate places within our transportation infrastructure.”

Howard County has moved closer to achieving its own vision for a more connected bicycle infrastructure with a comprehensive strategy outlining approximately $8 million in improvements during the next three years. Funding for the improvements will come from a mixture of county funds and grants.

Additionally, during his annual State of the County address in February, Kittleman announced that the county’s bike share program will soon expand to old Ellicott City.

“I’ve heard growing support for improved bicycle infrastructure, and this strategy directly answers those calls,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.

Proposed BikeHoward Express improvements include new bike lanes, designated shared roadways and shared-use pathways.

BikeExpress

Key components of Kittleman’s strategy include a connection from Savage to North Laurel, shared-use pathways providing access to Downtown Columbia, Columbia Gateway and along Dobbin Road, and nearly 14 miles of bike lanes.

“Starting this year, BikeHoward Express includes the greatest financial investment ever made in bicycle infrastructure in Howard County,” Kittleman said. “If we make it easier and safer for people to get around by biking, more people will choose to do so”

That’s welcome news to the Horizon Foundation, the advocacy nonprofit dedicated to the health and wellness of the county’s citizens that has been one of the primary supporters of the Bikeway, an earlier plan similar to BikeExpress.

Those involved in the campaign, however, have expressed concern about some of the BikeExpress strategy’s assumptions.

“If built, this network would benefit our county’s quality of life, environment and health while also increasing business appeal and transit options for residents and workers,” said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. “We are concerned, however, that the county executive’s plan relies on $4.7 million in competitive state grant funding, though the county has never received this amount of state bicycling grants in the past. We look forward to seeing whether the county executive accompanies his promise with real funding in next year’s budget to get it done.”

On its website, the Horizon Foundation has registered “tremendous and growing” business support for investment in cycling infrastructure in general, and for the Bikeway in particular, with more than 30 local businesses and community organizations endorsing the Bikeway.

Still, Howard County’s funding commitment for bicycle infrastructure continues to fall short compared with surrounding jurisdictions.

According to a joint statement issued by the Horizon Foundation and Bicycling Advocates of Howard County, last year’s budget allotted only $600,000 in county funding toward Bike Master Plan projects, compared with $26 million budgeted for bicycle improvements in Montgomery County and $7.5 million in Anne Arundel County.

The public has one final opportunity to weigh in on funding priorities at Howard County’s last scheduled budget hearing on March 8.
In Annapolis, both legislative chambers will hold public hearings on March 14 and March 22 to receive testimony on both the state agency compliance and local government components of Complete Streets legislation.

LRH Transition Advances Alongside New Residential

New townhouses, a new hospital campus and a new twist on a long-planned mixed-use project are among the changes the City of Laurel is experiencing as ongoing development and redevelopment projects advance.

According to Christian Pulley, Laurel’s director of economic and community development, housing projects continue to see significant growth. With the Westside community of 56 townhouse units nearly complete, several other residential projects have joined the queue. They include the newly approved 55-unit Spring Arbor townhouse community on Van Dusen Road, between Konterra Drive and Contee Road, and a new proposal for up to 180 townhouse units, also on Van Dusen Road.
Cohen Siegel Investors of Rockville acquired the 200-acre Patuxent Greens Country Club in 2017 and is seeking rezoning to redevelop the property as a community of single-family homes and townhomes, with public amenities.

Pulley, however, said no official documents or applications have yet been filed relevant to that project. Cohen Siegel, meanwhile, has abandoned plans to develop its long-proposed mixed-use Hawthorne Place project on Marshall Avenue.

Instead, Georgia-based Saia LTL Freight opened a new trucking terminal on the existing site in October 2017, solidifying the logistic services company’s presence in the northeastern market.

“In conjunction with our entrance into Maryland, we’ll also begin offering direct service to the greater New York City and Long Island markets,” said Saia’s Chief Customer Officer Roy Ramu, in a related release. “Customers have responded well to our northeastern service offering, and our new terminal in Laurel will expand our reach and service capabilities further.”

Adjustments Necessary

In February, officials with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) presented Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and the City Council with a status update on the transition of Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH) into the University of Maryland Laurel Regional Hospital (UMLRH).

Trudy Hall, vice president of medical affairs and interim president of UMLRH, acknowledged that the hospital’s transition and new construction take into account a nationwide trend in declining admissions that has occurred during the past decade.

“We’re seeing more patients being placed in the observation level with less than 48 hours of care,” Hall said, with only about 12% of all emergency department visits resulting in admission. “Approximately 75% of surgeries are now being performed in the outpatient or ambulatory setting.”

The strategic planning work group convened by Moe to help smooth the transition recommended a greater focus on behavioral health services at the hospital.
“The recommendation was to look at expanding the partial hospitalization program, and adding a substance abuse [program],” Hall said.

“The new facility represents a $50 million UMMS investment into the Laurel community, in addition to anticipated private investment into the surrounding medical campus,” she said, pending regulatory approval.

As envisioned, UMLRH will transition by fall this year from a full-service hospital to a 24/7 emergency department with critical care stabilization, short stay medical care, behavioral health services and same-day and overnight surgery, as well as laboratory, full imaging and pharmacy services.

Timeline

UMMS has requested permission from the Maryland Health Care Commission to relocate inpatient acute rehabilitation and chronic care services to the Prince George’s Hospital, in Cheverly.

The university could break ground on a new hospital building by the spring of 2019 and anticipates move-in with no interruption of clinical services by December 2020.

“We will continue our primary care, women’s health program with OB/GYN services, our lung health program to handle COPD and asthma, as well as sleep medicine,” Hall said, in addition to existing wound care and chronic pain programs.

UMMS anticipates the addition of a wellness and weight loss program, chronic disease management, a diabetes and metabolic center, advanced care planning, neurology services and the capability for telemedicine consultation to better utilize the university’s resources and expertise.
The new hospital building will be constructed at the corner of Van Dusen Road and Contee Road, offering access from different sides.

“We have 10 observation bay units planned, tied directly to the emergency department,” said UMMS Vice President of Construction and Facilities Darryl Mealy.

Although the building is sized for four operating rooms at full build-out, UMMS is currently only seeking permission for two. “We don’t think we have the volumes at this point in time to request four, but we’re hopeful as our volume increases that we’ll get permission to get two additional operating rooms,” he said.

Partners in Health

According to Hall, the UMMS transition plan relies heavily on auxiliary and volunteer services to provide the highest level of service to patients and their families. “We provide a service to high schools and middle schools, for a lot of kids who need to [complete] community service requirements,” she said. “It’s nice to get them in a health care environment to provide that outlet.”

Laurel City Councilwoman Valerie Nicholas, who serves as the volunteer services coordinator for UMLRH, said that arrangement includes a partnership with high school students who are pursuing a health care profession track at Howard County’s Applications Research Laboratory.
“They come five days a week, and this is their second term of [service],” Nicholas said. “We also have students from Laurel High School, Reservoir, Paint Branch, St. Vincent Pallotti, all over. It’s worked out great.”
Moe said he has heard gratitude from employees and volunteers for the way UMMS is handling the transition.

“They were pleased with the open dialogue and very pleased with human resources,” he said. “I had real concerns with the numbers that we referred to back in 2012 under Dimensions Healthcare, [which] was running the system into the ground. I think we’re going to see more people using these facilities, and I think you’re going to see numbers go up, now that the university’s in charge.”

Enough, Already? Restaurant Market Tighter Than Ever

Darrell Nevin has been at the commercial real estate game for about three decades. But lately, the managing director of the LeaseWright Commercial Team of Keller Williams Realty Centre, in Columbia, is seeing things he hasn’t seen.

By Nevin’s count, approximately 58 restaurants opened in Howard County during the past seven years, and 31 have closed. He added that 27 new locations have opened during that time that have added more choices to the local market for the consumer, but also intensified competition.
“This is extraordinary,” he said, “but with a strong economy and so many new developments, there’s so much more competition. This is capitalism at its best — and its most painful.”

Painful is the word, because Nevin is in the midst of a half-dozen renegotiations on behalf of restaurant clients and has succeeded in lowering their rents. “Landlords understand the risk that market saturation is placing on their restaurant operators, and know the impact that such vacancies have on the tenant mix. Just look at how Hickory Ridge Village Center has struggled since Luna Bella closed more than a year ago, for instance.

“So even in Howard County,” he said, “there is only so much disposable income.”

Footage Frenzy

The crux of this story, Nevin said, is the ever-increasing high rents for restaurant space is handicapping their chances of success.

“There are so many places closing and so many opening,” he said, citing Maple Lawn as an example. “Today, there are eight restaurants in Maple Lawn. There were initially three, and two of them have changed hands more than once.”

He then pointed to two prominent examples at The Mall in Columbia: Champps and UNO Pizzeria, which were replaced by the recently opened Shake Shack; Urban Plates, which is slated to open before year’s end; and The Walrus Oyster & Ale House, which is set to open in late spring.

Nevin said other factors include Columbia having more than double the retail square footage per person than the typical submarket, and the trend toward fast-casual restaurants by more cost-conscious and time-sensitive customers. That’s led to the rise of concepts that mimic chains like Chipotle or Panera Bread, or quick-stop offerings at Wegmans or Whole Foods.

“Restaurant operators know that diners vote with their feet,” he said, “and are always pressured to perform at the highest level to stay ahead of industry trends. Those who do are always the winners.”

About the Numbers

Owen Rouse, a senior vice president with Columbia-based Manekin LLC, offered his interpretation of Nevin’s numbers.

“If you ask the economic development people, they’ll tell you Howard County is the third wealthiest county in the country,” said Rouse, “but perhaps it should be termed ‘third least-poor county.’ By that, I mean there is not unlimited disposable income.”

“I don’t know if 58 is a lot of restaurant openings or if 31 is a lot to close. Those numbers, by themselves, hold little meaning,” he said. “I need to know the parameters by which this part of the market is being judged. And just because [a restaurant is] existing, that doesn’t mean it’s functional.”
Another by-product of today’s strong economy is the depth of the labor pool, “which is particularly thin in a wealthy place like Howard County,” Rouse said.

“It’s interesting to note that the rising tide of a good economy produces more competition that has, in turn, created mixed results in the restaurant market. The implication is that there is a finite size to that pie that had seemed to get bigger,” Rouse said. “However, it only got a little bigger.”
And he feels that’s raised more questions than answers.

“Why hasn’t Copeland’s [by the Columbia Lakefront] been backfilled by another operator, with a central location and the deck parking? And why did [area restaurateur] Foreman Wolf close Petit Louis [also at the Lakefront] and reposition it with Roman food? That’s another confluence of great location, excellent décor and superior management, yet Petit Louis wasn’t working to their satisfaction.”

And while he understood where Nevin was coming from with his observations about market size and rents, Rouse offered his own view. “I don’t dispute that American retail, per capita, is way out in front of the rest of the world, but I don’t think it’s linear,” he said. “I think some markets can withhold certain amounts of retail, while in other places the numbers are skewed by the presence of large malls or Walmart.

“There are three roadblocks to success in the restaurant industry,” he said. “Not handling the heightened competition, not knowing when to change menus and not evolving to accommodate market demand.”

What Blind Costs?

Joe Burdett is a tax accountant, but he’s also a former restaurateur who understands the pitfalls of the business.

“It’s sort of a three-headed monster,” said Burdett, who still works with many eateries. “The competition is fierce, and the mom-and-pop places don’t have the buying power of the big corporations.

“But even more so is the cost of commercial real estate,” he said. “If you’re not buying real estate, that’s the biggest problem,” he said, adding that the cost is “at least high $20s per foot to lease. And no one will lease to you for less than five years, with escalating rents roughly every year of 2.5% to 3%. And know that food trucks are doing well, due to controlled overhead.”

Some restaurants may do a great job and have great food, Burdett said, “but they’re horrible at crunching numbers and understanding the blind costs. The food is only 25% of their overhead, which now also includes the sick leave bill, which is very hard on small employers.”

And Columbia isn’t the only submarket with issues. “Waugh Chapel is more overloaded than Columbia. Some of those places have to give away coupons to get people to show up,” he said. “Then the first thing you have to do, if you’re struggling, is raise prices.

But despite the challenges, Burdett said, the indies can make it. “In fact, small indies (like Columbia’s Wecker Hospitality Group) are starting to open multiple locations, so their buying power improves.”

Tony Foreman is owner of Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, which also owns multiple locations. He said he’s the “odd person” on both sides of the issue.

“Petit Louis Bistro has done fine, but not as well as I thought it would. Just dropping a restaurant out of the sky doesn’t necessarily work, but I’m not one to drop out at the first sign of turbulence,” he said. “We’re changing our menu because I’ve spent four years becoming more connected to the people of Howard County,” he said.

Foreman Wolf’s new Roman-style offering, Lupa, will open in March. So it’s onwards for the new venture, turbulence be damned.

“I started in this business in 1979, and it’s always been volatile, by nature,” he said. “I’ve operated several restaurants with a company and owned six [with the other five in Baltimore City] during the last 25 or so years with Ms. [Cindy] Wolf. We’re not willing to go five for six.”

Today, Foreman better understands what the locals want. “They want great quality and a beautiful environment, with accessibility. People in Howard County work hard and are not up for being challenged at dinner.”

The Ops Side

Steve Wecker and brother Rob own and operate The Iron Bridge Wine Co., in Columbia, and the Mutiny Pirate Bar & Island Grille, in Glen Burnie; now, Wecker Hospitality Group is preparing to debut two new offerings this spring in Downtown Columbia’s One Merriweather building: Cured Table & Tap and Eighteenth & Twenty-First, a Prohibition-style supper club.

But Wecker knows success on this go-’round will be more of a fight than it was when he and his brother opened Iron Bridge back in 2003, when “the demand for dining was more than the capacity; now it’s the opposite,” he said.

In the interim, “plenty of people have gotten into the business who simply shouldn’t have,” he said. “There are some wonderful people who simply open concepts that are bad ideas. They haven’t researched the market, paid attention to developing trends and looked at the competition. The concept isn’t just about what the owner wants; to be successful, it needs to be about what the public wants.”

Then comes the actual operation of the entity. “When I consulted, I’d ask people about their food and alcohol costs. And they don’t know what they were,” Wecker said. “We do inventory every month. We have a scale and weigh everything. One time our scale broke, and we asked other taverns if we could borrow theirs; three of them didn’t have one. They don’t do inventory.”

Management at Wecker’s establishments also has weekly meetings to review sales and determine food costs. He also has an Oracle app on his phone so he can check what’s going on, in real time.

Being Aware

Then, there are the daily dramas of the industry.

“Some owners are never on-site and don’t see employees walk out the back door with their food, money and liquor,” he said. “Most of our staff have been here for 10-to-15 years and, because they are invested in our success, they would never allow anyone to violate that trust that we have.”

It all comes down to being aware of what’s really needed to succeed. “We’re not brilliant, but we get the little details. Not everyone is a good fit for this industry,” Wecker said, adding, “There should be a prerequisite license testing for people who want to enter it, because without a good plan, it’s a fast way to lose your life’s savings.”

Wecker offered his bottom line on how to approach opening a new restaurant.

“We did a full business plan for the new places. Food, labor, demographics, location, mock [profit and loss] statements, electric, etc. It’s a million and one things,” he said. “If what’s necessary to succeed isn’t clear at the end of the proposal, don’t talk yourself in to it. The best thing to do is to forget it.”

UMBC Event Center Marks New Era, Adds Revenue Streams

Saturday, Feb. 3, was graduation day at UMBC. Only this time it wasn’t the students who were ready for their next chapters. It was the university that was entering new, exciting territory.

The step up was not only in athletics, but in prestige and economics, too, as the $85 million, 5,500-seat UMBC Event Center was unveiled before a big crowd for the basketball matchup between the Retrievers and the University of Vermont.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski’s laser-like focuses on academics and making sure everyone knows that math is cool has UMBC ranked among the elite of schools on the East Coast, if not the throughout the country. But he also understands how the sports programs can boost a university’s stature.

With the debut of the facility, the university can increase and even establish new revenue streams via naming rights for the center, events, advertising and endowments.

 

The Experience

From UMBC’s perspective, said Greg Simmons, vice president of institutional advancement, the new options require a new focus. “We’re looking for a partner that can make an investment in the arena. It could be via a naming rights agreement or one where a donor comes along and meets the requirements of an endowment.”

That means the lines of communication are buzzing between the university and parents and alums, he said. “There are various opportunities for us to work on philanthropy to sell naming rights within the arena,” including the Student Academic Center, which is in the center’s basement; the hospitality room, which sits atop the arena on the I-195 side; the university weight room; the coaching suite; etc.

For instance, elsewhere on campus, UMBC has set up an endowment for a named professorship to honor a beloved university statistician. “So, people can give philanthropically in that manner to name various sections of the arena, too,” said Simmons.

“We’re working with potential naming rights partners now,” he said, “and we’re looking for a market rate deal” that is similar to the $450,000-per-year, 10-year deal at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

Making Money

But Simmons stressed that the new facility isn’t just about the campus. “The arena isn’t just for sports and graduations. It’s for the overall community,” he said. “We want to measure the impact of the building by the quality of the student experience, the events it attracts and the patronizing of events in Catonsville and Arbutus,” he said.

Handling that quest is OVG Facilities, which has already booked concerts with A Day to Remember (March 13) and Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly (April 21), as well as A Mother’s Day Celebration (May 12) and a performance by the Harlem Globetrotters (March 15).

Virginia Beach-based OVG has relationships with 28 facilities and full management of nine, including the UMBC Event Center. UMBC pays OVG, which has seven staffers on-site, a fee for management services, plus a percentage for revenues generated over a certain benchmark.

“Our job is to bring in as many outside events as possible,” said Doug Higgons, OVG senior vice president, “and we’ll ask the local corporate community and small businesses to sponsor the venue and athletic events.”

Higgons noted that UMBC can make money from ads on the scoreboards, as well as its hospitality room, concessions and catering. “We want the Event Center to be as busy as possible for the first year so we can put the building on the map,” he said.

And that’s the idea, said Bob Leffler, a consultant who ran The Leffler Agency, in Baltimore, for many years. “I think everybody that builds these [approximately] 5,500-seat buildings hopes to host a variety of events. It turned out that SECU Arena is perfect at that size, not only for Towson’s basketball team, but for the Baltimore Blast [indoor soccer team, which began play there this season].

“The new arena makes UMBC competitive with Towson, and Coppin [State] and Morgan [State] aren’t far behind,” Leffler said, “and they’re all ahead of Loyola and Hopkins, since [those schools] focus on lacrosse.”

He thinks UMBC’s location, just off of I-95 and near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, works in its favor. “Many years ago, there was talk of an 18,000-seat arena at UMBC, and I did a study to address its potential income,” Leffler said. “It turned out that [what was then known as] USAir Arena, in Landover, was too close.”

Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports, agreed with Leffler that UMBC is in “an ideal location and is in a great market for mid-sized acts. The challenging part is fitting in the athletic and school-scheduled events with the events they can secure.

“Know that conference schedules come out a year in advance,” Hasseltine said, “and just because you can book doesn’t mean you can convert [the facility to the setup for the next event]. It takes lots of human power to set up a concert floor after a basketball game.”

Decision Time

E.J. Narcise is principal with Rockville-based Team Services LLC, which is brokering the naming rights to the UMBC Event Center; the company also brokered the SECU Arena deal; the University of Maryland’s deal with Comcast for the Xfinity Center, which was $1.5 million per year for 25 years; and many others.

He hopes the UMBC numbers are similar to those of Towson, but for 15 years. “UMBC is similar to Georgetown, as they are both driven by academics and research,” said Narcise, “but know that Freeman Hrabowski also understands how athletic prowess grows the image of the school.”
He said that looking for a partner is less about branding than finding a partner that wants to grow within the UMBC environment.

“We’re selling a campus-wide partnership. The idea is to construct a bridge between UMBC and whoever buys the rights, drive traffic both ways, and give both parties new insights into UMBC,” said Narcise, adding that the pool has been narrowed to a handful of potential partners, “all of which will be involved with UMBC in some way, anyway.”

Old Digs, New Tricks: Preserving History, With Developers

Two buildings bookending the National Business Parkway reflect both sides of a modern day dilemma: how to balance the desire to preserve historically significant properties against the pressures of housing construction and economic development.

Both are listed on the Maryland Historical Trust’s (MHT) Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. But that’s where their similarity ends.
Trusty Friend, a beautifully restored Italian Villa-style home dating to the 1840s, sits near the parkway’s northeast terminus at Route 175. As the focal point of The Elms at Shannon’s Glen, a mixed-use residential community developed in 2014 by Virginia-based Elm Street Development, it provides business office space and serves as a community center with a conference room available for rent.

In marked contrast, the decaying remains of the antebellum Grassland plantation can be found next to the Courtyards By Marriott, near the parkway’s southern terminus at Route 32.

Consisting of a main house dating to 1853, a one-story frame slave house and several outbuildings, all built by slave hands, Grassland sits in limbo. Its owner, the nonprofit Grassland Foundation, cannot afford upkeep costs and is awaiting the outcome of a tax sale in June, the result of a lien levied against the property by Anne Arundel County for nonpayment of one year’s prior property taxes.

“It would take about $20,000 a year, at a minimum, just to keep things as is, [excluding] major repairs or renovations,” said Grassland Foundation spokesman Marvin Anderson. “I would love to see some individual, group or groups be able to take over and move the renovation project forward.”
However, he doesn’t see that happening at Grassland, which hosted several encampments of Union troops during the Civil War. “I have little hope or expectation that government at any level, or combination of levels, will do so,” Anderson said.

History on Hold

In more recent years, the property’s bank barn was lost to the construction of Route 32, and much of its land was sold to Corporate Office Properties Trust for incorporation into the National Business Park.

The Grassland Foundation trying to save what’s left consists primarily, though not entirely, of the descendants of original owner William Anderson, a prominent businessman and architect who operated a dry goods and hardware store in Harpers Ferry, Va.

In 2005, an MHT grant paid for the restoration of two front porches, as well as the replacement of some windows, brick and roof repair, and the conversion of a second floor bedroom into a new bathroom.

The home has been unoccupied since 2003, however, due to its industrial use zoning and lack of lead paint remediation.

The main building could be well-suited for conversion to office space, or even a bed and breakfast or conference center, but its inconvenient location and unnerving proximity to the high security NSA annex that virtually surrounds it have foundation members seriously doubting that they’ll ever find a long-term commercial tenant or a purchaser willing to pay fair market value, as well as carry out the requirements of the property’s historic preservation easement.

“Our problem is a question of funding and a loss or lack of [community] interest, plus the failure of the state to provide significant funding that was verbally promised years ago, when the historic preservation easement was being negotiated,” Anderson said, emphasizing his fears that the home could fall to ruin before the ongoing legal process runs its course.

Barney House

In Howard County, the Commodore Joshua Barney House, in Savage, narrowly dodged a similar fate. Barney, a naval hero of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, once resided in the core building of the house, which dates to about 1760.

New residential owners purchased the home out of foreclosure in October 2017 and are now seeking historic property tax credits to repair damages to the house and bring it into compliance with existing historic preservation easements.

“I think it’s in very good hands now,” said Preservation Howard County (PHC) President Fred Dorsey. “There was a lot of vandalism going on while it sat vacant for two years.”

Similar to what happened with Trusty Friend, Howard County has seen a recent trend of developers willing to preserve historic properties.
Developer Dave Woessner, for example, decided to restore the historic Pue-Fulton house and incorporate it in the Dorsey’s Ridge residential development, rather than demolish it.

“The rental of two floors of the house will be sufficient to sustain the operational costs of the house,” Dorsey said.

Likewise, The Shelter Group refurbished the 18th century Athol Manor house, in Columbia, in combination with another project, and later turned it over to the nonprofit C,ommunity Foundation as a dedicated space for use by nonprofit arts groups. PHC is also negotiating with other developers in hopes of preserving other endangered assets in a similar manner.
“We’re finding that developers are more and more willing to spend money to save some of these types of historic buildings, particularly when they can find some useful purpose for them,” Dorsey said.

Saving Whites Hall

Despite the Trusty Friend precedent, the trend hasn’t caught on in Anne Arundel County quite the way it has in Howard County.

With tax credits capped at $50,000 claimed during a five-year period, “there’s not much incentive for a developer or individual to pursue it,” said Patricia Melville, chair of the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation.
That situation nearly led to the loss of Whites Hall, in Gambrills, birthplace of Johns Hopkins, who helped found the hospital and university that bear his name.

Neither the county nor the eponymous university wants the vacant property, which is currently owned by Millersville-based developer The Polm Cos.

Public outcry kept the developer from seeking a demolition permit in 2016.
In the meantime, New York resident Bob Brown, whose mother was born in Whites Hall in 1920, has established The Johns Hopkins House Inc. as a nonprofit organization seeking to purchase the property and convert it into a self-sustaining bed and breakfast, restaurant or tavern operation with a museum.

During the next few weeks, Brown plans to launch a significant effort to underwrite the project with the advertising and marketing help of the National Public Radio affiliates in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“We’ll need to raise about $840,000, possibly less, if we can obtain a mortgage,” Brown said, adding that Polm Cos. supports his plan. “The consultant who will oversee the restoration of Whites Hall is Dennis Pogue, the long-time curator and vice president for preservation at Mount Vernon. “We could be in the building within two months or so if we’re successful.”
Polm Cos. President Rick Polm could not be reached for comment before this issue of The Business Monthly went to press.

Despite a spate of recent and pending success stories, Dorsey and Melville both cautioned that it’s far too easy for historically significant properties to wind up like Grassland.

In some extreme cases, Howard County has managed to save some historic buildings by moving them to the Howard County Conservancy or to Rockburn Branch Park.

“You can’t save everything, because it’s a question of economics,” Melville said. “But when we lose something, we lose access to a physical resource. It’s one thing to read about a place in the limited [texts] that exist, but it’s quite another to visit and study that place and be able to see it, feel it and even smell it. That’s where our best understanding of history comes from.”

Northrop Opts for New Approach, Opens Brokerage

For Creig Northrop and his vast team of real estate agents, it was time.
Having been named the No. 1 real estate team in the country by sales volume on multiple occasions in the REAL Trends 1000, Northrop was looking for the next opportunity to grow.

The company’s transition from The Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate to Northrop Realty, a full-service brokerage, will facilitate that opportunity. Initially, the new entity will serve Maryland and Washington, D.C., and it will continue to be led by owners Creig and wife Carla Northrop.

Creig Northrop said the transition will allow the company to open numerous new offices in the mid-Atlantic, as such efforts were “capped” under the previous parameters.

State Lines

That’s just one new option Northrop Realty — which operates from its new Clarksville headquarters, as well as offices in Carroll, Baltimore and Montgomery counties, and its new location in Anne Arundel County, in Annapolis — has in its game plan.

“Before, I was an agent and we were operating under government rules, so we could only have five offices, by law. Now, we’re looking in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and Washington,” he said. “We can have however many offices we need to service a state.

“Within a year or two, we’re shooting for 20 locations,” Northrop said. “Now, we can partner with Long & Foster and Christie’s, and our agents get all of the benefits of those associations. Previously, we worked for them.”
He added that the switch also allows the agents of Northrop Realty “to become their own CEOs and build a structure for their own businesses under our brand,” he said. “We used the team logo on our signs before, but now they can use their pictures, and create their own identity with the same structure.”

Why was now the time to make the move? “Because we felt we’d reached our highest accomplishments with The Northrop Team,” he said, which had hit the No. 1 spot with Real Trends three years in a row.

Turnkey Approach

Another benefit of the change is that it highlights Northrop as a turnkey brokerage.

“Most agencies offer you a desk and say, ‘Good luck,’” he said. “We can offer Custom Customer Relationship Management software, staging, photography, etc., and take care of details and allow our agents to sell.”
Northrop Realty also has unveiled its own relocation department. Under the former setup, that function was handled at Long & Foster, in Chantilly, Va. “Ours will be boosted by Long & Foster, but now we can do it here, so people can move in while working with agents who live locally,” he said. “That’s our home field advantage.”

Northrop will be altering his role with the new entity, too.

“I’ll be a player/coach and start Northrop U,” in partnership with the Frederick Academy of Real Estate, he said. “Many agents get into the business not really knowing exactly what it entails. I’ve been at it for 30 years and my mother, Elaine, has been in the business for more than 45 years, and we want to give back to the industry.”

If the transition from the team concept to a brokerage sounds unusual, it is. “I don’t think it happens often,” said Jeff Detweiler, president and CEO at Long & Foster Real Estate headquarters, in Chantilly.

“Teams start with a natural progression,” he said. “One agent is successful, then works with one more in order to get some vacation time. Then they may get some administrative help. On the rare occasion, it grows into something like the Northrop Team. But only the largest teams, in the best of times, roll out to become their own brokerage.”

Usually, Detweiler doesn’t think it makes sense, “because they have to deal with economies of scale, and sometimes they don’t know all the different facets of the business. But Creig’s team is a rare entity for which this made sense, due to its sheer amount of transactions.”

He added that Northrop’s number of salespeople floats around the 100 mark, “which is five times more than other big teams in the industry. In general, a big team is considered to be about 20, with maybe 13 in sales and the rest administration.”

While calling the move “a daunting task,” Detweiler thinks Northrop is the man for this move.

“I could run down 100 things that a brokerage is responsible for, and that’s one of the most underappreciated aspects of making this move,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who’s done exactly what we’re doing, but I think Creig understands” his new role.

Status Quo

On the other hand, Bob Lucido, president of The Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams, in Ellicott City, is happy to stand pat with his relationship with Keller Williams.

“We’re proud to be part of the No. 1 residential real estate company in the world, Keller Williams. We are the No. 1 team in world of the No. 1 residential real estate company, which operates in more than 30 countries,” he said. “My people can grow within our team, so we don’t need a separate brokerage.”

Lucido said his agents and staff have what they need under the more traditional setup. “They can create their own teams within our structure in Maryland, around the country and around the globe,” he said. “We’re very happy with the program we have.”

And, like Northrop, he expects that will lead to considerable growth. Soon.
“We’re proud that we’ve had a spotless record of integrity and honesty for 41 years,” said Lucido. “People trust the Bob Lucido team, and we have been expanding in 10 other cities for 18 months; and we plan to be operating from 100 cities in the next three years. This will give our team and our clients more opportunities and more exposure.”
Northrop, however, is looking forward to growing under his new set of rules.

“Wes Foster [co-founder of Long & Foster] was a mentor,” said Northrop, “and when we made the decision to become a brokerage, I told Long & Foster we needed to get to the next level, while still working together. And our clients will not be affected. That’s allowed us to grow from strength.”

Biz Roundup

Bon Secours, Mercy Health Announce Intent to Merge

Marriottsville-based Bon Secours Health System, a Catholic health ministry serving residents across the east coast; and Mercy Health, a Catholic health ministry serving Ohio and Kentucky, announced their intent to merge and create one of the largest health systems in the country, spanning seven states in the eastern half of the U.S.

“The mission, vision, values and geographic service areas of Bon Secours and Mercy Health are remarkably well-aligned and highly complementary,” said Richard Statuto, president and CEO of Bon Secours Health System. “This merger strengthens our shared commitment to improve population health, eliminate health disparities, build strength to address social determinants of health and invest heavily in innovating our approaches to health care.”

Together, Mercy Health and Bon Secours rank in the top performing quartile of Catholic health systems for low-cost, high-quality patient care, promoting healthier lives and creating more affordable health care. The merger allows the new entity to leverage economies of scale by integrating resources and teams. The merged entity can claim the following.

• One of the top 20 health systems in the nation and the fifth largest Catholic health system, with $8 billion in net operating revenue and $293 million in operating income
• 57,000 associates and more than 2,100 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians
• More than 10 million patient encounters across seven states, with 43 hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites
• Robust post-acute care services with more than 50 home health agencies, hospice agencies, and skilled nursing and assisted living facilities

While there is no specific date outlined, executives at both ministries expect to complete the merger by the end of the calendar year.

Live! Casino to Offer Maryland’s First Outdoor Gaming,
Smoking Patio

Live! Casino & Hotel has announced the new Orchid Gaming & Smoking Patio, which will feature table games and slots. Scheduled to open in mid-April, the patio is also the first in the state to offer Ticket In/Ticket Out (TITO) tables, enabling players to move between slots and table games without carrying chips to the main cage.

“Orchid is the latest in the evolution of Live! Casino & Hotel, as we continually strive to create an environment that is engaging and welcoming for our guests,” said Rob Norton, president of the facility. “With Orchid, we are offering them visually stunning space to enjoy an extensive collection of cigars and spirits, while seamlessly moving between their favorite table games and slots.”

Orchid will feature 12 live action table games, including Blackjack, Baccarat and Roulette; plus, 28 electronic table positions, including “Dealer-Assist” Blackjack, Baccarat, Craps and Roulette, and bar-top terminals. More than 150 of the latest slot machines, including video poker, will be available in denominations ranging from $.01 to $10.

The gaming zones are interspersed among features representing the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Orchid’s bar will feature lounge seating and an extensive collection of spirits, including barrel-aged cocktails; specially-built humidors will house premium cigars curated by Orchid’s cigar specialists. For more information, visit www.marylandlivecasino.com.

Lorien at Home Expands Into Howard County, Adds Outreach Service

Lorien at Home, the in-home services division of Lorien Health Services, is expanding in size and scope with the addition of Howard County operations, as well as a new outreach service for people on the mend.

The expansion will give Howard County residents access to Lorien at Home’s menu of in-home services, including Living Lorien, a monthly plan that offers comprehensive and continuous monitoring with telehealth services, 24/7 RN Care Management and consultations with a care coach; or, with Lorien Select, clients can pick and choose from a long list of services, including nursing services, assistance with bathing, transportation or light housekeeping, intermittent consultations with a care coach, and monthly wellness and safety assessments.

In addition to the geographic expansion, Lorien at Home has taken on a new role within Lorien Health Services, a family-run business founded in 1977 that operates 10 assisted living and skilled nursing facilities throughout Maryland.

The expansion into Howard County represents a homecoming of sorts for Lorien at Home. Although it shares its parent company’s headquarters in Ellicott City, it has offered in-home services in Baltimore County since 2014. It expanded into Harford County last year.

Renovations on the Dossier at Westfield Annapolis Mall

Westfield Annapolis has begun a modernization and revitalization program, with construction now underway on an all-new, food hall-inspired Dining Court slated to open this summer. Westfield has integrated into a number of its retail destinations the bistro-style court, which will incorporate an additional 200 lounge-style seats amidst white pendant lighting, cage fixtures, custom-made rope lights and ceiling sculptures, along with stainless steel and glass fixtures.

In addition to a new, contemporary Family Lounge, recent upgrades at the mall include the makeover of the property’s Bow Tie Cinemas, which now feature reserved luxury recliner seating, an elevated hot food menu that can be delivered to the customer’s seat, and a state-of-the-art large format BTX screen with Dolby Atmos sound. A full bar is scheduled to be added for 2018, adding to the next-level movie-going experience.

All the eateries currently operating in the space, including Chick-fil-A, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Five Guys, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill and Panda Express, will remain open for business during construction.

The enhancements reflect a vision for a revitalized “city center” where food, fashion, multi-faceted social activities and a range of health and wellness amenities are all available in one place.

MDOT Given Green Light to Go Solar at Its Facilities

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) will run a number of its facilities throughout the state with solar power, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The Board of Public Works, chaired by Gov. Larry Hogan, approved the plan at its Feb. 7 meeting. MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn said no capital funds will be expended to pay for the program, and solar panels could be installed at up to 35 MDOT sites within 18 months. The program, one of the first of its kind in the country by a state transportation agency, is projected to generate 298 construction and 28 operations and maintenance jobs, with more positions added as solar power expands to other MDOT sites.

Through the bidding process, MDOT selected six master contractors who will compete to provide renewable solar energy for MDOT’s headquarters and the facilities of its business units: the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Aviation Administration, the Maryland Port Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority.

MDOT owns or controls more than 874 facilities, including buildings, parking garages and parking lots that could be studied for solar installation; but not all structures will qualify. MDOT will lease land to the developer, which will construct, own, operate and maintain the renewable energy infrastructure. The initial contract for construction of the solar facilities is five years, with a two-year renewal option.

Once the solar systems are in place, MDOT will buy the power at a fixed rate for 20–25 years. For the project to be approved, the rate must be less than what MDOT would pay to the utility. MDOT expects its utility payments to drop from an average of 10 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour to 6 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour, a potential savings of 30–40%.

 

Kittleman Updates Farming Community on Agriculture Initiatives

A new restaurant certification initiative and a high school agricultural science program were announced at County Executive Allan Kittleman’s annual roundtable with farm and business owners. Kittleman discussed these and other ongoing agriculture initiatives with more than 40 farmers and business owners at the roundtable, which was held at the Howard County Fairgrounds.

Kittleman started the event to open dialogue about initiatives to support the health and vitality of farming in the county. “We’ve discussed ways to improve relationships with nearby residents and how to make farming more profitable. Some of the suggestions have led directly to efforts like our Farm Academy and the Agriculture Subcabinet,” said Kittleman.

James Zoller, the county’s agriculture coordinator, announced a new program to be launched in March called “We are HoCo Fresh,” which will certify county restaurants that purchase specific amounts of produce, protein and other products from local farms. Restaurants meeting the goals will be able to display and advertise the certification.

In addition, Kathy Johnson, agricultural development manager with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, announced a new agriculture science curriculum to be offered to high school juniors and seniors at the county’s Applications and Research Laboratory beginning in the fall. It will be part of the school system’s honors program.

Advarra, TransPerfect Form Strategic Language Services Partnership

TransPerfect Life Sciences, a provider of technologies and services to support clinical trials and product development for the biopharmaceutical industry, has been selected as the official language services provider for Columbia-based Advarra.

Advarra is a provider of institutional review board (IRB), institutional biosafety committee (IBC) and global research compliance services. Formed by the merger of Chesapeake IRB and Schulman IRB, Advarra is able to leverage the combined strengths of the organizations to serve the increasingly complex needs associated with research.

The new agreement names TransPerfect as the strategic supplier of language services, including document translation, digital content localization and interpretation services. TransPerfect had existing relationships with both Chesapeake and Schulman entities pre-merger that included language services, as well as its Trial Interactive e-clinical and eTMF technology.

“Throughout our partner selection process, TransPerfect was clearly the best choice and stood apart from the crowd in all areas,” said Jeff Wendel, president of Advarra. “Their proven ability to deliver high-quality work on aggressive timelines, as shown through their long-standing relationships with both Chesapeake IRB and Schulman IRB, will help Advarra immensely going forward as we are able to speed turnaround times and complete more reviews.”

BGE Plan to Pass Federal Tax Reduction Savings to Customers Accepted by PSC

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has accepted BGE’s proposal to provide approximately $103 million in annual tax savings to customers, which was instituted Feb. 1.

“This is a positive outcome for BGE customers, and we are appreciative of the Public Service Commission’s decision to accept our proposal to convert tax savings to reduced rates,” said Calvin Butler, Jr., CEO of BGE. “We are pleased to have another opportunity to further reduce the average BGE residential customers’ total bills, which remain below levels from a decade ago.”

The average BGE residential electric customer will receive an estimated $2.91 decrease on his or her monthly bill, and the average residential combined natural gas and electric customer will receive an estimated $5.41 monthly reduction. Commercial customers also will receive monthly bill reductions. Reduced rates for all BGE customers will be reflected beginning with customers’ February 2018 bills.

While customer bills have decreased, BGE has continued to invest in energy infrastructure. The investments have resulted in record system reliability, accelerated modernization of the natural gas system through the STRIDE program, increased security and significant customer satisfaction improvements. BGE voluntarily filed the proposal to reduce rates as a result of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Another Record Year of Cargo at the Port of Baltimore

2017 was a record year of business for the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore’s state-owned public marine terminals. Last year, the port handled more containers and autos than any time in its history.
The port also set a new record by handling 10.7 million tons of general cargo from its public marine terminals, the second consecutive year for more than 10 million tons of general cargo. General cargo includes autos and light trucks, containers, roll on/roll off (farm, mining and construction equipment), forest products (rolled paper and wood pulp) and breakbulk cargo.

Recently, the port added six new Rubber-Tired Gantry (RTG) yard cranes, which are used to lift and place containers onto trucks, to help with its booming container growth. The cranes were purchased by Ports America Chesapeake, which operates the Port’s Seagirt container terminal for the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration. The six new RTG cranes are in addition to the 16 already in service.
Business at the Port of Baltimore generates about 13,650 direct jobs, while about 127,600 jobs in Maryland are linked to port activities. It is responsible for nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary and more than $300 million in state and local tax revenues.

The Joint Chiropractic Offers Baltimore the Relief It Needs

The Joint Chiropractic has announced a nationwide franchise growth plan targeting markets across Maryland, including Baltimore.

With its “no appointment, no insurance and no hassle” business model, The Joint is reinventing the chiropractic sector, making health care affordable for patients seeking pain relief and ongoing wellness. By welcoming walk-ins and strategically placing locations near high-traffic shopping centers, grocery stores and retail areas, consumers have easier access to the clinics and can visit a licensed chiropractor without disrupting their daily lives. The Joint’s unique membership model allows patients to customize ongoing treatment plans or take part in preventative care on a weekly basis.

From its inception in 1999, the chiropractic franchise now has more than 400 clinics open or in development across the United States. Franchise and corporate locations are earning double-digit percentage annual revenue growth, with a 17% increase from 2015–16 and similar projections for 2016–17.

With no cost of goods, a limited number of employees per location and the ability to operate in small spaces (often less than 1,000 square feet), the business model provides strong unit economics with recurring revenues and scalability that attracts entrepreneurs from all professional backgrounds, regardless of chiropractic experience. The Joint’s investment opportunity starts at $211,400, which includes the initial franchise fee.

STEER’s Autonomous Parking Tech First to Test in Maryland

Columbia-based STEER, which unveiled an autonomous parking solution at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is now the first company in Maryland to test the technology, which transforms everyday cars into driverless vehicles.

Here’s how it works: Consumers drop their cars off at a destination, the car drives itself into a parking spot, then consumers summon the car via a mobile app.

Anuja Sonalker, STEER founder and CEO, estimated that consumers spend as many as 108 hours per year just looking for a parking spot — not including additional time spent parking and walking to a destination.
STEER is partnered with Visteon, an automotive cockpit technology company, to develop the hardware and software platform, which is called DriveCore.

“We are currently testing with a number of Maryland mass transportation locations and plan to have a product on the market in 2019,” said Sonalker. “The first application is an aftermarket product consumers can purchase and install in select late-model-year automobiles.”

STEER works with existing in-car technology systems but is, Sonalker said, a highly sophisticated system and needs to be installed by a professional. “Shortly thereafter, we anticipate the technology being available in new models.”

First in Maryland

Part of a national trend of marketing autonomous driving technology, STEER located in Columbia because, given the ever-evolving regulation around autonomous vehicles in the marketplace, STEER wanted to be in close proximity to D.C., while having the appropriate amount of space to test its technology in secure environments.

STEER’S Columbia location allows the company to market test rapidly, said Sonalker, and the company will test its autonomous parking technology at lots owned by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“Maryland is deeply invested in innovative solutions to address congestion and improve safety,” said MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn, in a statement.

Sonalker said STEER was supported in its incubation phase by the Howard County Economic Development Authority, and later from the MDOT in its testing endeavors, including being the first in the state to pass the certification process for testing autonomous technology in Maryland.

“Additionally, we feel suburban residents outside of major cities such as D.C. will be primary users of STEER technology, given their driving habits and commuting pain points,” she said.

Self-Driving

Vehicle technology is a growing field and has been for years, said Allie Fried, director of Global Event Communications for the Arlington, Va.-based Consumer Technology Association, which run the CES show.
“In total for 2018, we had more than 400 exhibitors self-identify as presenting automotive technology,” she said, “and our dedicated automotive footprint was almost 300,000 net square feet of exhibit space, up roughly 23% over last year.”

Were it dedicated solely to the automotive industry, this would make CES the fifth largest stand-alone auto show in the country. “We had a record 12 automakers in exhibits or meeting space, many showing off self-driving features or concepts: BMW, Byton, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen,” Fried said.

Legal Concerns

The legal community is trying to develop regulations to keep up with the rapidly advancing technology, said Gregory Rodriguez, a lawyer with Best, Best & Kreiger, in Washington, D.C., who specializes in the legal aspects of autonomous driving vehicles.

“The federal government is trying to figure out its role in all of this,” said Rodriguez. “It doesn’t want to be too heavy-handed and stymie the innovation.”

Rodriguez said his clients are excited about innovation, but also concerned about public safety.

“Right now, we are starting to see more pilot projects get on the road, but there is not enough data to truly understand how these vehicles will operate in our communities,” he said. “What really gets complicated is that it’s not just changing the general standards with safety, but state laws when you think about a definition of a driver.”

When you’re administering a driving test, for example, can you mandate a driving test for a computer? As he helps determine answers to questions like this, Rodriguez said he is seeing a lot more excitement and a lot more interest in autonomous driving technology.

“When we consider automated parking technology, we get to issues around land use,” said Rodriguez. “Communities are also trying to figure out if there’s a potential that automated vehicles could reduce the demand on parking.”

Drivers could call an automated car only when they need it, said Rodriguez. “But then is the car going to stay on the road, constantly picking people up, or will it need to go into a storage or parking area?”

Kennon New President/CEO of HCLS

The Howard County Library System (HCLS) Board of Trustees has announced Tonya Kennon as HCLS’ next president and CEO. Kennon joins HCLS following a career in libraries in California and will start her new position on April 23. She succeeds Valerie Gross, who retired in August after 16 years with HCLS.

Kennon has been director of Riverside Public Library since 2011. A municipal library system, Riverside is composed of a main library and seven branches serving a city of 314,000 people. As director, she worked to secure unanimous City Council approval to construct a new $40 million main library (breaking ground this year), convinced 85% of voters to approve a library parcel tax measure, secured a 20% increase in grant revenue and implemented 100% privately-funded STEM Makerspaces at all library locations, among other accomplishments.

Prior to her most recent position, Kennon served as the county librarian and library services supervisor with the County of Riverside and Tustin Unified School District. She received her B.A. from California Baptist University and M.L.I.S. from San Jose State University.

Columbia Town Center Rotary Holds Valentine’s Gala

Columbia Town Center Rotary Club presented its annual Valentine’s Gala on Saturday evening, Feb. 10 at the Columbia Town Center Sheraton. The gala is the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club’s main fundraiser of the year and was attended by more than 150 people.

The Gala included a cocktail hour with classical guitarist, buffet dinner, dancing and a silent auction of more than 50 items to raise money for local charities.

At this year’s event, revelers included singles and couples from their 20s through their 80s dancing to the sounds of the Washington, D.C. band, NightLife.

“We started the gala eight years ago,” said Sharon Waligora, event chairperson. “It was fun and successful then, and it gets better every year.” This event enables the Columbia Town Center Rotary to support more than 20 charitable organizations in the community.

The fundraiser also allows the Columbia Town Center Rotary to recognize a Howard County citizen who exemplifies the Rotary motto, “Service above self.” This year’s honor went to Julie Rosenthal, founder of Food on the 15th, a program through which Howard County students both collect and distribute groceries to senior citizens who find themselves, halfway through their monthly Social Security benefit, in need of help to make ends meet.

In 2006, Rosenthal wanted to teach her daughter about the plight of the less fortunate and how to give back to the community; fast-forwarding 11 years, the nonprofit has grown into an organization that has provided more than 25,000 bags of free groceries to senior citizens in Howard County.
Joining Rosenthal were family and friends, to whom she gave many thanks during her acceptance remarks. She was especially thankful to her own parents’ community engagement, which provided her with the inspiration to serve and help those in need.

Alvin Thompson, club president, and Valerie Lash, master of ceremonies, expressed that “it takes a lot work and support to create this gala and make this fundraiser successful. Thank you to our guests for coming. Thank you to our sponsors for their financial backing. Thank you to the individuals and businesses that graciously contributed to our silent auction. Thank you to the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel for [its] support. Thank you to other club Rotarians for their support. Thank you to Julie Rosenthal for her great example. You all have enabled our Rotary club to make a difference in the community.”

To learn more about the Columbia Town Center Rotary and the organizations it supports, visit www.ctcrotary.org; to learn more about Food on the 15th, visit www.foodonthe15th.org.

Q&A With NFIB-Maryland Director Mike O’Halloran

In his role as state director of Maryland and Delaware for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Mike O’Halloran serves as chief lobbyist. He is responsible for NFIB’s mission of promoting and protecting the right of members to own, operate and grow their business.
To that end, O’Halloran lobbies the General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration on small business issues, including tax policy, environmental regulations and workforce guidelines.

Prior to joining NFIB, O’Halloran served as the government affairs manager for the Arlington, Va.-based Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute, where he lobbied state legislatures on issues impacting manufacturers of heating, cooling, commercial refrigeration and water heating equipment. Earlier in his career, O’Halloran also served as chief of staff to current Maryland Budget Secretary David Brinkley, during Brinkley’s days in the state Senate.

He is a graduate of Salisbury University with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What is NFIB’s definition of a small business? Is it the same at the SBA’s (which is 500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries and $7.5 million in average annual receipts for many nonmanufacturing industries)?

We don’t have a particular employee size. We just stress that our members are independently owned and are not publically traded. We have 4,000 members in Maryland (and another 1,000 in Delaware), and 70% of those businesses have 10 or less employees.

Actually, we struggle with that question, because of the moving goalposts we have to deal with. For instance, take the new paid leave bill; businesses are wondering if they have to offer paid leave or unpaid leave because the threshold in the law is set at 15 employees, without regard to whether those employees are full-time, part-time or seasonal. At the federal level, the Affordable Care Act has you believing a “small business” is less than 50 employees because of the employer mandate. It’s very confusing.
At times, I wonder if the state knows the answer to that question. The state doesn’t always offer a clear definition.

What is the NFIB keying on during this year’s session?

Our members can’t afford any more labor laws that make it harder for small companies to make a profit. There are overwhelming costs involved in running a small business that impact employees and customers, too. The owners usually wear many hats, and they need to focus on growing their companies and not dealing with more regulations and more paperwork.

How will federal tax reform affect independent businesses, small and large?

It’s creating record optimism, pay raises, expansion plans, etc., from large corporations, but we have stories of NFIB members doing that, too. That hasn’t been widely reported by the media because the numbers obviously aren’t as big, and because small business owners typically don’t have time to put out press releases. Many of them don’t see the need to toot their own horns, but NFIB wants to make sure their stories receive the attention they deserve.

What are your concerns about the new law concerning mandatory sick leave for employees of small businesses?

Our members got nailed with a doozy earlier this month with the paid leave law. One attraction of working in small business is the flexibility it can often offer. The major concern here is whether some of them will be able to afford it. One of the complaints I hear from members, now that it’s mandated, is that sick leave was intended to be a benefit from (often larger) companies to attract workers. Making it a mandate didn’t really change that fact.

We’ve told the legislature over and over that small businesses that can afford to offer this employee benefit, because it is a benefit, are doing it to attract and retain good employees. Those who don’t offer it don’t offer it because they cannot afford to do it. Mandating it does not change that fact.
Also know that the amount of legislators who own or have run a small business are becoming fewer and fewer, and that’s reflected in the laws that are being passed. Our members are very fortunate to have a governor in Larry Hogan who understands what they have to overcome. More regulation doesn’t make it any easier.

What are your thoughts on a minimum wage hike?

It’s another well-intentioned idea, but as we’ve seen in study after study, it’s not sound policy. That’s especially true in a state like Maryland, where a would-be entrepreneur will look here and see the minimum wage law and the other rules, then not open a business. Or they’ll go over the state line to Pennsylvania, West Virginia or Delaware and do it there.

Want proof? Look at the negative effect the $15 minimum wage is having in Seattle. Small businesses out there are getting walloped. That’s crippling, because small business owners are taking a 50/50 shot in the first place — and many put up their houses as collateral.

What’s your take on the bill requiring that Maryland generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030?

There are concerns. The cost of doing business will likely rise, so part of my fear is that there won’t be enough electricity created by the wind and solar sectors to go around. The utilities will have to work that out, but our concern is that NFIB members will have to foot that bill.

What’s the market like for businesses that are looking for workers, particularly service workers?

We conduct our Problems & Priorities Survey, and recently we found that a concern is finding qualified workers. For years, the big three issues have been the costs of health care, regulatory burdens and taxes, but in recent years, finding qualified workers has become another hurdle to success.

How are small businesses attracting and retaining a quality workforce?

They have to find a qualified workforce worth attracting, but you do that by treating employees well via pay structure, benefits and making the best workplace you can. There are plenty of opportunities for a qualified worker.

What government needs to realize is that not every small business is created equally. Still, the government wants to dictate that it knows better how to run a small business without taking into account the balance sheet of every business. And that’s one thing that we keep on telling legislators: Businesses are not one-size-fits-all.

How much are the exorbitant health care costs that many small businesses are paying, or independent workers are paying for, impacting the overall economy?

That continues to be the ultimate concern for small business owners. The average premium for single coverage in a small business is $6,179; from 2006 to 2016, it has increased 47%. As we saw the increase, the number of small business employers who offer health insurance dropped from 56% to 33%. Then you look at the overall picture, and with the ACA Health Care Exchange, premiums are through the roof.

MasterCard and Visa have stated that they can hold merchants liable for credit card fraud if they don’t provide hardware and software to accommodate chip cards and a customer’s account is hacked. But due to costs required to accommodate the new technology, how many businesses are still using systems that only work with swipe strips?

That’s yet another cost of doing business. When they’re left holding the bag through no fault of their own, the costs can add up quickly.

What do you think of Maryland’s reputation for not being particularly welcoming, all things considered, toward business around the rest of the country?

I think it’s a shame, because Maryland has so many things to offer: the Chesapeake Bay; the mountains; Ocean City; Washington, D.C., and its national attractions; Baltimore with the waterfront; Annapolis; big league sports; and plenty of top line entertainment. We mainly need government to get out of the way and just monitor the bumper rails, if you will, and keep everything in line.
For too long, the enforcement regime was used as a stick, rather than a carrot. Under the Hogan Administration, we’ve seen state regulators more willing to educate inadvertent violators, as opposed to levying steep fines.

Are you concerned that the City of Baltimore is going to lose more businesses because it isn’t doing enough to keep the locals and its businesses safe?

Crime is a huge concern to all businesses. Yet, the Baltimore City Council recently decided to increase restaurant regulations and ban polystyrene — the foam drink cups and food containers that you and I are used to using. In other words, the City Council is not concentrating on the impact crime has on small business. What the restaurants need to do is hire people and not have to worry about more regulations.

Since you’re the state director for Delaware as well as Maryland, are you seeing many companies pulling up stakes in Maryland to move to more regulation-friendly Delaware?

We have not been able to put together a study on outmigration, though there are ample anecdotes about businesses doing just that. It happens often on the shore, where people leave Wicomico County (Ocean City), for instance, and move 10 feet over the line to Fenwick Island, Del. So people will do what makes sense for them and their hard-earned employees and dollars.

What are your hopes for the end of Session 2018?

First and foremost, that our legislators figure out that, with the federal tax cut, the federal assessment goes down, and that they ensure that the extra money people will have doesn’t go back out of their wallets some other way. In other words, we need state tax relief, too.

22nd Annual Howard Women’s Hall of Fame to Induct Trio

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and the Howard County Commission for Women have announced the 2018 inductees into the county’s Women’s Hall of Fame: Patricia Emard Greenwald, Debra Ann Slack Katz and Joan Webb Scornaienchi.

The 2018 class of inductees will be honored at the annual Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame ceremony on Thursday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.

Pat Emard Greenwald

Patricia “Pat” Emard Greenwald’s life in Howard County has been “a tale of three schoolhouses.” She got the historic preservation bug in the 1980s while teaching at Hammond Middle School. In 1988, while touring Pfeiffer’s Corner Schoolhouse, her seventh-grade students learned the schoolhouse’s existence was being threatened by plans for a subdivision, so, Emard Greenwald and her students solicited the community for donations to move the building, then persuaded the county’s Department of Recreation & Parks to restore and reopen the schoolhouse to the public. In 2003, it was finally moved to Rockburn Branch Park, its permanent home.

In addition, while serving on the Sykesville Historic District Commission, Emard Greenwald was asked by the Town of Sykesville to manage the restoration of the Historic Sykesville Colored Schoolhouse, which reopened its doors in 2006; as first vice president of the Howard County Historical Society, today she is involved in the rehabilitation of the Quaker School, in Ellicott City, which is destined to become a children’s museum.

Debbie Ann Slack Katz

Debra “Debbie” Ann Slack Katz has worked at all nursing levels, from staff nurse to director of nursing, and in a variety of clinical settings, including the emergency room, post-anesthesia care unit, mental health and pediatrics. Her acute care experience includes the Cleveland Clinic, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Howard County General Hospital, where she continues to work as a community outreach nurse. Slack Katz currently works in risk management at Genesis Health Care as the corporate director of safe resident handling.

When not nursing, Slack Katz can be found chairing the Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup and serving as vice president of the Ellicott City Partnership, as well as on the Ellicott City Master Plan Advisory Committee; she also has served on more than 24 boards and commissions. Her mother, Doris Thompson Slack, was inducted into the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

Joan Webb Scornaienchi

HC DrugFree Executive Director Joan Webb Scornaienchi’s career spans more than 25 years in education, including extensive experience in higher education, expertise as a grants and education specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education, and technical skills as a certified grants management specialist. She is also a graduate of Leadership Maryland, Leadership Howard County and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizens Academy.

Also dotting Webb Scornaienchi’s résumé is her eighth consecutive term as chair of the Howard County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Board and her fifth year as vice chair of the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) Health Council, and she continues to serve on HCPSS’s Mental Health Task Force. She is also a past chair of the Howard County Commission for Women. Finally, she is the recipient of a number of awards, including The Daily Record’s Maryland’s Top 100 Women, Most Admired CEOs and Innovator of the Year awards, among others.

The Women’s Hall of Fame induction event is free and open to the public. To request an interpreter or other accommodations, call the Department of Community Resources & Services at 410-313-6400 (voice/relay).

Labor Shortage Revives a New Interest in Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is making a comeback, and the centuries-old concept is proving itself readily adaptable to the modern world.

With a critical skilled labor shortage that developed and solidified during The Great Recession, renewed attention to the apprenticeship model was a natural response within the construction trades.

In recent years, the apprenticeship model has made inroads into more contemporary career fields, eliciting closer attention from state officials interested in improving Maryland’s workforce.

In 2016, the Hogan administration enacted legislation transferring Maryland’s Registered Apprenticeship program to the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning, which provided key resources for the growth and expansion of Registered Apprenticeships.
According to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Labor Regulation’s (DLLR) 2016 annual report on the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program, DLLR serves more than 9,000 active apprentices and 3,500 participating employers, working with more than 230 approved registered occupations and maintaining 417 programs statewide.
The state’s stated goal is to align Registered Apprenticeships with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system to ensure traditional apprenticeship opportunities are grounded in market demand.

Fixing a Hole

Locally, apprenticeship in the construction trades gets an added boost from the Baltimore-based Construction Labor Contractors (CLC), a skilled labor provider that handles the brunt of administrative needs so contractors and subcontractors can focus on work scheduling.

“We use our website as a portal for people looking for apprenticeships,” said CLC General Manager Doug Macpherson. “It’s done at the local level, where we access and use job boards and partner with companies, like Indeed and Zip Recruiter.”

CLC also networks through its referrals to find talent.

Currently, the highest demand for skilled labor comes from the electrical field, Macpherson said, followed closely by carpentry, HVAC and plumbing.

“Within the carpentry and HVAC disciplines, the biggest demand covers the spectrum from journeyman to apprentice to helper level,” he said. “Over the last five years, those needs have been pretty standard and haven’t changed.”

Getting to this point has been a slow process that started in the 1980s, Macpherson observed.

“There was this emphasis on getting a higher education to better yourself, and I think many of us followed that path,” he said. “There might have been a bit of stigma attached to manual labor. Over time, as the skilled trades folks retired from the workforce, there was no one to backfill.”
Many other construction workers were forced to leave the trades when the housing bubble burst, he added, and relatively few returned.

Apprenticeship is only one part — and one side — of the solution, Macpherson said.

“Construction companies need to do a better job of marketing construction as a viable and lucrative career choice,” he said. “Kids are coming out of college saddled with debt and finding that there’s nothing there for them.”

New Approach

While traditional apprenticeships have been well provided for over the years by unions and group associations like Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Chesapeake, other sectors haven’t enjoyed the same history of nurturing.

TranZed Apprenticeship Services (TAS), in Baltimore County, Maryland’s first registered apprenticeship program, launched in October 2016.
“We’re focusing on information technology, digital and social media, and cybersecurity apprenticeships,” said TAS President Paul Champion, and the interest is huge.

“We get about 40 applications a month,” he said. “The biggest challenge is to get employers turned on to it, because it’s a very different approach for an industry that has never taken on apprentices in the past.”

Even so, the program was able to sign on 24 apprentices in its first year, and the gates could open much wider if employers can be talked out of seeing college degrees as the sole tribute that must be paid to enter the workforce.

“I think the conversation has to start with the employer,” Champion said. “Apprenticeships will hopefully help us convince employers to start advertising jobs seeking applicants with college degrees or the ability to complete an apprenticeship.”

To help sell the idea, TAS is launching an incentive called Open for Apprenticeships, which is designed to align with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Open for Business initiative.

“We’re going to go into businesses, review entry- and mid-level jobs, and identify those jobs that would be apprenticeable,” he said. “They’ll get a certificate, we’ll put them on our website as employers that have been through the process … and when they have a vacancy we’ll be able to consider an apprentice as a possible [candidate] for the job. We’re doing that free of charge.”

Nontraditional Fields

TAS’s approach aims to help workers acquire the same knowledge they would get in college, but without the debt, and would allow employers to fill jobs that typically remain vacant for long periods of time.
It’s a model that TAS hopes to expand into other fields.

“We’re talking to various people in FinTech (financial technology), biotech, automotive retail, even teaching assistants,” Champion said. “We’re also branching out into new states in the new year, into the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania.”

To help develop the talent pipeline for its apprenticeship programs, TAS works with training partners that include the Baltimore Cyber Range, the Maryland Tech Council and the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland Inc. (CAMI), organizations that have ongoing contact with people looking for jobs in the sectors TAS serves.

During the last legislative session, a proposal to study the feasibility of establishing a more European style of apprenticeship program in Maryland did not make it out of committee, and is something Champion thinks may be unnecessary.

“The British model and European model work in Britain and Europe because they’ve got a culture of apprenticeships,” he said. “In my view and the view of TranZed, the U.S. needs a U.S. model.”

What that means for TAS, he said, is bringing the best aspects of different apprenticeship models from around the world to employers and tailoring something that best suits their industry’s needs.

And for now, that’s where TAS is placing the emphasis.

“The more we can talk about the benefits of apprenticeship and what jobs are available,” Champion said, “the more likely people looking for a career will be to realize that college isn’t the only option.”

Patti Turner Found Her Community at HCC

Patti Turner first started her educational path at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), earning a bachelor’s degree in biology. She never once dreamt that she would become a teacher, let alone the dean of Science, Engineering and Technology at Howard Community College (HCC).

Everything changed when she took a food and drug safety course with Dr. Carl Weber, who introduced her to the field of teaching when he offered her a job as a tutor in physics, biology and chemistry at UMBC. Eventually, she transferred to HCC where she ended up staying for more than 42 years.
Turner started out at HCC in 1975 as an assistant instructor in the science labs, where she fell in love with the environment. At first, she thought she was just going to stay for five years, but she stayed another year, and then another, and finally realized she enjoyed the students and other faculty members and couldn’t see herself going anywhere else.

While she was working in the assistant instructor position, where she served as the laboratory instructor for various science classes taught by other faculty members, she attended Towson University in the evenings in order to earn a master’s degree in biology, with the intent of being able to teach her own classes. She not only achieved that goal in 1981, eventually earning a full professorship at the college, but ultimately, she advanced to her current position as dean. She currently teaches only the Human Anatomy and Physiology II classes.

Community Was Her Inspiration

Turner did not set out to stay at HCC, but it was the community that kept her there. She credits her faculty for the amount of work she has been able to accomplish, including participation in the development and design of the new Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) building that was opened on the HCC campus in 2017.

Teamwork makes the dream work, as it turns out. The new, state-of-the-art building provides students numerous opportunities, from its hands-on labs to its astronomy classes that will eventually get a telescope so students can observe and study the stars and other celestial objects, particularly exoplanets.

The new building also provides a conducive environment for study, with special study spaces and an attractive, modern design. “It’s an efficient building, and it looks very slick,” said Nathan Mitchell, a student at HCC. Chanye Wright, another HCC student, agreed. “There’s a lot of cool places to study,” she said. “When I’m not in a hurry, I’ll go there to study, where there are large windows to give a nice view.”

Biology, More Than Life

“A girl’s night out” is what Turner even now calls going to biology classes. “Some people go to bars … I go [to class].” Her enthusiasm is obvious when she talks about biology. She said she finds it “absolutely fascinating” to figure out how different species share similarities, repeating basic designs that become specialized through adaptation.

“Nature designs a lot of neat solutions,” she said. “Knowledge about how systems work in nature is enlightening, and may influence our own engineering designs.”

Turner is very passionate about what she does and where she is going in life, not to mention where her students’ lives are headed. She loves biology and sees it as a “perfect connection between science and medicine.” When she was a child, she always wanted to find a way to help people. She thought at first she’d go into nursing, but then she decided that path wasn’t for her. Now, she feels like she is on a better path, as she has helped students learn who have graduated and gone on to become nurses and doctors.

Looking to the Future

Under Turner’s leadership, HCC also has signed an agreement with the University of Maryland College Park for a Fire Engineering program to support the University of Maryland’s Fire and Rescue Institute.
“They can’t graduate enough people to meet demand across the country,” Turner said.

A similar SET program has been developed to support Howard County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services, leading to a fire services and leadership degree to help with career progression.

Among the goals Turner has for the SET department is developing new relationships with HCC’s four-year partners. “I’d like to see more joint research being done,” she said.

A plant science program recently was added, and a new aerospace engineering program is also under development.

The entire staff in the SET building is working on publishing a science-related, student undergraduate research journal. Turner is especially determined to get this project published to share her students’ work with others. She believes that this is a very important step into the future. In her freshman and sophomore years of college, something like that would have been limited to graduate school students.

“I want our students to have … the same opportunities [as they do] at a four-year school,” Turner said. “I just want us to be better.”

 

Amy Huggins is a Rouse Scholar at Howard Community College. She currently is an intern with The Business Monthly.

In Brief

Howard County Schools Piloting Electrician Apprenticeship Program

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) has introduced a new program for students interested in a career as an electrician. Student Apprenticeship Pathways, which began in February, is the only opportunity of its kind in the state and, for its first cohort, is providing electrician youth apprenticeships for approximately 15 students.
Participating students spend part of their week learning from certified electricians in a classroom environment while gaining industry knowledge, OSHA 10 certification, direct entry to a registered apprenticeship and employment upon completion of their coursework. Students receive a weekly stipend, mileage reimbursement and necessary industry tools.

“I am very excited that we can offer this opportunity for our students to explore in-demand career paths while in high school,” said HCPSS Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “I am very appreciative of Independent Electrical Contractors and Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, who share in our commitment to preparing students for successful and rewarding careers.”

There is a shortage of qualified electricians nationally.

Bright Minds Creates Wallen Scholarship Fund

Bright Minds, the official foundation of the Howard County Public School System, has established the Laura E. Wallen Memorial Scholarship Fund. The Wallen family is establishing the scholarship to honor the life and legacy of Wilde Lake High School social studies teacher Laura Wallen.

Wallen joined HCPSS in 2007 as a social studies teacher at Murray Hill Middle School and transferred to Wilde Lake High School in 2014, where she worked until her untimely death in September 2017. The scholarship is intended to help Wilde Lake graduates who wish to major in one of the social sciences to pursue college studies at a two- or four-year institution. Winners will receive between $1,000 and $2,500, which can be used to pay tuition, fees or the cost of books.

To contribute to the fund, mail a check to the Bright Mind Foundation, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21042, and designate Wallen Scholarship Fund. For more information, call 410-740-0707 or pat@brightmindsfoundation.org.

In Brief

Howard County Graduation Rates Continue to Outpace State Norm

Graduation data for the Class of 2017 show Howard County public school students graduating at significantly higher rates than their peers across Maryland. At 92.28%, the graduation rate is the highest among the six Maryland systems, with enrollment of more than 50,000 students, and exceeds the state average of 87.67% by 4.61%. While showing a slight dip compared to the 2016 rate of 93.21%, the 2017 HCPSS rate is up nearly 2 percentage points from 90.39% in 2012. The statistics reflect data for the cohort of students graduating within four years after entering high school.

At 89.95%, the graduation rate for African-American students exceeds the 85.44% state average by more than 4.5 percentage points, and shows a five-year improvement of more than 6%. The 80.42% graduation rate for students eligible for Free and Reduced-price Meal services (FARMs) is nearly 6% above the 2012 rate of 74.73%, and compares favorably to the 79.30% 2017 average for the state.

Oakland Mills High School showed a notable improvement. Its graduation rate rose more than 3 percentage points to 90.37%, up from 86.62% in 2016. The graduation rate of African-American students in 2017 was 91.67%, up from 88.89% in 2016 and more than 10 percentage points above the 81.36% rate in 2012.

Dropout patterns echo the graduation rate trends. At 4.56%, the dropout rate, while up slightly over the 3.96% rate for 2016, remains well below the state average of 8.21% and shows a five-year decrease from the 6.02% rate in 2012. Dropout rates among African-American students have shown a steady decline, down to 5.24% in 2017 from 9.75% in 2012. The rates among FARMs students fell from 14.57% in 2012 to 12.22% for 2017.

Details on graduation and dropout rates for the school system and individual schools are available at http://mdreportcard.org.

 

UM School of Pharmacy Receives $500,000 Grant for New Center of Excellence

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy have been awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Foundation to establish a new Center of Excellence for Patient-Driven Value Assessment at the school.

Led by Susan dosReis, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR), the team includes researchers from PHSR and the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS). The team invited stakeholders to a kick-off meeting at the School on Feb. 20. Topics included building partnerships with Hispanic and under- or uninsured communities and expanding value assessment training.

The center will strive to promote the inclusion of diverse patient voices in research to help uncover the elements of value in health care that are most important to patients. It is one of only two centers funded by the PhRMA Foundation to lead the development of transformative strategies to better assess the value of medicines and health care services while improving patient outcomes and reducing inefficiency in health care.

“Previous research has shown that an insufficient focus on patient-driven value assessment in health care limits our ability to fully evaluate the cost-effectiveness of available treatments,” said dosReis. “Our Center of Excellence is founded on the fundamental premise that value in health care must be defined by patients.”

Anne Arundel Board of Education Adopts $1.2 B Operating Budget Request, $216 M Capital Budget Request

On Feb. 22, the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County added 51.8 positions to Superintendent George Arlotto’s budget recommendation, passing a $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget request that contains 27 additional teaching positions and additional compensation increases for all employees.

Through a series of amendments, the board boosted the number of classroom teachers to reduce class sizes and the number of additional special education teaching positions. It also added to the number of requested school counselors, school psychologists and social workers.
The request adopted by the board includes 290.5 positions, approximately 95% of which would be allocated for teachers and others who have daily contact with students. More than 217 of those positions would be teaching positions.

The board’s request also includes $27.3 million for compensation increases. Pending the outcome of negotiations with employee bargaining units, that would be sufficient to provide step increases to all eligible employees, commensurate increases to non-represented employees and a 2% cost-of-living increase to all employees.

More than $850,000 in the board’s request would go to boost pay for substitute teachers by $10 per day. Substitute teacher compensation has not been increased in more than 15 years.

More than $3 million in the board’s request is allocated to the expansion of the Monarch Academy Annapolis Public Contract School and needs at other charter and contract schools across the county. Monarch Annapolis’s base enrollment is scheduled to rise from 530 to 638 students next year.
In its recommendation, the board also included $274,680 for four additional bilingual facilitators to undertake the work of collaborating with families, and $1 million to continue the fiber ring expansion, a collaborative project with the county government designed to increase high-speed Internet access.

The board adopted Arlotto’s $216 million capital budget recommendation without making any changes, allocating funding to nine major school construction projects.
• Manor View Elementary School ($3.8 million)
• High Point Elementary School ($4.5 million)
• George Cromwell Elementary School ($15.6 million)
• Jessup Elementary School ($7.9 million)
• Arnold Elementary School ($6.7 million)
• Edgewater Elementary School ($19.7 million)
• Tyler Heights Elementary School ($18.2 million)
• Richard Henry Lee Elementary School ($16.9 million)
• Crofton Area High School ($54.8 million)

The capital budget recommendation also contains $7.5 million for prekindergarten and kindergarten additions at Maryland City and Riviera Beach elementary schools, and $10 million for classroom additions at Marley and Solley elementary schools, and a gymnasium and program addition at Glen Burnie Park Elementary School.

The budgets were to be forwarded to County Executive Steve Schuh by March 1. Schuh will include funding for the school system in his proposed FY2019 budgets, which will be released May 1.

In Brief

Anne Arundel Board of Ed Unanimously Reappoints Superintendent Arlotto

The Board of Education of Anne Arundel County unanimously reappointed Superintendent Dr. George Arlotto to a second four-year term, contingent on the parties reaching agreement on a new contract and approval by the state superintendent as required by law.

“I have been honored and humbled to serve for the last four years as superintendent and for the last 12 years in this school system,” Arlotto said. “When I became superintendent four years ago, I said the people we have really make the difference, working on behalf of our children. I can say emphatically four years later that the people we have are amazing. I am looking forward to the next four years and beyond working with this #AACPSAwesome team.”

This school year marks Arlotto’s 31st in education. He has worked in Anne Arundel County Public Schools since 2006. Prior to becoming superintendent, he served in a variety of capacities, including director of high schools; chief school performance officer; assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction & school performance; associate superintendent; and chief of staff.

Arlotto’s current contract expires on June 30.

Howard County Conservancy and HCPSS Partner on Butterfly Project

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and the Howard County Conservancy are partnering on a monarch butterfly program that will connect third-grade students through a live stream with local scientists tracking the 2,000-mile migration of the monarchs to Mexico.

HCPSS, the Conservancy and Howard County Master Gardeners launched a program in the fall of 2017 to plant milkweed, the host plant for monarchs, at every elementary school in the county, with the goal of allowing students to observe the life cycle of the butterflies in their own schoolyard. To complement this program, the live stream will allow students to see the monarch migration through the eyes of a scientist.

Local ecologist Mark Southerland and sustainability adviser Ned Tillman will connect live with students at West Friendship Elementary School to show the migration in real-time and answer the students’ questions.

“Seeing the overwintering site of millions of monarch butterflies in the Oyamel Forests of Mexico is a biologist’s dream, but it is doubly fulfilling to be sharing this … with Howard County third-graders. It is great to see their generation already taking action to save this remarkable species from extinction,” said Southerland.

Tillman added, “We are really looking forward to seeing the winter habitat of the monarchs. We hope to learn more about the impacts of habitat loss and climate change on this important index species.”

Which College Savings Plan Is Right for You?

The cost of college is steadily rising, and student loan debt has reached crisis status. What does this mean for you? It is more important than ever to commit to saving for the education expenses of the future scholars in your life.

But making that commitment to save is just the first step. Next, you must decide on the right savings plan — a 529 plan, a Coverdell Education Savings Account or a custodial account — a decision that should not be made lightly. These account types differ in ways big and small, and choosing the best option for your situation requires a careful analysis of each.

The 529 Plan

The 529 plan gets its name from section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). This plan is operated by a state or educational institution and is designed to help families set aside funds for future college expenses. To be clear, the 529 account is for college expenses only, and it cannot be used for elementary or secondary tuition and expenses.

Anyone can establish a 529 plan for the benefit of whomever they choose, as there are no income, age or annual contribution limits. If you invest in your state’s sponsored 529 plan, you may be eligible for a state tax deduction or credit for 529 plan contributions. As the donor of a 529 plan, you remain in control of the account and can ensure that the money will be used for its intended purpose. You also retain the right to withdraw funds from the plan at any time, for any reason, and to change the beneficiary.
Earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will never be taxed as long as the money withdrawn is used for “qualified” higher education expenses, which includes tuition, room and board, fees, books and equipment. Distributions not used for qualified higher education expenses are allowed, but are subject to federal income tax, plus a 10% penalty. Taxes and penalties apply only to earnings in the account.

In addition, 529 plans can be a valuable gift and estate tax planning tool, as contributions are considered completed gifts; therefore, they are not included in the donor’s estate, despite the fact that the account owner retains control of the funds. Individuals can make gift tax-free contributions of up to $14,000 per beneficiary, per year (or $28,000 for married couples who elect to gift split). They also have the option to “front load” the plan, consolidating five years’ worth of gifts into a single $70,000 contribution (or $140,000 for married couples) per beneficiary.
What’s the bottom line? The 529 plan has a low impact on Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid, as the account balance is treated as an asset of the account owner, not of the beneficiary.

Coverdell Account

A Coverdell Education Savings Account functions in a very similar manner to a 529 plan, with a few key differences. Like a 529 plan, the donor of a Coverdell remains in control of the account and can withdraw funds or change the beneficiary to another family member as s/he sees fit. As a result, the Coverdell account has a low impact on financial aid.

The assets in a Coverdell grow tax-deferred, and the distributions are tax-free when used for qualified education expenses. Unlike a 529 plan, however, eligibility to contribute to a Coverdell is phased out for incomes between $95,000 and $110,000 for single filers and between $190,000 and $220,000 for joint filers. In addition, the maximum contribution to a Coverdell is $2,000 per beneficiary per year, and can be made only until the beneficiary is 18. This provision makes it difficult to save considerable sums of money and eliminates most of the gift and estate tax planning benefits of the 529 plan.

Another key difference between the Coverdell and the 529 is that any unused funds must be distributed to the beneficiary at age 30, with earnings taxed as ordinary income plus a 10% penalty. (Keep in mind that 529 plans have no such rules regarding the distribution of unused funds.)
One potential benefit of a Coverdell is that it can be used for elementary and secondary school expenses in addition to college costs, while a 529 plan is restricted to college use.

Custodial Account

A custodial account, also known as a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) or a Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) account, differs from both 529 plans and Coverdell accounts in several important ways. First and foremost, assets placed into a custodial account are an irrevocable gift to the beneficiary and are immediately placed in the name (and under the tax identification number) of the child. The parent (or other designated guardian) who established the account serves as the custodian, with a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiary to ensure that the assets are used for his or her benefit only.

Once the child reaches the age of trust termination — which varies by state, but is typically between 18 and 21 years — the child gains complete access and control of the assets and can use them for whatever s/he wishes. All income earned in a custodial account is taxable to the child at his or her tax rate.

For 2017, the first $1,050 of unearned income was tax-free, the next $1,050 was taxable to the child, and anything more than $2,100 was taxed at the parents’ or designated guardian’s top marginal rate. Because the asset is in the child’s name, it counts as a student-owned asset for financial aid, leading to a much larger impact on financial aid than a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. Like a Coverdell, however, the money can be used for elementary and secondary school expenses, in addition to college.

What’s Your Goal?

Each of these college savings instruments can help you lessen the burden of future education expenses. Just be sure to pay close attention to the advantages and drawbacks of each to ensure that whatever plan you choose aligns with your education savings goals.

 

Gary S. Williams is president and founder of Williams Asset Management in Columbia. He can be reached at 410-740-0220 or at Gary@WilliamsAsset.com.

In Brief

HCPSS Names 2018 Principal and Teacher of the Year

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) has named Hammond Elementary School Principal Kimberlyn Pratesi 2018 Principal of the Year and Lime Kiln Middle School Teacher Elizabeth Waltman 2018 Teacher of the Year.

“I am so proud of these educators and am excited to see them recognized,” said HCPSS Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “They have dedicated themselves to sharing their knowledge and their passion to create opportunities for students and staff. They continue to build relationships with their schools’ community to ensure the social-emotional well-being of all students.”

Pratesi has served HCPSS students for 27 years as a teacher, instructional team leader and assistant principal. She has been the principal of Hammond Elementary School since 2013.

Elizabeth Waltman has been teaching in Howard County since 2009. She has taught math at Lime Kiln Middle School since 2011 and is being honored for her ability to connect with students to create a nurturing and academically challenging atmosphere for learning.

Pratesi and Waltman will serve as the Howard County nominees for the Washington Post Principal and Teacher of the Year. Waltman will be the Howard County nominee for Maryland State Teacher of the Year.

Maryland Commerce Supports Five New Research Professorships at Three Universities

The Maryland Department of Commerce; Johns Hopkins University; University of Maryland, Baltimore; and University of Maryland, College Park, have endowed a total of $10.1 million in five new research professorships. The endowments were made through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI), a state program created to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields at the colleges and universities. The schools raised $5.7 million in private funding for each chair, and Maryland Commerce approved matching grants of $4.4 million to support the endowments.

Johns Hopkins University received a total of $2 million in endowments, split between the Endowed Fund-Branna and Irv Sisenwein Estate and the Jennison Family Professorship in Neurosurgery. The funding for the Endowed Fund-Branna and Irv Sisenwein Estate will address the growing need for more effective treatments for ocular neovascular diseases. The funding for the Jennison Family Professorship supports research to enable the early detection and monitoring of cancers using a simple blood test.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore, also received two grants. The Dr. Bizhan Aarabi Professorship in Neurotrauma received matching funds of $570,000 to sustain and expand the School of Medicine’s research, clinical and entrepreneurial efforts in addressing severe stroke and traumatic brain injury. The second award of $850,000 supports the Dr. Martin Helrich Professorship in Anesthesiology.

The University of Maryland, College Park, received $1 million for the Ray R. Weil Distinguished Endowed Professorship in Soil Science to support the research enterprise of an endowed Professorship in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, providing statewide support for agricultural businesses through research investment. Aligned with Gov. Larry Hogan’s Maryland Healthy Soils Program, its primary function is to assist and educate farmers on how to improve their soil health, yield and profitability.

Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business Introduces New MBA Specializations

Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management has introduced two new specializations in the school’s part-time Professional’s MBA program: Data Analytics and Investments and Applied Portfolio Management. Through specializations, students can customize their MBA to provide deeper knowledge and experience in the selected field.

“MBA specializations offer new, relevant curriculum with immediate, real-world applications and are one way Sellinger stays ahead of changes in the business world,” said Kathleen Getz, Ph.D., dean of Sellinger. “Students have expressed interest in gaining skills in our new specializations — Data Analytics and Investments and Applied Portfolio Management — while employers have said they want to hire professionals with these skills.”
The MBA in Data Analytics is a project-based approach designed to give students the skills and knowledge to understand, manage and analyze data, to apply analytics to business problems and to influence strategic decisions.

The MBA in Investments and Applied Portfolio Management provides students with the knowledge base to be leaders in the asset management industry. Students study investment analysis, financial markets and institutions and help manage Loyola University’s endowment fund through an experiential-learning course.

SECU Offering Three Scholarships Via Foundation

Linthicum-based SECU will make three scholarship programs available to its members and their families through the SECU MD Foundation. The oldest of these scholarships, SECU’s State Employee Scholarship Program, makes scholarships ranging from $2,000–$5,000 available to Maryland state employees and their immediate family members who are planning to attend college, graduate school or trade school in fall 2018.

The SECU-University System of Maryland (USM) Scholarship Program provides scholarships ranging from $2,000–$5,000 each to SECU members who are enrolled or accepted into a University System of Maryland institution for the fall 2018 semester.

Finally, the newest of SECU’s scholarship programs, the Donald Tynes, Sr., Scholarship Program, offers five $2,000 scholarships to students enrolled in Morgan State University’s Graves School of Business. Applications for all three scholarships are available at www.secumdfoundation.org.

Graphic Designer Josie Thompson Finds Creative – and Competitive – Paths

When you ask Josie Thompson about her career path, she starts with her family. She first came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1971, when she was 11 years old. Her father had attended a private school run by Jesuit priests in the Philippines, where he found a mentor who told him he should bring his family to the United States.

“At that time in the Philippines, there was a huge divide between the rich and the poor,” explained Thompson. “My dad didn’t like the social inequality. He was an entrepreneur and, at that point, there was a lot of corruption in the country.”

Her father — who has since passed away — came to the U.S. in 1969, then sent for his wife and five children. Thompson not only had to cope with the usual preteen angst related to growing up, she also had to adjust to tremendous cultural change.

In the Philippines, her family lived in a much smaller space but also had a lot more domestic help. “I had never been alone in a room by myself,” Thompson recalled. “There were maids; I had never even tied my shoes by myself. That’s the age where, as a kid, you are trying to find yourself.”

Entrepreneurial DNA

Thompson’s parents — both college graduates and both having been entrepreneurs in the Philippines — also were in the process of adjusting to a life in the United States. “When they came to the U.S., my mom and dad started from scratch,” she said. “My dad got a job as an accountant, working for various companies, and his last job was for the finance department of Georgetown University.”

Her father continued to travel back and forth from the U.S. to the Philippines, and Thompson had always assumed she’d attend college in the Philippines. “I thought it wasn’t something I needed to worry about,” she said. “I was a good student, but I didn’t know much about taking the SATs or PSATs because, out of a bunch of entrepreneurs in the family, I assumed I’d be taking over a family business. When my grandmother died in the Philippines, we started going back slowly to the Philippines. We had to do it in stages because we were all at different stages of school.”

But when she was a senior in high school, her parents decided to stay in the United States. “I was stuck,” she said. “I had to worry about college, and this was at the end of my senior year. I hadn’t applied for anything.”
She met with her guidance counselor at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, and tried to apply for last-minute scholarships. She ended up attending Montgomery Community College — on a full scholarship offered by the Sandy Spring Lion’s Club. Always fond of drawing, Thompson enrolled in the graphic design program.

Working for Herself

After earning a two-year community college degree, Thompson began to look at four-year colleges, following the lead of a close friend. After choosing East Carolina University, she earned a degree in graphic design, working during the summers to pay her tuition.

Her first job was for an ad agency in Bethesda, then she worked for a firm in Rockville, where she stayed for a decade as a graphic designer. After having two children with her husband, an electrical engineer, the family moved to Howard County and she gradually began working for herself, creating Josie Designs, her current company.

She also became increasingly involved in the community. While graphic design remains her bread and butter, she held leadership roles within the Baltimore Washington Chamber of Commerce and also started an initiative with her colleague, Rhonda Tomlinson, called Support for Success (SFS), to help fellow entrepreneurs.

This, in turn, branched into SFS Travel, another entrepreneurial endeavor with the goal of planning unique trips for niche groups. She is on the board of the Howard County Concert Orchestra, as well as the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, currently housed in the Langston Hughes Community Center in Baltimore. She also serves as president of the Filipino-American Organization of Maryland.

Thompson said she tends to get involved in efforts that give hope to the next generation. “I just want young kids to know the opportunities,” she said.

At 57, she has many goals and a great deal of energy to accomplish them. Her mother, now in the Philippines and still running a family business, is part of her inspiration. “She’s 82 and at the point where she loves to share her age,” laughed Thompson. “She does everything.”

Thompson is also a black belt in karate. In July 2016, she was on a women’s team that competed against 18 other countries at the World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes World Martial Games XVI, held in Essenbach, Germany.

“I came out with two golds and a silver [medal],” she said. “Being part of an all-women’s team means a lot to me. When I reluctantly went to my first competition, I noticed that there were not many women in the room. So I wanted to change that. I seem to be moved to support women in many of the things I do.”

Industry Perspective Facebook’s Organic Reach Is Dead; Long Live Positive Social Engagement

Facebook just dealt a death blow to organic reach.

The social media giant recently announced it will alter its news feed to prioritize posts from friends and family.

Many fear this will give content from marketers and publishers the old heave-ho once and for all.

Coincidentally, this latest sea change arrived on the heels of Facebook testing a newsless Explore Feed in six non-U.S. countries late last year. That’s when the death knell of organic reach (the number of individuals you can reach, for free, by posting non-boosted content on your page) hit a crescendo.

Unlike those tests, Facebook said this tinkering stateside will not remove Page posts from the News feed. Still, this “major change” — said to take months to fully implement into all products — will effectively make paid advertising the only surefire way for business and media outlets to reach their desired audiences.

A Sea Change

Reasons for the change stemmed from the combat of misinformation and reports to the effects of passive consumption and scrolling on a person’s mental health.

Most notably, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed a desire to foster “meaningful interactions” between people. He said it’s a return to form for the platform — a chance to “bring us closer together.”

Interestingly, not a week after Zuckerberg’s announcement, CEO of the $6.3 trillion asset company BlackRock, Larry Fink, sent a letter to the CEOs of public companies across the country calling for a return to “social purpose.”

It all sounds like the start of a burgeoning “do-good” movement from influential figureheads. And that’s promising.

But in the marketing universe, there’s still the small matter of something else ending.

Agencies have long witnessed the languid ravaging of organic reach. In fact, according to a 2014 study by Social@Ogilvy, the organic posts of pages with more than 500,000 Likes reached only 2% of fans.
And now, the coffin nail. User time on Facebook is expected to drop, and ad prices are expected to do the opposite.

A New Strategy

If you’re a brand or a publisher, what can you do?
Well, grin. Bear it. And plan ahead.

• Get your wallet out. It’s unavoidable. You will ultimately have to pony up some cold, hard cash for advertising. It is important to keep in mind, however, that throwing money at the problem will not magically result in views.
• Get organized. Don’t find yourself suddenly clambering to stay connected with the audience that has been so harshly ripped from your embrace. Establish a plan that aligns your paid and non-paid channels and deploys them to attack in unified formation. Chart out a messaging strategy that includes multiple touch points of consistent messaging — but avoid sending duplicate content.
• Get creative. Dig deep and find new things to say or new actions for your fans to take. The most important component will be crafting ultra-relevant content and video that not only speaks to your audience, but rallies them to share the information amongst themselves.
• Get happy. Harness the power of happy customers. Incentivize your audience to share their positive experiences about your company so they are the ones that disseminate your content on Facebook. Focus on taking care of all your fans, but especially your brand loyalists and evangelists (if you can find them).
• Get Zen. Facebook’s emphasis on “meaningful” exchanges means companies will need to become particularly savvy and creative to rediscover and harness the “social” aspect of the medium. Embrace the new movement of social goodness. Find ways to connect your fans with each other. Build a community of evangelists. Build a family of fans.
• Get help. When one door closes, another one opens. Use this change as an opportunity to hone your talents in branding, marketing and social media campaigns. If becoming an expert is not an option — hire one.

Joe Bawol and Erin McMahon are with IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations. They can be reached at 410-312-0081.

In Brief

Clapp Communications Certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise

Clapp Communications, a Baltimore-based public relations and marketing firm, has recently been certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The certification is nationally recognized by public, private, nonprofit and government entities and confirms that a business is woman-owned, -operated and -controlled.

As the largest third-party certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S., WBENC connects its corporate and government members with WBEs for the purchase of products and services and to help foster diversity in the supply chain. Its mission is to fuel economic growth globally through access to opportunities by identifying, certifying and facilitating development of women-owned businesses.

WBEs go through a stringent certification process to meet WBENC’s standards and confirm they are woman-owned. With 51% ownership required by a woman, they must submit an application with the necessary supporting documentation and be reviewed by a Regional Partner Organization’s Certification Review Committee, followed by an on-site visit with the majority woman business owner and a final determination at a subsequent review by the Certification Review Committee.

Industry Perspective Breathing Life Into Your Brand Through Storytelling

The art of storytelling has been around for thousands of years — and it continues to be a powerful way to market your company and instill your brand.

Look, for example, at the following excerpt from the “Coming Full Circle” blog post in July 2017, sharing insights on the one-year anniversary of the Ellicott City flood.

“Who knew when we launched the new insight180 website in January 2016 that the image of the life preserver and hashtag #brandresuscitation would be so apropos?

“On that Saturday night, I had been in downtown Ellicott City to show a guest from Slovenia, Karin, our quaint little town. My long-time friend Carol would be leading a Sierra Club trip in the fall to Slovenia, so I invited her along for an opportunity to talk to a native. It had been a beautiful summer day, with a slight chance of rain in the forecast. As we drove around Ellicott City, it started pouring; and as we looked for parking, it became torrential. Though we decided not to stay, I did swing by the insight180 office to put out the sandbags in front of our branding company’s door and that of our business neighbor — as I had done so many times before for so many storms in the past 16 years. By the time I dragged out the sandbags and got back to the car, my feet were covered with water. As we tried to get to higher ground, many side roads were already closed.

“That evening was surreal. Flash flood alerts. Frantic social media updates as the storm thrashed through. Videos of what looked like a river rushing down historic Main Street. The inevitable call from the security company, notifying me that the office alarm was going off — which of course meant that either our front door was opened by a rush of water coming in, or water had entered by another means and the motion detector sensed the water, floating furniture, or other movements. This was the third flood that would temporarily displace us, but somehow I knew this was different — way worse than before. Heartbreaking news stories in the storm’s wake confirmed our worst fears.”

Are you curious how that ends? A lot of people were. And why not? It hits all the right components of storytelling to enhance a brand. Yes, it was real (authentic), personal (authentic), dramatic (emotional connection), and an effort to share with clients, customers and friends (connection), and it was a sharing of important thoughts (bringing order by drawing connections).

Content marketing today encompasses hundreds of ideas, strategies, methods and channels of delivery. With so much content being thrust at us from all angles, the core foundation of content marketing gets more and more blurred. And, for a service business or nonprofit that doesn’t sell a tangible product, getting a message out there becomes even more difficult.

Meet the Customers’ Needs

Those communicating about their business need to be authentic, and in addition to the operations and service sides of their business, they need to think about connection, purpose and meaning — the big picture part of their business vision. They truly need to explore what differentiates them. Just telling your audience what you do and even why you are different or better doesn’t cut it. People don’t really buy what you do. They buy how you make them feel.

That’s where storytelling comes in. Brand storytelling is not simply about standing out from the crowd. It involves thinking beyond the tasks related to the product or service you provide in order to understand the views, challenges and unmet needs of your customers. It’s about shaping your purpose and vision, communicating your value and creating something that people care about and want to buy into.

Communication

Putting styles, channels and platforms aside, storytelling shares information. People crave it. It is the basis for creating common ground. Trust begins with communication.

Emotional Connection

People will always struggle to build affinity with a company or a product, but building empathy and creating an emotional connection will align and connect common values and qualities a brand represents. When you put a human face on your stories, you’ll have more success. A captivating story will compel or inspire, drawing people into the narrative. Positive emotion elevates customer satisfaction and experience.

Authenticity

Be real. Your audience will sense whether or not you are being real within seconds. And the second your audience feels “sold” to, it is gone. Have fun with your brand story, but make sure it represents who you are.

Order and Thinking

We all want to make order out of information we see, read and observe. Stories — with a beginning, middle and end — help us remember and make associations. Branding is all about pattern association. The brain wants to be efficient when it comes up against new information. A good story will help reinforce a brand connection.
Breathe new life into your brand by storytelling, a powerful tool to connect and market. Make your story topical and relevant, share something human and inspiring, and you will be gaining followers and creating new connections with your audience.

Wendy Baird is president of Insight180 Brand Consulting & Design in historic Ellicott City. She can be reached at 410-203-0777 or wendy@insight180.com.

Press Releases Should Still Be a Part of Your Marketing Strategy

There are still outlets, besides your social media, to let others know about promotions, new hires, awards given or received, change of location or other general news about your company. Press releases still have a purpose, and not including them in your marketing strategy is potentially missing out on free publicity.

They do not need to be long and time-consuming; as a matter of fact, a few paragraphs is enough. Most press releases only need to be a single page, and they should be sent in a Word document so no rekeying is required on the part of the media outlet. Here are some tips to help make your press releases painless to write and more apt to be read by editors.

Most editors or reporters will take a few seconds to see if the information is relevant to their publication — note the word “seconds.” That is how long you have to grab their attention as your release will be one of hundreds they receive each week.

A press release is not an advertisement. Think about the news story you are trying to communicate. A good press release answers all the “five Ws”: who, what, when, where, why (and how).

Your press release should include a headline, adding keywords and enough description so the editor knows what the release is about from the beginning. Include a link to your website or the link to the event.

Use bullet points to highlight specific items of interest such as what will happen at an event, speakers, etc. For your business, highlight key new features or key points of interest.

Make every word count and include a quote from you or someone in the company. It personalizes the release more and allows you to make a statement about your business or event.

Keep the wording clear, concise and devoid of technical terminology and flowery marketing language. Avoid subjective adjectives such as “exciting,” “successful” and “tasty.” State just the facts. Instead of, “Rick Smith has recently been hired by ABC to the position of vice president of marketing,” write, “ABC recently hired Rick Smith as director of sales.”

If you have a photo available, send it. Be sure to include a caption with the first and last names of anyone in the photo and what the photo is depicting.

Above all, be sure all your information is accurate. Double-check that the dates are right and names are spelled correctly.

For local publications, include your business or residence location up front in your communication as that may affect whether your news is used or not.

It takes a little time and effort, but the creation of press releases can keep your company’s name in the public eye, and a press release is a great way to get the word out.

Publisher’s note: The Business Monthly welcomes your press release and general business information. Send it to news@bizmonthly.com.

Pounding the Keyboard

Can AI Save Social Media?

For a good time, try watching the weekly “Prime Minister’s Questions,” posted by the British Parliament. It seems that every Wednesday, the Prime Minister must face the House of Commons and answer whatever questions are asked of him by often hostile members, accompanied by (at times) catcalls and cheering, booing and eye-rolls. The whole thing is posted on the parliament.uk website. Fun.

To say that British politicians are a bit more likely to engage in unvarnished truth-seeking and truth-telling is an understatement. It’s a more lively system over there.

So it was interesting when a contingent of the U.K. Parliament came to Washington in early February to question some executives of Twitter, Google and Facebook about the quality of the news and opinions hosted on their platforms.

Some of the questions asked were: “Why has your self-regulation so demonstrably failed, and how many chances do you need?” “How can your system be described as anything other than inadequate?” and “Is this too much for you?” Not the usual fawning acquiescence that the tech giants expect.

The Brits were here examining Russian-funded interference in the voting on Brexit, and looking to understand how false news and deliberate disinformation affect British elections and society.
Other British inquiries have been launched into why it takes so long for Twitter to take down defamatory and often anti-Semitic posts, even when flagged immediately and repeatedly.

Some legislation no doubt will come out of this, much to the tech giants’ dismay. They haven’t taken this seriously enough in the beginning, and it has overtaken them; and they need to respond to the international market.

Twitter actually lost U.S. users last quarter, down by a million, but the overall international membership was up 4%. This led to it making a profit for the first time ever, led by an increase in ad revenue. But many overseas governments are more restrictive than the free-wheeling U.S.

So the tech giants are turning to their always solution: more tech.

More Tech, Please

Facebook recently shuffled its artificial-intelligence (AI) management, moving the head hired in 2013, Yann LeCun, to a more limited role and bringing in a leader from IBM’s Watson AI platform, Jérôme Pesenti. He will have to deal with the backlash to both election-meddling and impacts of social media on mental health. No easy task.

The prior head certainly was no slacker. The facial recognition qualities of Facebook are often eerie. Using the “tags” that people put on photos, they have developed an astounding database of people’s features, which then can be used to select what shows up in your news feed or the “people you may know” feature, which aims to entice you into friending more people, or at least keeps you engaged.

AI also has been significant in targeting advertisements and helping translations.

The next challenge is putting a muzzle on inappropriate content. While it is easy to scan posts for things like “you dirty %*#@,” the problem is deciding if it’s a hate post or a birthday greeting from that particular relative you hesitate to invite to Thanksgiving (or both). The solution no doubt will depend on better recognition of the “bots” that have been used quite successfully by the Russians to spread division and animosity.

This won’t stop that crazy relative from passing things on, however might kill some of the “trending” features that helped make fake content so successful.

Twitter is another whole ball of wax. It never has had any restrictions on bots, something that allowed fake hashtags and nasty content to spread rapidly and effectively. A good reason to avoid it entirely. So, do. You’ll feel better.

Google has a different problem. It’s generally not creating content, but sorting it and delivering it. So the question of “Is this real?” and “Is this legal?” constantly come up.

In Germany, for instance, Holocaust denial is a crime (so they did learn something about the power of speech), but here any such filtering would bring howls of “suppression of free speech.” Google no doubt will double-down on AI as the solution. Its AI departments are very large and given a lot of freedom to explore unconventional ways to look at things like this. It’s appropriate that one of its premier divisions is named DeepMind.

Let’s Do Lunch

Speaking of companies that know everything about you, Amazon has started free delivery of Whole Foods groceries to Prime members in four test cities. Its target time is two hours, with one-hour service for an extra $7.99. But practically speaking, it needs to be fast, with meat and frozen food involved. I’m not sure how it’ll handle that.

What do Giant’s Peapod or Safeway’s delivery services do? Will Amazon be adding refrigerated trucks to that fleet of overly-clean white vans that you see every day — even Sunday — roaming our streets?

But you knew that once Amazon bought Whole Foods, this could not be far behind, even if Amazon’s previous attempt (AmazonFresh) died in Maryland. The reasonable, compact area of Columbia, with its existing Whole Foods, may be tempting territory for it.

Cliff Feldwich is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval for small businesses — when not wondering if your Internet-connected refrigerator soon will be ordering dinner. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are available online at http://feldwick.com.

Howard County Chamber

Huge Crowd For HCCC’s State of the County Address With Kittleman

“I reject the politics of hate and exclusion and will continue to denounce any efforts to divide our communities.”
That is just one of the themes emphasized throughout Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s fourth State of the County speech at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) annual luncheon at Turf Valley Resort.

The luncheon started with HCCC President Leonardo McClarty welcoming the crowd of nearly 500 members and guests, then introducing the color guard from Atholton High School with Atholton student Grace Tyson, who sang the Star-Spangled Banner.

Then came a moment the HCCC has been working toward for weeks. McClarty explained that the chamber is nearing the end of a massive rebranding process that has been going on for more than a year. The new website is still a few months away, but the HCCC has a new video to help show members and the business community what it’s all about in the meantime.

After the video rolled, everyone was treated to lunch that included a recipe straight from The Roving Radish, a Howard County program dedicated to promoting healthy farm-to-table eating habits, and sourcing food from local and regional farms. Then HCCC Board of Directors Chair Jeff Agnor, of Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny, took the stage to introduce Kittleman.

Although there certainly were light moments during his address, Kittleman also focused on some of the struggles the community is facing, and what he and his colleagues are doing to help. Kittleman described his vision for narrowing the achievement gap in county schools, battling the opioid epidemic, including the launch of a centralized opioid website, www.HoCoOpioidHelp.com; and Achieve 24/7, an initiative that includes a summer food project, a school readiness program a school readiness program and an enrichment program focusing on math proficiency in Oakland Mills.

Kittleman mentioned that collaboration between county government and the public school system has never been stronger. He also thanked Superintendent Michael Martirano for his leadership.

One section of the address that was of particular interest to the business community was when Kittleman described his vision for the 920-acre Columbia Gateway Innovation District. He said it will be “the next great economic center in Maryland.” He also said he envisions a walkable, bikeable community there where 25,000 people work and thousands call home.

Kittleman closed by presenting four outgoing Howard County Council Members, Calvin Ball, Jen Terrasa, Mary Kay Sigaty and Greg Fox, with the “keys” to the county.

Going to Iceland

The HCCC is shaking things up for its 2018 Chamber Travel Program. For the first time, this fall we’re headed to Iceland. Join us on our tour of Iceland, a land of geysers, glaciers, volcanoes and rich history. Iceland is an otherworldly place where forces of nature have created a landscape that allows you to swim in geothermal heated pools, trek across a mossy lava field and drive over an icy glacier — in one day.

The HCCC is holding a special information session about the trip on Tuesday, March 27, at p.m., at Grotto Pizza in Columbia. The event is free, but register at www.howardchamber.com (as to provide Grotto Pizza with a  head count). For more information, email koconnor@howardchamber.com.

Central Maryland Chamber

Welcome, Cornerstone Defense

The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) helped Cornerstone Defense celebrate the opening of its new Maryland headquarters with a ribbon cutting on Jan. 31.

Located at 1743 Dorsey Road, Suite 106, Hanover, Cornerstone Defense is a small business servicing the intelligence, defense and space communities of the U.S. government. Cornerstone specializes in cloud architecture, systems and network engineering, systems and network security and application development. The company assists the government and integrator community by delivering cutting-edge capabilities that support mission-critical objectives.

Saving on Energy Costs

CMC, in partnership with CQI Associates, is helping businesses save money on energy costs. The Chamber Energy Purchasing Cooperative Program is a free benefit for CMC members. Average savings for restaurants is $3,000 a year; one nonprofit recently learned that the program will save it $11,000 a year. Benefits include the following.
• Increased purchasing power in procuring competitive electric and natural gas rates.

• Budget stability by offering fixed-rate energy supply costs.
• Year-round customer support.
• Free for CMC members to join the co-op; one application covers all electricity and natural gas accounts for all company locations.
For a free evaluation, contact Nancy LaJoice at 410-672-3422. Spring enrollment ends soon.

Recruit-A-Friend Program

It now pays to tell your friends, clients and vendors to join the CMC. The new recruiting program offers a $25 gift card to anyone who recruits a new member. The person who makes the successful referral can choose a gift card from Bagels ’n Grinds, Grotto Pizza, Newk’s Eatery or Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar. Contact the CMC for program details.

Upcoming Events

• March 13
Networking Mixer at Two Rivers; 5–7 p.m.; 1425 Two Rivers Boulevard, Odenton
Free for members
• March 15
Membership 101; 9–10:30 a.m.
312 Marshall Ave, 1st Floor Conference Room, Laurel
Free for all to attend
• March 19
Spirit of Community Awards Dinner; 6–9 p.m.; The Hotel at Arundel Preserve
7795 Arundel Mills Boulevard, Hanover
Cost: $65
• March 21
Seminar: “Capitalizing Your Business”; 9–10 a.m.; Central Maryland Chamber Conference Room, 8379 Piney Orchard Parkway, Odenton
Free for members
• April 12
Joint Networking Breakfast; 7:30–9:30 a.m.; Location to be announced
• April 19
Membership 101; 9–10:30 a.m.
312 Marshall Ave, 1st Floor Conference Room, Laurel
Free for all to attend
• April 25
Women Mean Business Luncheon; 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.; CMC Conference Room, 8379 Piney Orchard Parkway, Odenton

 

Save the Date

The CMC Annual Meeting is set for May 1, at Center Stage at Live! Casino & Hotel, at Arundel Mills. The keynote speaker will be Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC. The Hall of Fame Business Awards also will be presented. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Special Invitation

If you are not a CMC member and would like to learn more about the benefits of joining, contact Membership Director Nancy LaJoice to receive a free benefits guide. For more information, call 410-672-3422, ext. 4, or visit www.centralmarylandchamber.org.

From the Desk of CA President Milton Matthews

Columbia Association (CA) recently began to look into how we may better serve Columbia’s younger residents, employees and students — the so-called millennials that associations, companies and other organizations are often consciously striving to reach.
CA’s outreach to millennials is not us merely following a trend. This age group already makes up a sizable portion of our community; nearly 22% of Columbia’s residents are between the ages of 18 and 34.

CA’s Vision — making Columbia the community of choice, now and for generations to come — comes with two overlapping interpretations.

For the past 50 years, Columbia has been one of the best places to live, a perennial recognition that is the result of considerable and focused planning, and effort by CA and its many community partners. As we start the next 50 years of Columbia’s history, CA and its many partners will continue to build upon the achievements of the community, which includes working to serve all generations.
Much of CA’s programming and amenities benefit all ages. Beyond that, we also offer programs that cater to specific age ranges within our community, from young children and their parents to older adults.

And we want to ensure we are serving millennials, as well. That is why CA recently convened its Millennials Work Group, providing younger residents, employees and students with a forum to share their thoughts on the kinds of programs, activities and venues that should be offered by CA — and to express their ideas about how to attract individuals of their generation to engage with and serve the community.

The first meeting of the work group was held in February, and there will be other meetings throughout the year, with a goal of a final report by the end of the year.

This is not the first time CA has undertaken this kind of project. In 2014, the CA Board of Directors approved a Comprehensive Plan for Serving Older Adults, which examined trends and best practices, and sought insight and interviews from those age 55 and older (and those who would soon age into that group). CA is continuing to implement the many recommendations that came out of that process.

I want to extend a thank-you to those individuals who will be serving on the Millennials Work Group, and to the many others who will provide invaluable input through focus groups and other community outreach channels.

Email milton.matthews@columbiaassociation.org with questions/comments.

Getting There

Getting a job can be an interesting experience. Sometimes a new opportunity practically falls into one’s lap; other times, finding the right employment can be a tough road to travel.

But what if you’ve had the satisfying experience of finding the right job, but literally can’t get there?

Access to gainful employment is one of the most basic pillars of the economy and our lives, and will remain so, at least until telework becomes the norm. And even then, Central Maryland’s robust cybersecurity sector cannot easily adapt to telework. Anyone who commutes through the Fort Meade region at rush hour understands.
Now, imagine you don’t live near public transit and can’t afford a car to access a viable employment opportunity — traffic frustrations notwithstanding.

The Case

According to AAA, the total cost to commute 30 miles round-trip in a car with average fuel-efficiency, including every aspect of car ownership and maintenance, is about 75 cents a mile. To put it in perspective, the federal travel reimbursement rate is 53.5 cents a mile. This also means that someone working full-time, at $15 an hour, would have to spend more than 18% of his or her annual gross (not take-home) income to commute 250 workdays a year.

Our region is fortunate to have low unemployment and broad job availability. Yet, just as there are skill mismatches to available jobs, there are worksite mismatches for available workforce ­— and not owning a car narrows choices for this class of worker, just as it narrows access to needed workforce for employers whose worksites are not transit-accessible.

Also, know that there is a steep cost to a business each time it has to rehire and retrain workers, regardless of the class of employee, and commuter transportation access has been broadly identified by employers as a major factor in costly job turnover rates.

Potential Solution

There have been past remedies that can be modeled. Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) was a program funded by the federal government as part of Clinton-era welfare reform between 1998 and 2014. JARC invested in Empowerment Zones in inner city Baltimore and successfully connected huge numbers of local, low-income, transit-dependent workers to worksites that otherwise would have been inaccessible; since, however, the only job seekers receiving federal job access funding have been the elderly and disabled, leaving the majority of job-seekers and their potential employers out of luck.
However, the problem need not be as intractable, nor the solution as onerous, as one might think.

Short-distance shuttles can collect large numbers of transit-dependent workers at mass transit hubs and take them directly to proximal employment centers at shift times. This “small-ball” transit model is very inexpensive, simple to establish and need not impact nearby residential neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, such action helps employers that require access to workforce gain better access and successfully grow their businesses. A worker who can access gainful employment has greater spending power to churn the local economy (and thus create more local jobs) and may be weaned off of the “public dole” (if that situation applies).
And they begin paying payroll taxes, from day one. It’s a classic win-win.

 

Ben Cohen is director of transportation and workforce programs at The BWI Business Partnership. He can be reached at commute@bwipartner.org.

Business Briefs

TEDCO Invests $100K in Columbia IoT Firm

The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), of Columbia, has announced that five companies have received a total of $600,000 in seed funding, including $100,000 that was directed to Columbia-based Zuul Inc., which offers cybersecurity protection for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).

Zuul recently raised $300,000 in seed funding and secured its first customer. TEDCO, MasterPeace LaunchPad and local angel investors participated in the seed round, which will provide the fuel that Zuul needs to expand its sales effort and increase support for additional IoT platforms.

Zuul bridges the gap between operations concerns and information technology (IT) security to make deploying and maintaining IoT devices easier and more secure. Its first customer is a global public sector transportation and mobility company. Zuul will enter 2018 with a roadmap to begin software deployment in select U.S. municipalities.

DLLR Offers Enforcement, Implementation Guidance for Healthy Working Families Act

On Sunday, Feb. 11, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act went into effect, and the Maryland Department of Labor (DLLR) has offered information to assist stakeholders. DLLR has made a draft sample employee notice poster for places of business available at www.dllr.maryland.gov/paidleave. The department is also developing sample policies that soon will be available on the website.

To the extent that the commissioner of labor and industry receives complaints immediately after the law goes into effect, the commissioner will work closely with employers and employees to make sure both parties understand the requirements and limitations of the law and resolve any issues as informally as possible. The commissioner will be working closely with all stakeholders to ensure fair and equitable implementation.

Gov. Larry Hogan has issued Executive Order 01.01.2018.04, creating the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance to assist small businesses in complying with House Bill 1. Questions can be sent to small.business@maryland.gov.

Finalists Announced From 2017 STRT1UP Roadshow + Pitch Across Maryland

Startup Maryland unveiled the Overall Great Eight and other subcategory finalists for the Pitch Across Maryland competitions. This year’s finalists are ARMR Systems, Workbench, Danae Prosthetics, Penacity, IES Life Sciences, Femly, Earthborn Interactive and Roadi. The finalists are now invited to present their pitch again, in a slightly longer and more formal format, during the STRT1UP Showcase, scheduled for March 14, in Annapolis.

In addition to the Overall Great Eight Finalist pitches, representatives from Ecosystem Partners will assist Startup Maryland in announcing winners in the Industry Sectors, Fan Favorite and Champions’ Choice subcategories. For the corresponding lists, visit www.startupmd.org.

“By adding subcategories this year, we are able to recognize innovators and ventures that represent sectors critical to Maryland and the region. If 2017 is any indication, the competitive nature of the STRT1UP Roadshow has been raised to the next level. All tour stop hosts and partners are going to have to rally their communities, and we look forward to 2018,” said Michael Venezia, ecosystem director for Startup Maryland.

Arundel Announces Upgrade to Grants Management System

Anne Arundel County will upgrade its grants management system with new technology, saving more than $375,000 annually.

Each year, the county’s departments and offices handle $47.8 million in operating and capital grants from federal, state, local and private sources. By standardizing and modernizing the process throughout county government, grant performance and the use of tax dollars will be improved. This new technology’s anticipated result will increase the number of grants, increase dollar amount of grants and increase collaboration when seeking grants the county needs to serve its residents.

The county has entered into a contract with cCivis Inc. to provide grants management software so the county can standardize the way departments research, apply for and file grant reports. According to the Budget Office, approximately 80% of grants are from the same sources each year. Automated strategic research will identify more grants by forecasting grant potential. The new software will offer a user platform from which grants will be selected strategically to improve the quality of life for county residents.

Vision Technologies Moves to Hanover, Plans 100 New Jobs

Vision Technologies, a systems integrator, is relocating its headquarters in Anne Arundel County and adding 100 new, full-time jobs during the next five years to its local workforce. The company, currently located in Glen Burnie, is moving to a newly constructed, 31,000-square-foot facility in Hanover. Vision Technologies employs 247 workers in the county with more than 500 full-time employees nationally.

“We appreciate all of the support we have received from the Maryland Department of Commerce and Anne Arundel County as we continue to grow. Anne Arundel County has been a great place to start and grow our company, and we are proud of what we have achieved,” said John Shetrone, president and CEO of Vision Technologies. “The support from Maryland Commerce has been proactive and effective in providing funding and support for our expansion.”

Crooked Crab Brewing Co. Opens in Odenton

Leaders from the state of Maryland and Anne Arundel County joined a crowd of craft beer enthusiasts and well-wishers on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the grand opening of Crooked Crab Brewing Co., at the Telegraph Commerce Center, in Odenton. The company plans to produce more than 3,500 barrels per year in its new, 6,100-square-foot location, which includes a 2,200-square-foot taproom.

Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.’s assistance to the company included helping the owners with their location search and providing guidance through the permitting and licensing processes. Crooked Crab Brewing Co.’s new location is a single-story warehouse/industrial building with easy access to Route 32. The company plans to produce five varieties of beer: Crooked Cream Ale, Chuck Brown Ale, Haze for Days New England Pale Ale, High Joltage Coffee Stout and I Fought the Claw IPA, in addition to seasonal releases.

Feldman Bergin, Fortified Property Group Acquire Building in Columbia for $7.2M

A joint venture partnership between Feldman Bergin Properties and Fortified Property Group has acquired 9176 Red Branch Road, a single-story, 81,000-square-foot, flex/light-industrial building situated in the Columbia North submarket for $7.2 million.

This represents the second acquisition in Howard County for the partnership in recent months. Last fall, the group purchased a three-building, 85,000-square-foot portfolio at 8970, 8980 and 8990 Route 108, in Columbia. Sapwood Cellars, a new local craft brewery, recently leased 7,200 square feet within one of the buildings to elevate overall leasing to approximately 85%.

The asset was purchased from an affiliate of ShoreGate Partners, an Easton, Md.-based commercial real estate company.

New Valet Parking Service Now Open at BWI Marshall

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport announced that a valet parking service at the airport’s Hourly Garage is open. The new Fly Away valet service is located on Level 5 of the BWI Marshall Airport Hourly Garage, which is connected directly to the airport terminal. The new valet parking service offers 155 spaces, with room to expand as needed. Valet customers are greeted by a professionally trained, uniformed attendant. The staff provides luggage assistance and offers customers complementary bottled water, coffee and a newspaper.

The initial daily rate for the Fly Away valet parking service will be $30. The regular rate for the Hourly Garage is $22 per day.

Moe Announces Laurel’s New Mobile Mayor Program

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe has announced Mobile Mayor, a new initiative of the City of Laurel’s Government to the People Program. Moe will meet with specific community groups at their resident neighborhood meeting space to share important city updates and information on continuing city programs.

Members of Moe’s senior management staff will be on hand to discuss a variety of departmental news and initiatives, and residents will be invited to speak informally with the mayor about community concerns and issues. Interested community groups may call the Moe’s office at 301-725-5300, ext. 2125, or email laurelmayor@laurel.md.us for additional information or to schedule a Mobile Mayor event.

Cyber Firm to Open Analytics
Center at UMCP

BlueVoyant, a global cybersecurity firm, in the coming months plans to establish a Global Cyber Analytics Center at the University of Maryland College Park. Currently operating out of a temporary site in College Park, the company will employ 25 analysts and data scientists and plans to add more team members with the move to the new facility in the university’s Discovery District.

The new center will analyze Internet traffic data, as well as insights on dark web activity to help defend companies against external cybersecurity threats. BlueVoyant’s tools and capabilities enable companies to predict, detect and respond to known and emerging cybersecurity threats well outside of their own systems. The company expects to launch its new generation of commercial products this year.

FFB Achieves Continuing Accreditation From BBB Alliance

By meeting key standards in the areas of board oversight, finances, results reporting and fundraising appeals, the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), of Columbia, has achieved continuing accreditation by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. FFB has been accredited by the Wise Giving Alliance since 2007.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) is a comprehensive charity evaluator, assisting donors in making sound giving decisions. WGA’s standards go beyond what the law requires, closely monitoring an organization’s fiscal performance. Each BBB WGA charity report process involves a rigorous review using 20 holistic BBB Charity Standards, interaction with charity officials about corrective actions if needed, and quality control measures to assure report accuracy. Thousands of charities have reports available to the public at Give.org.

Osiris (Again) Looking to Hire New CEO

Columbia-based Osiris Therapeutics has announced that Linda Palczuk, who was the fifth CEO to lead the company since 2016, has resigned from the company to take a position as chief operating officer at Verrica Pharmaceuticals, of West Chester, Pa. She joined the company in July 2017.

Next in line at Osiris is Interim CEO Jason Keefer, who joined the company in 2014 and was named vice president, marketing, in August 2016; he assumed additional responsibilities to lead market access in October 2017. Prior to coming to Osiris, he worked at Shire Plc and Pfizer Inc.

MCE Resident 5:00 Films & Media Graduates Into New Studio

A Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) resident, 5:00 Films & Media, is expanding out of the Columbia-based incubator into a larger space in the western Howard County town of Highland. The film and branding company has been operating within the MCE since 2016.

Founder Esteban Escobar’s team focuses on outcome-based storytelling that connects nonprofit and association clients with their target audiences. The new site will host an editing facility and an in-house studio, with 1,200 square feet of office space and 1,800 square feet of multi-use studio/equipment storage. 5:00 Films & Media currently employs six people.

Arundel Launches $2.2 Million 9-1-1 System Upgrade

Anne Arundel County has launched an upgraded 9-1-1 Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to help first responders more efficiently and effectively respond to calls for service.

Until recently, the police and fire departments had been operating on a dispatch system that was installed in the early 1990s. The new CAD system provides increased capacity, with access to more than 16 million historical records to ensure reliability and accessibility; it also employs a graphic user interface, which enables users to enter and retrieve information more efficiently. The geo-centric nature of the CAD system also incorporates location verification, as well as geo-location for emergency service vehicles.

Harkins Announces Long-Planned Leadership Change

Harkins Builders, of Columbia, has announced the company’s long-planned change in leadership. With the retirement of Dick Lombardo, Harkins president Gary Garofalo has assumed the additional role and responsibilities of CEO; Larry Kraemer has taken over from Garofalo as COO, with the construction vice presidents reporting to him. Lombardo will continue to serve on the company’s board of directors.

“Larry and I are both very excited to be seeing our strategic plans getting results. All of our major construction groups — Commercial, Government and Multifamily — are helping us to grow our product diversity, and our Northeast and Southeast divisions are strengthening and widening our geographical presence,” said Garofalo. “Twenty-eighteen promises to be a record-breaking year in revenues, and we are very proud of how all of our employee-owners are fostering consistency of exceptional quality across people, divisions and processes.”

SECU Introduces Online Mobile Banking

Linthicum-based SECU has partnered with Alkami Technology, of Dallas, to launch a new online banking platform and mobile app. Features include person-to-person transfers, budgeting tools and finger-tip or pin log-in. SECU has also enhanced traditional features including bill pay, account transfers, mobile check deposits and account information display screens.

Alkami works with financial institutions across the country to design, build and implement digital banking solutions. The project offers SECU members a more robust online and mobile banking experience, and allows them to bank on their time. The new platform will be introduced to members through March, with all members being converted by the end of the first quarter.

The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant Dining Services Cited

The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant, in Ellicott City, has been named a Showcase Account by Sodexo, a global provider of integrated food and facilities services. The Showcase Account designation represents the company’s best partnerships that incorporate shared values and commitment to improve quality of life for those served every day.

The Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant, a continuing care retirement community along Frederick Road, has partnered with Sodexo since opening in 2016. Together, they are focused on driving innovation and improving service delivery in the senior living industry. As part of the recognition, Miller’s Grant will receive $5,000, which the community will invest in the future construction of a chapel/auditorium.

Wilhelm Builds Howard Bank Branch in Baltimore City

Wilhelm Commercial Builders, of Annapolis Junction, has completed construction on Howard Bank’s first open bank prototype branch in the Baltimore City neighborhood of Remington. It features a modern, industrial, rustic design that will enhance the banking experience for customers who are seeking high touch personal service options.
Highlights of the state-of-the-art branch include high ceilings to maximize natural lighting, polished concrete floors, reclaimed cedar walls, a floating cedar ceiling, hextonagal pendant LED lighting and a wall that features a unique, etched logo. The project team included area architect 33 Design.

Highlights of the state-of-the-art branch include high ceilings to maximize natural lighting, polished concrete floors, reclaimed cedar walls, a floating cedar ceiling, hextonagal pendant LED lighting and a wall that features a unique, etched logo. The project team included area architect 33 Design.

From the Partnership: Official Statement on the Departure of Pecoraro

“The BWI Business Partnership, with respect and appreciation, announces the departure of Executive Director Greg Pecoraro. After two-and-a-half years at the helm of the transportation management association, Mr. Pecoraro and the board have determined that the time has come for new leadership to guide the partnership through the process of redefining its mission and role within the Central Maryland region.

“Mr. Pecoraro [remained in his position through the end of February], at which point board member Ed Rothstein (Col. Ret.) assumed the role of interim director and will assist the partnership in conducting its search for a permanent director. The 30-year-old association has experienced much growth over the last two-and-a-half years with Mr. Pecoraro at the helm, and the partnership wishes him well in his future endeavors.”

The Daily Meal Cites AIDA Bistro

The Daily Meal gave AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar, in Columbia Gateway Business Park, reason to raise a glass by ranking it at No. 130 among the 150 Best Bars in America for 2018. To compile its rankings, the food and drink website used the feedback of its staff, readers and special council composed of restaurateurs, authors and industry insiders. Of consideration were drinks, mixology, bartenders, experience, cuisine and regional import.

The Daily Meal made mention of the Wine on Tap system and the Wine Club at AIDA Bistro as factors in its being named the list.

Fluffy Layers Now Sold by Southern States

Fulton-based Fluffy Layers, creators of fashionable, fun and utilitarian products for the farm, are now offering products in 50 Southern States stores, co-ops and independent dealers across the southeast. Southern States Co-Op, a company providing farm supplies and agricultural services, will sell a range of the Fluffy Layer products.

Southern States Cooperative is one of the nation’s largest agricultural co-ops. It provides a wide range of farm inputs, including fertilizer, seed, livestock feed, pet food, animal health supplies and petroleum products, as well as other items for the farm and home.

Congressional Exhibit at
Meeting House

The Meeting House Gallery is presenting its 4th Annual Congregational Exhibit, with works by Jim Auerbach, Peter Potters Build of Baltimore. Her work can be seen at www.winniecoggins.com.

Barbernitz, Stuart Berlin, Dan Brown, Dan Cohen, Susan Cohen, Ira Dwoskin, Michele Krupka, Jim Lubitz, Sue Nicholson, Carol Jo Roeder, Ronee Rothman, Steve Rothman and Roz Zinner, with works of art featuring ceramics, oil, mosaic tile, photography, water color and wood carving.  The exhibit will run until April 7.

The Meeting House Gallery is located in The Oakland Mills Interfaith Center at 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

Martz Transportation Opens in Howard County

The Martz Group, a fifth generation, family-owned and-operated transportation company with headquarters in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has brought 40 new jobs to Howard County with its new location in Columbia. The 40 selected individuals all will have access to benefits such as medical, dental and vision coverage.

The services offered have continuously evolved for the last 100 years, providing transportation in seven states; Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Florida.

Capitol Seniors Begins Construction on Arbor Terrace Waugh Chapel

Capitol Seniors Housing, a senior living investment and development firm, has started construction on Arbor Terrace Waugh Chapel, an assisted living and memory care community in Gambrills. The $27.2 million, 72,140-square-foot community, to be located at 2535 Evergreen Road, will encompass 84 residential suites.

Arbor Terrace Waugh Chapel, which is located adjacent to Wegmans in Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2018. The company is also constructing Arbor Terrace Maple Lawn, in Fulton, which is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of this year.

Capital Women’s Care Expands Regional Headquarters in Maple Lawn

The largest private obstetrics and gynecology practice in the mid-Atlantic, Capital Women’s Care, has continued its expansion in Maryland through the opening of a new office in Maple Lawn. The new lease represents a relocation and expansion of the practice’s regional headquarters; across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., it employs more than 200 medical professionals throughout more than 55 locations.

“This move will better allow Capital Women’s Care to provide services to the mid-Atlantic and helps to position them for continued growth in our region,” said Joe Bradley, senior vice president and principal of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services. “We are excited to see the opportunities that this move will undoubtedly afford our client both now and in the future.”

WHC Opens to Address
Binge Eating Behavior

The Women’s Healing Center (WHC) of Ellicott City, has opened and is ready to serve women who face the powerful pull of binge eating behavior. Characterized by eating large amounts of food in short periods of time, often at a rapid pace that leads to significant discomfort, binge eating episodes usually occur in isolation and lead to feelings of guilt, shame and depression. It is estimated that only 28% of those who suffer from the effects of binge eating disorder seek treatment.

Founders Nancy Wikes, LCSW-C, and Teddey Hicks, Intuitive Eating counselor, provide a one-of-a-kind approach to binge eating disorder and guide clients to a place of confidence and peace. For more information, call Nancy Wikes at 443-535-1544, Teddey Hicks at 443-620-4710 or email womenshealingcenter@gmail.com. Also visit www.womenshealingcenter.com.

Hochreiter, Hipp Exhibit at the Bernice Kish Gallery

The Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, has announced a two-person exhibit in the galleries. The show is a retrospective exhibit featuring the artwork of Elaine Hochreiter entitled “Memories of a Journey”; it also presents work of her daughter, Krista Hipp. The exhibit will run through March 24.

The late Elaine Hochreiter, of Laurel, has exhibited throughout the region, including the Howard County Arts Council Group Show, Singular Sensations at the Columbia Art Center and previous exhibits at Slayton House Gallery. Her paintings reflect her life’s journey through places and times.

Krista Hipp, of Severn, has exhibited in solo and group shows, at the MassArt Graduate Thesis Show, in Boston; the Dodge Pratt Notham Art Center, in Boonville, N.Y.; the Lewis Historical Society, in Lowville, N.Y.; and Maryland Institute College of Art.

Everett Jewelers Relocates to Clarksville Commons

Everett Jewelers has relocated from the River Hill Village Center across the street to Clarksville Commons at 12240 Clarksville Pike. Owner Rick Everett feels that moving to the new Clarksville Commons is “an exciting opportunity” to be in a sustainable mixed-use center to grow the business and better serve his customers.

The new store features a stone fireplace as the focal point. High wood beams offset the soundproof ceiling, designed to enhance customers’ experience with Everett’s other love, music. Everett Jewelers specializes in custom design jewelry and was one of the first jewelers to sell diamonds online in the mid-1990s, and continues to do so today.

Artists’ Gallery Features
Coggins, Norman

Artists’ Gallery, in Ellicott City, will present the work of a long-time alumna, clay artist Winnie Coggins, and award-winning watercolor artist Karen Norman for its guest artist show, “Essential Elements: Clay and Water,” that will run through March 25. There will be a reception with wine and refreshments on Sunday, March 11, from 3–5 p.m.

Winnie Coggins has been working in clay since 1976. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in many venues, including the Maryland Federation of Art, Circle Galleries, Columbia Arts Center, the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center and the Potters Build of Baltimore. Her work can be seen at www.winniecoggins.com.

Karen Norman’s career in art began in color lithography, after she received her MFA at the University of Maryland. She soon began to explore working in watercolor, and is a signature member of the Baltimore Water Color Society, the Potomac Valley Watercolorists and past president of the Olney Art Association. Norman’s work can be seen at: www.karennorman.net.

Daedalus Books Retail Store to Close

Daedalus Books President Robin Moody has confirmed that the Columbia-based catalog business and retail outlet that specializes in remaindered books and music closed at the end of February. Universal Screen Arts of Hudson, Ohio, an Internet retailer and mail order cataloguer with catalog titles that include Signals, Wireless and whatonearth, has acquired the Daedalus Books & Music catalog operation and will continue to operate it under that name.

“It’s been a good run and a pretty good store,” said Moody, who founded the business in 1980 with partners Helaine Harris and Tamara Stock, and established the warehouse outlet in 1998. “We’re all sad to see this day come.”

Essentials Program for Emerging Leaders

The Leadership Essentials (LE) class of 2018 includes 26 young professionals from a wide variety of organizations. This six-month leadership development program, instituted by Leadership Howard County in 2007, is now managed by Loyola University Maryland as part of the Sellinger School of Business. Similar to Loyola’s graduate business programs, Leadership Essentials develops skills that allow participants to stretch their leadership potential and contribute significantly to their organizations, their families and their community.

The program has three core components: Skill Building Workshops, a Coach Relationship and a Community Impact Project Team experience. The skill-building workshops, focused on specific leadership characteristics such as teambuilding, project management, the leader as a coach, presentation skills, collaboration and negotiation, include exercises and reflection to facilitate the participants’ ability to sharpen critical skills necessary for effective leadership.

Throughout the six months of the Leadership Essentials program, participants work with their coach to help them unlock the answers within, enabling them to better make decisions and strengthen their relationships and leadership skills. Participants also contribute to a small team on a short-term Community Impact Project (CIP) that challenges them to put their lessons learned and leadership skills in action. This year’s Community Impact Project hosts are: Camp Opportunity, Candlelight Concert Series, HC Food Bank/Community Action Council, People Power/Arc of Howard County and Tools4Success.

LE values its strong community alliances, especially its collaboration with Leadership Howard County, and with the Leadership Essentials community of alumni, coaches, community leaders and facilitators.
We look forward to recruiting another fantastic class for Leadership Essentials 2019. Applications will be available in July, with a due deadline in early October. Information sessions will be held in August and September; visit www.loyola.edu/sellinger-business/academics/executive-education/leadership-essentials for more information.

 

Lori Fuchs is the Leadership Essentials program manager. She can be reached at lfuchs@loyola.edu. Contact her for more information about the LE program, to send a participant or to volunteer.

 

Leadership Essentials Class of 2018

Travis Aion
Associate Professional Staff
JHU Applied Physics Lab

Jacob Alldredge
Senior Staff
JHU Applied Physics Lab

David Arnett
Associate Director Servers & Storage
Loyola University MD

Elisabeth Berman
Realtor
Long and Foster

Emily Branchaw
Program Coordinator
UMBC Training Center

Adam Brinkman
Relationship Manager
M&T Bank

Kyle Casterline
Assistant Section Supervisor
JHU Applied Physics Lab

Donald Corbin, Jr.
Head Start Education Coordinator
Community Action Council

Kristofor Gibson
Senior Staff
JHU Applied Physics Lab

Andrew Hall
Internal Operations Supervisor, Security
Howard County General Hospital

Michael Long
Associate Professor and Co-Chair, Math
Howard Community College

Josh Manley
Program Associate
International Republican Institute

Joseph McQuillan
Detective Seargent
Howard County Police Department

Jason Parfitt
Accounting Director
ABM

Alyson Phillips
Project Manager
JHU Applied Physics Lab

Christopher Pitts
Impact Investment Associate
Enterprise Community Partners

Kelianne Ramos
Customer Success Manager
Enterprise Community Partners

Timothy Repko
Aerospace Engineer
JHU Applied Physics Lab

Brian Sheavly
Marketing Director
HC Economic Development Authority

Brian Smoot
Investment Adviser
Lee Financial

Michael Tait
Office Leasing Representative
Howard Hughes Corporation

Lauren Taylor
Director of Communications
Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce

William Varoli
Director, Development Risk
Enterprise Community Partners

Kristen Walsh
Senior Business Project Manager
BGE

Kevin Wiechelt
Construction Project Manager
Columbia Association

Joshua Williford
Portfolio Manager
StratWealth

Nonprofit News and Charitable Giving

MakingChange Provides Free Income Tax Preparation

MakingChange, a nonprofit in Howard County that empowers individuals and families to achieve financial stability, is hosting free tax preparation services at the MultiService Center, in North Laurel; and the NonProfit Collaborative, in Columbia. The two locations are serving as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.

The Howard County sites, like other VITA sites across the country, offer free tax return preparation and filing to most taxpayers who earned up to $54,000 in 2017. The taxpayer’s eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also will be determined. This year’s tax deadline is April 17.

The MultiService Center is located at 9900 Washington Boulevard (Route 1), Laurel. Free tax preparation services are available Monday, from 4–8 p.m.; Friday, from 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; and Saturday, from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. The last day is April 14. Appointments can be scheduled at https://live.vcita.com/site/mg5xbnfd7fof1zhf/online-scheduling?service=29rtinb06vtb0u2o or by calling 410-313-0241.

The NonProfit Collaborative is located at 9770 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia. Free tax preparation services are available Wednesday, from 4–8 p.m. The last day is April 11. Appointments can be scheduled at https://live.vcita.com/site/mg5xbnfd7fof1zhf/online-scheduling?service=qxz7lewy9rvpkasj or call 443-518-7649. For more information, visit www.makingchangecenter.org.

LHC to Hold Big Event With Educator Clark

Leadership Howard County (LHC) will hold its annual Big Event featuring guest speaker Ron Clark, a nationally- and internationally-recognized educator who established the Ron Clark Academy, in Atlanta. Clark will present his vision for transforming education and cultivating a generation of global leaders.

The Big Event brings together more than 400 leaders from business, government and nonprofit organizations in Howard County. Proceeds from the event support LHC programs and scholarships. It will be held Tuesday, March 13, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at Turf Valley, in Ellicott City. Individual tickets cost $100 and $75 for students and employees of nonprofit organizations. To register, visit www.leadershiphc.org or call 410-730-4474.

Howard Rec & Parks Warhawks to Host USA Field Hockey Tourney

The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks’ Warhawks Field Hockey Club has been selected to host the USA Field Hockey Region 7 U16 Club Championships during Memorial Day weekend at Troy Park, Elkridge. The tournament will feature the top field hockey clubs in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. At this Regional Championship, teams will battle for a spot in the USA Field Hockey National Club Championship, set to take place July 9 to July 17, in Lancaster, Pa.

“Troy Park is our newest regional park, and it’s wonderful to see it already being used for such high-level tournaments,” said John Byrd, director, Department of Recreation & Parks. “With Phases I and II of this project finished, we believe as the park’s additional phases are completed, Troy Park will continue to draw more regional tournaments as its amenities and location make it convenient and ideal for out-of-town players.”

This will be the first time that the Warhawks Field Hockey Club has hosted this championship tournament, and it is estimated that more than 250 families will visit Howard County for the event. For more information, visit www.warhawksfieldhockey.com and www.howardcountymd.gov/TroyParkatElkridge.

MDOT Accepting Grant Applications for Safety Projects

The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office (MHSO) is accepting grant applications for traffic safety projects that will take place between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019 (federal fiscal 2019). The application deadline is March 16.

“Since 2009, an average of 502 people have died each year in traffic crashes on Maryland roads, and nearly 45,000 people have been injured,” said MDOT MVA Administrator and Highway Safety Representative Christine Nizer. “The projects we fund help eliminate these preventable tragedies and save lives.”

Two types of grants are available: one for law enforcement and a general grant for other eligible agencies. New projects must have statewide applicability. Local pilot projects are eligible, provided they demonstrate the potential for expansion throughout the state.

The MHSO is responsible for administering grant-funded programs that focus on preventing impaired, aggressive and distracted driving; protecting occupants; enhancing traffic-records systems; and ensuring the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and drivers. For more information, visit mva.maryland.gov/safety/mhso/grants-management.htm or call the MHSO at 410-787-4050.

HCAC’s 21st Celebration of the Arts Set for March 24

The Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) is seeking volunteers to assist at the 21st annual Celebration of the Arts gala on March 24 at the Peter & Elizabeth Horowitz Visual & Performing Arts Center, Howard Community College, Columbia. Volunteers are needed for various jobs including reception, performance, silent auction, set-up, etc.

The celebration is a multi-faceted signature event, showcasing and promoting the arts while raising funds in support of the arts, artists and arts organizations in Howard County. The evening features a reception from 6–8 p.m. with a silent art auction, food from area restaurants and caterers, and musical performances. The Rising Star Performing Arts Competition and the presentation of the Howie Awards will begin at 8 p.m.

To learn more, or purchase tickets, visit the Support section at hocoarts.org, and click on Volunteer. The HCAC can be contacted at 410-313-2787 or at development@hocoarts.org.

Howard Health Department to Partner With Grassroots

The Howard County Health Department and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center have announced a new partnership to provide substance use screenings and referrals to treatment. The new connection was made possible with state funding received by the Health Department to help combat the opioid crisis.

Under the new agreement, Grassroots will increase its capacity to provide in-person screening to adults, youth and families dealing with substance misuse issues, aided by the technical assistance, training and community promotion provided by the Health Department. Walk-in crisis assistance is available at Grassroots’ Freetown Road facility, in Columbia, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The location is accessible by public transportation.

A counselor will screen clients using a method called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an evidence-based method to identify individuals at risk, link them to treatment services in the community and assist them in removing barriers to getting treatment.

Individuals and families in Howard County seeking assistance with behavioral health or shelter crises should contact Grassroots at 800-422-0009/410-531-6677 or visit www.grassrootscrisis.org. For help with substance use disorder treatment resources, contact the Howard County Health Department at 410-313-6202 or visit www.hchealth.org/GetHelp.

$2.4M Awarded to Combat Homelessness in Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County was awarded $2.43 million in competitive federal funding to end homelessness. The award, which was granted to the county from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the nationally competitive Continuum of Care (CoC) program, will support 14 different ongoing projects working to provide permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families in Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis.

The projects funded will provide 175 units of stable, affordable housing to the county’s most vulnerable homeless individuals and families. “Over the last decade, we have been able to increase the funding available to the county by approximately 44%, and every dollar is working toward our goal of ending homelessness,” said Kathleen Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services.

The majority of CoC funds will provide permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals — that is, individuals who have been on the street for a long time and who may have mental health, physical health or substance abuse disorders. One such program is the Safe Have II program, which is operated by Arundel House of Hope.

A portion of the CoC award will support Catholic Charities’ Rapid Re-Housing Program, helping homeless families quickly locate housing in the community to avoid being on the streets with their children. Other service and shelter providers funded by the CoC include the Mental Health Agency, Arundel House of Hope, People Encouraging People and the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County.

Rep Stage Announces 2018–19 Season Productions

Rep Stage, the professional regional theater-in-residence at Howard Community College, has announced its 2018–19 season will launch with the musical “Sweeney Todd,” followed by a world premiere production by Callie Kimball, “Things That Are Round,” and contemporary theater classics “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” and “The 39 Steps.”

The first show of the season is “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” from Sept. 6–23; followed by “Things That Are Round,” Nov. 1–18; “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” Feb. 7–25, 2019; and “The 39 Steps,” May 2-19, 2019. For more information, contact 443-518-1510 or visit www.repstage.org.

UMSON, State Partner to Address Opioid Addiction

Anne Arundel County has a new tool to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic: the Governor’s Wellmobile Program, administered by the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON).

The Maryland Department of Health and the Opioid Operational Command Center have announced a partnership between UMSON and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health to use the Governor’s Wellmobile Program to deliver medication-assisted treatment to one of the areas of Anne Arundel County most affected by the heroin and opioid crisis.

The Wellmobile provides primary health care to uninsured and underserved residents across Central Maryland, while serving as inter-professional clinical education sites for students from the University of Maryland schools of Nursing, Law, Social Work, Medicine and Pharmacy. Operating through a combination of state and private funding, the program has grown to four 33-foot-long mobile medical vehicles that rotate in and out of service and provide more than 6,000 visits annually.

The Wellmobile will treat Anne Arundel County residents two days a week. Anne Arundel County Department of Health officials have not announced an exact location nor a start date.

AAWDC, FMA to Host Military Workplace Event

Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp.’s (AAWDC) Military Corps Career Connect (C3) initiative, in partnership with the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA), is hosting a free morning event where human resources (HR), talent acquisition and hiring managers can learn about how to make their workplace military-ready. The event will be held on Tuesday, March 20, from 9:30–11:30 a.m. at the Columbia Workforce Center, 7161 Columbia Gateway, Columbia.

Attendees will learn methods for creating a military-ready culture, review facts on military spouses and receive actionable methods for engaging with and recruiting this talent pool. The session will be taught by Miligistix, an HR consulting firm that specializes in optimizing, developing and training recruiting teams, with an emphasis on military and veteran programs. To register, visit www.ftmeadealliance.org/events/creating-military-ready-workplace-culture.

PHG Receives $50K Chesapeake Bay Trust Grant

Patapsco Heritage Greenway received a $50,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) to use towards a pet waste behavior change campaign in Elkridge, in the Deep Run Watershed. The grant is funded by Howard County and administered by CBT for community-based investigation and awareness, and a behavior change marketing campaign.

One gram of pet waste can contain up to 23 million bacteria. When it rains, pet waste can wash off of lawns and other surfaces into streams and creeks. Unlike the dung of many wild animals, such as deer, the waste of dogs contains many more bacteria and parasites.

The addition of these harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waters encourages excess weed and algae growth and is a major cause of water quality decline. When pet waste is washed into rivers and streams, it decays, using up oxygen and often releasing ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures can kill fish and other aquatic life.

HCAC Accepting Applications for Development Grants Program

The Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) is currently accepting applications for its fiscal 2019 Community Arts Development Grant Program. The program funds day-to-day activities for county arts organizations, as well as arts-related projects for new arts organizations or non-arts groups.

Interested applicants should visit https://hcac.gosmart.org for more information and to register. The deadline to apply for the fiscal 2019 Community Arts Development Grant Program is May 16.

HCAC General Exhibit Applications Due April 1

Artists wishing to be considered for an exhibit in the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) galleries are invited to submit a general exhibit application. The HCAC Exhibits Committee meets quarterly to review applications and select artists for the exhibit space. Artists, ages 18 and older, working in all media and styles including time-based and installation artists, are encouraged to apply either individually or as a group. The committee also welcomes proposals from curators and organizations.

The next deadline for submissions is Sunday, April 1. Detailed entry guidelines are available at hocoarts.submittable.com/submit, for pick-up at the Howard County Center for the Arts or by mail by calling 410-313-2787 or emailing info@hocoarts.org.

Two New Exhibits Offered at HCAC

March is Youth Art Month and the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) will commemorate the occasion with its annual spring exhibit of student artwork in Gallery I at the Howard County Center for the Arts. Presented through an ongoing partnership between the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and HCAC, this year’s Youth Art Month exhibit is titled “Drawing to Understand” and features hundreds of works by HCPSS students in grades K–12, selected from public school art classes throughout the county.

In Gallery II, in partnership with Howard County Recreation and Parks’ Department of Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services, the exhibit “No Boundaries” showcases work by youth and adult artists with developmental disabilities. The work was created in the Exploring Art and Focus on Art programs offered by the Department of Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services.

Both exhibits will be open from March 9 to April 20. A free public reception including light refreshments will be held on Thursday, March 15, from 5–7 p.m. For more information, visit www.hocoarts.org.

AMFM Announces $5K Scholarship for Music Majors

Annapolis Musicians Fund for Musicians (AMFM) is broadening its Tim King Scholarship Fund and accepting applications for its newly-established Music Performance Scholarship. This $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to a current high school senior who intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in either vocal or instrumental music performance.

Candidates will be evaluated using a points-based system that awards points for active membership in a school band, orchestra, choir, chorus or other school-sponsored musical performance group; volunteer music participation; participation in special school performances; selection to all county/all state/regional performance groups; and participation in private music lessons.

Scholarship applications will be accepted through April 15 and the scholarship recipient will be chosen by May 15. To apply, and for specific details about the rating system, go to www.am-fm.org/music-performance-scholarship.

Positive Living and Aging Well Workshops Set for 50+ Centers

Vantage House is sponsoring free workshops on Positive Living and Aging Well at Howard County 50+ Centers. The workshops feature Marketing Director and Personal Development Coach Andrew Morgan who argues that society’s perceptions of older adults remains stuck in the past.

In the two-hour workshop, Morgan and partners use real-life lessons to provide an effective blueprint for a happier, healthier and more impactful life as people grow older. This stage of life, according to Morgan, is not simply a time of “leisure activities,” but rather full engagement, authentic social connections, interesting people, vitality, meaning and purpose. During the workshops, Morgan will discuss timeless strategies for a more “purpose-driven life.”

Upcoming workshops include the following.
• March 13, 5–7 p.m., East Columbia 50+ Center, East Columbia Library, 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia. Call 410-3413-7680.
• April 4, 1–3 p.m., Glenwood 50+ Center, Gary J. Arthur Community Center, 2400 Route 97, Cooksville. Call 410-313-5440.

Black History Month Celebrated at Live! Casino & Hotel

In celebration of Black History Month, The Cordish Companies’ Live! Casino & Hotel and the Md. Washington Minority Companies Association (MWMCA) celebrated the fifth annual Black History Heroes Awards. The ceremony, held at Live! Center Stage, recognized 10 Maryland and Washington, D.C., business and community leaders who have contributed to their communities and citizens in a positive way.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, one of the evening’s honorees, also served as the keynote speaker. He discussed the legacies of historical influential African-Americans with ties to Maryland, including Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall and Frederick Douglass, whose contributions to society transcend race, nationality and religion. Rutherford also said while much progress has been made for equal rights and equality, it is important to remember this month that there is still much more that needs to be done.

In addition to Rutherford, other honorees included the following.
• Cynthia Brooks, Bea Gaddy Family Centers
• Jefferi Lee, WHUT
• Sheila Brooks, SRB Communications
• The Jonathan Ogden Foundation
• Jonas Edward Brooks, Fire Marshal’s Office in Annapolis
• Pastor James E. Rollins, 15 City
• Ramsey Harris, PNC Bank
• Jeanne Hitchcock, The Johns Hopkins University
• Bishop Doctor Abraham Shanklin, Jr., The Center of Transformation

HHC, HCAC Launches Merriweather District Artist-in-Residence Program

The Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC), in collaboration with the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC), has launched the Merriweather District Artist-in-Residence (MD AIR) program in Downtown Columbia. The Call for Entry for prospective participants is being disseminated nationwide.

Three artists will be selected from submitted entries and provided a stipend of $10,000 each to spend up to two months, from June 1–July 31, creating work in a medium of their choosing. Studio space will be provided in Two Merriweather, a new office building, and residential accommodations will be provided within walking distance.

The MD AIR program for 2018 will be the first in what will be an annual program to provide an opportunity for artists to spend two months in the midst of the evolving urban center. Works by selected MD AIR artists will be considered for inclusion in the second annual OPUS, scheduled for October 2018.

Artists are encouraged to focus on the relationship between art and technology in responding to the call for Entry. MD AIR applications will remain open until April 7. For further information, visit www.hocoarts.submittable.com.

Letter to the Editor

Sanctioned Growth: Has Its Time Come?

Recent information concerning the number of jobs created in Anne Arundel County contains a tone that appears to indicate that more jobs is a good thing — and that may well be the case.

But without a projected population saturation number for the county, isn’t that like taking off on a trip and not knowing where you are going? Or how long it will take to get there?

Planning for the future must be measured against an established goal, in terms of a number and the years to attain it.

Currently, the runaway economic tail is wagging the planning dog. If there is no public policy regarding the ultimate population of the county, then planning is just lip service to the development process. We need to look ahead to the community we want, and take steps now to assure that when we arrive at our destination, we’re where we want to be. Future generations are depending on us.

 

To applaud the creation of thousands of jobs is folly unless it is determined that it is on target for a future agreed-upon goal. Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that 1.1 million people (roughly twice the current population) is chosen for a future population cap. The next decision would concern the number of years to assimilate the additional 550,000 increase in population.

Whether that number is 10, 20 or 50 years, a decision needs to be made. Once determined, then it becomes simple arithmetic to determine the number of jobs needed per year to attain the population growth sanctioned.

Then planning and budgeting for the infrastructure needed to accommodate the planned growth can be more enlightened. Creating jobs is not a contest, and being No. 1 is only relevant if you have a public policy to evaluate and confirm your accomplishment.

Without some movement towards the concepts outlined herein, we will continue politics and uncontrolled growth, as opposed to planning and measurable growth. It won’t be easy.

— Dave Brashears, Annapolis