Archived Articles: May 2017

Cyber8//2017 Is Coming on June 7

Join the Howard County Chamber of Commerce for its eighth annual cyber conference, where innovation, funding and growth will be explored. Participants can expect discussions from cyber innovators and entrepreneurs, leading venture capitalists and financiers, and government agencies that look to this industry base for technologies and solutions.

The event will be held on June 7 at Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre.

There will be two separate tracks, ensuring there is relevant information for all participants, from the startup, to the seasoned CEO, to the everyday cyber practitioner.

Specific topics will include: funding growth and mergers and acquisitions; the role of government and academia in innovation; and threat assessment, prevention and remediation.

Three keynote speakers will be presented. The morning will feature Curtis W. Dukes, executive vice president and general manager of the CIS Security Best Practices & Automation Group. Dukes is the former deputy national manager for National Security Systems, where he was charged with securing systems that handle classified information or that are otherwise critical to military and intelligence activities. He has served in a variety of organizations within the National Security Agency (NSA).

The lunch speaker will be Ron Gula, of Gula Technology Adventures. As former CEO and co-founder of Tenable Network Security, Gula led the company’s rapid growth and product vision from 2002 through 2016. He helped the company scale to more than 20,000 customers worldwide, raise $300 million in venture capital and achieve revenues in excess of $100 million annually.
The afternoon keynote speech will be given by Lonny Anderson, executive vice president of Nobus. A recognized leader in the support of the national intelligence mission, Anderson has expertise in counterterrorism and signal intelligence operations. He dramatically changed the way the NSA/Central Security Service (CSS) collects, delivers and shares information in direct support of the national-level decision-makers and the warfighter.
Other featured speakers will include the following.

• Moss Amer, analyst, Maryland Venture Fund

• Col. Daniel Bennett, Ph.D., professor at West Point and part of the Army Cyber Institute; currently on sabbatical assigned to the Cyber National Mission Force

• Chris College, managing director, TEDCO Capital Partners

• April Doss, partner, and chair of Cybersecurity and Privacy, Saul Ewing

• Gary Merry, CEO of Deep Run Security

• Angela Singleton, Deal Team – Seed Investment Fund, TEDCO

• J. Thomas Sadowski, vice chancellor for economic development, University System of Maryland

• Jason Taule, chief privacy officer/chief security officer, FEI Systems

 

• Lt. Col. Stoney Trent, Ph.D., chief of experimentation for applied research and development, United States Cyber Command

A Letter From the Young Professionals Network Incoming Chair

When I first moved to Columbia and started my business, the only thing I knew about the area was what I learned from this weird spiel that I had heard from my wife and that kept coming up as I met people in the community. It went something like this.
“Howard County is the best place in the world because: We were the first-ever planned community, our school system is amazing, we’ve got a thriving business community, we are one of the wealthiest counties in the country, we are diverse, and we’ve even got these great walking paths. Oh, and if you don’t believe me, Money magazine just rated us as best place to live.”

By the fifth or sixth time I heard this, I was convinced that I had found myself in some alternate society that required its citizens to put a bumper sticker on their car and memorize a list of Howard County-related bullet points before being allowed to leave their homes.

As it turns out, I wasn’t in an alternate society, but I was in a unique one — one made up of people who are proud of where they come from, but not so proud as to be unwelcoming to a newcomer like myself.

My first real business experience was getting involved with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, and specifically the Young Professionals Network (YPN). I was welcomed at my first event by a group of friendly and humble people, and five years later I now have the great honor of leading the same group that helped me get my start.

One of our biggest initiatives this year is the successful launch of our new “Celerate” series. A professional development workshop designed with the young professional (YP) in mind, these events are anything but boring. They are fast-paced, engaging, and focus on topics that YPs will find valuable. If you’re a young professional looking for a great way to get involved with the business community, please feel free to join us at our next Celerate event.

In my short time in this community I’ve learned a really important lesson: that a happy and successful career starts with the people who surround you. Relationships are everything.
I salute you, Howard County Chamber, for building an infrastructure of great people — people who are proud of where they come from and happy to welcome newcomers with a smile and a handshake. I feel fortunate to have been one of those whom you’ve welcomed in so kindly, and feel proud to make this county my home. I even caught myself giving the Howard County spiel to a friend of mine who was considering a move to the area. What have I become?

— Eric Pfoutz, Financial Adviser
Edward Jones

A Year in the Life of a Chamber Ambassador

The Howard County Chamber (HCCC) ambassadors strive to engage and encourage the newest Chamber members through phone calls, emails and one-on-one meetings throughout the year to ensure that members are making the most of their Chamber benefits.
This dynamic, energetic team of volunteers represents a cross-section of the membership. From sole proprietors to Howard County major employers, HCCC Ambassadors are leaders in their respective organizations and in the community. Identified by their green badge, they assist at Chamber breakfasts, luncheons, major events and ribbon cuttings. The Ambassadors mentor, they greet and they provide assistance and answer questions. They are an extension of the Chamber staff and are appreciated for all they do.

Howard County Chamber of Commerce 2016-2017 Board of Directors

Executive Committee
Chair
Jeffrey T. Agnor, Esq.
Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC

Chair-Elect
David R. Anderson
Expense Reduction Analysts

Treasurer
Stephen F. Wolf, CPA
bgr CPAs

Secretary
Mary E. Cannon, CPA
Mary Cannon & Associates LLC

Ananta Hejeebu
Howard Tech Advisors

Leonardo McClarty,
President & CEO
Howard County Chamber of Commerce

Thomas M. Meachum, Esq.
Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr LLP

Milton W. Matthews
Columbia Association

Directors
Gulnaz Anwar
The Columbia Bank

Ryan Brown
Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine

Andra Cain
Cain Contracting Inc.

Charles Camp
M&T Bank

Luke Chow
Prime Manufacturing Technologies Inc.

Thomas Cormier
Ahold USA – Giant Landover

General Counsel
William E. Erskine, Esquire
Offit Kurman P.A.

Mike Finkel
Sparksoft Corporation

Gregory A. Fitchitt
The Howard Hughes Corp.

Michael L. Fowler
BGE, an Exelon Company

Susan Hasler
Loyola University Maryland

Kate Hetherington, Ed.D.
Howard Community College

John W. Knipp
PNC Bank

Pete Mangione
Turf Valley Resort

Dan Medinger
Advertising Media Plus

Mike Muscatello, CPA
Aronson LLC

Brad Myers
Sandy Spring Bank

Linda Ostovitz
Offit Kurman P.A.

Jean Parker
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Baxter (Mitch) Phillips, Jr.
Howard Bank

Charles A. Phillips, Jr., RPLS
KCI Technologies

Cole Schnorf
Manekin LLC

Dave Sciamarelli
MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate

Ryan Sturm
KatzAbosch

Lawrence F. Twele
Howard County Economic Development Authority

Matthew L. Wilson
First Potomac Management LLC

Cathy Yost
The Business Monthly

David Yungmann
The Yungmann Group of Keller Williams Integrity

Sparksoft Leverages GovConnects to Reach the Government Community

 

The name says it all. GovConnects, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) program, was created in 2012 to better connect businesses with the federal government contracting community and provide opportunities to learn more about that sector.

One company that is taking full advantage of the GovConnects program is Sparksoft, a health information technology (IT) integrator with a focus on testing services. Sparksoft helps government and private industry companies alike automate testing processes to better understand risks before implementing and “going live” with a new system or before majorly modifying an existing one.

As an example, Sparksoft was able to drastically reduce the time it was taking a client to deploy a software program. Sparksoft CEO Mike Finkel explained, “Their testing was taking up a lot of time, and they needed something that would shorten the testing cycle without compromising the quality and effectiveness of the testing. We came in and implemented our automated testing framework, ScriptHive, and drove the testing cycle down from three days to six hours,” he said. “This allowed them to release the code and fix issues in a much more agile fashion.”

History of Sparksoft

This finely-tuned operation looked much different seven years ago. Sparksoft originally was founded as a staff augmentation firm in 2004 by its president, Siva Sivaraman. In 2010, Sivaraman decided to shift from leading a resource-driven company to a service-driven one and began playing in the commercial and government markets.

Sivaraman explained, “By 2010, we had established ourselves as a reliable staff augmentation firm, and we began to look at where we saw ourselves in five years and then in 10 years.

“We took stock and realized our biggest asset was our people — each and every one is a problem-solver and are always in such demand,” she said. “Should we continue to grow along the same path, or should we take our solutioning skills directly to the health care customers we are so proud to be supporting?” she pondered.

After much deliberation and with the full support of each member of the Sparksoft team, the company shifted its focus. Despite what Sivaraman described as a “roller coaster start,” it proved to be a gamble that paid off.

“We have seen overall growth trending up, with 2017 poised to be the breakout year,” said Sivaraman.

To further assist in the strategy shift, Finkel joined the team as CEO in January 2016 to help the company pursue more contracting work as a prime company. Overall, Sivaraman described the move as a good one.

“We believe it has been a great move for the company … because by expanding our footprint in tandem with our people, we are clearly vested in the community where we all work and live,” she said.

GovConnects Membership

Since GovConnects’ inception in 2012, it has been a resource for Chamber members wanting to navigate the government contracting industry as well as have networking opportunities with key industry professionals. The Chamber is also now exploring additional government opportunities like state procurement — another plus to membership.

As for Sparksoft’s specific benefits, there seems to be a shared appreciation and value-add expressed by both Sparksoft and Chamber leadership.

“Sparksoft joined the Chamber in December of 2015 and immediately became active and engaged in the GovConnects program as well as general Chamber programming,” explained Chamber President and CEO Leonardo McClarty.

The decision to join the Chamber was a seemingly easy one for Sparksoft. “As a small, woman-owned business, active community involvement is key to getting to know people with the same mindset and work ethic, not just individuals, but businesses,” said Sivaraman.

Finkel echoed the sentiment. “The program gives us, as a small business in Howard County, an opportunity to communicate and get acquainted with many federal, state and local officials and to get an understanding of the opportunities available to us as a small business,” he said. “It also allows us to meet other small and large businesses in the area to build relationships and pursue opportunities together.”

McClarty noted, “Their CEO has been the chair of GovConnects [since 2016], represents the program on the Chamber board and has given considerable time to its events [which include] the Cyber Conference and Business Breakfast.”

The relationship-building happens through a calendar of educational and networking events hosted by the Chamber throughout the year. Activities range from executive-level networking events with regional and national federal contracting companies; to some 10 roundtable meetings with CFOs of large and small companies; to regular, two-hour breakfast sessions for networking and information-sharing called BizBreakfasts. In addition, there is an annual conference and a leadership forum for women in government contracting.

Having a Voice in the Industry

Although participating in the larger federal contracting community has been an asset, Sparksoft flourishes within the niche of health IT — a space to which GovConnects has broadened visibility.

“I have been very involved with the vision and direction of the [GovConnects] program by bringing in the voice of the health IT companies in the area and [allowing them] to cross-connect with other businesses, such as [Department of Defense]-focused companies,” said Finkel about his service as part of the GovConnects Advisory Council.

Finkel summarized the value of being part of the GovConnects program. “We as a company are here to help our customers ignite innovation as they move into the future and understand their risk posture as they create and modify systems,” he said.

“We have found great benefit being involved with the Chamber and the GovConnects program. I encourage others to join as I truly believe it helps grow your business network and find new opportunities you may not be aware of today.”

Arts Organizations Flourish With Chamber Relationships

 

From referrals to concert advertising to business listings, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce offers ways for businesses to support the arts.

For example, Columbia Pro Cantare received more than 2,460 referrals from the Chamber in 2016, which included business listings, and concert advertising on its website that resulted in site visits. “We believe it is a worthwhile collaboration to continue in the future,” said founder Frances Dawson.

Columbia Pro Cantare joined the Howard Chamber because Dawson and its other members believe that the community is stronger when businesses support the arts and form a true collaboration between them.

“The Maryland Arts Council provides statistics each year that show the amount of money the arts bring into communities and how they benefit the economy through jobs and tourism,” explained Dawson. “Columbia Pro Cantare produces five concerts each year, with audiences totaling approximately 2,000. Many of these people eat out while in the area, bringing increased revenues to local businesses.”

Columbia Pro Cantare, established in 1977, performs a variety of classical, ethnic and American choral music with professional instrumentalists and soloists. “It is evident that Jim Rouse’s vision of Columbia as a place where people could grow and find expression for their artistic talents became a reality for me,” said Dawson.

This year, the Columbia Pro Cantare will celebrate Columbia’s 50th anniversary with a May concert featuring internationally renowned baritone Lester Lynch, who will narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with orchestra.

Unique Marketing Opportunities

The Columbia Orchestra has been a member of the Howard Chamber for several years. “The Chamber provides networking opportunities for the members of the orchestra staff and board, timely information on what’s happening in our community and unique marketing opportunities,” said Katherine Keefe, the orchestra’s executive director.

Hailed as “a pillar of the local arts community” by The Washington Post, the Columbia Orchestra is a community orchestra with more than 90 members. Since its founding in 1977, the orchestra’s programming has grown to include classical, symphonic pops, chamber and young people’s concerts. Its performances of classical and contemporary masterworks gained national recognition with a 2013 American Prize for Orchestral Programming.

The orchestra also offers educational programs, including “Meet the Instrument” programs in local pre-schools, school-day concerts for more than 1,000 Howard County third-graders, an annual Young Artist Competition and pre-concert discussions at classical concerts. The orchestra has experienced tremendous growth under the leadership of Music Director Jason Love and now reaches an annual audience of more than 11,000.

Wonderful Networking

The Howard County Concert Orchestra (HCCO) decided to join the Howard Chamber to increase its exposure within the community and to use what Nancy Mason described as “the wonderful networking and promotional opportunities the Chamber offers.”

Mason, president of the orchestra, said the Chamber helps HCCO promote its role in the community by supporting its concert series and educational initiatives. “The presence of the HCCO serves to contribute to the community’s love of the arts and thus enhances the quality of life in Howard County and beyond,” she said. “The HCCO is an unknown treasure in the community. Thus, the orchestra recognizes the value in being an active member of the Chamber.”

HCCO, founded in 2013, is an outgrowth of the first professional chamber orchestra founded in Howard County, The Orchestra of St. John’s, which was established in 2008. The music director for both has been Ronald Mutchnik, violinist and conductor and long-time Howard County resident. Mutchnik and colleagues, with the support of the community, felt the need to offer an all-professional orchestra in the county. Each year, a special concert featuring a particular country’s culture and heritage is offered, as well as concerts partnering with Howard Community College, Columbia Pro Cantare, the Bach in Baltimore Series and others.

Based in the sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, the orchestra does outreach to local schools and will give its first concert in Catonsville, at the new Linehan Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, next season.

Future Relationships

The Candlelight Concert Society has been a member of the Howard Chamber for decades. The society’s new executive director, Jessica Julin White, is looking forward to learning how she can collaborate with other Chamber members to offer outreach, education and enrichment throughout the community.
“We want to make business contacts in as many different facets as we can,” she said. “I look forward to attending Chamber meetings and making connections. We have opportunities for corporate sponsorships as well. That’s really vital for what we do.”

Now in its 45th season, the Candlelight Concert Society aims to grow its audience more within the community. “We are very lucky to have a steady stream of subscribers, many of whom have been coming to the concerts for more than 20 years,” said White. “Arts are a vital part of our everyday lives. You don’t have to go to D.C. or Baltimore — you get to see it right here.”

Legislative Concerns and Advocacy Are Cornerstone of the Chamber

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) is the preeminent voice for the business community in Howard County, advocating for pro-business policy and free enterprise. The 2017 Issues for Legislative Action exemplify what HCCC believes to be of priority and importance to the business community, both locally and statewide.

• Labor, Employment & Health Care

Business owners have been inundated with workplace regulations that have costly penalties coupled with proposed legislation that could potentially lead to a decrease in jobs. In efforts to keep labor- and employment-related costs at a manageable level, HCCC supports legislation that achieves the following:

• Promotes workplace policies that will enhance, not inhibit, economic growth and job creation

• Advocates for legislation that will be cost-effective to administer and financially feasible for small and growing businesses

• Educates employers about pertinent state labor and employment laws and regulations that affect business

• Budget, Finance & Taxation

While Maryland has innumerable assets that many states envy, it has struggled with its business reputation in recent years. Questions consistently have been raised concerning the tax and regulatory climate. As such, HCCC supports ongoing examination of the current tax base, tax rates and compliance requirements to ensure the Maryland business environment is fair and competitive to businesses.

• Education & Workforce Development

A sound and well-funded K–12 education system is paramount to business competitiveness, thriving communities and an enhanced quality of life. Institutions of higher learning such as technical colleges, community colleges and traditional four-year schools must receive adequate support for operating and capital budgets so they can prepare our current and future workforce.

• Energy, Environment & Land Use

Preparing for future population and business growth means protecting our state’s lakes and streams, investing in alternative energy sources and encouraging eco-friendly and sustainable development.

• Transportation

The ability to move goods and products in an efficient and timely manner is critical for industry. Moreover, access to jobs and employment centers is key for Maryland families seeking better wages leading to improved opportunities. Businesses and communities prosper when streets and arterials are properly maintained. The Chamber supports legislation that restores the sharing of state transportation funds to local governments via the Highway User Revenue (HUR). In addition, HCCC calls for the development of a comprehensive transportation plan that sets forth related funding priorities for roads and transportation alternatives such as Bus Rapid Transit;

The Chamber’s legislative agenda is driven by input from its members and discussed by the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee. This committee is composed of members from the business community that meet regularly with Chamber staff to analyze pending legislation and its effects on business. For more information, or a copy of the Chamber’s “2017 Issues for Legislative Action,” go to www.howardchamber.com.

Use of TIF for Downtown Garage Questioned: Lawsuit Ensues

 

A coalition of four development partners has filed a lawsuit in Howard County Circuit Court challenging the county’s use of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) arrangement to build a parking garage in downtown Columbia.

Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), Merritt Properties, St. John Properties and Greenebaum Enterprises allege that the TIF has given Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC), Columbia’s master developer, an unfair economic advantage other developers don’t have.

Each plaintiff is a commercial real estate developer that owns commercial real estate properties in Howard County.

According to documents filed with the Circuit Court, the coalition alleges the county overstepped its authority in what it characterizes as “an improper giveaway of county tax dollars to HHC to the detriment of the local developers and, ultimately, the county taxpayers.”

At the heart of the issue is the appearance of a conflict of interest: The use of TIF funds alleviates HHC from the financial burden of constructing, operating and maintaining a parking facility to support its own office development.

The complaint asserts that the situation places other downtown developers at an economic disadvantage because they must pay to develop, operate and maintain their own parking facilities.
According to the coalition partners, the cost advantage enables HHC to lease its office and retail spaces at rates significantly below established market rents for similar projects in the county.
“While the coalition is supportive of the TIF as it pertains to the redevelopment of downtown Columbia, the coalition seeks to prohibit Howard Hughes Corporation’s use of a public garage funded by Howard County TIF money to satisfy the private parking needs of HHC office tenants,” said Alessandra Moscucci, the Nevins & Associates account executive who respond to public information inquiries about the complaint.

 

Revisiting Concerns

In 2010, the Howard County Council approved the Downtown Columbia Plan to redevelop and revitalize Downtown Columbia and chose HHC as its partner to implement the plan.
The first phase of the Crescent project, to be built on land owned by HHC, is expected to deliver approximately 215,000 square feet of mixed office, retail and restaurant space, in addition to the nine-story garage, which provides 2,545 parking spaces.

Funding for the garage was included in a $90 million legislative package approved by the council in November 2016 that was intended to leverage a redevelopment investment of $2.2 billion from HHC in the Merriweather District.

Incremental property taxes from the new development will be set aside for major public projects supporting downtown Columbia, including a public elementary school, a fire station, arts center, transit center, central library, roads and transportation and infrastructure improvements.

District Three Councilwoman Jen Terrasa was the only member of the council who opposed the TIF legislation, having proposed a separate legislation package that was ultimately defeated.
“The [Memorandum of Understanding with HHC] doesn’t address some of the bigger concerns we’ve heard about the TIF, giving one developer an unfair advantage or leaving the county vulnerable on a number of fronts,” Terassa said when casting her vote in opposition. “I don’t have an objection to things that can’t go into legislation going into an MOU.”

 

Public vs. Private Use

The lawsuit names Howard County and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman as defendants in the case. Kittleman introduced the legislation in June 2016 (through then-Council Chair Calvin Ball) in response to a March 2016 application by HHC to create a TIF to fund a portion of Crescent District development.

Kittleman declined to provide a statement regarding the lawsuit, citing an administration policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

HHC officials also declined to comment on the lawsuit against Howard County.

The complaint argues that the garage, owned by Howard County and intended for public use, is located within a private commercial office park, and the county will use taxpayer money, not TIF proceeds, to cover operating and maintenance costs for the next 50 years.

Citing HHC’s ability to charge rent below the market rate, “current tenants of the local developers and similarly-situated developers will be incentivized to relocate from established commercial office and retail projects in Howard County at a faster rate than would be expected in a normal competitive market,” the coalition charged in its filing documents. “As a result, while real estate taxes in the Crescent District may rise, any such tax gains will be offset by the losses experienced by the local developers and similarly situated-situated developers from the accelerated vacancies in their projects in … other submarkets.”

Rink Use in Anne Arundel: Going Into Overtime

 

April in the Baltimore-Washington region means it’s time for baseball, cherry blossoms, outdoor festivals and simply opening the windows. It also usually means an appearance by the NHL’s Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This year was no exception, with the Caps struggling with this year’s first round opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the locals’ archrival Pittsburgh Penguins awaited their second round matchup at press time. The key herein is to know that when the Caps are playing well — and the team just won its second consecutive President’s Trophy, which is awarded for the best regular season record — the area hockey community is ablaze with enthusiasm. That translates into more young people getting their kicks with their skates, frequently within high school or area hockey programs.

However, for hockey fanatics in Anne Arundel County, that enthusiasm can lead to frustration. That’s because there is only one sheet of hockey-ready ice available to the public in the county, at the 25-plus-year-old Piney Orchard Ice Arena, the former practice facility of those very Caps.

The only other options in Anne Arundel are the rink at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is usually spoken for by its team and its youth program; or at nearby Quiet Waters Park, also in Annapolis, which lacks glass reinforcement above the boards and really only can be used by the youngest skaters (or “mites”), as it was intended for public enjoyment.

While there are numerous other options in the Baltimore-Washington region, the question remains: Does Anne Arundel County need a second sheet of ice to serve its market and potentially boost the area’s game?

 

In Demand

Observers who say yes are quick to point to the growth of the game that has occurred in recent years. Kevin Lancaster, an area technology entrepreneur and youth hockey coach whose son plays in the Navy Youth Hockey league, is among them.
“Today, many of the Anne Arundel County high schools have teams, yet are forced to play out of the county due to the lack of available rink time,” he said. “From that issue alone, we know the demand is there.”

Bob Lime, a board member with Navy Youth Hockey and head coach of the Broadneck Middle School team, agreed, saying that “many people” are talking about building a rink in Anne Arundel County. “In youth hockey, ice is needed from 6–10 p.m. during the week, then all day on the weekends. But those timeframes aren’t often available, so there are some cumbersome arrangements that have been made” so county kids, including three of his, can play.

“We live in Arnold,” said Lime, “but they’ve had to play in Fort Washington [in Prince George’s County at Tucker Road Ice Rink, which was damaged in a recent fire] and at Ice World, in Abingdon, in Harford County [which is owned by Blackstreet Capital Holdings, of Rockville, which also owns the Piney Orchard rink], as does the Severna Park middle school co-op team, for instance.”

While he noted that his son’s teams “have been on the schedule” at Piney Orchard, he added that, “The county also misses out on hosting tournaments, because we don’t have the facilities. My kids have played in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia,” he said. “The sport is growing, and we have charts to prove it. We created a PowerPoint presentation” that was shown to county officials, “and we have the right people in our court.”
Officials from Anne Arundel County did not respond to requests for comment.

 

News in Bowie

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Lancaster said, have several sheets of ice, including the three (plus one outdoors) at The Gardens Ice House, in Laurel.

“That’s the best facility in the area,” he said, noting that it draws from various counties and is situated close to Howard and Anne Arundel. “That flexibility also gives management the ability to host those tournaments a couple of times a year. They pull teams in from the mid-Atlantic and beyond, including New England and even Canada.”

And when the multipliers come into play, those tournaments equal big wins on the bottom line.

“Several dozen teams, times 12-to-15 kids on a team, plus their parents, that’s a big deal when you consider that they need lodging, have to eat and may do some sightseeing while they’re here,” Lancaster said. “It’s similar to the impact that’s generated by soccer tournaments when they come to the area.

“There are independent groups that are behind [such a] project,” he said, noting that “from what I understand,” a new facility has been discussed in nearby Bowie for about 20 years. “We just need to get steam behind it, and the county needs to offset some of the expenses.”

On that note, Carrie Robertson, manager of the City of Bowie Ice Arena, said her organization is “in the process of designing a new, $25–30 million, multi-use facility on Church Road (near Freeway Airport), on land that the city bought from the Maryland-National Capital Park Planning Commission. It is slated to include not only two sheets of ice, but also five basketball courts and other amenities.

Noting other facilities in the county, including the seasonal Herbert Wells Ice Rink, in College Park, Robertson concurred to say, “Hockey is booming, and that can be attributed to the NHL Learn to Play initiative, which involves giving gear to the kids,” she said, adding that, “Part of the impetus for this new facility is that we know that tournaments generate tax revenue.”

She added that the new Bowie facility is slated to open in 2019–20, at which point the Bowie Ice Arena, which is located at the Allen’s Pond, would “cease to operate.”

Also on Board

Nelson Burton can also vouch for the continuing rise of hockey. Burton, who played for the Caps in the late 1970s, runs programs for ages 6 and up, and for adults, as owner of Nelson Hockey, which is based at Piney Orchard Ice Arena.

During the spring, he’s at the facility almost every day. “It’s slower in the summer, but then we ramp back up for the fall,” he said. “We have about 300 people in the program, and we could enroll more, if more ice time was available. That’s especially true when the Caps are doing well.”

So Burton is also among those who are aboard the Zamboni when it comes to building a new rink in the county. “I’ve been doing this here for a few years, and I think a new facility would expand the number of programs.”

He noted that expansion could possibly take place right under his nose, as there is an unused, overgrown lot immediately behind the Piney Orchard rink that was left empty during the original construction for just that purpose.

“Piney Orchard has been a great complex,” Burton said, noting that, when it opened, it was considered by some observers to be “among the finer practice facilities in the NHL. The area behind the rink was developed several years ago.”

When approached about the possibility of a second sheet being built at Piney Orchard, officials from Blackstreet did not return requests for comment.

Linda Laughlin is co-owner (with husband Craig, another former Cap and the long-time color analyst of the team’s games on CSN Mid-Atlantic) of the Gambrills-based Network Hockey Development Program, which used to operate out of Piney Orchard and is now at The Gardens Ice House. She’s also interested in a new rink.

“There will always be a basic interest in the youth market in any city that has an NHL team,” said Laughlin, “but sure, we could use another rink in Anne Arundel County. We’d get more kids out and be able to run more programs.”

She noted that while “Hockey is a winter sport, the more serious players play year-round, though the average travel player plays soccer or lacrosse in the summer. But with a new rink and the potential for new programs would also come the need for concerted promotion of the facility and what it makes available.”
And it’s important to remember that hockey, unlike most other sports, is a game that kids need to be introduced to.

“Everyone can walk and run, but not everyone can skate,” Laughlin said. “Once the kids can skate, they can move to basic beginning hockey skills.

“So, I don’t think just building a new facility is enough. You have to promote the programs and the sport,” she said. “In fact there are probably enough programs for the facilities we have right now. But you have to promote more programs, with instructors who are knowledgeable to teach them the game the right way.”

Odd Hours

Like Anne Arundel, Howard County has just one regulation facility, the Columbia Ice Rink. The Columbia Association (CA)-run facility is used to service the community first, but CA also rents the rink during off hours.

“However, during hockey season, we have few opportunities to rent the rink. It’s only available at odd hours, like 6 a.m. or late at night for the adults,” General Manager Rachelle Weisberg said, “with ice demands high only from October to February,” and then only after school. “So while most high school teams in Howard County play and practice here, I don’t feel the need to add a second sheet of ice.”

Speaking of early alarms, Clai Carr, founder and president of The Gardens Ice House, recalls the days when his kids were growing up and everyone had to rise, shine and play at an ungodly hour; interestingly, however, that’s not happening at his facility.
“From mid-October to mid-March, there’s heavy demand. But we’re not sold out,” Carr said. “The rest of the year is problematic. People say use the rink for soccer and lacrosse, but people don’t want to be indoors when they can play outside.”

However, is it notable that there is only one sheet of ice in Anne Arundel County?

“Yes, it is,” Carr said, adding that, “We can hardly be closer to Anne Arundel’s or Howard County’s borders; we located here with those areas in mind. Still, it is my opinion that the regional marketplace can support another major regional ice facility — even though we have physically been open for 22 years, and only last year did we start making money.”

While that’s some food for thought, know that if something really, really big happens in mid-June and the Capitals finally bring home that elusive Stanley Cup, the effect on the region’s youth hockey could be seismic.

“If the Caps win, the demand will go up even more,” said Lancaster. “After the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup [in 2006], there was an explosion in the popularity of hockey in Raleigh. And that’s what would happen here.”

Banding Laboratory Keeps Tabs on Bird Population

 

Every year, researchers place identification bands on some 1.2 million birds throughout North America, and more than 87,000 encounter reports are made by people who discover the bands or other markers on living or dead specimens.

The North American Bird Banding Program is the largest program of its kind in the world. It provides useful information about the range, migration routes, breeding grounds and overall health of birds, and it’s all orchestrated by a staff of 16 United States Geological Survey (USGS) staff members working at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL), in Laurel.

Aside from its USGS duties, the BBL staff also administers the Canadian Wildlife Service’s banding program.

“We assign the colors and codes so that there’s no overlap and no confusion, and we coordinate every aspect of the programs,” said Bird Banding Laboratory Chief Bruce Peterjohn.

On any given day, that includes issuing permits to banders in the U.S., filling orders for bands and auxiliary markers, collecting data from toll-free telephone and Internet reporting, maintaining the Bandit database of recapture records and providing raw data to academic, governmental or other authorized users.

With 25 standard-sized aluminum bands and five specially-sized bands, the laboratory can accommodate the smallest hummingbird, as well as the largest trumpeter swan, and also has developed riveted bands that can’t be removed by the strong beaks of eagles.

Its auxiliary markers include neckbands and collars for geese and swans, nasal markers for ducks, wing and web tags, tail streamers, leg flags and feather dyes, as well as transmitters and other electronic devices.

 

Unique Discoveries

Established in 1920, just two years after ratification of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with the United Kingdom, the USGS BBL has worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to develop regulations for the capture, handling, banding and marking of birds.

Over the years, the program has uncovered many of the deepest secrets of bird migration and breeding locations.

In 1944, in fact, thanks to the return of bands from Peru, the U.S. Department of the Interior was finally able to announce the discovery of the chimney swift’s winter home in that country as “one of the most important ornithological discoveries in the last two decades.” It was the only remaining North American bird whose wintering grounds had not previously been charted.

“Knowing the wintering grounds, breeding areas and migration routes is very important for protecting threatened species,” said USGS Wildlife Biologist Danny Bystrak, who issues permits and processes data requests. “When states or the federal government decide to set aside land for protection, we can help by pointing to our data and suggesting where it would make the most sense to create those sanctuaries or management areas.”

The BBL shares data with the various state fish and game agencies, which use the information for conservation purposes and to help determine game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.
“We also deal with the Flyway Councils and biologists that keep track of populations and decide how many birds of any given type they need to band to get the necessary data for specific research purposes,” Bystrack said.

 

Disease Study

It’s not just bird populations that can benefit from the banding program, but the human population as well.

It has long been known that birds can act as vectors for diseases that can be transmitted to humans by transporting diseases from one geographically isolated area to another.

“There are some documented records of Central American ticks that have been transported here by birds,” Peterjohn said. “They feed on the bird’s blood until they’re ready to drop off, and wind up here during the migration season.”

For that reason, researchers suspect that birds have played a role in the spread of tick-borne Lyme disease.

“The spread of West Nile Disease in the human population has been associated, to some degree, with birds that have been infected by mosquitos,” he said. “Avian influenza, which can also be transmitted to humans, is becoming a bigger issue here, although it hasn’t reached the same level of concern that we’ve seen in Asia.”

Academic researchers are using the banding program in their studies of mallards, which seem to be immune to avian influenza, and are using banding data to learn a lot more about birds as disease vectors in general, Peterjohn said.

 

High Tech Avionics

In the modern wireless communications age, the USGS is not only benefitting from an increase in encounter reporting, but is also beginning to upgrade the ways in which data can be acquired.

“We’re now using tiny radios and satellite transmitters that can determine altitude, flight speed, direction and other information, depending on the sensors on the device,” Peterjohn said.
Satellite transmitters aren’t going to become ubiquitous anytime soon, though, as they still cost several thousand dollars per unit and require a subscription costing several hundred dollars per month just to collect the data from Argos, the French pioneer satellite system that

provides wildlife tracking capabilities around the world.
In any case, the transmitters are becoming smaller and more useful.

“When they weighed 6 ounces, the golden eagle was the only bird we could put a transmitter on,” Bystrak said. “Now they’re down to less than a gram and can actually be used with birds as small as phoebes.”

“What we’ve been able to learn through this program over the years is nothing short of amazing,” Peterjohn said. “We now know that the bar-tailed godwit is capable of flying nonstop from western Alaska to New Zealand, covering 7,000-to-8,000 miles in nine days.”

Equally impressive, said Bystrak, was University of California Berkeley researcher Henry Streby’s discovery from BBL data that the threatened golden-winged warbler can sense when approaching cold fronts will intersect with its migration route and make rapid course detours to avoid meeting up with bad weather.
“This program is constantly rewriting our knowledge of what birds are capable of,” Peterjohn said. “It’s also opening our eyes to better ways to protect them.”

Fulton-Based Startup Lands Big Prize at Cybersecurity Conference

 

Howard County cybersecurity startup EnVeil recently landed second prize out of a field of more than 300 entrants in the highly competitive RSA Conference Innovation Sandbox Contest.
EnVeil, the youngest company ever to make it into the Sandbox, was recognized for its homomorphic encryption software. Homomorphic encryption allows complex mathematical operations to be performed on encrypted data, without compromising the encryption.

Homomorphic (meaning “same structure”) describes the transformation of one data set into another, while preserving relationships between elements in both sets. In the business world, homomorphic encryption is expected to play an important part in cloud computing, allowing companies to safely store encrypted data in a public cloud.

The Sandbox Contest, which recognizes innovative startups, is dedicated to encouraging the exploration of new technologies that have the potential to transform the information security industry.
RSA stands for Rivest, Shamir and Edelman, inventors of a public-key encryption technology. Founded in 1991 as a small cryptography conference, the RSA Conference is now a series of information technology security conferences held all over the world. Some 45,000 people attend one of the conferences each year.

Six-month-old EnVeil is based in Maple Lawn with DataTribe, a self-described “startup crucible,” that supports emerging tech companies with incubation space and business operation expertise.

 

Expanding, Staying

DataTribe encouraged EnVeil (short for “encrypted veil”) to enter the Sandbox Contest, said Ellison Anne Williams, founder and CEO of EnVeil.

Williams said homomorphic encryption is becoming increasingly important for businesses in many sectors. “It means you can operate securely with your data out in the cloud,” she said. “Say you are doing acquisition research on a company you are wishing to acquire. Even the knowledge that the company is about to be acquired can start moving the markets.”

Using homomorphic encryption, users can start doing that research out of their boundaries, but still keep that research secure. Enterprises can operate on data — meaning query or analytics — without revealing the content of the interaction, the results or the data itself.

EnVeil, through what Williams describes as “groundbreaking algorithms,” has solved a problem the industry has been trying to solve for two decades. EnVeil’s solution, the subject of many computer science research efforts, is known as “the holy grail of encrypting,” because it occurs on such a large scale.
Prior to forming EnVeil, Williams and her team worked together at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the National Security Agency. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she said, “I jumped at it.”

EnVeil is focused on expanding with a particular focus on serving the financial services sector. While the firm will eventually move out of DataTribe’s space, Williams said she plans to keep the headquarters in Howard County.

Mike Janke, cofounder of DataTribe, said he has seen hundreds of startups every year.

”Every founder wants to believe their technology is ‘disruptive’ in some way. EnVeil is one of those ‘once every 10 years,’ truly game-changing breakthroughs that literally changes the way everyone interacts with data securely. We could put our most sensitive data into the Chinese military cloud and feel safe that only the EnVeil user could access it.”

 

‘Incredibly Competitive’

The RSA Conference identified EnVeil as the first scalable commercial solution for securing data in use.

“This year’s submissions for the Innovation Sandbox Contest represented an incredibly competitive group,” said Sandra Toms, vice president at RSA and curator of the RSA Conference.

“It’s inspiring each year to see the strength in submissions as it demonstrates how cybersecurity professionals are collaborating to present innovative solutions to help businesses protect themselves. As enterprises continue to look to RSA Conference as an indicator of the industry’s progress and next steps, we are thrilled to be able to provide these finalists an opportunity to showcase their product to both potential customers and the cybersecurity community.”

The contest winner was San-Francisco-based UnifyID, a company that specializes in holistic implicit authentication platforms designed for online and offline use. In non-technical terms, this kind of technology allows devices to recognize users from the way they walk, how they sit, the way their hearts beat or the way they type.

 

Getting Congrats

Local and state policymakers took note of EnVeil’s award.
“EnVeil is an outstanding example of the ideas, technologies and expertise that entrepreneurs are bringing to the commercial sector from federal agencies in Maryland,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill.

“The company’s success in RSA Conference’s Innovation Sandbox, coming just five months after its founding, marked the fifth time in the 12-year history of the competition that Maryland was represented in the finals,” said Gill. “We’re very proud of EnVeil, and of our state’s prowess in protecting the nation’s data.”

Breweries, Business, Government Driving Local Food Truck Expansion

 

Patrons of local brewpubs are just as likely to find food trucks in the parking lot serving up hip cuisine these days as they are to find nice craft beer flowing through the taps. For example, Jailbreak Brewing Co., in Laurel; Heavy Seas Brewery, in Halethorpe; and Columbia’s Black Flag Brewing Co. and Lost Ark Distillery all schedule rotating food trucks.

Mobile vending is nothing new. It’s long been a staple of industrial parks and construction sites, but this recent wave has also meant that the days of the roach coach hawking stale white bread sandwiches and bags of chips are, thankfully, long gone.
The current focus is on award-winning barbecue, gourmet fusion, farm-fresh seasonal fare and new takes on comfort food. Corned beef bibimbap and seafood gumbo? Slainte on Wheels has it covered. Korean, Thai or Hawaiian pork tacos? Check out The Jolly Pig.

T&J Waffles makes a mean smoked salmon or Spinach Florentine Belgian waffle, Greek on the Street serves up grilled lamb chops and falafels, Bistro Lunch Box takes a fresh seasonal approach, and there’s Pasta La Vista, Baby! and any number of gourmet pizza trucks for an Italian fix. In addition, many of these fine options have a loyal following, and most post schedules on their websites or tweet updates to followers to let them know where they’ll set up on a given day.

 

Selling Fairness

Despite the hype they receive on The Food Network, it has taken a few years for local food trucks to evolve beyond the predictable tacos and carne asada grills along Route 1 and a handful of specialty food trucks in out-of-the-way places.

One of the reasons is likely tied to an outdated every-chef-for-himself mindset, but the local food truck scene experienced a messianic sea change in 2010 with the establishment of the Maryland Mobile Food Vending Association (MMFVA).

Founded by Patrick Russell, a serial restauranteur and owner of Baltimore’s first food truck, Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon, it was originally intended to give a voice and support to the six or eight mobile vendors in Baltimore who were experiencing a backlash from brick and mortar establishments seeking legislation to limit food truck operating zones.

In the past seven years, the MMFVA has grown from 10 members to more than 50, with a territory that now includes Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties. “Our goal was to make things fair for everybody,” Russell said, “and to get to know one another, and work out issues like preventing vendors from monopolizing the best spots.”

“We’re mostly all friendly and look out for each other,” said Tad Calwell, owner of The Jolly Pig. “It also keeps us up to date on what’s going on in the political world and new regulations, and regularly provides us with leads to events that need vendors.”
It also allows members to schedule rotations and promote their operations on www. mdfoodtrucks.com.

Legislative Victory

Since he took over as MMFVA president two years ago, Fulton resident Dave Pulford has added lobbying to the association’s repertoire. Last month, members celebrated their first legislative win with the enactment of a new Maryland law streamlining the food truck licensing process and allowing mobile reciprocal licensing in counties located up to 90 miles away from a truck’s home base.

“I don’t mind paying an extra license fee for each county,” said Calwell. “What’s frustrating is having to spend a day in each county getting inspected over and over when you could be on the road making money. One inspection in your home county should be enough.”

Members have been encouraged by the new legislation, said Pulford, who operates the Upslidedown Dave food truck that specializes in sliders.

“There are a lot of things on my radar now that I feel we need to do,” he said. “One of our biggest challenges is that the people who regulate us don’t really understand what we do, so roadblocks get put up even when they’re trying to be helpful. It’s going to take some education and understanding, because as they see things, having fewer regulations and requirements automatically equates to more danger from a food safety standpoint.”

 

Symbiotic Relationships

Willy Dely, general manager of Kloby’s Smokehouse, in Laurel, is a founding member of the National Food Truck Association and advises the MMFVA Board of Directors.

In his estimation, there has been a noticeable upsurge in the number of food trucks operating in the region. Maryland also experienced a gain when some vendors left the District of Columbia two years ago as a result of a controversial new law there that tightened food truck regulations, he said.

“Our scene isn’t as big as the food truck scene in Southern California,” Dely said. “On the other hand, we’re a small state, [yet] we’re very competitive with what I’ve seen in Pennsylvania and New York. We have a huge variety of cuisines, and we’re doing very well for ourselves.”

The reason Howard and Anne Arundel counties are seeing an influx of mobile vendors has a lot to do with the large number of business parks and the density of employees and government workers who are making good salaries, he said.

“Some innovative commercial property owners have begun to invite a rotating variety of food trucks to their properties once a week or so as an added benefit for tenants or employees,” Dely said. “It doesn’t cost them anything, generates goodwill and benefits nearby retail tenants by driving more traffic to these areas.”

Howard County government also boosted the industry by inviting food trucks to serve the Gateway Innovation District two days a week and designating a parking area at 6821 Benjamin Franklin Drive, he said, while The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in Laurel, and the National Security Agency’s farmers market at Fort Meade have made similar arrangements with rotating vendors.

“We can’t help notice [but] that there are breweries popping up all over Howard County, and there’s no doubt that these breweries are helping us,” Pulford said. “They put a ton of money into their equipment and can’t afford to spend money on a kitchen, so it’s an ideal solution for both of us. With the added attention we’ve been receiving from business parks and the benefit of some new legislation, we’re bound to see a few more food truck operators joining the fold.”

Lights, Cameras: The Church AVL Market Is Vast, Vital

 

Back in the day, attending church was a pretty simple thing.
It was about the weekly weekend visit to the church of one’s choice. The venue probably had a couple of hundred seats, perhaps a microphone for the pastor or minister or rabbi; maybe with a couple of medium-grade speakers. Maybe not.

Then the technology thing happened, and the future arrived.
Suddenly, worshippers wanted the same sound they grew to expect at a concert, at the theater or at the movies, during their worship service, too. And as the costs dropped, there wasn’t much reason not to take advantage of the trend.

Today, churches of all sizes have embraced the AVL (audio, visual and lights) approach, to the point that it’s a big segment of the market for equipment manufacturers and system installers; it’s grown so large that “most traditional video, audio, lighting equipment and musical instrument companies have church divisions,” said Derwent Williamson, technical arts director of Columbia’s 1,300-seat Bridgeway Community Church.

What it comes down to today is the desire for entertainment quality. “I think it’s a sin to have boring services,” Williamson said, “and churches often find themselves competing with [establishments in] the secular world that have elaborate systems.”

The Setup

Williamson has had a front-row seat for this evolution, because he was with Bridgeway when the not-mega-but-sizable church leased space at Howard Community College. Then, about 12 years ago, the church raised enough money to move to its current location, and the venue — and its AVL component — have grown exponentially since.

“In 2006, we installed the Avid VENUE D-Show Profile in our main rectory, and used it until late last year,” he said. “Then, last October, we upgraded our system [that generally retails for more than $80,000] with twin Avid VENUE S6L’s for the front-of-house operation and monitor positions. All told, that gives us128 channels that we can run from multiple positions around the stage, along with our JVC GY series cameras. That setup allows us to broadcast to thousands of people each week.”
On the monitor side, Williamson said the sound mixers can run 16 stereo mixes, “so we can have up to 16 performers with their own stereo mixes at once.”

That’s key because, as mentioned, one thing parishioners want in this day and age is to feel engaged.

“Our church is heavily into dramatic and other spoken-word productions, so actors are frequently part of our normal presentations,” Williamson said. “We can run up to 20 mics at once. And know that what is being heard in the church environment is, arguably, more important than what’s being seen. Poor audio can be a distraction to what the performer or pastor is trying to portray.”

 

At What Cost?

What is spent on systems between churches varies greatly, Williamson said. Smaller “box” churches, for instance, often opt for a system that can be set up and taken down easily, similar to what a venue might rent for a musical concert. They usually cost about $20,000.

But there are also plenty of cases where a permanent installation at a church the size of Bridgeway, or much larger, can cost way more as the size of the room increases. And churches usually opt for less expensive systems, for obvious reasons and because they’re easier for volunteers to use.

Another prominent local place of worship, Grace Community Church (GCC), in Fulton, has an 1,800-seat auditorium, four children’s spaces and a separate building onsite for its youth services. All are equipped with AVL systems and require “between 60 and 80 volunteers a month to [operate],” said Beth Eltzroth, GCC’s technical director.

GCC is in the process of changing its analog Midas audio console in the main auditorium to the digital Yamaha CL5. That also means running fiber throughout the building, though the church is using less expensive copper (a common option) where possible. It also means changing its video routers, and the church has chosen the AJA and Sierra Aspen options for most of its rooms.
At this point, about half of the install is complete. “When purchasing equipment, there are several things we have to think about,” said Eltzroth. “They include determining the right piece of equipment to do a given job, its price and if it’s volunteer friendly.
“One of our staff values is being resourceful,” she said. “We take that seriously. The money we spend is [from] our generous congregation, and we want to honor their giving. We purchase used equipment when possible and ask for 30-day trials.”

For instance, GCC employs the older Mackie audio consoles in its four children’s rooms. “They’re workhorses and easy to use. We purchased some of the consoles 15 years ago,” she said. “About every five years, we take them apart and clean them, and they keep on going.”

The lighting console in the auditorium is an ETC Gio. “In our youth building, we purchased a High End Road Hog lighting console that was B stock. We have a mixture of conventional and intelligent lighting fixtures,” Eltzroth said. “All of the moving lights were purchased used, for half price.”

 

The Right Fit

John Morris, owner of Armbruster AV, in Towson, subscribes to GCC’s approach. While the church market is lucrative, he stressed that it’s more important for churches to be practical, as opposed to buying flashy systems that don’t really address the need.
Costs per system varies, with the average “around $20,000, even for the small churches,” he said. “Audio systems should last 15 years, though the video setup only lasts about 10,” due to technological progress.

Morris said Armbruster’s “big schtick” is that the company wants its clients “to know what they’re getting and to test drive [the equipment], and to know how to use it. It’s not about selling products as much as teaching people who don’t do this professionally to understand how their equipment works, and what it can and what it cannot do.

“There’s a lot of equipment out there. Take a speaker: It may be good, but it may not fit in a certain space,” he said. “Flexibility is extremely important for when upgrades are made.”

Morris knows of what he speaks better than most people: About 90% of Armbruster’s business is in the church market. “We’ve been serving [it] since 1962, and by what I’m told and what I see, there are about 3,000 churches inside the Beltway alone.”
And what many of them have trouble doing today is standing out.
“So what they do, especially the small to medium-sized congregations, is build eye-catching signage, offer AVL systems that don’t necessarily have to be high-end — but they may seem that they are to parishioners — and stream services online.”
Morris agreed that today’s parishioner wants to be visually impacted by the church experience. “When people walk into a church and don’t get a crisp presentation, they’ll likely walk out. For even the most basic services to be successful, there needs to be an infrastructure in place to ensure that the message is delivered, especially in the case of younger parishioners,” he said. “They expect it.”

To illustrate what can happen when the technology issue is not addressed, Tres Cozad, technical director for Annapolis-based Bay Area Community Church (BACC), runs two venues from its base in Annapolis, plus a third in Easton. When he came on staff, his position was part-time and BACC’s facilities needed some work — according to its congregation, which wasn’t getting what it wanted.

The people having spoken illustrates the importance of technology in churches today. “It’s crucial to offer an engaging worship experience and presentation of a Biblical message, but it can be a distraction if there are problems or if it isn’t set up correctly,” Cozad said. “People expect a distraction-free environment when they go to church, as they would at a movie.”
So, BACC now uses a prosumer camera package to studio broadcast quality. Its auditorium now has a Nexo sound system, with a Yamaha CL5 mixing console, Panasonic broadcast cameras and switchers, and Shure wireless mics.

 

The Right Stuff

While the church AVL market is bigger than most people on the street may fathom, Morris added that the big, 2,000-seat churches that people hear about are only about 10% of the market. Megachurches, which he loosely defined as having more than 4,000 seats, are still the exception.

Still, the market is so big that companies come from various directions. For instance, Mitchell Shaivitz is a professional account manager with Guitar Center Professional, which has area stores in Glen Burnie and Towson, yet he and his crew actually “specialize in sound studio installations, not instruments so much,” he said.

Shaivitz said about 50% of his work is with churches in the mid-Atlantic. “In Maryland you can’t throw a baseball without hitting a church. And they’ll spend a little more to attract the younger generation.”

The cost of the average church system varies, he said, though giving a range of “$50,000–$80,000. It depends on the size of church. When I go to any customer and they say they don’t have the money yet,” he said, “I just tell them to wait until they do. Do it right the first time, and everyone’s happy.”

One way to attain that medium, Morris said, is to work with a company that specializes in religious systems. “Churches should consult with a professional early in their project to ensure they are going in the right direction,” he said.

And that, said Eltzroth, is a great way to satisfy a need.
“The purpose of the AVL equipment is to support and enhance the church services. It’s not about having the best or the newest,” she said. “It’s about having the right equipment to accomplish the goal.”

Letter From President & CEO Leonardo McClarty

Dear Chamber Members and Friends:

This time of year marks the beginning of spring. It is a time of great expectation and anticipation. We look forward to the warm air, flowers blooming, no snow shoveling and the O’s starting another run at the pennant. Spring also means the development of the “Howard County Chamber Salute to Business.”

For the Chamber, this time of year also lends itself to a time of reflection and preparation. We look forward to bringing on new board members and their heightened sense of excitement, all the while looking back and honoring the men and women whose service is coming to an end. We begin to think of new plans for growth and development, yet looking back to past accomplishments and challenges.

It was just a year ago that we completed a new, three-year strategic plan, only to begin implementation this year. It was just a year ago that we began evaluating our internal structure, only to make staffing modifications and thereby welcoming three new members to the Chamber team.

Spring affords us the opportunity to thank the companies and individuals that make this Chamber what it is today. The ensuing pages will share insights on our member companies. The things they share may be news to you, but we see these things each and every day. These companies serve their Chamber, community, clients and employees in some of the most admirable ways. It is truly an honor for me to work with such an esteemed group.
This Chamber continues to grow and evolve, and it is because of you, our members. I have said on many occasions that a chamber is only as strong as the businesses that choose to invest in it. For those firms in Howard County that have not had the opportunity to participate in our many programs and events, I personally invite you to check us out.

Then, a year from now, when you look back, I believe you will truly say, “The Howard County Chamber is truly building something here.”

Letter From the Chair Jeff Agnor

Dear Chamber Members:

This has been an uplifting year for business in Howard County.
The continued development of Downtown Columbia has been breathtaking as a new skyline begins to emerge. The construction we see now represents only 10% of the cityscape we can expect under the Downtown Development Plan. The Downtown Columbia Partnership, working with its members and stakeholders (including the Chamber), is striving to create a vibrant urban environment that will entice more business owners and families to make downtown their home.

Our county is also becoming a regional destination for high tech business. Recently, County Executive Allan Kittleman and officials from the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) announced a plan for Columbia Gateway to become an innovation district. In addition, HCEDA is implementing a strategy to make Howard County the regional center for cybersecurity through its Howard County Cyber Central initiative. Remarkably, Howard County was specifically mentioned in a recent Fortune magazine article entitled, “7 Cities That Could Become the World’s Cybersecurity Capital.” Through Chamber programs such as our annual Cyber Conference, we are proud to work with HCEDA in helping to achieve the goal of transforming Howard County into an innovation hub.

Our community came together in a big way to support Ellicott City following the devastating flood last summer. We are looking forward to the continued revitalization of Ellicott City as our local government and business owners have the opportunity to bring a new vision to the city.

In the midst of this remarkable growth and innovation, the Chamber recognizes, now more than ever, that there is no one, single “business community” in Howard County. We are increasingly becoming home to many and varied business communities, and the Chamber is committed to serve all of them.

 

To that end, we continue to expand the diversity of our board, our membership and our programming. As a result, we are witnessing a significant increase in participation among minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. And we are reaching more Millennials than ever through the Young Professionals Network (YPN).

There has never been a better time to be part of the Chamber community. If you haven’t been to a Chamber event recently, I encourage you to stop by. I believe you’ll see a lot of new faces and feel a new energy and optimism. We are committed to ensuring that everyone who attends a Chamber event or participates in a program feels welcomed and valued, regardless of the size of his or her business.

On behalf of the board of directors and staff of the Howard County Chamber, many thanks for your continued support of the Chamber. I’m looking forward to continuing our work together to make Howard County the best place in Maryland to do business.

Q&A With CMCC President & CEO Raj Kudchadkar

It’s been a busy six (or so) months for Raj Kudchadkar. During that span, he left his long-time employ with the Howard County government to join a recently-merged chamber of commerce that was formed by two organizations — the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) and the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce (WCC) — that had been in business, and in competition with each other, for decades.

But Kudchadkar, while new to chamber work, has a vast, varied educational and professional background that has enabled him to prove himself up to the challenge of running the recently named Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce (CMCC).

His professional journey started when he was hired as a planner with the Resurrection Project, a community development corporation that helps revitalize impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago.

After coming to the area to practice civil rights and disability rights law at a small firm in Hanover, he joined the Howard County Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Office as deputy director in 2007; he then went on to lead the Base Business Initiative (BBI), which helped small businesses navigate the federal contracting environment at Fort Meade. In fewer than two years, Kudchadkar helped increase the membership base of the program from 20 businesses in Howard County to nearly 3,000 businesses in the mid-Atlantic.

In 2014, he was appointed director of the Howard County Office of Military Affairs, before his most recent appointment, as deputy director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning. In that role, he led efforts on comprehensive planning for Downtown Columbia, revitalization planning for the Long Reach Village Center and flood recovery planning for Ellicott City.
Kudchadkar received a B.A. in Political Science from Carleton College, a joint M.A. in Public Policy and Education from Columbia University, and a J.D. from American University. He is married to Sapna Kudchadkar, a practicing physician at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. They have two children.

Some people were surprised by your career switch. What were the factors behind that decision?

First and foremost, it was such a unique opportunity. I was aware of the CEO positions being open at both chambers, and once merger talks started, I saw this position as an opportunity I could not pass up.

I absolutely loved my job at Howard County Planning & Zoning, as well as working for [County Executive] Allan Kittleman. Still, this was an opportunity that I had to pursue, because I knew I could make a big impact on the region. I’m probably working more hours now, but there’s also more flexibility. That’s important with a busy wife and young kids.

What are your thoughts about the ending of Session ’17 and what was accomplished this year?

We’re balancing advocacy and completing the merger, so I’m glad to say that we had a very active legislative committee. I think many people believe that, as CEO, I take positions; however, I work closely with the chamber’s board and its legislative committee.

There were about a dozen bills the chamber had its eye on this session, perhaps most notably the sick leave bill. We made sure legislators were aware that the majority of businesses had some form of paid sick leave because any successful business understands that its most important assets are its workers.
However, there are some businesses that are just not in a position to provide paid sick leave, and the regulatory burden could jeopardize businesses, impact other worker benefits, reduce hiring or increase the price of goods or services for consumers. We worked closely with our sister chambers on that issue.

What are your thoughts about the process that led to the chamber’s new name and new logo?

We could have approached it in three ways: internally, in a silo [strictly chamber staff and board]; or we could have hired an outside firm. But we picked a third approach by establishing a branding and marketing committee: We have 650 members, including many top-notch communications and marketing firms that pulled together to support their chamber.

For instance, I suggested the Greater Chesapeake Chamber of Commerce, but the committee dissuaded me otherwise, and came up with the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and then the new logo. The impetus for that name is our 40-mile circle around Fort Meade, which covers 75% of our membership.

Is the CMCC looking to expand or move into a new office?

When the merger happened we adopted two bases; one in Laurel at the former home of the BWCC and the WCC location in Odenton. For a staff of five, the Laurel location was much bigger than we needed, but the WCC office was a good fit, size-wise.
The lease in Laurel is almost fulfilled. So, for the next couple of years, we’re staying here in Odenton.

How would you describe the financial state of each chamber at the time of the merger?

Obviously, when people hear a leader of the chamber is retiring, there can be some attrition. Claire and Walt announced that they were leaving around the same time, so that rate rose somewhat more than usual. But now that we’ve come together, it is slowing significantly, and recruitment has gone up exponentially.

What was the membership of each organization when the merger occurred?

The BWCC had just over 300 members, as did the WCC, so it was truly a merger of equals. Those figures are pretty good, given that there are more than 50 chambers in the state. Today, I feel we bring value to our members, in part due to our healthy size of nearly 650 members.

What are your goals for the number of members, and the ledger, by the end of 2017?

Our goal is simply to keep growing, though we don’t have a specific number we’re shooting for by the end of the year. This year alone, just the energy created by the merger has been a major selling point.

What is the split of your number of members between Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties?

Anne Arundel has the most with approximately 55%, then Prince George’s with 20%, then Howard County with 15%, followed by other jurisdictions combined making up roughly 10%. Montgomery only has a handful of members.

But know that the main point here is that we don’t worry about borders. There is a tremendous amount of synergy between Western Anne Arundel County, Eastern Howard County and Northern Prince George’s County/Laurel — primarily the 20-mile radius around Fort Meade. As a former director of planning and zoning, I see how there are divergent areas in the same county like western Howard, which is rural, and eastern Howard, which is highly suburbanized; it’s the same thing with western/northern Anne Arundel (urban/suburban) and southern Anne Arundel.
The point is that we can’t keep working with these organizational borders in mind. And that also goes for the other chambers, because we have combined events. For example, we had a joint networking breakfast in mid-April with the Howard County, Baltimore County and Catonsville chambers.

How does the chamber integrate with Fort Meade, especially since accessing the post has become more complicated in recent years?

In several ways, like with the Military Affairs Committee, where were work closely with the garrison commander. Then there’s the Army-Navy flag football game, as well as supporting the seven public schools on the installation via food drives, financial literacy fairs and other types of programs.

We also support the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council, which is directed toward coordinating different partnerships for the installation. Fort  Meade, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, is the biggest economic engine in the state, and we want people to understand what’s happening on-post.

What has been your biggest surprise since you took the helm at the CMCC?

That we have two large, well-established chambers merging that are about 10-to-15 minutes apart, with 650 businesses coming together — and only 18 overlapped. That shocked me. That’s less than 5% of the membership. That’s meant that, in terms of opportunities, this merger has been great in terms of connecting businesses.

What new programs are you considering?

We are in the midst of a strategic planning effort. But so far, with the merger, we’ve not forfeited one of the nine signature events that we have from either chamber, so we offer a great breadth of events.

We haven’t added anything new at this point, though adding some new events is part of what the strategic plan is about. We are going to talk with our member businesses about how to proceed.

Rep Stage Announces 25th Anniversary Productions

Rep Stage, the professional regional theater in residence at Howard Community College, announces its 25th anniversary season lineup of three contemporary classics — “The Heidi Chronicles,” “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” and “True West” — and a world premiere play about Baltimore’s eccentric Cone sisters, in Susan McCully’s “All She Must Possess.”

The 25th anniversary season marks a transition in leadership for Rep Stage, as Suzanne Beal, co-producing artistic director, will retire at the conclusion of the current 2016–17 season. Joseph Ritsch will remain at the helm of Rep Stage’s leadership as producing artistic director.

“The Heidi Chronicles”
By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Jenna Duncan
Sept. 6–24, 2017

Wendy Wasserstein’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy traces the coming of age of Heidi Holland, a successful art historian, as she tries to find her bearings in a rapidly changing world. Funny, touching, and written with rare grace and sensitivity, the play is a moving examination of the progress of a generation, from the socially and politically activist sixties to the success-oriented eighties.

“[The Heidi Chronicles] resonates today as strongly, and at times as painfully, as [it] did when Wendy Wasserstein’s most celebrated plays stormed Broadway in 1989 … [Wasserstein’s] keen ear for comic absurdity grounded in truth is matched by a probing compassion for her characters, even when they are viewed through a sardonic lens.” — The New York Times

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”
By Lanie Robertson
Directed by Danielle Drakes
Musical Direction by Cedric Lyles
Nov. 1–19, 2017

The time is 1959. The place is Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a seedy little jazz club in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s final performances, four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers including “God Bless the Child,” “My Man” and “Strange Fruit” are interlaced with salty, often humorous, reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the lady and her music.

“Hurts and exhilarates in just the right proportions.” — New York Magazine

“All She Must Possess”
By Susan McCully
Directed by Joseph Ritsch
Feb. 7–25, 2018

The Baltimore Cone sisters, Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta, daughters of German-Jewish immigrants, could have lived tranquil, appropriate lives as respected Victorian ladies. Instead, the iconic duo voraciously collected art and curios from around the world. The unassuming Etta, often overshadowed by her sister, sat demurely among art and literary geniuses of the early 20th century, while slowly amassing one of world’s greatest modern art collections. “All She Must Possess” is a highly theatrical celebration of Etta’s extraordinary life. Works of art come alive and her one-time lover, Gertrude Stein, sings her praises as we watch her journey from society laughingstock to doyen of modernity.

“All She Must Possess” will be Rep Stage’s production in participation with the 2018 D.C. Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

“True West”
By Sam Shepard
Directed by Vincent Lancisi
April 25–May 13, 2018

Well-educated Austin and thieving con man Lee, estranged brothers from different worlds, reunite in their mom’s California kitchen, where Austin is working on his screenplay. But when Lee comes up with his own idea and steals much more than just the neighbors’ TV, challenges are issued, many drinks are downed and the siblings find that they might not be such opposites after all. Sheppard’s explosive, darkly funny American classic is a tale of sibling rivalry, Hollywood producers and stolen toasters.

“It’s clear, funny, naturalistic. It’s also opaque, terrifying, surrealistic. If that sounds contradictory, you’re on to one aspect of Shepard’s winning genius; the ability to make you think you’re watching one thing while at the same time he’s presenting another.” — San Francisco Chronicle

For more information about Rep Stage, call 443-518-1510 or visit www.repstage.org.

Area Driver Realizes Talent, Is Off to the Races

In just more than two years, Cameron Das has settled into the seat of a go-kart, attended a prestigious driving school, earned his first racing license, dabbled in domestic racing series, dominated the inaugural Formula 4 United States Championship and earned a ride overseas to the British F3 Championships.

And he still doesn’t have his full, unrestricted license to drive on the street.

“It is kind of weird,” the 16-year-old Das said. “I think about my racing career in terms of months. Other drivers talk about various parts of their career in years. They’re looking at a much larger scale. My whole career is in a very condensed window. It definitely feels weird.”

“Surreal is probably the best way to describe it,” said his father, Babi Das. “I know he is incredibly humble, and I am not sure he realizes what he has accomplished in one year. Going from indoor karting to an FIA [Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile] National Champion and sharing the stage with F1 champions, like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rossberg, may never be repeated.”

Something New

If not for a fortunate whim, it the ascent of Cameron Das might not have happened at all.

As Das recalls, in September 2014, he and two friends kicked around the notion of giving go-kart racing a try. A quick Google search showed that the Autobahn Indoor Speedway, in Jessup, was the closest kart facility to Das’s Baltimore home.

“My mom took us,” Das said. “We were all avid car guys, but we had never actually raced before. We were just trying to have some fun, friendly competition between the three of us. We wanted to see who was the fastest, and Autobahn was our way of proving who was fastest. It proved to be me.”

About two years later, it seems that fateful first trip was more pivotal than Das ever could imagine. Since, Das studied at the Bertil Roos Racing School, in Pennsylvania; competed in a handful of Formula ­Lites and F1600 F Formula F Championship races in 2015; then raced a limited Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship schedule in 2016.

Then he dominated the inaugural 2016 season of the U.S. Formula 4 Championships — with nine wins in 15 races, including the last eight in a row — in becoming that series’ first champion. He earned top-five finishes in 14 of 15 races, and earned close to $40,000 in prize money.

“I guess I thought that was possible, but how possible, I had no idea,” Das said. “We all went into that series with blindfolds on. We had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a huge success, and I found that I had more skill than I thought.”

On His Mark

Das received more such affirmation when he earned an invitation to race in the British F3 series’ Autumn Trophy, a four-race, season-ending series culminating the British developmental league. He placed seventh overall. Das will spend next racing season overseas, competing for Carlin in British F3.

“I am his father, so one might believe I am biased,” Babi Das said. “However, I am a realist, and I don’t think anyone can argue that Cameron has innate abilities not found in a driver with his level of experience. When he showed up for his first pro league race at Autobahn when he was 14 and proceeded to beat everyone, I have to admit I was shocked. … No question, he has ability to do things with a car that others cannot even comprehend. However, time will tell if he can advance in this sport as the competition gets stronger and stronger.”

Looking back on that first trip to Autobahn, Cameron Das certainly didn’t see that as a portent.

Racing on the facility’s Monaco course, Das beat his buddies. “I had one of the quickest times of the day,” he said. “Looking on the sheets, though, I wasn’t close to the fastest guys at Autobahn. I was just faster than everybody there that day, so I knew I was above-average.”

“Hooked,” he returned for a few Arrive and Drive visits before employees took note of his skills and he was encouraged to return to compete in one of the track’s leagues.

“They were like, ‘You could probably be competitive. You should see how you can do in a league race,’” Das said. “In my first race, I qualified on the pole with a new track record and won by quite a margin. I thought, ‘Maybe I have something here.’”
The results of the races since have been a bit of a blur.

First came regular league races, practice in a home racing simulator, then the trip to the Roos Racing School, where he earned his license to race single-seaters. Das said his kart experience translated well to bigger, faster open-wheelers.
“I’d say it wasn’t too difficult of a transition,” he said. “A lot of stuff you do in go-karting translates. I tell people, the physics don’t change. The speed changes. You don’t really drive differently. You just do it faster. When you’re driving, you have a brake, throttle, you’re shifting gears and driving. It’s the same in a kart.”

Entry Point

Still, the success Das has had since that first trip with his friends, and the speed with which he has achieved

that success, has turned heads.
“It’s amazing,” said Bill Harris, Autobahn’s director of development. “He’s a good racer, obviously. It’s like the elite athlete getting a deal elusive to the majority of other elite athletes. I don’t know the [racing] industry well enough to know what compares to that, but it’s exceptional beyond belief.”

Karting has been a springboard for countless pro racing careers, including those of Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, who grew up racing karts before ultimately claiming F1 World Championships; and many NASCAR drivers, including Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, Ricky Rudd, Juan Pablo Montoya and Lake Speed, started out racing karts.

“We are an entry point to the Performance Racing Industry. However, we are also very accessible,” Harris said. “Anyone can come out to Autobahn and have a great time and race. We’re in the sports and entertainment industry. To me, [Das’s accomplishments] are on the sports side.

“In sports, maybe you have a kid who goes out and plays a pick-up basketball game, and he’s really good at it,” said Harris. “Maybe somebody works with him, and he works hard and plays junior varsity and then varsity, then becomes a pro player before he even goes to college. He just has that natural knowledge of the sport. We could have that same kind of correlation here.”

Das dreams of Formula 1, though he won’t rule out a more domestic path. “Formula 1 is certainly the goal, but being a professional driver is the main goal,” he said. “Formula 1 is far in the distance. Maybe, if I work hard enough, I can do that, but I’m not throwing out American racing. IndyCar racing is really good, too. Both are challenging environments. I love driving race cars, and if I can do that professionally, that’s what I want to do.”

 

Back Home

Curiously, Das never dreamed of becoming a race-car driver until he was one. Babi Das recalled young Cameron’s infatuation with toy cars and beyond-his-years appreciation for luxury cars as a youth. But the idea of driving fast for a living didn’t enter the picture until Autobahn did.

“When I was little, I might occasionally watch a NASCAR race if it was on,” Cameron Das said. “I had the dream of being a driver, I guess, like a kid might say he wants to be an astronaut one day. But I never watched it that closely or really thought it might happen.”

Kittleman Presents Capital Improvement Budget for Fiscal 2018

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has presented to the county council his $374.3 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal 2018.

The proposed budget includes $201.3 million from General Obligation (GO) bonds, including $105 million in estimated public financing for the much-needed new Circuit Courthouse project and other projects that add up to $96.3 million in GO bonds.

“This proposed CIP budget continues to reflect my administration’s prudent and fiscally responsible approach by focusing on making government more responsive, efficient and accessible,” said Kittleman. “This budget ‘fast forwards’ long-delayed projects, some for decades, as well as introduces new ones that will support our shared goals.”

In addition to the courthouse, the proposed CIP includes money to support education, county parks, a new public safety radio system, flood mitigation in Ellicott City, and planning dollars for a detox and outpatient treatment center. It also includes planning and design money for fire and police stations, as well as a community pool, in North Laurel.

“I have put a strong emphasis on embracing a culture of innovation across the county,” said Kittleman. “That’s why we will launch the Howard County Innovation Center. It’s also why we rethought the way we deliver human services, prompting us to establish the Community Resources Campus. Better government must always reinvent itself as needs change, and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Highlights of the fiscal 2018 CIP budget include the following.

Education
• $59.1 million to the Howard County Board of Education, including $44.2 million from county funds. The balance is from state funds.
• $21.8 million for renovations to Swansfield and Waverly elementary schools
• $2 million for completion of Wilde Lake Middle School replacement
• $18.7 million toward the construction of the county’s 42nd elementary school
• $1.5 million for renovations to Patuxent Valley Middle School
• $11.4 million in county funds to design and renovate the Nursing and Science/Technology building at HCC

Ellicott City Recovery, Rebuilding
• $1.8 million for flood remediation for Main Street Ellicott City and Valley Mede
• $200,000 for planning, design and implementation of parking improvements for Main Street area

Public Safety and Health
• $250,000 for site selection and design for detox and outpatient treatment center
• $6.2 million to replace public safety radio system
• Planning and design funds for new fire station in West Columbia
• Funds for site acquisition of new Waterloo fire station

Recreation & Parks
• $1.7 million for Phase 3 of Blandair Regional Park, providing a playground designed for children of all abilities, dog park, picnic shelter and area for backyard games
• $500,000 for planning and design funds for a pool at the North Laurel Community Center

Transportation and Infrastructure
• $4.5 million for road resurfacing
• Complete work on the Route 29 pedestrian bridge
• $1.25 million for biking, walking and ADA improvement projects
The fiscal 2018 CIP budget can be reviewed at www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Budget.

The Howard County Chamber Recognizes Outstanding Leaders at Its Annual Signature Event

Accomplished singer, impressionist and humorist Roy Firestone headlined Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) Signature Event, held at Turf Valley Resort, on Oct. 7, 2016. Critically acclaimed for his work in broadcast journalism, Firestone has won seven Emmy Awards and seven Cable ACE Awards and has interviewed more than 5,000 people. At the event, he walked the audience down memory lane through his tunes and relevant stories.

HCCC’s Signature Event is a gala evening of great food and drinks, socializing and entertainment. The event also provides an opportunity to recognize members of the business community with the annual Awards for Chamber Excellence (ACE), presented to recognize leaders the Chamber deems as outstanding for their achievements and to share their stories as examples of innovation, dedication and community service.

 

Business Person of the Year:

Greg Lowe, Lowe Wealth Advisors

As part of a family-owned financial advising company, Lowe Wealth Advisors, Greg Lowe is grounded in the community where he grew up and now lives. In business, he focuses on proactive communication with his clients and makes sure all financial decisions are clearly understood. In the end, investors have a secure financial plan that lets them enjoy the life they want. Lowe saw first-hand through his dad the difference a trusted adviser could make in the lives of people and wanted to have that same positive impact.

Born and raised in Howard County, Lowe said, “By living and working here, I’m able to help support the community that’s supporting me. I’m happy that my children are able to experience the same great community that I did.”

While contributing to a strong business community, Lowe also gives his time and effort to help those who do not have access to professional financial advisement. For the past seven years, he has led an eight-week class in financial literacy at the Financial Peace University at Grace Community Church in Fulton. More than 300 people have participated. He also serves on the board of trustees for the Howard Hospital Foundation. In addition, Lowe Wealth Advisors supports numerous local nonprofits.

Lowe also has been a member of the HCCC board of directors for nine years, including holding the chair position, and helped organize and lead the Chamber’s involvement in Columbia Town Center’s development. He was on the search committee that brought Leonardo McClarty, the Chamber’s current president, to Howard County.

Lowe believes that, “When you are involved in your community and on committees at nonprofits, you understand your community better and you develop long-term relationships, perspectives and friendships that make you a better businessperson and better-equipped to serve the needs of your community.”

Small Business of the Year:

Howard Tech Advisors

Ananta Hejeebu started Howard Tech Advisors in 2009, focusing specifically on Columbia and guaranteeing that “not only will we call you back when you’ve called us for help, we’ll be in your face in 10 minutes.” He has turned down business in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore because he knew he could not keep that promise.

Rather than offering information technology (IT) support on an hourly basis, as was standard practice, he instituted a support structure that was unique at the time. Howard Tech Advisors would work as a company’s outsourced IT department, with a flat monthly fee per each company employee. He had an incentive to make sure a client’s network and computer were working smoothly, and clients knew that when a server went down, a website got hacked or a virus infected the network, help was just a phone call or email away.

While this business model is no longer novel, what keeps Howard Tech Advisors unique is the extent to which the employees are involved in the community outside of tech support; coaching, volunteering at Chamber events, serving on boards of nonprofits and holding company volunteer days. Employees currently are active in the HCCC board of directors and Executive Committee, Leadership Howard County Board of Directors, Grace Community Church, Junior Achievement and Grassroots.

Howard Tech Advisors now employs 20 people and has expanded beyond Columbia to Howard County and the neighboring areas. It has added some ancillary services, but its core focus still is on being “your outsourced IT department.”

Hejeebu said that Howard County is a great place to do business, and it’s relatively easy to get involved and build relationships. Just “get involved, serve the community, and the business will come,” he said.

 

GovConnects Government Contractor of the Year:

Innoplex LLC

Headquartered in Columbia, Innoplex provides end-to-end hardware and software systems engineering, information assurance, signals analysis and wireless technology expertise to national and tactical-level end users. In 2016, the company won the XTRAWARRIOR Prime contract at the National Security Agency. It recently has developed and launched a security-oriented product that enables users to query and analyze electronic devices that traverse wireless networks as a way to identify, track and mitigate potentially nefarious users on commercial and government networks.

Phil Green, president and CEO of Innoplex, attributes the company’s success to the quality and caliber of its personnel. “We provide a ‘benefits-rich’ compensation plan for our employees and their families. Those benefits, combined with the company’s investment in their professional development, ensure the retention of a strong, diverse workforce, which is committed to excellence.”

Innoplex was nominated by Baltimore Magazine as the company with the best benefits out of Baltimore’s 100 best businesses in 2014, and was nominated for Best Workplaces by the Baltimore Sun in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Green has developed strategic business partnerships with small and large businesses that operate within the federal government contracting arena. Through mentoring prospective small-business owners, the company shares critical information that new/emergent entrepreneurs need to be successful in government contracting. In 2015, Innoplex became a member of GovConnects’ Advisory Council and has contributed greatly to the direction and success of the program.

Innoplex also participates in numerous philanthropic opportunities, volunteering in local school mentorship activities; hosting an annual charitable golfing tournament whose proceeds are provided to a veteran’s charity called “Heroes on the Water”; and supporting “Herobox,” an organization that provides donated food, personal items, books, etc., to U.S. military service members and government civilians deployed overseas.

 

Large Business of the Year:

 

Mobern Lighting Company

Mobern Lighting Company is one of the oldest manufacturers in Howard County, locating there in 1957 because of its strategic location between Baltimore and D.C. Its in-house design and engineering capabilities, flexible manufacturing operations and focus on addressing end-user requirements has allowed it to thrive.

Recently Mobern supplied several large projects for the Maryland Sports Authority (Camden Yards), Naval Observatory Library, Fort Meade and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, causing it to expand its work and sales force. This growth meant that Mobern had to move — but not far. Bob Claire, general manager of Mobern, said, “Howard County has been near and dear to our hearts, because much of our workforce lives in Howard County and the surrounding corridor communities. Our new, 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Jessup was chosen because of our long-term commitment to our workforce and the Howard County organizations we support.”

Mobern is active in government/civic affairs and fosters a business culture based on gratitude and commitment to its community and business partners. It supports community organizations and partners with vendors and service providers that share these values. Claire said, “The Howard County Chamber of Commerce and its membership is one such organization, and that is why we are eager to support its programs and initiatives.” The Howard County Multi-Service Center, Manufacturer’s Extension Program, the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Howard Tech Council, Grassroots, the Office of Housing Stability and Independent Electrical Contractors Association of Chesapeake — of which Mobern is an industry partner — are others the company supports. Its partnership with the Department of Corrections re-entry and work release programs, as well as The Arc Project Search, has earned it the Hire Power Award and special recognition at the local and state level for employing those with social, economic or physical challenges.

Entrepreneur of the Year: The Marriner Family, Victoria Gastro Pub

The Marriner family opened Victoria’s Gastro Pub in 2007, and nine years later, started Manor Hill Brewing, Howard County’s only farmhouse brewery. In November 2016, Manor Hill Tavern opened in historic Ellicott City at the location of the former Diamondback Tavern, and in May 2017, their third restaurant, Food Plenty, will open in Clarksville across from the River Hill shopping center.

The entrepreneurial “gene” runs in the Marriner Family: Randy, Mary, and daughters Rachael Mull and Tori Buscher. After 15 years at his father’s company, Randy Marriner started Marriner Marketing Communications, which is still going strong 11 years after his “retirement.” Mary’s family owned Blob’s Park, the German beer hall in Jessup, where Mary created all the desserts. Rachel and Tori were part of the inaugural kids’ polka group, but currently are chief financial officer and chief experience officer, respectively, of Victoria’s Restaurant Group, the entity that owns and runs the restaurants.

The Marriners are as dedicated to the community as they are to their businesses, raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for the past 40 years. Randy was president of the Maryland chapter, and recently held the 14th Annual Howard County Wine Masters Event for Cystic Fibrosis in his backyard. In addition, he may be the longest serving commissioner on the Lottery Game & Control Commission, and also served on the board of directors for the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

 

Spring Awardees

Awards were also named earlier in the year at the annual meeting. Those honorees were recognized at the Signature Event as well.

 

Business Advocate of the Year:

Cheryl Brown, Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny LLC

Cheryl Brown, an attorney with Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny, represents employers and management in labor- and employment-related matters, including the defense of state and federal discrimination claims, workplace and sexual harassment charges, wrongful discharge, ADA and ADEA claims, wage and hour issues, FMLA disputes, employment contracts, restrictive covenant agreements, general contract claims and other business tort claims.

She represents clients from a broad range of business industries including nonprofits, municipalities and educational institutions throughout the federal, state and local court system and administrative agencies. She also represents government contractors in employment matters.

For the past two years, Brown has served as the Health, Healthcare & Labor Sub-committee chair. In this capacity she has diligently aided the Chamber in its analysis of labor-related legislation and the legal implications on business. She also has assisted staff in the drafting of position statements and testimony and has served as a link to the Maryland Chapter of the Society of Human Resource Managers.

 

GovConnects Advocate of the Year:

Mike Muscatello, Aronson LLC

As a founding member of the GovConnects Advisory Council, Mike Muscatello has dedicated four years of support to growing GovConnects into a highly respected program that is recognized for its contribution to the growth of the federal contracting community in Howard County.

He has attended and briefed many board meetings, leadership committee meetings and events, all the while networking to assist in growing membership and the Advisory Council.

For the past two years, Muscatello has co-chaired GovConnects and now will serve as a past chair. He has been the GovConnects representative to the Howard County Chamber Board of Directors for two years and has been a member of the Chamber Executive Committee for one year.

 

Ambassador of the Year:

Randy Gartner, Integrated Marketing Services

Randy Gartner has served as a Chamber Ambassador since 2004 and has displayed the characteristics needed to be a successful volunteer of this Chamber program; he is a messenger, an envoy and a diplomat. He was present at many of the Chamber’s 29 ribbon cuttings, 10 Ambassador meetings, six member orientations and various other events.

Gartner understands the value of this volunteer role and demonstrates his enthusiasm to assist the Chamber. He cultivates relationships with chamber members, active and new, by maintaining contact through outreach programs, providing feedback and making recommendations to the Chamber regarding the member needs.

Integrated Marketing Services has been a member of the Chamber since 2003, and this is the second time that Gartner has been recognized as Ambassador of the Year for his contributions.

YPN of the Year:

Kyle Robson, Apple Ford Lincoln

Kyle Robson has been a member of the Young Professionals Network Board of Directors for five years. He has served on the YPN Executive Committee for two years and is currently the treasurer.

Prior to that, Robson served as the events chair for YPN and handled the planning of mixers, the YPN Orioles Trip, the Symphony of Lights walk-through, YPN wine tours and other programs. His company, Apple Ford Lincoln, is currently a corporate sponsor of the YPN program.

Robson consistently attends all YPN and many Chamber events, and serves as an Ambassador to YPN by bringing new members and guests to events.

Chairman’s Award for
Volunteer of the Year:

Anita Sheckells

Anita Sheckells has been a member of the Howard County Chamber Board of Directors since 2010 and has served as treasurer since 2011. Sheckells has been invaluable in her role as treasurer to ensure that all financial matters of the organization have been addressed with care, integrity and in the best interest of the Chamber, from performing regular in-depth reviews of the organization’s financial activity to overseeing the annual budget, including regular reporting to the executive committee and board.

She helped steer the Chamber through some very difficult times, restored a surplus within the organization, and provided guidance to the chair, executive committee, board and staff during the time when the Chamber was without a CEO. Sheckells pored over the numbers each month with all the responsibility of a CFO, but none of the compensation.

Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year Awards Announced

Howard County recently honored outstanding volunteers in a ceremony that recognized the generosity and achievements of seven individuals and one nonprofit organization. The winners were selected from 19 nominations. The annual event also included the announcement of Howard County’s Volunteer of the Year and other special award recipients.

Award winners will have an engraved brick installed in the Pathway to Excellence at the county’s Troy Park at Elkridge. This year’s award winners were as follows.

• Volunteers of the Year: Donna Kruzic and Nancy Schieken

Howard County Recreation & Parks’ “No Boundaries” program is a drama program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Donna Kruzic spends multiple hours typing and organizing director’s notes, as well as creating the master dance CD to which the participants perform, making extra copies for participants who need extra practice; Nancy Schieken has also been volunteering with the program for 10 years, ensuring that rehearsals and performances run smoothly. Schieken has become an integral part of the effort, volunteering two-to-three hours every week, and up to 20 hours in the weeks leading up to each performance.

• Youth Volunteer of the Year: Rees Draminski

A junior at Mount Hebron High School, Rees Draminski enjoys reading, swimming and programming in his free time, when he’s not thinking of new ideas for TeCanal. TeCanal is a nonprofit organization that promotes STEM education to low-income neighborhoods in the Baltimore area. For two years, he has volunteered his time with TeCanal, where he has been instrumental in developing, implementing and teaching its curriculum, putting in 10 hours a week with tutoring and mentorship.

• Non-Profit Volunteer Organization of the Year: Metanoia Church

Members of Metanoia Church were the first volunteers to step forward to help after the Historic Ellicott City flood last summer, and they haven’t stopped offering assistance. As its nominator wrote, “As a shop owner, I was overwhelmed and needed serious help. A phone call was all it took to get [Staff Pastor] Jesse Florida or [Reverend Dr.] Adam Feldman [from Metanoia Church] to make it happen. If I needed volunteers, Jesse made it happen. If I needed a few tubs, brushes, bleach or whatever, Jesse or a church member would appear with it.”

• Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Casey

For more than 25 years, Julie Casey has been an integral part in the Howard County Volunteer Firefighters Association (HCVFA). She has served as HCVFA’s president for three terms. She has played a vital role in: fostering diversity and inclusion, particularly for women firefighters; supporting the annual breast cancer awareness campaign; coordinating with the six volunteer fire companies regarding state grant funding; conferring with the county’s fire chief on budget and other administration issues; and working toward improved safety, health and physicals for volunteers.

• Lifetime Achievement Award: T.J. Swiney

A 44-year veteran of the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department, Captain T.J. Swiney has worked his way up through the ranks. According to his nominator, Swiney’s at the station almost every night and puts in at least 25 hours a week. As captain, he oversees the station’s observer and rookie programs, helping new members prepare to become firefighters. He also serves as the station’s training officer, assisting both volunteer and career members hone their skills.

• Dynamic Duo Award: George and Janice Vanisko

George Vanisko, a retired engineer, and Jan Vanisko, a retired nurse, are always willing to help others in need. He fixes anything, especially tech products such as computers, televisions, phones and thermostats; and she always keeps a medical bag available for first aid issues, blood pressure checks and interpreting medical reports. When not fixing things or providing medical assistance, they can be found volunteering at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, Our Daily Bread, Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Louis Church and FISH. They also drive patients to doctor’s appointments; and counsel people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as their caregivers.

Edwards Performance Solutions Adds Cyber to Its Optimization Toolkit

 

 

Every business, no matter how successful, always could use a little more help to increase operational performance and efficiency.

For the past two decades, Elkridge-based Edwards Performance Solutions has been helping clients find ways to improve productivity, profitability and security through technology and cybersecurity.

“By delivering the highest quality services while addressing cyber vulnerabilities, we ensure operational excellence and performance to drive overall success,” said President and CEO Gina Abate. “Edwards integrates security requirements into all technical and management perspectives, safeguarding information and organizations in the market.”

Founded in 1997, Edwards Performance Solutions became a certified Woman Owned Small Business and a Maryland Minority Business Enterprise in 2016.

Edwards maintains a focus on four core disciplines that include Enterprise Management, Learning and Development, Knowledge Management, and Cybersecurity.

“Our understanding of complex missions drives our competitive advantage in the federal and commercial marketplaces,” Abate said. “Edwards helps organizations understand their issues and works with them to mitigate risks, offering a complete solution from planning through implementation. Our employees also have real-world experience that helps us understand and mitigate customer concerns.”

 

Common Focus

Abate joined Edwards in 2013 as a senior vice president. She was appointed president in 2013, and CEO in May 2016.

Her background includes federal experience in information technology (IT) management positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs and leadership roles with NTT Data Federal Systems and BAE Systems, a unique perspective that’s advantageous for work in an environment rife with both government entities and federal contractors.

Edwards’s staff of 60 employees currently supports 12 customers in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area.
“Our clients include government agencies, commercial businesses and nonprofit organizations, ranging from mid-size companies to large federal agencies,” Abate said.

Among them are several behemoths, including Motorola, the National Association of Social Workers, University of Maryland Medical Systems and the Space Telescope Science Institute for the future James Webb Space Telescope, in addition to the intelligence community and the departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services and Justice.

“Customer needs vary depending on industry particulars, but our common theme is a focus on operational performance. We understand our strengths and work to customize our methodologies to address individual customer needs,” said Abate.

 

Community Outreach

Companies that aim to help other businesses find their groove have a knack for identifying needs and acting to address them.
According to Abate, Edwards Performance Solutions takes a similar view when it comes to philanthropy and personal involvement in local communities.

“Our company-wide charitable program donates corporate money to support local important civic and philanthropic activities,” she said. “Edwards also matches employees’ charitable contributions, but it does not stop with a check: We volunteer in our community as a group and individually.”

The company’s employees were active in Ellicott City flood recovery efforts, and have worked to support the American Diabetes Association’s CEOs Stopping Diabetes, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Walk to End CF and the Alzheimer’s Association Walk.

Looking to become more involved in the business community, Edwards Performance Solutions joined the Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) three years ago.

“We have participated in many events with the HCCC … and those networking groups, dinners and seminars have provided beneficial introductions to local small and mid-sized companies, some resulting in direct work and others providing partnership opportunities,” Abate said. “Our relationship with HCCC … also aided public recognition when Edwards opened its new corporate offices in Elkridge with the Howard County executive in attendance to cut the celebratory ribbon.”

 

New Direction

Cybersecurity represents a new area of competency for Edwards.
“We wanted to expand some of our solution sets, and one thing we kept finding when looking at optimizing a company’s operational performance was the increasing importance of security,” Abate said. “It’s one of the largest things that can put productivity and profit at risk.”

Earlier this year, Edwards acquired Evolved Cyber Solutions, a leader in cybersecurity risk analysis, and hired its founder, Brian Hubbard, to direct Edwards’s new Commercial Strategic Business Unit.

“By merging our operations and teams, we will continue to successfully deliver cybersecurity solutions to an even larger community,” Abate explained. “We also built strategic partnerships with some really strong Maryland cyber companies and enhanced our staff to help shore up our capabilities in this area.”

Within its own organization, Edwards is making an effort to invest in its own employees and their future.

“We put an emphasis on training, mentoring and career growth, encouraging employees to build new skills and refine current abilities by offering professional development incentives,” Abate said. “Employees are reimbursed for seminars, workshops and professional associations that enhance their education. [That] allows us to pass along the best savings and current solution expertise to our customers.”

As for the customer experience, “When our partners work with us, they’re frequently surprised at how organized we are for a company our size,” Abate said. “Our experienced, professional staff allows us to act like a much larger company than we really are, but we’re still the same small organization that’s able to give customers the same level of intimate attention they expect and deserve.”

Howard County Chamber Plans an Italian Getaway for October

Ready for an international vacation? Plan to join the 2017 Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s trip to Italy in October.
Each year, the Chamber selects a premier destination, and this year you can visit the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Rome.

The nine-day trip will be held Oct. 23–31, a perfect time of year to visit the Italian coast. October weather in Italy is generally mild.
The trip will begin with an overnight flight to Italy, where upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel in Maiori, nestled on the sun-drenched coastline so you can enjoy the beach.

The Amalfi Coast is a captivating combination of coastal mountains dotted with picturesque towns and lush forests bordering the Mediterranean Sea. UNESCO had the entire area declared a World Heritage Site in 1997 because of its beauty and the uniqueness of its natural landscape.

In a deluxe motor coach, you will tour Ravello, the town of music, Amalfi and Positano and view the exceptional beauty of the area.
Next you will visit the city of Naples, where history and tradition are consolidated in the old city center. As you stroll through the city, you can partake of the local pizza, pasta and coffee.
Also on the itinerary is an opportunity to take a short jetfoil ride to the Isle of Capri, which was home to Roman emperors and today is an opportune place to see movie stars and check out the latest fashions.

At the ancient Greek ruins of Paestum you can connect with ancient history, and then move to Salerno where you can wander the narrow lanes of the city center.

The Chamber tour also includes a visit to Pompeii. An expert guide will show you the excavation and help you learn about daily life in Roman society.

And no trip to Italy would be complete without a stop in Rome. The Eternal City awaits your arrival, and if you would like to stay longer, the Chamber tour offers extensions for you to remain in Rome a bit longer.

The Howard County Chamber has a reputation for creating first-class travel experiences. This year, don’t miss this unique Italian experience.

The trip is open to all, but Chamber members receive a discounted price. The cost of the trip to southern Italy is $3,099 for Chamber members and $3,299 for non-chamber members.
The purchase price includes: round trip airfare; airline fuel surcharges, taxes and fees; seven nights of first-class hotel accommodations; 10 meals (seven breakfasts, three dinners); sightseeing and admissions per the itinerary; a professional tour manager; baggage handling; and hotel transfers.

 

For more information about the Howard County Chamber-sponsored trip in October, visit the website www.howardchamber.com or call 410-730-4111.

Bipartisan: A Flexible Word in Annapolis

Bipartisanship is a flexible concept at the State House. For the great majority of bills, there truly is overwhelming bipartisan support, because they represent issues small and large that both parties can agree on.

That was the case with a bill called “More Learning, Less Testing,” which will limit standardized testing to 2.2% of teaching time. It passed with unanimous votes.

Two years ago, the General Assembly set up a commission to make recommendations on testing, worked long and hard to recommend changes — and school boards didn’t do much about it. So, the legislators decided to act.

In other cases, bipartisan means, “We got what we wanted, and the other side agreed.” That’s sometimes what Gov. Larry Hogan means by bipartisan. But in Hogan’s usage, bipartisan can also mean, “I didn’t get a lot of what I wanted, but I’ll take what I got.”
The day after the session ended, those different meanings allowed Hogan to say, “It was a great session … This is the way government is supposed to work. This was all about compromise.”

There was indeed a lot of compromise, which is about the only way to get much done with 188 lawmakers. The budget, for instance, went through in record time, with a little give and take.

Session to Be Proud Of

“It was a session we can all be proud of,” said House Speaker Michael Busch, sitting next to Hogan at a bill signing ceremony. “This year, your staff did a great job,” Busch said to the governor.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), said that “despite the partisan efforts to kind of drag us into the D.C. post-election theater, we were able to pass some meaningful bills.”

Despite its many battles, Kipke said the 2017 session was the “most bipartisan” he has seen since he took office. Hogan concurred, telling reporters that 2017 was an “incredible, bipartisan session.”

It was so bipartisan that as Republican delegates talked the clock out on a bill expanding medical marijuana licenses, it was Kipke who made the motion to “adjourn sine die” at midnight, a role typically reserved for the House Democratic majority leader. This partially reflected bipartisan distaste for how the bill was forced on them by the Senate.

“We got everything done that needed to get done, in terms of the legislation,” said Senate President Mike Miller. “We dealt with health care, we dealt with education, we dealt with environment and we dealt with public safety. So, I think it was a very good year, quite frankly.”

The two parties came together on several significant issues, most notably job creation, opioid abuse, anti-fraud measures, education and environmental issues.

Hogan claimed victory on his top priority, eliminating a scoring system for transportation he had termed the “Road Kill Bill.” The legislature passed the law, despite his veto last year. This year, it was turned into a study of a possible scoring system for road and transit projects.

In very Democratic Maryland, Republican Hogan continues to be the second most popular governor in the U.S., according to a Morning Consult poll released in April that was based on an online survey during the previous three months.

Manufacturing Incentives

The More Jobs for Marylanders Act (SB317) passed with strong bipartisan support. The law is designed to bolster manufacturing jobs in Maryland by offering tax incentives to companies that create jobs in high-unemployment areas and in job training programs. Hogan considered the legislation a core piece of his 2017 agenda and signed it into law in late April.

Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), a potential candidate for governor who is often critical of Hogan, described a bipartisan process of senators who worked on the bill with administration representatives.

Mike Galiazzo, president of the Regional Manufacturing Institute, said the bill represented a good signal to manufacturers that Maryland was interested in promoting their businesses, which hadn’t gotten any tax breaks in 15 years.

The lone senator to vote against the bill, Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery), had worked on his own version of tax incentives for manufacturers for three years. Manno called the bill that Hogan signed “a steak dinner for big business and a chicken box for the workers.”

 

Opioid Abuse, Treatment

The Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort and Treatment Act of 2017 (or the HOPE Act, HB1329), which passed on the final day of the session with only one dissenting vote, is a broad response to the state’s opioid crisis. A key provision will increase reimbursement rates for community-based behavioral health providers during the next three years. Community behavioral health providers will receive reimbursement rate increases of 3.5% annually in the next two years, and a 3% increase in the third year.

The legislature also passed restrictions on the quantity of opioid painkillers that can be doled out by doctors in a single visit, HB1432; measures to increase the availability of naloxone — a drug that can counteract the effects of overdose (part of the HOPE Act) and introduced steep penalties for people who distribute opioids that cause the death of another person.
Lawmakers also passed a Hogan administration bill setting new penalties for distributing fentanyl — an extremely potent synthetic opioid that has a high rate of lethal overdoses, SB539. The highly adaptable illegal drug market has introduced an even more potent painkiller into the heroin supply, carfentanil, an opioid used on large animals, like elephants.

 

Other Bills

Protecting Taxpayers: The Taxpayer Protection Act (SB304), a Hogan priority, makes it easier for the state to prosecute fraudulent filers for tax refunds and gives the comptroller’s office greater latitude to investigate tax fraud and identity theft. Comptroller Peter Franchot pushed hard for the legislation, holding conferences and events around the state to drum up support for the bill. It passed this year with unanimous support in the Senate and in the House, despite the distaste Senate Democrats and Miller, in particular, have with Franchot as a maverick Democrat and frequent Hogan ally.

Clean Cars, Water: Hogan administration environmental legislation included the Clean Cars Act (HB406), which increases the state’s budget for tax credits for electric vehicles, and the Clean Water Commerce Act, which expands the scope of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to include sediment reduction, but does not include any new funding (SB314). Both had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans.

As always, a majority of proposed bills died, including some with significant support.

Medical Marijuana: Tops among the failed bills was legislation that would expand the number of growing licenses for the state’s medical marijuana industry (HB1443) in an effort to increase diversity in business ownership. Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) said she was “devastated” the House didn’t pass the bill before the midnight deadline. “We have a multi-billion-dollar industry with no minorities participating,” Conway said, adding, “I’m almost speechless.”

The Legislative Black Caucus immediately began a call for a special session to fix the problem. But nothing can happen until Busch and Miller agree on a compromise. Maryland has been extraordinarily slow in getting its medical marijuana program underway, compared to many other states.

Sanctuary Status: Latino delegates were outraged after the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act (SB835) died in the Senate. The bill would have essentially made Maryland a sanctuary state by restricting the involvement of law enforcement agencies in Maryland with federal immigration efforts, banning state government agents from asking crime victims or suspects about their immigration or citizenship status.
Members of the Latino caucus walked off the floor on the final day to demonstrate their displeasure that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and Miller were blocking the bill.
Del. Jocelyn Peña-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s, shouted that Miller and committee chair Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, were “Democrats in name only” (DINOs). “Shame on you” she said of Zirkin. “I hope your district takes you out.”
Hogan opposed the bill as well.

 

Local Pork

At the opening of the Chrysalis, the bright green high performance stage in Columbia’s Symphony Woods, state and local officials who helped fund the project were singled out for praise. They included Howard County’s two Democratic senators, Ed Kasemeyer, chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, and Guy Guzzone, the delegation chair and a budget committee member, as well.

Little noticed in media coverage are the local projects nestled in the state capital budget. Unlike the state operating budget, legislators can add to the governor’s request. This year, among hundreds of projects, they added a $150,000 matching grant for the Chrysalis.

That’s small potatoes compared to other Howard County projects. There was an $8 million matching grant to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Cultural Commission for the renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion at the core of the new downtown development. Legislators added a $2 million matching grant for Merriweather in the 2016 capital budget, and a similar $2 million the year before.

So, the next time you visit Merriweather for a high school graduation or a concert, you can see your tax dollars at work.
More traditional projects in the state budget included $9.5 million to renovate the science and nursing building at Howard Community College. But there was also $300,000 for the Harriet Tubman Community Center & Museum in the former “colored” high school on Freetown Road; $250,000 for a new HVAC system at The Arc of Howard County; and $200,000 for the Community Action Council Food Bank facility.

 

Gibson’s Running

Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney Rich Gibson announced his candidacy for Howard County state’s attorney last month, pledging to combat gangs, domestic abuse, property crime and human trafficking.

The Ellicott City resident ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 Democratic primary against Dario Broccolino, the current’s state’s attorney. Broccolino, who is retiring, has endorsed his deputy, Republican Kim Oldham. Democratic legislators endorsed Gibson at his event.

Business-to-Government Initiative GovConnects Celebrates Five Years and Counting

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce has been fortunate to have had influential and thoughtful volunteer leadership and highly capable staff. This combination of talent has allowed it to be at the forefront of creating or assisting in the development of impactful business and community development programs. These programs include the Leadership Howard County program (1986) and the Howard County Economic Development Authority (1995).

Nearly six years ago, several Chamber board members recognized the impact the federal government community was having, and would continue to have, on the local economy, and thus GovConnects was born.

GovConnects was created as a business-to-government program whose focus was to provide federal contractors with key intelligence on federal agency and military installation procurement opportunities. It also has sought to serve as the trusted source for information that is important to current and potential government contractors, and to provide regular opportunities for members to meet and interact with key officials. The Chamber has fulfilled these objectives through myriad programs ranging from seminars to conferences, breakfast meetings and private, industry-focused networking events.

While it has taken time for the program to hit its stride, the Chamber and its dedicated band of volunteers have high hopes for the future of GovConnects. Over the last year the Chamber has streamlined programs, seeking fewer, higher-quality events and programs rather than a plethora of less substantive offerings. As such, GovConnects attendees are able to frequent quarterly breakfasts with agency acquisition and grants officers and small business offices. Other programs include the bimonthly CFO Roundtable and the quarterly Executive Networking events. Also falling under the auspices of GovConnects is the Women In Government Contracting Leadership Forum and Cyber Conference.

Always looking to enhance its programs and offerings, the Chamber has broadened the government reach and is now delving into state procurement. The program is also exploring business opportunities beyond defense and cyber, having hosted representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Health and Human Services, NASA-Goddard and Social Security, to name a few. The Chamber is also exploring an industry day, which would be a 2018 initiative should it come to pass.

The GovConnects program will continue to evolve and change. While change is constant, the Chamber’s dedication to government contractors will remain.

Anne Arundel Gets Elected School Board Next Year

The years of internal wrangling by Anne Arundel County lawmakers about how to select a school board came down to the final hours of the legislative session. The House, for a second time this past session, unanimously approved a fully-elected board, agreeing to a minor Senate amendment.

Beginning next year, Anne Arundel County voters will choose seven members of the school board by county council district in a nonpartisan race at the general election. There will also be a student member with full voting rights.

The logjam broke as last month’s issue of The Business Monthly literally was being sent to the printer. That morning, the county delegates had rejected the senator’s proposal for a hybrid board, with some elected and some appointed members.

Standing in their usual meeting spot just outside the Senate chamber in the State House lobby, Sen. John Astle told the five Anne Arundel senators — three Democrats and two Republicans — that after the delegates rejected their hybrid version, if they didn’t approve the House bill for a fully elected board, “we’re going to wind up with nothing.”

Astle, the Annapolis Democrat who chairs the Senate delegation, had softened his opposition this year, perhaps reflecting his announced intention to run for mayor of the capital city after serving 34 years in the legislature.

“We’ve got seven days left; it’s not a lot of time,” he said. “We’ve got to get it done.”

Sens. Astle, Jim Rosapepe, Ed Reilly and Bryan Simonaire all voted for a fully-elected board, approving the House bill without amendment. Sen. Ed DeGrange cast the only no vote in the delegation and on the Senate floor.

Just prior to the vote, in the Senate chamber, Astle had received a standing ovation from his Senate colleagues in honor of his 74th birthday.

While the senators had blocked an elected board in past years, there were still several hurdles. The major one was getting the bill out of the Senate Education Health and Environmental (EHE) Affairs Committee, where chair Joan Carter Conway is leery of all-elected boards because of their potential lack of racial diversity. She was the only member of the EHE to vote against the bill.

It still had to come to the Senate floor, where Simonaire placed a minor amendment on it, meaning it had to go back to the House again for approval.

There is no reason to believe that Gov. Larry Hogan will not sign the bill, finally giving voters a direct say in the governing body that spends almost half of local tax dollars.

 

Astle for Mayor

Three days after the session ended, Astle made it official, filing as a Democratic candidate for mayor of the city of Annapolis. If successful in the primary, he will face current Republican Mayor Michael Pantelides, 33, who filed for reelection a week later.
It is a bit of an odd decision for a man who has spent 34 years in the legislature after an earlier career as a Marine and a helicopter pilot. Annapolis is a historic, old town of 39,000 residents with lots of historic, old problems that are the root of frequent battles between the mayor and the alderman, as it delivers all the municipal services of a much larger town.

Astle explained it this way: “I’m running for mayor to bring new leadership to our town; leadership that is inclusive of its citizens and gets results for our residents and businesses. Our city is drifting, and we deserve better and stronger leadership.”
“The mayor’s continued attacks on members of Annapolis City Council are dysfunctional, and because of this, no one is working together to take the city in new and innovative directions. His staff is a revolving door. We are paying the price of this bickering and unsettling approach. I will lead the change to address the growing needs of our city.”

Pantelides, who defeated Democratic incumbent Josh Cohen by a thin 59-vote margin, has a different take on his tenure.
“Our community faced a $7.3 million budget deficit; rising taxes, overdevelopment projects and other threats were made to our quality of life. I stood up to the outside interests on behalf of all Annapolitans.”

“We eliminated the deficit by passing three on-time and balanced budgets without raising the real property tax rate,” Pantelides said.

 

Grant for Shelter

“I don’t think people understand how tremendously important it is to have the speaker of the House in our delegation,” said Del. Pam Beidle, chair of the county delegation, speaking at the YWCA in Arnold.

Beidle, County Executive Steve Schuh and House Speaker Michael Busch were on hand to announce a $150,000 county capital grant for an upgraded domestic violence shelter. State legislators had come up with another $400,000 this year for the shelter.

The 7,000-square-foot shelter, which is designed to look like a large house, will provide rooms and efficiency apartments for up to 32 women and children, doubling the capacity of the current shelter. Construction is expected to start in October.

“Without his support, nothing could happen,” Republican Schuh said of the Democratic speaker, known for bringing home the bacon for his own legislative district that includes Annapolis and Arnold.

Busch said that over the years, he has been able to obtain $1.8 million in state funds for the $6 million project, which includes a training and education center and separate shelter for eight to 10 victims of sex trafficking.

Beidle had sponsored a separate bond bill for $1 million for the project. Busch also personally had sponsored six bond bills for his district totaling $3 million. On the surface, all these individual bond bills were rejected by the House Appropriations Committee. There is a very small pie for locally sponsored capital projects.
But through the magic of the speaker’s office, every one of the projects got funded in the consolidated capital budget, $1.089 billion in new debt. The legislature added $76 million more than Gov. Hogan had proposed. It is the only part of the state budget that the legislators can increase, which they do most years.

That included another $1 million for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the former Annapolis High School, that is one of the speaker’s favorite projects. There is also another $750,000 in a matching grant to the Maryland Hall.

Hogan can veto specific items in the capital budget. Two years ago, in a spat with the speaker, he did just that when Busch managed to get another $1 million added for the Maryland Hall, on top of the $1 million Hogan had already put in the capital budget. The legislature overrode Hogan’s veto of that item.
This year, Hogan chose to allow the capital budget to go into law without his signature and without any line-item vetoes.

Busch also got $200,000 each for two parks in his district, Bestgate and Hot Sox, that includes ball fields and dugouts. There is also $500,000 for a Cyber Center of Education and Innovation at the National Cryptologic Museum, next to NSA.

County Exec Submits 2018 Budget Proposal

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman (R) presented his $1.1 billion fiscal 2018 General Fund Operating Budget to the County Council on April 19.

The proposed budget for all funds totals $1.58 billion, a 5.6% increase over last year’s budget. Excluding PAYGO (Pay As You Go fee) for one-time expenses, the General Fund budget represents an increase of $39.2 million, or 3.7%, over Fiscal 2017.
“This budget will allow us to effectively deliver quality services while holding the line on taxes and incorporating a fiscally prudent approach,” Kittleman said.

The fiscal 2018 operating budget provides $572 million to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), $10 million more than last year’s figure and $2.3 million above the required maintenance of effort level.

Other highlights include nearly $67 million for debt service payments for school system capital projects and the county’s OPEB contribution for school system retiree benefits; $34 million for Howard Community College; $20.3 million for the county’s library system; and $500,000 for the new 24/7 Education Initiative for programs targeting achievement disparities, mental health services for children, summer food access and the hiring of a human services specialist to support the initiative, grants management and program development.

According to Howard County Budget Director Holly Sun, revenue projections indicate moderate growth of about 3.7%. “The administration directed departments to treat [their requests] as a maintenance level budget,” she said.

 

School System Response

In a statement released in response to the budget proposal, HCPSS Superintendent Renee Foose said budgeted school funding is $53.9 million less than the amount requested by the Board of Education.

“[HCPSS] will provide the best educational program possible given the funding provided,” she said, but suggested consequences tied to increased enrollment in the 2017–18 school year the reduction may necessitate.

The school system anticipates needing to make cuts of $32.4 million in funding for employee health insurance, pensions and other fixed charges; $8.9 million for operations and building maintenance; $7.8 million for textbooks and other instructional supplies; $1.7 million for pupil transportation; and $3.1 million in other support, she said.

In addition, Foose said, these cuts would require staffing reductions in custodial, grounds, office and other areas.
“The school system understands the budgetary pressures affecting the county government and hopes to collaborate with county leaders to support our most important budget priorities,” she said.

The county council’s public hearing on the operating budget was scheduled for May 2.

 

Zoning Changes

New legislation presented to the council in April included a request to permit mobile phone service providers to install small cell antennas on streetlight poles in public rights of way to keep up with the growing public demand for high-speed data services.
Tara Harris, regional director of external and legislative affairs for AT&T, said the mobile carrier and its competitors would like to see the request expanded to include traffic signals and structures for signage as well.

“As streaming video continues to become more prominent and new apps and services are introduced, this growth in data use will continue to rise,” she said.

According to Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Jim Irvin, the accommodation will require the replacement of BGE stock poles with new streetlight poles that are slightly larger in diameter.

Councilmember Mary Kay Sigaty (D-Dist. 4) recommended that the proposed legislation ensure that replacement poles will adhere to set design guidelines.

The council is also considering legislation to eliminate the Business Rural Crossroads (BRX) zoning provision.

“It was an unwanted, unneeded, poorly written measure laced with unintended consequences,” said Greater Highlands Crossroads Association Vice President Dan O’Leary, who testified in favor of the legislation at the council’s public hearing in April.
Another zoning change before the council would amend regulations to add instructional school use to the R-20 zoning district.

According to Tom Coale, attorney for Olenka School of Music Founder Olenka Stasyshyn, the legislation is limited to music, martial arts, yoga and meditation practices. “It’s intended for districts or parcels that do not have a good residential use, but are in residential zones,” Coale said, arguing that instructional schools are being priced out of commercial districts.

Community advocacy groups are opposed to the change. “What is the compelling need?” asked Stuart Kohn, president of the Howard County Citizens Association. He requested that the council deflect any zoning regulation amendments until the Department of Planning and Zoning completes its ongoing assessment process and comprehensive update of zoning regulations.

The council did, however, hear support for a zoning change that would add Cottage Food Business to the permitted home occupation uses and allow non-hazardous foods to be produced in homes and sold at farmers markets.

“It helps farmers,” said Keith Ohlinger of Woodbine. “We can sell our products to these folks so they can do value-added [processing].”

Debbie Goodman, a prospective Woodbine entrepreneur, said the change would allow her and a business partner to launch a small bakery business that will rely entirely on local produce and farm products.

“Being able to utilize my kitchen keeps my overhead down, gives me flexibility to stay at home with my kids and start the business,” Goodman said, adding that it would cost approximately $20,000 annually to rent a commercial kitchen 16 hours a week. “Under the cottage law, I can definitely do it for much less.”

 

Campaign Finance

A proposed voluntary citizen’s election fund system that would be taken to referendum in November drew overwhelming support from citizens testifying during the April public hearing. The incentive program provides matching funds for small donations to candidates who do not accept large or corporate donations.
“The amount of money your family has shouldn’t dictate the volume of your voice in our elections,” said Emily Scarr, director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and environmental advocacy group.

Linda Wengel, speaking on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Howard County, characterized public funding as a step toward achieving several of the League’s goals of enhancing political equality and enabling candidates to compete equitably for public office.

Ellicott City resident Bernard Noppinger, however, said he opposes the bill. “I consider it unconstitutional to take [someone’s] taxpayer money and to approve it for another person to run for office to represent me,” he said.

Grace Kubofcik, also of Ellicott City, said she was optimistic that the measure could help turn around a decline in voter interest during primary elections that has occurred during the past 20 years in Maryland.

“I appreciate the provision that allows non-principled party candidates to participate in this process,” she said.

Anne Arundel Gets Elected School Board Next Year

The years of internal wrangling by Anne Arundel County lawmakers about how to select a school board came down to the final hours of the legislative session. The House, for a second time this past session, unanimously approved a fully-elected board, agreeing to a minor Senate amendment.

Beginning next year, Anne Arundel County voters will choose seven members of the school board by county council district in a nonpartisan race at the general election. There will also be a student member with full voting rights.

The logjam broke as last month’s issue of The Business Monthly literally was being sent to the printer. That morning, the county delegates had rejected the senator’s proposal for a hybrid board, with some elected and some appointed members.

Standing in their usual meeting spot just outside the Senate chamber in the State House lobby, Sen. John Astle told the five Anne Arundel senators — three Democrats and two Republicans — that after the delegates rejected their hybrid version, if they didn’t approve the House bill for a fully elected board, “we’re going to wind up with nothing.”

Astle, the Annapolis Democrat who chairs the Senate delegation, had softened his opposition this year, perhaps reflecting his announced intention to run for mayor of the capital city after serving 34 years in the legislature.

“We’ve got seven days left; it’s not a lot of time,” he said. “We’ve got to get it done.”

Sens. Astle, Jim Rosapepe, Ed Reilly and Bryan Simonaire all voted for a fully-elected board, approving the House bill without amendment. Sen. Ed DeGrange cast the only no vote in the delegation and on the Senate floor.

Just prior to the vote, in the Senate chamber, Astle had received a standing ovation from his Senate colleagues in honor of his 74th birthday.

While the senators had blocked an elected board in past years, there were still several hurdles. The major one was getting the bill out of the Senate Education Health and Environmental (EHE) Affairs Committee, where chair Joan Carter Conway is leery of all-elected boards because of their potential lack of racial diversity. She was the only member of the EHE to vote against the bill.

It still had to come to the Senate floor, where Simonaire placed a minor amendment on it, meaning it had to go back to the House again for approval.

There is no reason to believe that Gov. Larry Hogan will not sign the bill, finally giving voters a direct say in the governing body that spends almost half of local tax dollars.

 

Astle for Mayor

Three days after the session ended, Astle made it official, filing as a Democratic candidate for mayor of the city of Annapolis. If successful in the primary, he will face current Republican Mayor Michael Pantelides, 33, who filed for reelection a week later.
It is a bit of an odd decision for a man who has spent 34 years in the legislature after an earlier career as a Marine and a helicopter pilot. Annapolis is a historic, old town of 39,000 residents with lots of historic, old problems that are the root of frequent battles between the mayor and the alderman, as it delivers all the municipal services of a much larger town.

Astle explained it this way: “I’m running for mayor to bring new leadership to our town; leadership that is inclusive of its citizens and gets results for our residents and businesses. Our city is drifting, and we deserve better and stronger leadership.”
“The mayor’s continued attacks on members of Annapolis City Council are dysfunctional, and because of this, no one is working together to take the city in new and innovative directions. His staff is a revolving door. We are paying the price of this bickering and unsettling approach. I will lead the change to address the growing needs of our city.”

Pantelides, who defeated Democratic incumbent Josh Cohen by a thin 59-vote margin, has a different take on his tenure.
“Our community faced a $7.3 million budget deficit; rising taxes, overdevelopment projects and other threats were made to our quality of life. I stood up to the outside interests on behalf of all Annapolitans.”

“We eliminated the deficit by passing three on-time and balanced budgets without raising the real property tax rate,” Pantelides said.

Grant for Shelter
“I don’t think people understand how tremendously important it is to have the speaker of the House in our delegation,” said Del. Pam Beidle, chair of the county delegation, speaking at the YWCA in Arnold.

Beidle, County Executive Steve Schuh and House Speaker Michael Busch were on hand to announce a $150,000 county capital grant for an upgraded domestic violence shelter. State legislators had come up with another $400,000 this year for the shelter.

The 7,000-square-foot shelter, which is designed to look like a large house, will provide rooms and efficiency apartments for up to 32 women and children, doubling the capacity of the current shelter. Construction is expected to start in October.

“Without his support, nothing could happen,” Republican Schuh said of the Democratic speaker, known for bringing home the bacon for his own legislative district that includes Annapolis and Arnold.

Busch said that over the years, he has been able to obtain $1.8 million in state funds for the $6 million project, which includes a training and education center and separate shelter for eight to 10 victims of sex trafficking.

Beidle had sponsored a separate bond bill for $1 million for the project. Busch also personally had sponsored six bond bills for his district totaling $3 million. On the surface, all these individual bond bills were rejected by the House Appropriations Committee. There is a very small pie for locally sponsored capital projects.
But through the magic of the speaker’s office, every one of the projects got funded in the consolidated capital budget, $1.089 billion in new debt. The legislature added $76 million more than Gov. Hogan had proposed. It is the only part of the state budget that the legislators can increase, which they do most years.

That included another $1 million for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the former Annapolis High School, that is one of the speaker’s favorite projects. There is also another $750,000 in a matching grant to the Maryland Hall.

Hogan can veto specific items in the capital budget. Two years ago, in a spat with the speaker, he did just that when Busch managed to get another $1 million added for the Maryland Hall, on top of the $1 million Hogan had already put in the capital budget. The legislature overrode Hogan’s veto of that item.
This year, Hogan chose to allow the capital budget to go into law without his signature and without any line-item vetoes.

Busch also got $200,000 each for two parks in his district, Bestgate and Hot Sox, that includes ball fields and dugouts. There is also $500,000 for a Cyber Center of Education and Innovation at the National Cryptologic Museum, next to NSA.

What the Government Wants, What It Really, Really Wants

According to USASpending.gov, the government spent $472,158,562,285 last year through contracting for services and products with companies large and small nationwide. This was a $34 billion increase from the previous year, and 2017 is anticipating another increase, especially in Department of Defense spending.

To dive deeper, Maryland was the place of performance for $29,744,228,534 in contract awards during fiscal 2016, with subcontract awardees receiving an additional $3,603,994,381 in the state. None of the noted totals include entitlements, grants or non-contract obligations.

The real questions that are within most contracts concern what the government really wants, and how does it decide on who wins what contract?

Follow the Rules

As an initial requirement, most government agencies must follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) or, in the case of the Department of Defense, the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFAR). These extensive legal rules are available online for anyone who is interested in learning about them, as they become part of every federal contract as stated in the contract paperwork.

Some agencies, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of the Treasury, may have their own rules and regulations outside of FAR and DFAR. It is wise to educate oneself regarding targeted agencies’ contracting rules.

Many contractors think that lowest price is always the next deciding factor. While the federal government is mandated to spend our tax dollars wisely, lowest price does not always win. Most often, the decision-makers are looking for the best deal. Often, the best deal includes a very competitive price, balanced with several other factors, such as proof of abilities, clear capacity to perform and strong references.
The challenge for all contractors is how to avoid the “chasing the bid” mentality and instead determine how to identify and reach decision makers early enough in the purchase process to effectively and legally influence and educate those decision-makers in the best way to write the requirements.

The answer to this conundrum is taken directly from a government source, the United States Air Force, in its industry outreach process. Other government entities have been proven to follow similar, if not exactly alike, guidelines. The Air Force states that these five processes must be incorporated into any company’s business development tactics: Market Research, Business and Financial Plan, Network, Communication & Relationships, Past Performance and Continuous Marketing.

 

Be Consistent

Market research seems to be obvious, but it is surprising how many businesses fail to complete this first requirement. Instead, they wait until they meet with the target and, at that point, ask them for opportunity recommendations. This is a huge mistake and will result in the decision-maker closing the door on future opportunities.

One would be better served checking FBO.gov for sources sought notices, solicitations and records of previously-awarded contracts through the Federal Procurement Data System, as well as the target agency’s business forecast and budget.

The business and financial plan is a mystery to most businesses regarding federal contracting. In this case, the decision-maker is not asking the contractor for its entire business plan, but rather what the plan is to finance the targeted opportunity, should it be awarded. This little-known step will go a long way in mitigating perceived risk for businesses of all sizes, especially for any business that may be pursuing opportunities that are larger than it won in the past.

Elements to include in the opportunity financial plan include projections of anticipated contract-oriented costs (payroll, overhead, products, legal, accounting, subcontracting, etc.), the timeline of those costs, anticipated invoicing and payment dates, and a letter from a bank or other financial institution stating that a line of credit is available to finance at least the first two billing cycles, until payment is received.

When the Air Force states that it wants a contractor to network, communicate and build relationships, it means that no matter what it takes, one should network by attending all possible in-person events, communicate regarding sources sought notices, participate in industry days for specific opportunities and make recommendations to improve services and products used by the agency.

By being consistent in these efforts, the contractor will benefit by building a strong relationship with all decision-makers. This is difficult to do and requires a commitment of time, effort and money. One must determine the short list of targets with whom to make this financial and time commitment, as it is impossible to perform this level of effort for every possible federal target.

Vary Messages

The fourth element, Past Performance, is a legal term as defined in FAR Part 42.15 Contractor Performance Information. Essentially FAR states that “past performance information (including the ratings and supporting narratives) is relevant information, for future source selection purposes, regarding a contractor’s actions under previously awarded contracts or orders.”

It includes, for example, the contractor’s record of the following seven elements.
• Conforming to requirements and to standards of good workmanship;
• Forecasting and controlling costs;
• Adherence to schedules, including the administrative aspects of performance;
• Reasonable and cooperative behavior and commitment to customer satisfaction;
• Reporting into databases (see subpart 4.14, and reporting requirements in the solicitation provisions and clauses referenced in 9.104-7);
• Integrity and business ethics; and
• Business-like concern for the interest of the customer.
Most losing bids do not address these seven elements of past performance and instead serve only as a record of describing projects similar to the targeted opportunity. Winning contractors take into account and describe at least all seven elements and further offer proof of differentiators and the value add for the project.

The final recommendation of continuous marketing is lost on most contractors. This marketing, when successful, targets all decision-makers and incorporates both a corporate messaging process performed throughout the year, as well as an ongoing individual effort of the business development or capture person assigned to that target. Rarely do companies perform both processes simultaneously. And it is even rarer that this is done well, with appropriate messages crafted for each layer of decision-maker. This translates to different messaging for the program layer, other messaging for the contracting layer and yet different messaging for the small business representatives.

To see success, listen to the customer and give it what it wanted — what it really, really wants — and even outright asks for.

 

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

Tread Carefully When Considering Opportunities to Subsidize Income

It takes time to build a solid reputation, and to earn the trust and respect of your peers, co-workers, clients and an organization’s leadership. The fruit of your labor is your personal brand. It’s something to be polished and protected from tarnish.

With the ability to reach out to dozens, or even hundreds or sometimes thousands, of people at a time through email and social media, you probably know a few people who supplement their primary income by selling something. Have you gotten invitations to parties selling jewelry, gadgets or health supplements? Facebook groups for “pop-up shops” are another method used by some sellers.

Many of these businesses utilize the multi-level marketing model — people make money through their own sales, as well as the sales of people who they recruit to their sales teams.

Multi-level marketing is legal, but there’s a fine line between these businesses and illegal pyramid (or “Ponzi”) schemes. The main difference is that with multi-level marketing, your income is based on actual product sales; with a pyramid scheme, your income is based on your efforts to recruit other distributors. A Ponzi scheme is similar to a pyramid scheme, but focuses on fake investment opportunities, instead of sales.

Make sure you do your research before joining a multi-level marketing business. Ask yourself if anything about the business or your role could damage your professional reputation. If the answer is “no,” double-check your primary employer’s policies, including conflict of interest and possible disclosure requirements, before taking the plunge.

Here are some additional issues to consider.

• What will you be selling? Find out what you will be selling and compare prices and quality with other products. Make sure that any marketing materials you will be using are truthful and there is evidence to support positive claims about the products.
• Learn about the company. Look into the company’s track record and reputation, and check for a business review and complaints at www.bbb.org. Do an Internet search with the name of the company and words like “scam” or “complaint.” You can also search for news articles related to the company.

• Understand the plan. Make sure you are clear on all terms and conditions of the plan, including pay and expenses. Remember that, as you recruit other distributors, you are responsible for any claims you make about how much money they can earn, so be sure any claims are backed up with evidence. Get all information in writing.

• Ask for the name and contact information of someone at the company who can answer your questions. Ask the person things like, “How many people are on your team?” “How long have you been in the business?” “How much money did you make last year?” “How much product did you sell to customers and how much to distributors?”

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.

Do I Have To?

It’s cold in Wisconsin, especially in the part that’s close to Lake Michigan. Anyone who has felt the wind whip off the lake in winter knows why the Chicago nickname for it is, “The Hawk”; it’ll cut through you and leave you gasping. It may freeze some brain cells, too.

That’s the only reason I can see for the response of Wisconsin congressman Jim Sensenbrenner to a complaint at his town hall meeting about his vote to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell your browsing history. What the bill actually does is roll back rules by the Federal Communications Commission that would require you to “opt in” to having your web and app usage history “available” (i.e., sold) to advertisers.

Knowing exactly how many of us would consent to that, lobbyists from the ISPs (who are paid to be relentless) have pushed against it since it was proposed, and have used the change in administration to push back in Congress. So now, Comcast, AT&T and all the others can sell an incredible amount of information about you to the highest bidder; and you can bet they will, right after they mine it for themselves.

The questioner had pointed out the difference between Google, something they could choose to use or not, and their ISP, which was their only high-speed choice in that district. Rep. Sensenbrenner’s response was, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet.” His press office followed up on this statement, saying that this was not a misquote (it would be hard for it to have been, since there is video of the exchange) or a misunderstanding, but his actual position: “They have a choice.”

Well, I guess they do. The Amish have a choice, too, and have made it, and they survive just fine, thank you, with horses and oil lamps. But what about the rest of us? Do we have a choice, if we want our businesses or households to survive or thrive?
Did you get an email recently from Social Security telling you to check on last year’s data to make sure it was accurate? Exactly how were you to do that? Online, of course. Hey, did you get any emails at all?

How would your business run without email? Are you willing to go back to writing letters? Not hardly.

How about online access to websites that you use every day? Insurance agents check your driving record as they speak to you about switching plans. Your investment adviser asks you to check out a new retirement option for your employees. You want to check out a news article on something affecting your business or news that your competitor is going belly-up. Do you want to wait for tomorrow’s paper or your monthly trade magazine and hope they cover it?

How many bills do you get each month that ask you to switch to online billing? Just about every one. The pitch is to be green, or to be secure (ha) for convenience, but we all know they want to change from printing and mailing costs to free Internet.
Oh, and do you pay online? Or check that your paycheck has been direct-deposited?

I could go on and on (and I plan to), but the drift is clear. The idea that “Nobody’s got to use the Internet” is as out-of-touch as an Amish horse-drawn plow in a world of GPS-guided tractors.
Did you e-file your taxes? Get an email from your child’s teacher on scheduling a conference concerning his habit of shredding his homework assignments? Have you applied for a new job lately? Or ordered birthday presents on Amazon? And don’t even think about how e-commerce has changed retail and driven some retailers to close, period.

OK, I’ll stop now. Maybe this yo-yo from Wisconsin should try running his next reelection campaign without the Internet and see how he does. That would only be fair.

 

More Branding

So, Verizon has been busy buying old companies (good to know that my monthly payments are going somewhere), such as AOL and most of Yahoo. One of the first results of this has been the switch of its email platform from a reasonably coherent one to AOL. You can still use your Verizon.net address, but you email reader is the AOL one. Not an improvement.

Anyway, the merger of AOL and Yahoo will produce a new company called Oath. The resultant jokes have not been kind: “Overpriced And Typically Horrible” and the company hashtag of #TakeTheOath has led to comparisons of secret handshakes and cult meetings at midnight.

Has it forgotten one of the dictionary definitions? “An irreverent or careless use of a sacred name; broadly: swear word — “He uttered an oath and stormed away.”
That seems right to me.

Very Pretty
It’ll be too late for this year by the time you read this, but put down as a must-see for next spring a visit to Sherwood Gardens, in the Guilford section of Baltimore City. You’ll see 18,000 tulips in a most wonderful pocket park. They usually peak around Easter.

Take a picnic with you and be amazed. It’ll make you forget all about oaths.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval — when not trying to come up with sarcastic acronyms for silly corporate names. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.

From the Desk of CA President: Milton Matthews

I learned about the communities of Columbia and Reston, Va., long before I ever had the fortune of working on behalf of them. These famed planned communities were spotlighted during my studies at The Ohio State University, where I was working at the time toward my master’s degree in city and regional planning.
I was fascinated by their respective founders, Jim Rouse and Robert Simon. I was quite fortunate to meet and speak regularly with Simon from the moment I first arrived in 2004 as the CEO of Reston Association, and even after I came to Howard County in 2014 as the president/CEO of Columbia Association (CA). He passed away two years ago at the age of 101.

Rouse died in 1996. I’m glad that he was able to see (and live for nearly three decades in) the groundbreaking community he and his team envisioned. I never got to meet Rouse, but if we were able to speak today, I believe we would talk about how many aspects of his original vision for Columbia are at the “core” of the community 50 years later, and how plans already are being implemented that will see Columbia continue as a “model community” for the next 50 years.

Columbia remains a community tied to Rouse’s four planning principles: to build a complete city, to respect the land, to provide for the growth of people and to make a profit.

Those values remain cornerstones, even as Columbia undergoes significant changes for the better. Columbia is evolving. The kind of vibrant urban core that Rouse had hoped for — at least until a recession hit in the 1970s — is now in the process of being built. I think there is tremendous potential for Columbia. We are situated right between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I see both of those areas continuing to grow. And, benefiting from location and many other attributes, Columbia will continue to grow along with them.
I’m still optimistic about Columbia’s Village Centers, as well. Every community must reinvent itself; plans and visions sometimes need to be adjusted for the circumstances on the ground; in other words, reality. After all, what got you to the top is not going to keep you at the top.

The concept for the Village Centers in the 1960s and 1970s must evolve to deal with increasing competition and changes in the way people shop and get around. We see evolution — an incorporation of nearby residential units — in Wilde Lake, and a similar idea is being explored in Hickory Ridge.

CA and our many other community stakeholders remain invested in following Rouse’s four core principles as we continue to serve Columbia, now and into the future. There are new challenges to tackle, as well as new ideas to undertake.

At 50 years, Columbia is just getting started as a community. So, over time, there will be more to the story of Columbia for those students who will read and learn about how Columbia became, and evolved to remain, one of the best places to live, work and play.

 

E-mail Milton.Matthews@ColumbiaAssociation.org with questions and/or comments.

Chamber Corner: Howard County Chamber of Commerce

Paid Leave Passes
Despite the best efforts of many concerned parties, the General Assembly of Maryland passed paid leave legislation that requires companies with 15 or more workers to offer 40 hours of annual paid sick leave. Part-time employees working only 12 hours a week would also accrue paid sick leave under the mandate.
Gov. Larry Hogan is expected (at press time) to veto the bill, meaning that it likely will be taken up by the legislature as one of its first orders of business in 2018. The bill passed the House of Delegates, 87-53, and the State Senate, 29-18, by a veto-proof majority.
The bill originally had offered seven sick days. Any business that currently offers five days of flexible paid leave, whether vacation or sick, complies with the bill.

Annual Meeting Set for May 18
The Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) 48th annual meeting will be held on Thursday, May 18, at Turf Valley Resort, Ellicott City. The luncheon meeting, which begins at 11 a.m., will honor the chamber’s outstanding volunteers and celebrate a year of accomplishments.
In addition, members will be asked to ratify the new slate for the board of directors and vote for entrepreneur prize-winners.

June 7: The Cyber Conference
Join the HCCC for its eighth annual cyberconference, where it will explore innovation, funding and growth. Participants can expect discussions from cyberinnovators and entrepreneurs, from leading venture capitalists and financiers, and from government agencies who look to the industry base for technologies and solutions.
There will be two separate tracks, ensuring there is something for everyone, from the startup to the seasoned CEO to the everyday cyberpractitioner. Regardless of whether you are growing a cyberindustry business or a company that needs to know more about how to manage cyberthreats in organizations, there will be something that is pertinent to you and your business.
Subject matter will include the following topics.
• Funding growth and mergers & acquisitions
• Role of government and academia in innovation
• Threat assessment, prevention and remediation
• Security of health data
Details are available at www.cyberhoward.com.

An Italian Getaway
This year, don’t miss a unique Italian experience in October as the HCCC goes to Italy. The nine-day trip will include stops at the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Rome, and is scheduled for Oct. 23–31 — a perfect time of year to visit the Italian coast.
The Italian getaway is open to all who are interested in the trip, but HCCC members receive a discounted price: The cost is $3,099 for chamber members and $3,299 for non-chamber members.
The purchase price includes round-trip airfare; airline fuel surcharges, taxes and fees; seven nights in a first-class hotel; 10 meals (seven breakfasts and three dinners); sightseeing and admissions, per itinerary; the services of a professional tour manager; baggage handling; and hotel transfers.
For more information about the HCCC-sponsored trip in October, visit www.howardchamber.com or call 410-730-4111.

Interactive Directory
Want to learn more about members of the HCCC? View the 2017 Howard County Chamber of Commerce interactive membership directors, which is found at www.howardchamber.com under “About the Chamber.”
Discover Howard County, connect with the HCCC, its members and much more.

Chamber Corner: Central Maryland Chamber

With spring in full bloom, the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) is growing. A warm welcome for our newest members. They include the following.
Alexan Concorde
B&R Construction Services
CMIT Solutions of Columbia
Davis & Davis
Epoch Inc.
Howard Tech Advisors
Law Office of Steven J. Lewicky
Mediabilities
New Penn Financial
On the Move Marketing
Promotionalogix Marketing Company
Rebuilding Together Anne Arundel County
TeamLogic IT of Ellicott City and BWI
The Bob & Ronna Group
Wellness by Shari

Regional Marketing Op
The new 2017–18 CMCC member directory and business guide will be published this summer, with 3,000 copies to be distributed around the region. A digital edition of the guide also will be posted on the chamber website, providing an even further reach to customers.
Promote your business in the directory by purchasing ad space. For information, contact Susan Dumont at 443-909-7829.

Running an Effective Meeting
Wednesday, May 3, 8:30–10 a.m.
Don’t sit through any more boring meetings. Learn key strategies to guarantee your next meeting has focus, purpose and direction. Meet presenter Lisa Sterns, owner of Ms. Biz; she’s a professional development and leadership coach.

Networking Mixer
Tuesday, May 9, 5–7 p.m.
Join us at A Better You, 1114 Town Center Boulevard, Suite G, Odenton, for a fun and productive evening of networking. A Better You caters to your beauty, wellness and medical needs. Register in advance so our host can prepare adequately. Free to members; $10 for non-members.

Membership 101
Thursday, May 18, 9–10:30 a.m.
Learn how to effectively access and use the unique benefits of chamber membership to grow your business. This program also teaches valuable networking skills, highlights free resources for finding new prospects and offers connections. Open to all. Free admission. Reservations required.

Central Maryland Classic
Friday, May 19
Attention golfers: Join us on May 19, at Walden Country Club in Crofton, for a day of golf and networking. Sponsorship packages that offer prime visibility are still available. Gather your foursome, and join us for a great day.

Sales Training:
The Buyer-Seller Dance
Wednesday, June 7, 8:30–10 a.m.
Want more business? Merely showing up at a client meeting and placing yourself in the arms of your prospect is not enough. Join us to learn from David Wendkos, with Maryland Sales Training & Management Development, a Certified Sandler Training licensee, how to adopt a newer, more effective selling system.
To register for events, visit www.westcountychamber.org/events.

Recreation and the Role of the Columbia Association

 

Three-and-a-half-year-old Rachel Lazarick jumped into the pool at the mini-meet in the summer of 1987. Despite swallowing some water, she managed to swim the 25 yards to the other end. The Owen Brown swim team coach had suggested that the young swimmer, who was taking lessons, could manage the distance. Her 7-year-old sister was already on the Barracuda team.

For the next decade or so, our family’s Saturday mornings in June and July were consumed by meets of the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League. Wife Maureen Kelley would serve as clerk of the course, handing the kids those fateful cards listing their events, as well as the team manager. I would be first a timer and then, after some training, a stroke-and-turn judge. It takes about 20 to 30 adult volunteers to run your average swim meet.

As our daughters became year-round competitive swimmers in the Columbia Clippers — one of the largest USA Swimming teams in the region — there was taxiing them to daily practices, including, as they grew older, the dreaded early morning ones. There were the regional meets across Maryland and even into Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Thousands of parents and their children in Columbia have followed a similar path over the years, a tiny fraction of the population, but more than in most places due to the almost unheard-of number of pools in Columbia.

My two daughters became not just competitive swimmers but lifeguards, pool managers and coaches. Rachel went on to captain the Salisbury University swim team, and Sarai has continued to work in Columbia Association (CA) aquatics for many years, as a lifeguard trainer and auditor among other roles. It all started at the Dasher Green pool, a 10-minute walk from each of our two homes over the last 39 years.

In the Swim

Columbia has 23 outdoor pools and four indoor pools. A professional study in 2001 found Columbia has about four times as many public pools as any city of its size — though it also found that Columbians patronize their neighborhood pools about five times as much as elsewhere. By comparison, Washington, D.C., six times the size of Columbia, has 36 public pools.

Each of the 10 villages, except for Town Center, an anomaly in most things, has at least one CA pool, and most of the neighborhoods of the first seven villages have a pool.

A pool was one of the key elements of the neighborhood concept by Columbia’s planners, the essential building block of Columbia villages. As originally conceived, the neighborhood was a walkable community with an elementary school, a convenience store, a neighborhood center and a pool at its core.

As we found in Part 6 on education, as the school board balanced county-wide interests with the school-age population, not every village would get a high school, and not every neighborhood would get an elementary school. Just a handful of the convenience stores survive, but supported by Columbia Association and its annual charge, none of the 23 pools that opened over the years have ever been closed, even the one or two that have as many visitors as staff on some summer days.
No, the pools are the “center of life within Columbia,” one resident told the CA board, reacting to the consultant’s report recommending that one or two pools be put to a different use. What a blow to the community it would be if they closed one of those pools, a CA board member would say.

Private Governance

Keeping a sports facility open that runs consistently at a big loss may seem like a poor financial decision. Yet it is completely consistent with the original philosophy behind the Columbia Park and Recreation Association. (It is not “Parks” in official documents, although that was common usage.) As Columbia got started, every one of the amenities and facilities ran at a loss, not to mention the debt it took to build them.

As discussed in Part 5 on politics, Columbia Association, as CPRA quickly came to be known, was a compromise over the other forms of governance that were considered. (The name officially changed in 1991.)

Remember the context. Howard County was still largely rural with a few suburban developments as Columbia planning began in 1964. The county had few urban services or public amenities. It did not have its own Recreation and Parks Department until 1969, begun that year with three people.
Jim Rouse and his firm were committed to a “garden for growing people” and building a city, not just a better suburb. They wanted to provide as many urban amenities as possible, with no added financial burden on the county government.
All the governmental forms the planners looked at — a municipality, a town, a special taxing district — couldn’t accomplish what Rouse wanted on the swiss cheese of landholdings that the company had acquired. Cities, towns and municipalities cover all the land within specific boundaries, and they can’t go into debt without the current revenues to back it up.
Rouse wanted to provide recreation and community facilities to Columbians, and he and his planning team wanted some of them to be in place as residents were moving in, leveraging the financing based on the future growth. This was called preservicing.

The developer also wanted to do this without putting an immediate burden on the residents by raising the cost of land to the builders, who would simply jack up housing prices. The Rouse Co. subsidiary, Howard Research and Development (HRD), also didn’t want to increase the company’s own already sizable debt due to acquiring the land, planning and building the streets, landscaping and utilities.

The Rouse Co. also wanted to maintain control of CA during the most intense development period, something it also could not do with a governmental unit run by officials chosen by the citizens. At the start, the board of directors of CA was made up entirely of Rouse Co. executives, including Jim Rouse himself. According to the charter, for every 4,000 occupied housing units, a resident representative would be added. Zeke Orlinsky, publisher of the Columbia Flier who lived then in The Cove on Wilde Lake, was the first.

Perpetual Covenants

The solution to those competing goals was the Columbia Park and Recreation Association. Current CA President Milton Matthews pointed out that Columbia Association is actually older than the official start date of Columbia, having been established in 1965, a year and a half before the new town welcomed its first residents.
As the Rouse Co. began selling land to builders or putting up apartments, stores and offices itself, it established perpetual covenants on the land. Every time land and buildings change hands in Columbia, those covenants are attached in perpetuity. With the covenants comes the lien, essentially a property tax on all residential and commercial land based on its assessment. The covenants also establish permanent architectural controls over what buildings should look like and how they can be changed.
As with most Rouse Co. planning, the role of CA, the preservicing of facilities and the architectural controls had multiple purposes. It made the community more attractive and more conducive to personal and community growth. But it also increased the value of the land that was to be sold, then and in the future. CA was a vehicle to implement social purposes, but it was also a marketing tool and a boost to the bottom line.

Jim Rouse’s 1968 correspondence files show that the company paid close attention to how to explain CA to residents, going through several finely honed drafts before the brochure explaining CA was printed.

“Open space was woven throughout the city, enhancing the beauty, utility and value of homes and apartments,” it said. There was “landscaping and architectural controls far beyond those normally provided.”

“Architectural control assures construction of buildings throughout the city not in rigid conformity but in good taste and in harmony …. [They] guarantee that the standards of design and taste that you see in Columbia today can be maintained forever.”

Mounting Debt

From 1965 to 1971, essentially as an arm of the developer, CA would construct the two lakes, Wilde and Kittamaqundi; the lakefront plaza; the Wilde Lake Swim Center and tennis club; the Athletic Club in Harper’s Choice; the Ice Rink in Oakland Mills; Slayton House and community centers in those villages; the neighborhood pools and buildings; open space and pathways; and Symphony Woods. CA also operated a transit system, as it would for another 20 years, and provided day care and after-school care.
With only a few thousand residents and a smattering of commercial properties, its construction and operating debt continued to mount — all to be paid off in the distant future from the lien on the properties.

It was not until 1972 that CA got its first full-time president, Padraic (Pat) Kennedy, who would guide the association as it evolved over the next 26 years. Kennedy is tall, bright, charming, imaginative, a brilliant conversationalist, a respected manager and about as adept a politician as one could imagine juggling the competing interests in the odd governance structure that Rouse had created.

He recalled that while he was recruited by Jim Rouse himself, and would live right next door to Columbia’s founder for decades, he would actually work for a board of directors that over the years had 12 different chairpersons and 77 elected village representatives, and deal with six successive Howard County executives, along with dozens of county, state and federal representatives.

He saw the best of times — and the worst of times as well.
“Columbia’s success was not assured in those early days. Still there was a great sense of optimism,” Kennedy wrote in an essay. “Mud was everywhere. Bulldozers were busily preparing roads and carving out sites for future homes. Signs heralded ‘The Next America’ and everyone knew they were part of something special.”

Kennedy remembers his first years as “an explosion of creativity.” More facilities were built — a visual arts center, Lake Elkhorn, a petting zoo, more child care and youth employment services. Dance floors, mirrors and ballet barres were installed in community centers.

Recession

Then in 1974, the Arab oil embargo and a deep national recession slowed Columbia development to a crawl, pushing HRD to the edge of bankruptcy. “CA almost went under,” Kennedy recalled in an interview, especially as Gov. Marvin Mandel changed the property tax assessment system, reducing CA’s lien income.
CA, like the Rouse Co., was forced to cut staff and operating costs and refinance its mounting debt. “The fundamental objective of the period was getting CA through the national economic crisis,” said Kennedy. “They were difficult days for everyone.”
I joined the Columbia Flier as associate editor in 1975, and while CA was not really part of my beat, some residents pushed for state political solutions to the problems of CA and its mounting debt.
As some residents realized, there were drawbacks to the way CA was structured — some still are, like the inflexibility of a governing structure based on land covenants. The lack of resident control over what was still an arm of the developer rubbed people the wrong way.

(Only after Kennedy arrived were the meetings of the CA board and its governing executive committee opened to the press and public. When this was first proposed in 1970, Jim Rouse in a handwritten internal memo described the prospect as “very, very dangerous.” The openness and transparency of CA under Maryland’s homeowner association laws is still a matter of dispute.)

As a private entity, not a governmental unit, CA also paid market interest rates on its long-term loans and bonds, at one point as high as 8–10%. Municipal bonds or even the revenue bonds from a special taxing district could be sold at much lower rates. And the lien, which operated as a property tax, was not deductible for state and federal income tax purposes — although depending on the mortgage lender, it sometimes was lumped in as a tax on escrow accounts and deducted anyway.

After months of study and debate in 1977, there was a proposal for a special taxing district that would replace CA, but the proposal died. There was some question whether a district that basically supported amenities would qualify for a tax break.
In March 1978, I wrote a long cover story for the Columbia Flier, “Is CA going broke?” It explained the whole concept of preservicing, and talked with several bond holders and financial analysts before coming to the conclusion: “The answer is NO,” it will grow and prosper.

HRD and CA survived in a leaner fashion. And in 1982, as Columbia development picked up and its population grew to 57,000, control of CA passed entirely to the elected representatives of the villages, where it remains today.

Organized Sports

Swimming held a special place for CA, which owned most of the aquatics facilities in Howard County except for some private swim clubs. But most of the other team sports, inside Columbia and out, were played on school grounds or in school gyms.
The star of the show is the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County (SAC), which began in 1971 with a small loan from Columbia Association. Soccer was a late arrival to the sports scene in the United States, but it seemed to have a special appeal to Columbians and their children. It can be played by a wide array of athletes of different sizes and abilities and of both sexes with a minimum amount of equipment.

On Facebook, many people who grew up in Columbia remember with nostalgia the early days of Columbia soccer where neighborhood teams in different colored jerseys competed against each other.

“In the early days, Columbia Maryland was the soccer capital of America,” Laddie Wilson reminisced on Facebook last year. “I would not be too far wrong if I said high school soccer was as big here as high school football in Texas and basketball in New York City.”

“Darrell Gee and a few other locally grown soccer players starred on the U.S. national soccer team. Columbia even had a professional soccer team!”

A 1986 interviewer asked Jim Rouse what Columbia might look like in 20 years. Rouse admitted he didn’t much believe in such forecasting, but guessed that Columbia might have a soccer stadium, since “soccer will become by then a very major sport.” That did not come to pass, nor did his vision for an opera house and symphony hall.

By the 1990s, there were 6,000 kids playing soccer in Columbia and Howard County. The nonprofit SAC eventually supported a small full-time staff and built its own dedicated soccer fields off Centennial Lane, in addition to the scores of sites at schools and parks.

On Memorial Day weekend, Columbia does become sort of a soccer capital, at least for the mid-Atlantic. “Here, arguably, is the heartland of U.S. soccer,” a Sports Illustrated writer proclaimed after visiting the tournament in 1989.

There are 665 teams signed up for SAC’s 42nd annual Columbia Invitational Soccer Tournament at the end of this month. The tourney requires so many fields that teams will be playing not only throughout Howard County, but also in Olney, Owings Mills and the BWI area. Hotels are booked up far and wide.

Sportstown USA

Soccer is only one of the sports for which volunteers and participants have stepped up to develop clubs; there’s also baseball, basketball and running. And they’re not just for kids.
In 2004, Sports Illustrated dubbed Howard County a Sportstown USA, meaning it was Maryland’s best community for amateur sports. At the time, the county’s director of recreation and parks, Gary Arthur, estimated that 62,000 countians of all ages took part in 74 competitive sports run by 30 different groups, mostly led by volunteers.

The 34th annual Columbia Triathlon takes place in May. It started in 1983 with 90 people swimming, biking and running and now attracts upwards of 2,500 competitors. The first triathlon ended at the Columbia Swim Center in Wilde Lake, but now the race, one of the oldest triathlons in the U.S., begins with an almost mile-long swim in the county-owned Centennial Lake.
The Howard County Striders running club has been around for 40 years and has about 1,800 members. It hosts seven large races a year, mostly in and around Columbia on Sunday mornings, and many smaller events. On April 10, 626 runners finished the Clyde’s 10K, among them Greg Fitchitt, vice president of the Howard Hughes Corp., the company that is redeveloping downtown Columbia. Dave Tripp, former director of investor relations for the Rouse Co., was president of the group during its early years, assisted by his wife Judy Tripp, who edited The Business Monthly for 14 years.

The Columbia Neighborhood Swim League has had its ups and downs as the villages age and the number of children decline. In 2003, 16 years after my daughters began swimming in meets at the ages of 7 and 3, they were coaching competing teams: Sarai for the Thunderhill Lightning and Rachel for the Owen Brown Barracudas. At the suggestion of their father, who can recognize a good story, the Columbia Flier did a nice write-up about the pair headlined: “Sibling rivalry: Sisters ready teams for duel in the pool.”

Sarai told the reporter: “I’m coaching a team that’s swimming against a team that I coached for four years, who I swam on since I was 7, and again, I’m coaching against my sister, so it’s a big deal.”

“I’ve always wanted to do what she did,” Rachel said. “It was never about being better. It was like, ‘She’s swimming, so I’m swimming; she’s playing soccer, so I’m playing soccer; she’s having fun, so I want to have fun.”

Thunderhill won. Both daughters are now public school teachers. They began learning teaching skills as teenage coaches.

Pressure on the County

As Columbia’s population grew, though more slowly than projected, the county’s population outside Columbia was growing as well. It almost doubled in the 1970s to nearly 120,000 people — half living in Columbia — and would grow by another 70,000 people in the 1980s, increasing the demand for public parks and recreation both outside and inside Columbia. The example set by Columbia Association led Howard Countians living outside the town to ask: “What about us?”

The Howard County Recreation & Parks Department that started 48 years ago with three employees had a full- and part-time staff of 1,271 in 2016. It maintains 9,159 acres of public lands, more than 50 parks, and offers more than 7,000 recreation programs.
In many cases, the county and CA work cooperatively, such as with the 4.6-mile Patuxent Branch trail that begins below CA’s Lake Elkhorn dam and winds down to Savage. Under contract, CA also maintains many of the county-owned median strips in roadways.

Another big addition to the county’s portfolio is coming online this year with the completion of phase 2 at Blandair Park, 20 years after its owner died without a will. Elizabeth Smith had refused to sell the 300 acres that straddle Route 175 in the middle of East Columbia to the Rouse Co. or other developers, and she died without signing a will she had prepared. Phase 2 will add two more lighted synthetic-turf ballfields to the three already built at the park. A new entrance road was built off Route 175.

Few residents will know or much care about the distinction between land and facilities owned by Columbia Association, Howard County government or their school system, as long as they’re available when the residents want to use them.

Staying at the Top

The leadership at CA sees itself in partnership with the county government and residents in keeping up the attributes that led Money magazine to name Columbia the best small city to live in in America last September. Several times in the past decade the town had been in the top 10 of this annual ranking by editors of a publication based in New York City.

“The Columbia Association is in the quality-of-life business,” said Milton Matthews, president of CA since 2014.

“I’ve always been interested in Columbia” since his days in grad school for urban planning, said Matthews, who held a similar post in Reston, Va., the Robert Simon new town in Fairfax County. “I like being here at this time during the redevelopment phase as Columbia prepares itself for the next 50 years.”
Matthews said he emphasizes to CA executives that “what got you to the top is not going to leave you at the top.” This means upgrading and improving the community’s recreation and community facilities, a process that began some 30 years ago under Pat Kennedy.

“We’re very much aware that the competition is picking up for us,” said Matthews. That’s among the reasons CA developed the upscale Haven on the Lake spa on the ground floor of the former Rouse Co. headquarters that’s now home to Whole Foods.
Staying at the top also means maintaining the 3,600 acres of open space, three lakes, 40 ponds and 94 miles of pathways that are a key attraction for Columbia.

But Matthews and CA Board Chair Andy Stack, who’s been involved in the governance of the village of Owen Brown and CA for most of the 40 years he’s lived here, agree that CA also has the larger role of maintaining Jim Rouse’s vision and social goals for a racially and economically diverse community.

“The social concepts are just as valuable” as the physical structure, Matthews said.

“CA is the only organization that can keep the vision alive, and keep Columbia as a planned community for the future,” said Stack.

Maintaining the Vision

Much as the original physical planning for Columbia was designed to reinforce social goals, so CA’s role in maintaining the public amenities and physical appearances goes hand in hand with promoting Rouse’s goals.

CA has now paid off the heavy debt it accumulated in its first decades, and can focus on repairing, replacing and rehabilitating its existing facilities.

That also means enforcing the architectural covenants as the homes, apartments, stores, offices and commercial buildings age. The annual charge on the value of this real estate also provides almost half of CA’s $77 million budget. “If you don’t have redevelopment, you’re dying,” Stack said. “You want people to take care of their houses.”

And take care of their commercial buildings as well. While the village boards and CA enforce the architectural covenants on residential property, after the demise of the Rouse Co., the covenants passed on that role for the commercial property to the Howard Hughes Corp.

There’s “a great deal of interest” in taking over that covenant enforcement for Columbia’s business parks, Stack said. But CA would have to add staff and procedures to do that, as well as figure out a way to pay for it.

As owner of Symphony Woods and the Kittamaqundi lakefront, CA also has intense interest in what happens to the downtown development that will increase population and assessment. “I do think Rouse envisioned higher density” there, Stack said.
“There’s a role CA has to play according to the principles Jim Rouse laid down,” Stack said. “There’s a large focus from CA to do that.”

Next month: The final installment

Len Lazarick (Len@MarylandReporter.com) has lived and worked in Columbia as a journalist for more than 40 years. He is currently the editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com, a news website about state government and politics, and a political columnist for The Business Monthly.

Letter from the Publisher

We’re Launched

Whew! Creating a new website is no minor undertaking — I shouldn’t complain, however, since the capable young man at Millennium Marketing Solutions who created our website did the lion’s share of the work for us. But I am happy not to have to do that again for another few years (the “old” website was a dinosaur after eight years).

I am also very excited about our new look and our ability to update the news and the community calendar at any minute, so we are an even more critical news resource to the local business community.

The Business Monthly website is also another marketing opportunity for businesses in the area. We can now link videos, as well as ads, to a client’s website.

 

Yes, There Is an App for That

We are now one of two Maryland newspapers that can be downloaded, so you can read us on most of your digital devices. See our ad on the back page for directions or go to our website, www.bizmonthly.com to check it out.
Come often, as one of my new, five-months-into-the-new-year resolutions is to upload local news regularly. I hope you will visit us and take advantage of all that our website and app have to offer. We made them just for you.

 

Purses, Anyone?

As chair of this year’s Power of the Purse, sponsored by Her Mind Magazine and Blossoms of Hope, I am using all of my resources to ensure it is a successful event. Proceeds go to Blossoms of Hope (www.blossomsofhope.org) and benefit the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center.

We need to collect 2,000 gently-used or new purses for the event, to be held on Monday, June 12 (see the ad on page 3). It is a lot of fun: shopping with wine supplied by Iron Bridge Wine Co. and food provided by Maggiano’s and Seasons 52. A silent auction with lots of great items (and even some high-end designer purses) will be available.

What we don’t sell, we donate to Success In Style so it has purses for its clients all year long.

Since it is time for spring cleaning, and guys, you can encourage your wife or friends to participate, why not see what you have that you want to pass on (and it is tax deductible). Our deadline is May 19, so please visit your closets now. Drop-off locations are listed, or write me at powerofthepurse@blossomsofhope.org. I’ll arrange a pick-up.

And then be sure to mark your calendar for June 12. And, it is not for women only!

Thanks, and I hope you find our new website useful. Let me know by emailing news@bizmonthly.com. You also can add your events online.

Maryland Launches Online Tool to Map State’s Defense Spending

The Maryland Department of Commerce has launched the Maryland Defense Network (MDN), an interactive online tool that maps defense spending in the state. Maryland is typically among the top 10 states in the nation for defense spending, ranking sixth for fiscal 2016. The MDN helps companies expand and diversify their customer base, identify opportunities to partner with prime contractors and gain information on expiring Department of Defense (DoD) contracts.

“The defense sector is an important component of Maryland’s economy, with the DoD awarding more than $13.4 billion to Maryland companies in 2016 alone,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “The Maryland Defense Network is a valuable tool for defense contractors, companies interested in competing in the defense community — and for economic developers and policymakers — and helps our businesses stay in sync with evolving defense priorities.”

Created with input from regional focus groups, including economic development professionals, industry partners and defense contractors, the MDN is accessible through a secure website, MarylandDefenseNetwork.org. Registering with MDN offers several advantages, including the following.

• Small and mid-sized businesses will appear in searches conducted by prime defense contractors, gaining exposure and access to subcontracting opportunities.

• Prime contractors may use the network to develop a pool of potential subcontractors to satisfy contract obligations.
• Companies of all sizes are able to directly connect with defense agencies to compete for contracts.

• Economic development professionals and research analysts are able to explore the impact of defense spending in Maryland, as well as other data.

The project, funded through a grant from the DoD’s Office of Economic Adjustment to the Maryland Department of Commerce, was developed in partnership with Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute.

Howard Scores AAA Hat Trick From All Three Bond Rating Agencies

Howard County has received an AAA credit rating, the highest possible score, from all three bond ratings agencies. Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s all have recognized the county’s vibrant economy, diverse revenue streams and strong financial policies and practices. Howard County is one of just 43 counties among more than 3,000 in the U.S. to earn a Triple-A rating from all three agencies.

“These ratings are an affirmation of our sound fiscal management, responsibility, strength and resilience,” said County Executive Allan Kittleman. “Despite the devastating Ellicott City flood which resulted in a federal disaster declaration, we were able to manage our response and recovery without dipping into the county’s Rainy Day Fund. The agencies also recognize the importance of our highly educated workforce and our ability to attract new business and expand the ones already located here.”
Each agency issued a report describing Howard County’s strengths.

Standard and Poor’s acknowledged Howard County’s “very strong economy … very strong management with ‘strong’ financial policies and practices … strong budgetary performance and flexibility.”

Fitch noted it expects Howard County to “maintain a high level of fundamental financial flexibility throughout economic cycles based on its own expenditure and revenue flexibility and conservative fund balance policy.” It stated, “Financial operations are supported by solid economic and revenue prospects.”
Moody’s cited the county’s “large, diverse tax base with a strong socioeconomic profile” and stated the “management team practices conservative budgeting and maintains formal fiscal policies.”

For White, Project SEARCH Leads to Tino’s

The last thing Danny White considered when he was thinking about employment is the food and beverage industry. After all, the 2015 Project SEARCH graduate loves sports and being outdoors. He enjoys landscaping and often helps his neighbors by raking their yards.

But landscaping is seasonal, and White needed work that would be available all year. So when Tino’s Italian Bistro Owner Lance Cook mentioned that he needed a dishwasher/bus person, Project SEARCH Manager Barbara Moyer immediately thought of him.
Project SEARCH is a community partnership of Howard County Government, The Arc of Howard County, the Howard County Autism Society, the Howard County Public School System and the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation Services. The program prepares high school seniors with intellectual and developmental disabilities for paid employment.

During their year with Project SEARCH, students participate in three internships that help them develop marketable work skills and explore a variety of career paths. They also work with a team that includes their family, a special education teacher and The Arc of Howard County to create individual employment goals.
White began work at Tino’s in June, and Owner Lance Cook couldn’t be happier.

“He’s a good employee,” said Cook. He has his routine first thing in the morning and just does it. It’s so nice to know those things are taken care of on Mondays and Fridays, the days he works.”
A long-time friend to The Arc of Howard County, Cook believes part of his mission as a business owner is to give back to the community. In June, Tino’s won a Hire Power Award from the Howard County Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency.

To Cook, giving back means helping where he can. Mondays, Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays are Foundation Nights at Tino’s, where the restaurant donates 10% of the day’s sales to a local nonprofit. Last year, the Foundation Nights raised nearly $50,000 for groups from Scout troops and PTAs to animal rescue organizations.

Tino’s also has donated to Bridges to Housing Stability, Grassroots, Zaching Against Cancer and other organizations, including The Arc of Howard County. Cook often invites individuals from The Arc to lunch and talks to them about employment opportunities.

It was at one of those lunches that Cook told Moyer he needed a dishwasher/bus person. After an interview, Danny began work on June 20.

“Danny enjoys the job, and Lance is happy with his work,” Moyer added. “It’s a good fit. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you can change someone’s life.”

In addition to Tino’s, Mobern Lighting, Turf Valley Resort, Little Lighthouse Childcare, Long Gate Safeway, The Roger Carter Center, The Colosseum Gym, Patapsco Builders, Green Valley Marketplace, Impact Marketing, Win Kelly of Clarksville, DXL in Dobbin, Harris Teeter (in Fulton), Mom’s Organic Market, Shady Spring Pet Retreat, Ellicott City Giant, Jiffy Lube of Clarksville and Zips of Scaggsville have hired Project SEARCH graduates.

 

For more information about Project SEARCH and other employment services at The Arc, contact The Arc’s director of employment, Tami Shaw, at tshaw@archoward.org or 410-730-0638, ext. 247.

Estate Planning and Retirement Assets: What You Need to Know

 

 

Whether you’re wealthy or earn a modest income, there is one estate planning concern that is shared by people from all walks of life — the decision of who gets what when you’re gone. While some individuals logically may assume that a last will and testament is the one official forum to express such decisions, that’s not always the case.

Often, an equally important issue is whom to name as beneficiary on life insurance policies, pension plan accounts and IRAs, since these assets are passed on independent of what may be spelled out in a will.

 

Life Insurance

No matter who is designated, the beneficiaries generally will receive the death benefit proceeds income tax-free. Unlike property disposed of in a will, if the beneficiary designation form is properly completed, insurance proceeds typically do not go through probate.

For many married individuals, a spouse will be the most logical beneficiary. A trust may be a better beneficiary choice, however, if a surviving spouse would not have the knowledge, time or comfort level to manage the insurance proceeds. A properly designed and executed life insurance trust can provide considerable advantages to you, your loved ones and your estate.
But trusts can be complex instruments, so be sure to consult with an estate planning professional with experience in setting up life insurance trusts to help ensure your peace of mind.
Also, remember to name contingent or secondary beneficiaries. This means that if the primary beneficiary has died, the insurance proceeds will go to the individual or trust named as secondary beneficiary. If there are no surviving beneficiaries, then the beneficiary is generally the insured’s estate, which means the death benefits will be probated and ultimately distributed according to the instructions of the decedent’s last will and testament.

If an individual dies without a valid will (intestate), then the order of legal beneficiaries to whom assets are distributed is specified by that state’s intestacy laws.

 

Pension Plans, IRAs

Generally, the law requires that the spouse be the primary beneficiary of a 401(k) or a profit-sharing account unless s/he waives that right in writing. A waiver may make sense in a second marriage — if a new spouse is already financially secure or if children from a first marriage are more likely to need the money.
Single people can name whomever they choose. And non-spouse designated beneficiaries of qualified retirement plans may be eligible for a “trustee-to-trustee” transfer to an inherited IRA, thus preserving the ability to stretch distributions over their life expectancies. Consult your tax adviser on how these rule changes may affect your situation.

 

Naming Children?

Naming children as beneficiaries may cause unforeseen problems. For example, insurance companies, pension plans and retirement accounts may not pay death benefits to minors. The benefits would likely be held until they could be made to a court-approved guardian and/or trustee of a children’s trust. A guardian, trust or trustee should be named beneficiary to ensure competent management of the proceeds for the children.
IRS rules provide that plans may allow non-spousal beneficiaries to stretch retirement plan distributions during the life of the beneficiary. Check with your employer, if necessary, to find out if this is an option under your plan prior to naming a child as a beneficiary.

A competent financial professional and/or tax adviser can also offer guidance as to whether this action may be appropriate for you.

 

Stay Up to Date

As you formalize or update your estate plan and will, it is important to review all beneficiary designations so your plan accurately reflects your current intentions. Remember that beneficiary designations could misdirect the intended flow of an estate, unless they’re kept up to date.

John E. Day is a financial consultant with LPL Financial Services, in Columbia. He can be reached at: 410-290-1000 john.day@lpl.com or on the web www.daywm.com.

Around Town

Passport to the Future Program: Getting Students Ready for the Real World
More than 150 high school students participated in practice job interviews as part of the Howard County School System’s Workforce Development Program, Passport to the Future. In partnership with Howard Community College and members of the business community, students completed an “employment-like” interview in order to prepare them for future employment.

 

MRPA Awards Rec & Parks in Anne Arundel, Howard
The Maryland Recreation and Parks Association’s (MRPA) annual “Celebrating Excellence” awards banquet was recently held at the Maryland Agriculture Center, in Cockeysville. Both Anne Arundel and Howard County departments received awards. Anne Arundel received the Agency Showcase Marketing & Communication Award for its program logo, which was accepted by Director Rick Anthony.

 

Howard County’s Robinson Nature Center’s Nature Place received Landscape Site Award, and the Recreation and Parks’ marketing team was presented with Best Photo for its picture from the July 4 Festival & Fireworks event (shown) and Best Website for its Wine in the Woods 25th Anniversary website.

 

City on a Hill Supports Oakland Mills Middle Families
Oakland Mills Middle School has partnered with City on a Hill Community Church to provide resources and support for students and families. Pictured, from left, are City on a Hill Pastor Shane Valenstein, Oakland Mills Middle Principal Megan Chrobak, City on a Hill Executive Pastor Lenae Ross and HCPSS Executive Director of School Improvement and Administration Frank Eastham.

People in Business

Capitol Tech Announces New President
Capitol Technology University’s board of trustees has selected Bradford Sims as the university’s eighth president. He succeeds Michael Wood, who is retiring after 13 years in that position for the Laurel-based independent institution of higher education.
Formerly chief academic officer and professor at Embry-Riddle University-Worldwide, Sims has built significant experience in higher education, including stints as a professor, dean, department chair, chief operating officer and chancellor. He will officially become president of the institution on June 1.

 

Howard Bank Adds Berlin, Bowers
Howard Bank has made two additions to its staff. The Ellicott City-based institution has named Bram Berlin as business banking relationship manager, and Burke Bowers as vice president and business banking relationship manager.
Berlin will manage existing relationships with clients and attract new clientele to help expand the bank’s mid-sized company growth; Bowers will be responsible for all aspects of business development and customer relationship management in Baltimore and Harford counties.

 

The LeaseWright Adds
Shenas, Kneisly
The LeaseWright commercial real estate team has announced that George Shenas and John Kneisly have joined its commercial brokerage division, in Columbia, as sales and leasing associates.
Shenas specializes in the Annapolis region, while Kneisly covers the I-795 and I-83 corridors. Prior to joining The LeaseWright, Shenas spent a year with the Douglas Commercial Group; for 10 years, Kneisly was a research manager at the commercial industry’s top vendor, CoStar Group.

 

Chaney’s Childs Garners Two Major Industry Awards
Bill Childs, CEO of Gambrills-based Chaney Enterprises, was recently recognized by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) with two of the industry’s top awards: the Chairman’s Award and the national Building Promoter of the Year Award for outstanding contributions in support of low- to mid-rise concrete buildings.

For the former, Childs was recognized for his lifelong dedication to the ready mix industry; for the latter, the salute was for advancing the industry through his leadership on the boards and committees of many organizations, including serving as 2013 NRMCA chairman.

 

TEDCO Announces
New Board Director
The Columbia-based Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) has announced that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Dr. Jennifer Elisseeff, of The Johns Hopkins University (JHU), to its board of directors. Elisseeff is the Morton Goldberg Professor and director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at Wilmer Eye Institute and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at JHU.

 

QAI Hires Burgess as Consultant
Fulton-based Quality Associates Inc. (QAI) has hired John Burgess as a senior ECM sales consultant. Burgess is a strategic leader who brings 22 years of experience in the document management industry to this position.

 

CA Board Chairman Stack Named Outstanding Leader by CAI
Andrew Stack, chairman of Columbia Association’s (CA) board of directors, has been named one of six recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Board Member Leadership Award by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). More than 150 people were nominated by their community associations, colleagues, clients and acquaintances for the honor.

 

HCCC Tabs Porter
The Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) has hired Sylvie Porter as communications manager. Most recently, she spent four years working with ABC2 News in Baltimore, producing the 5 p.m. newscast. She has also worked for Discovery Communications and at inSITE Training & Development.

 

Arc Maryland Hires Kolp
Ande Kolp has been named executive director at The Arc Maryland. She succeeds Cristine Marchand, who is retiring in July after nearly 30 years of service. Kolp’s most recent position was as executive director for Compass Inc., a nonprofit that provides services for people with co-occurring intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health conditions in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Charles counties.

 

It’s a Love Thing
Jason Love, music director with the Columbia Orchestra, has been recognized with a Peabody Alumni Achievement Award for his contributions to music in Maryland. His positions and accolades include music director of the Columbia Orchestra for 18 years, as well as winner of the American Prize for Orchestra Programming.

 

Meiser Named at Elville & Associates
Columbia-based Elville & Associates has announced that Verena Meiser has been named a partner at the firm. Meiser joined Elville in 2014 as a senior associate and has been an integral part of the firm’s estate planning, estate and trust administration, and elder law practices.

 

Hasseltine Cited at Sports Conference
Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports, was recognized as Sports Tourism Executive of the Year during the 2017 National Association of Sports Commissions Sports Event Symposium Annual Awards. In fiscal 2016, Maryland Sports, with its TEAM Maryland partners, was involved with more than 300 events that resulted in more than $176.6 million in direct spending for the state.

 

Loyola Prof Named
Fulbright Specialist
Gerard Athaide, a professor of marketing and department chair at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, was named a Fulbright specialist with the State Department’s Fulbright Specialist Program. Athaide’s teaching, research and consulting focus on innovation management and new product development.

 

Enterprise Homes Names Del Tufo VP
Enterprise Homes, of Columbia, has promoted Todd Del Tufo to vice president, acquisitions and asset management. He oversees the company’s portfolio of multi-family communities, with roles that include asset protection and risk mitigation, while enhancing the operating performance of the portfolio.

 

Pedal Power: Bike Maryland
Hires Feldmark
Bike Maryland has announced the selection of Joshua Feldmark as its executive director. Previously, Feldmark served as founding director of Maryland’s first local government sustainability office, and as executive director of a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit. He succeeds Steve Miller, who will remain with the organization as a volunteer.

Business Briefs

Anne Arundel County Planning
to Shutter CIC
The Anne Arundel County government did not include funding for the Chesapeake Innovation Center (CIC) in its proposed fiscal 2018 budget and recently announced that it plans to close the facility on June 30. One of its former resident companies has already relocated within the area, but there are several still located in the center.

The CIC was founded in the early 2000s in Annapolis, and its offices were relocated in summer 2014 to its most recent location, an 8,000-square-foot office (that features a collaboration space with a moveable wall) at 2288 Blue Water Boulevard in the Seven Oaks section of Odenton. The move was made due to the office’s proximity to Fort Meade.

“The CIC is a great concept that truly helps small businesses get a stronger foundation,” said Tim Lorello, president and CEO of SecuLore Solutions, a one-year resident of the incubator. “Many of the companies are willing to work with the county to find a way to keep the CIC operational, but time is running out on us.”

 

MHCC Approves Heart Surgery Program for AAMC
Recently, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) voted to approve Anne Arundel Medical Center’s (AAMC) Certificate of Need application for a heart surgery program in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Division of Cardiac Surgery.
This will be the first heart surgery program in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel is currently the largest county in Maryland without this service, and AAMC is well-equipped to fill the need. Currently, AAMC transfers hundreds of patients to other hospitals for heart surgery each year. AAMC plans to start seeing patients in 2018.

 

BWI Marshall Finishing Master Plan, Will Issue RFP for In-Terminal Hotel
BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport expects to release a new master plan for its campus in the near future, and also plans to issue another request for proposals by the end of 2017 for the long-discussed four-star, up to 250-room hotel that, this time, would be constructed within the terminal.

The airport issued an RFP in 2015 searching for a partner to build a hotel behind the hourly garage, which would have had direct access to the terminal via a skywalk; however, the airport didn’t receive any bids. Airport management is now planning to build the branded hotel via a public-private partnership, based on projects at facilities in Boston, Detroit and Orlando.

 

TEDCO Announces New Gap
Funding for Startups
The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) has announced $1 million in new economic development funds that will provide startup technology companies with investment capital to help cover the gap between seed funding and venture capital investments. The Gap Investment Fund program, which was included in Gov. Larry Hogan’s fiscal 2018 budget, is being developed and administered by TEDCO.

TEDCO’s Seed Investment programs support approximately 50 companies per year, creating a funnel of companies that serve as a source of deal flow for the new Gap Investment Fund initiative. A Seed Investment of $100,000 can support a project that advances a technology toward commercialization. TEDCO’s later-stage fund, the Maryland Venture Fund, and other venture capital funds, support companies further along in their development, often with significant revenues and complete management teams that are raising investment rounds of more than $2 million. This established structure leaves a significant funding gap between the state’s seed investments and the investments made by institutional investors such as venture capitalists.

TEDCO now will provide gap funding up to $500,000 to Maryland-based technology companies to hire new employees for expansionary efforts such as scaling a product across markets and increasing market reach. These new funds must be used to hire additional employees and must be matched by other investments in the company.

 

Maryland Casinos Generate Record $141.2M in Revenue During March
Maryland Lottery & Gaming has announced that March 2017 revenue numbers for the state’s six casinos — Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County, MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in Baltimore City, Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, Casino at Ocean Downs in Worcester County and Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Allegany County — had a record month, totaling $141,166,114 in revenue, which was an increase of $43,313,981 (or 44.3%), compared to the March 2016 figure of $97,852,133.
MGM National Harbor generated $51,249,793 from slot machines and table games in March. Gross gaming revenue per unit per day in March at the MGM National Harbor was $278.37 for slot machines, $5,788.26 for banked table games and $1,463.18 for non-banked table games.

Maryland Live! Casino totaled $46,626,350 from slot machines and table games in March. Maryland Live!’s gross gaming revenue per unit per day was $250.36 for slot machines, $2,892.59 for banked table games and $945.77 for non-banked table games. March 2017 revenue at Maryland Live! decreased by $7,980,629, or 14.6%, from March 2016.

Orbis Technologies, RSI Content Solutions Merge
Annapolis-based Orbis Technologies and RSI Content Solutions have announced the merger of the two companies. The merger creates a global big data company that provides software and services around the world.

The combined operating entity will assume the Orbis name, with the corporate headquarters in Annapolis. With a client roster of Fortune 1000 businesses, U.S. military and intelligence community organizations, federal agencies, and global publishers and media companies, Orbis now has software deployed in more than 50 cities on four continents around the globe. Having serviced more than 300 global customers, Orbis is positioned for continued growth and will invest in sales and engineering staff globally to meet current market demands.

“The merger of Orbis and RSI brings together two market leaders to provide next-generation content management solutions and services to a global market,” said Brian Ippolito, CEO of Orbis Technologies. “The combination of the organizations, the global customer base and the integration of our product suites provides the marketplace with unique enterprise content and information management solutions.”

 

Full-Time Public Parking Reinstated Along Ellicott City’s Main Street
Parking on Ellicott City’s Main Street was fully reinstated between Old Columbia Pike and Maryland Avenue on April 14. With BGE set to complete additional gas main work west of Old Columbia Pike during the next few months, public parking will be allowed fulltime only between Old Columbia Pike and Maryland Avenue. The two-hour parking limit will be enforced from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. throughout the week.

While public parking will be limited to the lower end of Main Street, visitors are still encouraged to use Lots D, E and F, which are easily accessible. These three lots provide 363 spaces. Additionally, on weekends, another 197 spaces are available at the Circuit Courthouse lot.

“Ongoing dialogue with the merchants, residents and property owners throughout the recovery process has helped the town rebound much faster than expected,” said Howard County Council Chair Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City. “This collaboration yields good information that had led to actions like this to continue to improve the historic district. Parking is critical to facilitating commerce on Main Street, and this adjustment is a welcome change at the right time.”

 

Anne Arundel Launches 3-1-1 Customer Service Program
Anne Arundel County has launched 3-1-1, a new initiative that will make customer service more efficient and responsive. Citizens can access the new system by dialing 3-1-1 for all municipal services. Operators are available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dial 9-1-1 for emergencies and medical assistance.

The mobile platform, through the See-Click-Fix application, allows citizens to report a lost pet, a pothole, a missed trash collection and many other issues. Using their mobile device, people can take a picture, set a location and receive updates on the response to their issue. Citizens can also download the mobile app through the App Store (iPhone) and Google Play (Android).

 

Snowden River Parkway Paving Project Is Underway
A Howard County construction project to mill and repave Snowden River Parkway between Route108 and Tamar Drive, in Columbia, is underway. Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by mid-May.

Milling and paving operations will take place Sunday through Thursday from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Flagging operations and signs will be in place to direct traffic as needed during construction hours. For questions or concerns about Capital Project H-2014, contact Lisa Brightwell, Public Works Customer Service, at 410-313-3440 or email publicworks@howardcountymd.gov.

 

Stretch of Little Patuxent Parkway
Is Being Paved
A Howard County construction project to mill and repave Little Patuxent Parkway between Cedar Lane and Broken Land Parkway, in Columbia, is underway. Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by late June. Milling and paving operations will take place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Flagging operations and signs will be in place to direct traffic as needed during construction hours. Motorists are advised to follow the message boards for updates regarding changes to construction hours. For questions or concerns about Capital Project H-2014, contact Lisa Brightwell at 410-313-3440 or email publicworks@howardcountymd.gov.

 

Groundbreaking Set for Courtyard by Marriott in Melford
Groundbreaking for a new, 144-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Melford, a 466-acre mixed-use community located at the intersection of Route 50 and Route 3/301 was held on April 28. The hotel is being developed by Hospitality Development Company III.

Melford, which currently contains nearly 1 million square feet of office and flex/research and development space, and up to 1,800 residential units, is a project of Baltimore-based St. John Properties. Herman/Stewart Construction has been selected as the general contractor for the hotel construction project, which is expected to deliver in 2018.

Hospitality Development Company Group has built and presently manages a number of local hotels, including the TownePlace Suites, near Bowie Town Center. The company also maintains rights to develop two additional hotel properties within Melford that are planned to be a 125-suite Residence Inn and a 100-suite SpringHill Suites. No timetable has been set for the construction of these additional properties.

Sporting Goods to Open Store in Chatham Station
KLNB and Resource Enterprises have announced that Dick’s Sporting Goods has leased 42,959 square feet of retail space at Chatham Station Shopping Center, on Baltimore National Pike, in Ellicott City. Construction is underway, and the store is expected to open this fall.

“Our goal was to help Dick’s expand its footprint into the west side of Baltimore and position the store in a highly visible location that would draw their core customers,” said Ryan Wilner, principal at KLNB. “Ellicott City is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country and has a lot of local sports leagues. The area demographics paired with Chatham Station’s synergistic co-tenancy made it the perfect fit.”

Local Doc Opens UFood Grill at Metro Centre at Owings Mills
UFood Grill, a fast-casual restaurant chain with an emphasis on the use of fresh ingredients, healthy eating and menu items that are never fried, recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its first Maryland-area location at Metro Centre at Owings Mills. The local franchise is owned by Dr. Stephen Goldberg, a Howard County forensic psychiatrist.

“The menu offering at UFood Grill, featuring meals under 700 calories, appeals to consumers seeking healthy eating options, a concept that is quickly gaining traction and resonating among a growing population,” said Ken Bernstein, vice president of retail leasing with David S. Brown Enterprises. “This concept is perfectly suited for Metro Centre, given the more than 50,000 visitors the transit-oriented development receives each month, a figure derived from the daily volume of commuters that park at the metro station.”

 

Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Announces First Maryland Franchise
Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate has announced the addition of J. Melvin Premier Properties in Maryland to its franchise network. The newly-named Better Homes & Gardens The J. Melvin Group, led by partners and co-founders Jennie Melvin and Carlos Garcia, will continue to serve the Annapolis and Ellicott City market areas.

The J. Melvin Group was established in 2009 by Melvin and Garcia, who have more than 35 years of combined experience in the real estate industry. “The Annapolis and Ellicott City areas are thriving right now, and we look forward to serving more customers under the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand,” said Garcia.

 

Hogan Honors Century Farm Families
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has honored Maryland’s farm families for their commitment to farming and leadership in preserving agricultural land by presenting Century Farm designations to 34 families from 18 counties who have farmed the same land for more than 100 years, including two families that have farmed the same land for more than 200 years and one family that has farmed the same land for more than 300 years.
Charles and Eugene Iager, owners of Maple Lawn Farm, in Fulton, are among the honorees. Since the program began in 1994, 173 farms — about 1% of the state’s 12,200 farms — have received the Century Farm designation. Four of those have received the Tricentennial Farm designation, and 26 have received the Bicentennial Farm designation.

 

Schuh to Include Full Step Increase for AACPS Employees in Budget Proposal
Anne County Executive Steve Schuh announced that his fiscal 2018 budget proposal will fully fund step and/or incremental increases for all eligible Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) employees starting July 1.

The proposal includes $15.6 million to fund compensation increases requested by the school board in the fiscal 2018 budget. The compensation increases for all eligible school system employees would begin July 1, but the exact nature of most increases will be dependent on negotiations between the Board of Education and its employee bargaining units.

Schuh’s budget proposal also will include $7.5 million to be used for one-time payments to help offset increases in employee health insurance premiums for the county’s nearly 6,000 teachers and other school system employees. The funding would be distributed once employee bargaining units agree to more closely align the school system’s benefits packages with other county employees and school systems around Maryland.

 

BWI Marshall Wins
Concessions Honor
The shopping program at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport received second-place recognition in the 2017 Airport Council International-North America (ACI-NA) Excellence in Airport Concessions Awards. According to ACI-NA, the 2017 Excellence in Airport Concessions Awards competition received more than 180 nominations from airports across the United States and Canada.

“We’re very proud of the retail program here and particularly happy for the recognition of our local and Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises retailers,” said Brett Kelly, vice president of AIRMALL Maryland. “I believe that street pricing is the key to a productive retail program, and our goal for the program here is constant operational improvement and continued opportunity for the local shops of the Baltimore/Washington region. They are what makes this airport program unique.”

 

Lee & Associates Brokers Second Maryland Carbiz Location
Lee & Associates Maryland has brokered a 35,000-square-foot lease to Carbiz, a used car dealership and repair facility, at 8751 Freestate Drive, Laurel. This represents the second location for the concept, which is expected to be operational by July 1, when it will join the flagship operation on Reisterstown Road, Baltimore City.

Carbiz is considered Maryland’s largest independent auto dealer and offers a full line of service areas, including pre-owned automobile sales, auto loans and financing, and a certified service department. CEO Evan Berney said the company intentionally chose a site near its major competitor in Laurel, CarMax, so customers would be better able to recognize the higher value and better pricing model available with his concept, and that the company is scouting sites throughout the Baltimore-Washington region to fulfill its program of opening additional locations.

 

DCACC Announces Movie Nights at Merriweather
Merriweather Post Pavilion, always home to summer concerts, will also become home to a series of classic summer movies, with the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission (DCACC) announcing its first season of Merriweather Movie Nights. Utilizing the amphitheater’s high-definition video screens, and featuring food and beverage choices from Manor Hill Brewing & Tavern, the events will offer guests an outdoor movie experience unlike any other.

“We are excited to open Merriweather to our community for these music-themed movie nights, which are sure to offer something for everyone,” said Ian Kennedy, executive director of the DCACC. “As the owners of this cherished amphitheater, we are excited to introduce new, community-focused programming at Merriweather, and these movie nights are just the beginning.”
The series kicks off on Memorial Day Weekend with the classic musical “Grease,” on Saturday, May 27; and follows thereafter with “The Last Waltz,” in June; “Moana,” in July; and “School of Rock,” in August. Guests will have the choice of free, general admission seating under the stars on the lawn or within certain sections of the pavilion; or for $10, they can purchase a reserved pavilion seat in a prime viewing area, with access to the venue’s new party deck.

 

Crofton’s InRoad Toys Is SBA’s
Home-Based Business of the Year
InRoad Toys, the Crofton-based maker of PlayTape, has won the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2017 Maryland Home-Based Small Business of the Year Award. This award spotlights the achievements of advocates at the district, state and local levels, and was the highlight of National Small Business Week.

Supplier to more than 12,000 stores in 35 countries, InRoad Toys is an illustration of the changing face of small business. Andy Musliner, the company’s founder, runs a 100% virtual organization from his home office, with employees and suppliers in 15 states, designing, manufacturing and supplying products to satisfy the needs of such retail giants as Walmart, Toys ’R Us and Target.

The company supports more than 100 jobs in the U.S., and PlayTape is also 100% made in the U.S.A. Award winners will be honored at the SBA’s 33rd annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards, to be held Thursday, June 8. More information about the award and the event can be found at http://mdsbwawards.org.

 

Crosby Reaches No. 31 in O’Dwyer’s Ranking, No. 8 for Health Care
Crosby Marketing Communications, of Annapolis, has been ranked No. 31 on O’Dwyer’s magazine’s 2017 list of Top National Public Relations Firms and No. 8 in Top National Healthcare Public Relations Firms. These annual rankings of independent PR firms, produced by one of the industry’s most-respected publications, are based on detailed financial information submitted by companies that is verified by their accounting firms.
“We’re excited to continue to move up in these national rankings,” said Raymond Crosby, president and CEO of Crosby. “Our integrated approach and expanded digital, social media and analytics capabilities continue to fuel very strong growth.”

HCC Among Top Tech-Savvy Community Colleges
Howard Community College (HCC) has been named one of the top-rated community colleges nationwide in the 12th annual Digital Community Colleges Survey by the Center for Digital Education. HCC placed third in the Large Community College category and was recognized for leading the way in the use of mobile delivery platforms, health care simulation, online learning and cybersecurity practices. This year marks the eighth consecutive year that HCC placed in the top 10.

The survey examines areas of digital and emerging technologies, such as the integration of mobile devices and technology into curriculum; strategic planning and data management; and professional development, including availability of technology tools, and training for faculty and students. Among HCC’s recent technological advances and innovations are its fiber optic infrastructure advancement, outstanding online services for students, mobile friendly campus and website improvements.

BHC Receives Award of Excellence for Public Information Campaign
Bonnie Heneson Communications (BHC), a full-service marketing communications agency with offices in Owings Mills and Columbia, received an Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America’s Maryland chapter.

The award recognizes BHC’s public information campaign on behalf of Calvert County, Maryland, publicizing the dangers of opiate use in the county. As part of the campaign, BHC created a theme and graphic identity; paid media including billboards, bus cards and movie screens; brochures and posters; as well as a press release, fact sheet and social media. The campaign gained widespread attention in Calvert County.

The Award of Excellence was announced at the Best in Maryland Awards, which are presented annually to public relations practitioners who, in the judgment of their peers, have successfully addressed a communications challenge with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness.

CMCC Presents Cordish at First Annual Meeting
The Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) presented David Cordish, chairman of The Cordish Companies, as keynote speaker at its recent first annual meeting.

The CMCC also presented its inaugural Hall of Fame Awards. In addition, County Executive Steve Schuh was inducted as Government Advocate of the Year and Howard Bank’s Dick Story received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Other Hall of Fame Awards were presented are as follows.

Start-Up of the Year, Speedpro Imaging; Woman-Owned Business of the Year, Eccentrics: The Spa Sanctuary; Minority-Owned Business of the Year, A Better You; Small Business of the Year, Cheaper Than A Geek; Mid-Size Business of the Year, Bob’s BMW Motorcycles; Large Business of the Year, Oceaneering; Business Partners of the Year, Mobern Lighting Co. and Costco; and Volunteer of the Year, Nikki Colea.

Nonprofit News & Charitable Giving

Kittleman Signs Bill to Purchase, Preserve Tubman School
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has signed legislation allowing the transfer of $3.4 million to acquire an office building in Columbia, a necessary step in creating an educational and cultural center in the Harriet Tubman school building. The county council voted to support the move.

Once the purchase of the property at 9020 Mendenhall Court is complete, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) can move forward on plans to relocate its departments of maintenance and school construction out of the Harriet Tubman building and into the Mendenhall location. HCPSS has used Harriet Tubman for maintenance, construction, storage and offices for more than three decades.

The Harriet Tubman School, which opened in 1949, served as the county’s only all-black high school until it was closed through desegregation in 1965. The Mendenhall property, in Columbia’s Village of Owen Brown, is currently owned by Howard MD Green LLC. The 49,000-square-foot office building was constructed in 1981, and the property includes parking for more than 200 vehicles, allowing HCPSS to further consolidate some of its operations from leased property on Ridge Road in Ellicott City.
The county also plans to relocate its police evidence storage and fire department’s quartermaster to the Mendenhall property from their current location at the Dorsey Building on Bendix Road. The $3.4 million transfer would come from a variety of funds that had been allocated for acquisition of school sites, remediation and facilities. The total purchase price of the property is expected to be $5.2 million.

 

Schuh Announces Safe Stations Initiative to Combat Opioid Crisis
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has announced the launch of the Safe Stations program to help combat the growing heroin and opioid crisis. The plan calls for each Anne Arundel County and Annapolis City Fire Station, as well as county and city police stations, to be designated as a safe environment for individuals looking for assistance to start their path to recovery from heroin/opioid addiction.

At any time of day or night, an Anne Arundel County resident who is the victim of a heroin/opioid addiction and chooses to ask for help can go to any Anne Arundel County or Annapolis City Fire Station and speak to the personnel on duty. In close partnership with the Anne Arundel County Police and the Crisis Response Team, individuals seeking help will be assisted in obtaining the necessary detoxification resources.

Upon arrival at a designated Safe Station, the firefighters and paramedics will perform a medical assessment not to exceed their scope of training as Maryland Emergency Medical Services providers. If there is cause for concern that there is something else medically wrong with the patient, transportation to an appropriate medical facility will be completed.

The Crisis Response Warmline will be called at 410-768-5522 and advised that a Safe Station patient is being transported to the hospital by EMS. The Crisis Response Team will communicate with the hospital staff to ensure a handoff from crisis response to the medical facility.

If no immediate medical issue is identified, the Warmline will be contacted and advised that there is a Safe Station case. Crisis Response Team will work closely with the individual in the station to determine the best resource and destination available.
Individuals seeking assistance will be required to drop any needles and paraphernalia into a sharps collection container located at each fire station. If illegal substances are with the individual seeking assistance, the appropriate police agency will be notified for disposal purposes only.

Dementia Caregiver Education Series to Be Held in Howard County

Integrace Copper Ridge and the Integrace Institute at Copper Ridge have partnered with the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence to present a free, four-part educational series for family caregivers living with or supporting loved ones with dementia.

Each session will be held at the Ellicott City 50+ Center, located at 9401 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. Dr. Tabassum Majid, director of research at the Integrace Institute at Copper Ridge, will lead each interactive discussion and will present evidence-based, practical information to help family caregivers better understand and support someone who is living with dementia. All sessions run from 6:30–7:30 p.m., and are free to attend. The remaining dates and topics include the following.

• Wednesday, May 10: Decision Making and Preferences in Care
• Wednesday, June 14: Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (includes a panel discussion)
• Wednesday, July 12: What’s New in Treatments and Research
To attend, guests must R.S.V.P. to Kathy Wehr at 410-313-5955 or kwehr@howardcountymd.gov.

 

SOFO Plans to Transform Annapolis Middle’s Fence From Sad to Art

The local group SOFO (the South Forest Drive Business Association) is embarking on its first Art Beautification Project for the corridor, entailing work on the chain link fence at Annapolis Middle School to present students’ artwork. The project will include student works from all of the schools along the corridor and will tell a story. Each piece of art will be approximately 4 feet by 4 feet and will be permanently installed.
The first step of this project is transforming the 500-foot fence at Annapolis Middle School into a canvas for students to create artwork for display. In an effort to make the fence presentable for these creative pieces, SOFO will remove the barbed wire, clean and remove the rust, paint the fence and remove the leaves and trash along the fence.

The first work party day was held in late April; more will be scheduled through the season. If you belong to a group or organization and would like to collaborate on this project, contact info@sofoannapolis.com. To sign up to attend the event, visit www.signupgenius.com/go/8050b45aaae22a46-sofo.

 

Keep Calm and Bark On: CA’s Dog Day Afternoon Returns on May 13

Columbia Association (CA) will be hosting the 10th annual Dog Day Afternoon on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Columbia DogPark. The park is located at 5901 Rivendell Lane, off Cedar Lane and adjacent to Cedar Lane Park, near the Harper’s Choice Village Center.

CA invites local canines — and their people — to a free afternoon of contests, treats, activities and lots of tail-wagging fun. Dog lovers can enter their four-legged friends into the Tail-Wagging Contest; Most Fashionable Fashion Show; Biscuit-Eating Contest; and more. Back by popular demand this year will be pet communications readings with pet communicator Emerald DuCoeur. In addition, CA will be collecting items to be donated.
A rain date has been set for Saturday, May 20.

Howard Rec and Parks’ Robinson Nature Center Selected for NASA-Funded Program

Howard County’s Robinson Nature Center has been selected as one of 250 sites across the country to receive a NASA-funded “2017 Explore Science: Earth & Space Toolkit” for use in programming by the National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE Net). The kit includes earth and space science activities that bring the science of NASA to life.

Visitors to the center will have the opportunity to learn about NASA science, virtually interact with the surface of Mars, hold real meteorites, hear about how the Apollo 13 astronauts engineered their way back to earth, view movies in the Center’s planetarium, sample space food and make a “nebula in a bottle.” Space party tickets are $10 for children and $7 for adults and can be purchased online, in-person or over the phone.

As a toolkit recipient, the Nature Center also is eligible to apply to host a larger NASA exhibit currently being designed by NISE Net for use in only a few sites across the country. For more information about the Robinson Nature Center, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/RAP; for more information about the NISE Net, visit www.nisenet.org.

Arundel’s Schuh Proposes $150K Grant for YWCA Domestic
Violence Shelter

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has proposed a $150,000 capital investment to help establish the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County’s new domestic violence shelter. The YWCA acquired a 6.5-acre parcel for a new shelter project that will allow the organization to establish a campus setting with a 30% increase in capacity.

Key features of the project would include a 7,000-square-foot domestic violence Safe House Shelter that would serve up to 32 women and children in private rooms at any given time; the renovation of an existing structure on the property to become a new Training and Education Center; a second home intended to house eight to 10 victims of sex trafficking at any given time; three transitional apartments for families who are regaining independence; and establishment of expanded transitional housing options.

The proposed capital funding was made possible through the JumpStart Anne Arundel capital project financing program. Enacted in 2015, the capital plan embraces a 30-year bond financing option. This reform has allowed Anne Arundel County to expand its capital funding program and make public safety and quality-of-life infrastructure improvements throughout the county.

 

Champions for Children 5K Race/Walk Benefits Harmony House
Anne Arundel County residents got healthier in late April while supporting children in foster care by participating in the inaugural Anne Arundel County Champions for Children 5K Race/Walk. Proceeds from this charitable event benefit Harmony House, a program that enables children and youth in foster care to visit with their parents in a safe, home-like setting.

The Champions for Children 5K Race/Walk is sponsored by the advisory Board of Directors to the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services (DSS). The board’s goal is to raise $25,000 for the Anne Arundel County Family Assistance Fund, which the board utilizes to support privately funded programs like Harmony House.

Harmony House strengthens parent-child relationships. Children in foster care and their parents have supervised visits where they play, talk, cook meals together, do homework and chores, all with the support of a social worker and parenting coach. Last year, 236 visits took place there, and 32 children left foster care and were reunited with their families.

Harmony House is the first supervised visitation center in Maryland and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. To sign up for the race, visit at www.raceentry.com

 

Third Annual Agape 5K Set for June

Columbia-based Building Families for Children, a nonprofit located in Howard County, is holding its third annual Agape 5K Walk/Run on June 17, at the Columbia Gateway Office Park loop. This year, the organization is partnering with Community Ecology Institute (CEI) to plan and promote the event as it prepares for more than 300 participants.

Through its Columbia Families in Nature Program, CEI has offered 130 free nature-based events to the community in the past three years, reaching more than 325 distinct family participants that have experienced more than 6,500 hours of family time learning and bonding in nature. Families for Children is looking for 70 volunteers to support the event in a variety of roles. For more information, visit https://buildingfamiliesforchildren.org/agape5k/#.

 

Soup’r Sundae is Super Successful

The ninth annual Soup‘r Sundae fundraiser for Grassroots attracted more than 600 attendees for an afternoon of family fun, soup prepared by area restaurants and all the ice cream you could eat, as well as a silent auction with more than 250 baskets. The event was hosted by Wilde Lake High School and The Faith Community Partnership of Bethany United Methodist Church and Glen Mar United Methodist Church.

Soups were provided by Aida Bistro & Wine Bar, Alexandra’s at Turf Valley, Centre Park Grille, Chef Paolino Cafe, Clyde’s of Columbia, Elkridge Furnace Inn, Ellicott Mills Brewing Co., Honey Baked Ham Co., Iron Bridge Wine Co., Kelsey’s Restaurant, The Kings Contrivance Restaurant, Leelynn’s, Nor Pac Soup, Ranazul, T-Bonz Grille & Pub, Tino’s Italian Bistro, Vantage House, Waterside Restaurant, White Oak Tavern and Whole Foods; breads were provided by Rose & Pakula Food Brokers, Mission BBQ and Chef Paolino Café. Ice cream was provided by Long Gate Safeway and Cold Stone Creamery across from Arundel Mills.

More than 90 volunteers from Howard County high schools helped with everything from dishing up ice cream to dancing with the young guests. Volunteers from the participating faith communities gathered and packaged silent auction items, and managed the entire operation from set-up to check-out.

Cathy Smith of Jean Moon & Associates was the event manager for Soup’r Sundae for the ninth consecutive year. All proceeds from the event benefit Grassroots’ 24-7 crisis intervention services and shelter programs for the homeless.

Grassroots Executive Director Ayesha Holmes chatted with student volunteer Thomas Thurmond of Centennial High School.

Vets Start March ‘Back to Work’ in Glen Burnie

More than 700 veterans of the United States Armed Forces attended the recent Marching Our Veterans Back to Work event at the Cromwell Business Park, in Glen Burnie. Farmers Insurance, ZIPS Dry Cleaners and St. John Properties teamed together to donate 2,600 suits and pieces of business attire to veterans residing in the Fort Meade region seeking formal clothing to wear at their next job interview. Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger and executives from the three donating companies attended.

The event was designed to help active duty personnel transition into the civilian workforce. The suit donation by Farmers Insurance is part of the company’s national Suits for Soldiers campaign, which has successfully collected more than 70,000 articles of clothing nationwide.

 

CFHoCo to Hold 35th
Annual Spring Party

The Community Foundation of Howard County (CFHoCo) will hold its 35th annual Spring Party on Thursday, May 18, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Horowitz Visual & Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College. Proceeds from the event will benefit the foundation’s programs and services that promote local philanthropy and provide critical grant funding for nonprofit organizations serving Howard County.

The event will include a full buffet and open bar. There also will be a performance by ManneqART, an international arts and education nonprofit located in Howard County that inspires creativity, teaches problem-solving skills and rewards excellence in Sculpture on the Human Form. Tickets cost $100. For more information, tickets and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.cfhoco.org or call Allyson Lestner at 410-730-7840.

 

Housing Commission Receives High Grades for Management, Administration

The Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County has received high grades from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the commission’s management and administration of its public housing and housing choice voucher programs.

Annually, HUD evaluates housing authorities on the management and administration of their public housing and housing choice voucher programs. The evaluation includes elements such as financial health and fiduciary oversight, management principles and practices, and the physical health and maintenance of assets. These indicators are stringent, especially in light of continued reduction in federal funding forcing agencies to discover new avenues and foundations to keep the programs viable and robust.
In 2016, the commission attained a High Performer 91% Rating for the Public Housing Program and a High Performer 100% Rating for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The agency received perfect scores in Financial, Management and Construction areas.

“High Performer scores on both programs are not easy to achieve; especially as many of our communities are more than 40 years old, and federal funds for modernization have been reduced dramatically,” said Housing Commission Director Clif Martin.

HCLS Receives International Recognition

Howard County Library System (HCLS) received international recognition by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals in the 2017 Hermes Creative Awards for three of its recent communication efforts. The HCLS Now! public relations campaign earned the Platinum Award, the organization’s top honor. Designed to introduce customers to the growing catalog of new e-content materials available online, the year-long campaign featured HCLS employees and the friendly “Hi” logo in a series of 12 testimonial-style ads.

The new HCLS HiJinx podcast also received an honorable mention for Episode 2 of “Thanks for the Memories.” All aspects of the award-winning projects were conceived and executed in-house by the HCLS Public Relations team.

HCLS’s entries were chosen from more than 6,000 entries from throughout the world. Winners are selected from 195 categories grouped under advertising, publications, marketing/branding, integrated marketing, public relations/communications, electronic and pro bono.

Maryland Half Marathon Set for
June 13 in Maple Lawn

Maple Lawn will be the site of the ninth annual Maryland Half Marathon & 5K races benefitting the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. Scheduled for Saturday, May 13, St. John Properties, is the presenting sponsor for the Half Marathon and BRG Healthcare is the primary sponsor of the 5K race.

Baltimore-based Greenebaum Enterprises is the master developer of Maple Lawn, and St. John Properties is a partner in the development of the multi-story class A office and flex/research & development product.

The Maryland Half Marathon receives strong participation from the local residential and commercial brokerage industry, with professionals working with companies including CBRE, First Potomac Realty Trust, NAI KLNB, St. John Properties and TriAlliance Commercial Real Estate Services traditionally competing each year.

More than $3 million has been raised in the past eight years to support the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, which recently received the National Cancer Institute’s top designation as a comprehensive cancer center. Registration is available at www.sjpi.com/marathon.

 

Arundel Mills Joins Pink Movement

Arundel Mills has announced its spring 2017 More Than Pink movement in support of Susan G. Komen and the fight against breast cancer. As part of its pledge to donate $1 million each year in 2017 and 2018, more than 180 participating Simon Malls, The Mills and Premium Outlets nationwide will be participating in various activities this spring.

Visitors to Arundel Mills will notice a pink theme as staff will be donning pink accessories and several pink activities will be taking place throughout the shopping center, including a free pink lemonade stand offered to patrons on Saturdays through May. All proceeds raised from these activities will go toward helping Susan G. Komen.

Register for event via www.raceforthecure.org/Simon.

 

SECU-Sponsored ARL Team Wins Financial Competition
The student team from Howard County’s Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL), which is sponsored by SECU, has won first place in the Maryland Personal Finance Challenge. The event pits student teams from across Maryland in a competition to demonstrate the financial skills they have mastered while participating in their school’s Millionaire’s Club. The Millionaire’s Club is a financial education program through which students use simulated dollars to “buy, sell and invest” in stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.

The winning ARL student team, led by faculty adviser Maddy Halbach, was getting ready at press time to head to the National Personal Finance Challenge, which is being held in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, May 5. For more information, visit www.cufound.org/millionaire.

HCAC Scholarship Recipients Announced

The Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) has announced the recipients of its 2017 Arts Scholarship Program. Ten thousand dollars in awards were distributed, with $2,500 scholarships awarded to Julia Mann, theater, Marriotts Ridge High School; and Tony Terrasa, instrumental music, Hammond High School; $2,000 scholarships went to Edima Essien, musical theater, Mount Hebron High School; Wendy Yang, visual art, Marriotts Ridge High School; and a $1,000 scholarship was presented to Frankie Byers, visual art, Howard High School.

Two years ago, Howard Bank President and CEO Mary Ann Scully announced the new Business Partnership for the Arts Scholarship at Howard Community College (HCC), and challenged local businesses to match the bank’s initial contribution. As part of the HCAC’s partnership with the bank, scholarships are announced annually at the Celebration of the Arts. The 2017 Business Partnership scholarships went to returning HCC students Ashley Marchone, visual art, Long Reach High School; and Benjamin Sheeley, instrumental music, Howard High School.

Artists’ Gallery to Feature Works by Hoeper, Beerbohm
Maryland artists Deborah Hoeper and Ken Beerbohm will exhibit their works in a show at Artists’ Gallery through May 28, entitled, “When Words Aren’t Enough …” A reception that is open to the public will be held on Sunday, May 7, from 2–5 p.m., at the Gallery.

Deborah Hoeper, a native West Virginian now living in Silver Spring, has exhibited her acrylic landscapes in many local galleries. She has had a studio at Passageways, in Riverdale, for 20 years and is an artist member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society. The works on exhibit in this show are based on her recent visit to Petra, in Jordan, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

Ken Beerbohm was raised in Neihart, Mont., where he developed a love of nature. His natural craftsmanship in his adult life led to a degree in Design and Industry from San Francisco State University and a 35-year career of owning and operating a custom plastics shop. In his spare time, he would turn to sculpting as a hobby, and upon retirement, turned his basement into a studio. He creates sculptures primarily made of clay and a variety of mixed media.

Artists’ Gallery is located at 8197 Main Street, Ellicott City. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, from 10–6; Thursday–Saturday, 10–8; and Sunday, 10–5. The venue is closed on Monday. For more information, call 443-745-2358.

The Arc Hosts Annual Awards Event

The Arc of Howard County will host its Annual Meeting and Celebration of Excellence awards event on Wednesday, May 10, at The Gathering Place in Clarksville. The annual meeting is at 7 p.m. Award presentations will be made to individuals and groups that promote The Arc’s mission of achieving full community life for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Refreshments will be served. The Gathering Place is located at 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville. For more information, contact Keyanna Turner at 410-730-0638, ext. 226, or kturner@archoward.org.

 

Cardin, Van Hollen Announce $10M in Funding Toward Opioid Crisis

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) have announced $10,036,845 in federal funding to fight Maryland’s opioid health crisis. The grant is funded by the 21st Century Cures Act, which was backed by both Cardin and Van Hollen and signed into law by President Obama in 2016.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide the funds through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants, which is administered by HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The primary job of the federal government is to keep our citizens safe and healthy, which is precisely what this investment in Maryland’s opioid response efforts aims to do. I was proud to support the 21st Century Cures Act that made this grant a reality, and thank President Obama for having worked so closely with us to see it through,” said Cardin. “Between 2014 and 2015, opioid-related deaths in Maryland rose by 22.6%. That number is shocking, and indicates a rapidly growing, nationwide health crisis. This funding must represent the beginning of a comprehensive response.”

Grants are being awarded to all 50 states, as well as the District of Colombia, totaling $485 million nationwide. The 21st Century Cures Act authorizes the funds for opioid abuse response efforts, such as implementing prevention programs, training health care workers and expanding access to opioid treatment programs.

HCAC Honors Howie
Award Winners

The Howard County Arts Council (HCAC) honored its 2016 Howie Award winners at the 20th Annual Celebration of the Arts on Saturday, March 25, at the Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual & Performing Arts Center, Howard Community College (HCC), Columbia.

The Howie Awards are presented annually by the HCAC to an Outstanding Artist, an Outstanding Arts Educator and an Outstanding Business or Community Supporter that has made a significant impact on the arts in Howard County.
This year’s honoree for Outstanding Artist was Yifei Gan. Gan, who has been teaching studio art at HCC for nearly 25 years, is also an internationally recognized artist and curator whose drawings, paintings, digital media and traditional Chinese brush paintings have been exhibited in solo and invitational exhibitions throughout the U.S., Europe and China.

Laurie Basham was the 2016 honoree for Outstanding Arts Educator. Her career as a Howard County arts educator has spanned more than three decades. For the last 14 years, she has taught at Glenwood Middle School and has provided advanced placement classes, as well as a variety of after-school art clubs; she also has been involved with a variety of special projects, including Empty Bowls fundraisers and the Artist in Education Program.

The honoree for Outstanding Business Supporter of the Arts was M&T Bank, which serves customers in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

SBA Announces Maryland Small Business Week Award Winners
Maryland district winners of the 2017 U.S. Small Business Week Awards Program were announced recently by Stephen Umberger, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Baltimore District Office. District winners will be honored at the 33rd Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon, which will be held on June 8, at Martin’s West, in Woodlawn.

This year’s winners from the Corridor are as follows.
Maryland Small Business Person of the Year: Kara DiPietro, HMC Inc., Columbia

Financial Services Champion: Gerald Baroudi, Business Finance Group, Gambrills
Home-Based Business Champion: Andy Musliner, InRoads Toys, Crofton
Insurance Champion: Matthew Lehman, Moran Insurance, Severna Park
Small Business Exporter of the Year: George Hepburn, Dynasplint Systems, Severna Park
Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Jessica Zaleskiwicz, Coco Couture, Severna Park

District Director’s Unsung Hero Award winner and the Rising Star Student Entrepreneur will be announced in mid-April.
For more information, contact Rachel Howard at 410-244-3337 or at rachel.howard@sba.gov. For information on the 2017 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon or for tickets, visit www.mdsbwawards.org.

Explore Natural Settings With CA’s 2017 Series of Organized Outdoor Walks

Columbia Association’s (CA) series of outdoor walks has returned in 2017, with eight remaining days of exploring the lakes, streams, woodlands and wildlife of Columbia.
“Exploring Columbia on Foot” will once again be led by environmental author Ned Tillman, who will guide discussions on the nature, history and future of these outdoor settings, including the plans for them and challenges they may face in the near future.

Each walk will be about two miles long, with four to five stops along the way. The walks will be held on nine Thursdays and one Saturday through October; most will begin at 10 a.m, except for the walk at The Mall in Columbia, will begin at 8:30 a.m. Registration is not required.

The schedule of remaining walks and meeting locations includes the following.

• Thursday, May 18, Oakland Mills: Meet at Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center, 5134 Thunder Hill Road

• Thursday, June 1, River Hill: Meet at Claret Hall, 6020 Daybreak Circle

• Saturday, June 24, The Mall in Columbia: Meet at the mall’s plaza in front of Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway

• Thursday, July 15, Long Reach: Meet at Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center, 6030 Tamar Drive

• Thursday, Aug. 30, Kings Contrivance: Meet at Huntington Pool, 7625 Murray Hill Road

• Thursday, Sept. 14, Harper’s Choice: Meet at Hobbits Glen Pool, 11130 Willow Bottom Drive

• Thursday, Oct. 12, Downtown Columbia: Meet at Lakefront Plaza, 10275 Little Patuxent Parkway

• Thursday, Oct. 26, Hickory Ridge: Meet at Hawthorn Center, 6175 Sunny Spring

For more information, contact CA’s Open Space Management Division at Open.Space@ColumbiaAssociation.org or 410-312-6330.

Consumer Alert: ‘Can You Hear Me’ Scams

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is alerting consumers to be on the lookout for scam callers seeking to get victims to say the word “yes” during a call — and later use a recording of the response to authorize unwanted charges on the victim’s utility or credit card account.

According to complaints the FCC has received and public news reports, the fraudulent callers impersonate representatives from organizations that provide a service and may be familiar to the person receiving the call, such as a mortgage lender or utility, to establish a legitimate reason for trying to reach the consumer.
The scam begins when a consumer answers a call and the person at the end of the line asks, “Can you hear me?” The caller then records the consumer’s “Yes” response — and thus obtains a voice signature. This signature can later be used by the scammers to pretend to be the consumer and authorize fraudulent charges via telephone.

If you receive this type of call, immediately hang up. If you have already responded to this type of call, review all of your statements such as those from your bank, credit card lender or telephone company for unauthorized charges. If you notice unauthorized charges on these and other types of statements, you have likely been a victim of “cramming.”

Anyone who believes s/he has been targeted by this scam should immediately report the incident to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker and to the FCC Consumer Help Center.

Consumers should always be on alert for telephone scams. The following tips can help ward off unwanted calls and scams.

• Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.

• If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents.

• If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC so it can help identify and take appropriate action to help consumers targeted by illegal callers.

• Ask your phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage your provider to offer one. You can also visit the FCC’s website for information and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.

• Consider registering all of your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry.

As the agency that implements and enforces the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the FCC reviews all consumer complaints. The agency will continue, when appropriate, to issue consumer alerts based on those complaints and other public information related to possible scams and frauds, in hopes of informing and empowering consumers.

Five Ways to Spot a Phishing E-Mail

 

Did you know that phishing (i.e., scam) e-mails account for about 91% of all cyberattacks? In other words, nearly every cybersecurity issue you could think of — from viruses to ransomware to full-blown data breaches — starts with users accidentally clicking malicious links in e-mails.

On the technology end, spam filters and antivirus scanners combat the threat of phishing e-mails. However, these security features aren’t perfect. Inevitably, you’ll find phishing e-mails in your inbox, and the only true “patch” is awareness.

To help you protect your sensitive information against cyberthreats, let’s review five telltale signs of a phishing e-mail and what to do when you’ve spotted a phish.

• Unexpected request
You probably recognize the sender or the content of most e-mails you receive. But with phishing scams, victims are often faced with an unexpected request. A common ploy is the e-mail from a “friend” stranded in a foreign country. S/he just needs a one-time wire transfer of a few thousand dollars to make it home safely. How often does this scenario actually take place in real life? Requests like this one are unusual for a reason. They aren’t legitimate.

• Urgent!
Most phishing e-mails prompt recipients for action ASAP; that way, there isn’t time to process what you’re reading and doubt its veracity. But think about it: How many times have you sent an e-mail that was really urgent? Typically, urgent requests are made by phone or in person, not via e-mail. This is one of the biggest signs of a scam.

• Poor Grammar, Spelling or Syntax
Keep an eye out for typos and strange syntax, which are common features of malicious e-mails. Most phishing e-mails are sent from foreign countries, where computer crime laws may not be as strict as they are in the U.S. Even if U.S. law enforcement tracks down an attacker, the country in which the attacker resides may not cooperate. Scammers are much safer attacking us from abroad. Fortunately, their language can be a dead giveaway.

• Suspicious Hover-Over Link                                                     Attackers want to convince you that you’re going to a legitimate website, when instead they’re sending you to a malicious link that could install malware on your computer or trick you into revealing your password. If you hover over a link within an e-mail and the URL doesn’t match the description of the link, it might be a phishing site. When the URL doesn’t look familiar, don’t take a chance. If the e-mail regards an online account that you log into regularly, simply open up a new browser window and log in as you normally do (but don’t click that link).

• Asks for Sensitive Information Phishing e-mails often ask you to “verify” your credit card number, Social Security number or account password, which legitimate services wouldn’t do. Never share sensitive information through e-mail.

 

Don’t Take the Bait

Now that you know the signs of a phishing e-mail, what should you do if you spot one? It’s simple: Just delete it. Many users feel compelled to report phishing e-mails to someone else, whether it’s a coworker or the e-mail service provider, but if a suspicious e-mail is forwarded, it’s more likely that the malicious link will be clicked. If we all get in the habit of recognizing and deleting suspicious e-mails, phishing will become a weaker threat altogether.

Sometimes, detecting phishing e-mails can be tough, even when you’ve seen a million before. Here are two recommendations to keep in mind: If you’re unsure, press delete. If an e-mail is causing you to hesitate, it’s probably because something is “phishy.” Trust your gut.

In the event that you accidentally delete a legitimate e-mail, the sender will get in touch with you again, at which point you’ll have more information to work with. Verify with the sender “out of band.” In other words, simply call the sender. Don’t use a number provided from the e-mail, because it could be fake. If you don’t have the actual number on hand, try researching the official website of the business or individual.

Many phishing e-mails tempt recipients with irresistible offers, but here’s a legitimate deal: Keep these five signs in mind when checking your e-mails, and you’ll be taking a major step toward ensuring that cyberattacks can’t reach your networks.

 

Gary S. Williams, CFP, CRPC, AIF, is president and founder of Williams Asset Management, in Columbia. He can be contacted at 410-740-0220, Gary@WilliamsAsset.com and www.WilliamsAssetManagement.com. For information about his book, “The Art of Retirement” (with the foreword by NFL Legend Ronnie Lott), visit www.theartofretirement.org.