Archived Articles: June 2017

From the Desk of CA President: Milton Matthews

One of the reasons residents move to Columbia and Howard County is because it’s a desirable place to raise a family. The schools are rated highly, the library system is award-winning, the community is beautiful, crime is low, the economy is strong, and we are close enough for people to commute to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Fort Meade and elsewhere in the region.

Columbia Association (CA) strives to make life easier for working parents, both during the school year before parents arrive home, after the work day when parents may want to relax or work out, and in summertime when parents are seeking fun, safe and creative ways to keep their kids occupied.

One of CA’s most popular services during the school year is our Before and After School Care program, which provides safe, professional, convenient and affordable child care in 19 elementary schools and three middle schools. We serve more than 1,800 children and go well beyond mere babysitting — there is a daily curriculum with a mix of activities, all geared to the individual developmental needs of each child. More information can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/sas.

Another gem in Columbia that we wish even more people took advantage of is CA’s Youth and Teen Center, at The Barn in Oakland Mills, a place where teens can socialize and participate in recreational and educational programs after school and on off days. But know that the center isn’t just a place to hang out. The Youth and Teen Center provides strong mentorship to help with life skills through programs like the Boys II Men Club, For G.I.R.L.S. Only and the Chess Club, which brings the youth and teens together with members of the Howard County Police Department. Amazingly, the Youth and Teen Center’s drop-in program is just $40 a year. More information can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/ytc.

When parents get off work they may want to head to a fitness club or the spa, but might not have anyone to watch their kids at home. That’s why CA offers KidSpace interactive play areas in Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia Gym, Haven on the Lake and Supreme Sports Club. KidSpace is for children between 6 months and 13 years old, with amenities and structured programs tailored to each facility; parents can use KidSpace for up to two hours per day. KidSpace can be accessed for a drop-in fee; 1Fit and CA Fit&Play members can also choose to add a KidSpace membership; and KidSpace is free for Golf Fit&Play members. More information can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/kidspace.

When schools are out, for the day or for the entire summer, CA is here to help. CA has School’s Out day programs at several facilities, and CA’s summer camps are the perfect way for you to make sure your children return home each day with smiles on their faces. Our annual Camps Guide can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/camps.

Yet, we also want parents and their kids to be able to enjoy time together. This summer is a perfect time for families to spend time at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront for the Lakefront Summer Festival, with 23 free movies and 50 free concerts scheduled this year — including four Teen Open Mic nights. No other community has this much free programming nearly every night of the summer. The full schedule can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/lakefrontfestival. There are so many reasons why this is a wonderful place to raise a family. We at CA are proud to provide many of those reasons.

E-mail milton.matthews@columbiaassociation.org with questions/comments.

Central Maryland Chamber: Chamber Corner

Is the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) a new chamber?

Well, yes. And no.

The CMCC is a new name, created by the merging of the former Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber and the former West County Chamber. The CMCC name and the logo are new, and members of both chambers are now automatically a part of a much larger regional chamber. With 600 member businesses and a regional focus covering Central Maryland, members are enjoying greater connections, meeting new people, expanded programing, advocacy and support that helps them grow their businesses.

If you are not already a member of the CMCC, and you are looking for a way to connect with regional business professionals and boost your business brand, join us. If you are a member and would like to learn more about new opportunities, contact us at 410-672-3422.

Join us at these upcoming events; for more information and to register, visit www.CentralMarylandChamber.org/events.
• Wednesday, June 7, 8:30–10 a.m.: The Buyer-Seller Dance: Sandler Sales Training. To lead the sales process, you must know and apply a selling system that works. Merely showing up at the sales appointment isn’t enough. Join us to learn how to create a win-win system.

• Thursday, June 15: Membership 101 is a free, introductory program for members and prospective members that teaches valuable networking skills, offers friendly connections and introduces you to the benefits of membership that can help you grow your business.

• Thursday, June 15: Multi-Chamber Bowie Baysox Networking Mixer.

• Wednesday, June 21: Multi-Chamber Networking Breakfast in Annapolis.

Howard County Chamber of Commerce: Chamber Corner

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC) recently held its 48th Annual Meeting Luncheon at Turf Valley, in Ellicott City. Chamber President and CEO Leonardo McClarty opened the meeting by recognizing past chairs, including Mark Cissel, Greg Lowe, Ron Meliker, Gordon Mumpower, Donna Richardson and Paul Skalny.

Next, four students from Howard Community College’s Entrepreneurial Program discussed their business models. The winning student, Melissa Robbins, pitched her idea for a company called RADD (Real Solutions for ADD); next, the HCCC’s annual awards were presented.

• GovConnects Advocate of the Year is Ron Sroka, Jr., Evolve Consulting

• Young Professional of the Year is Elyssa Auerbach, Lowe Wealth Advisors

• Business Advocate of the Year is Mike Fowler, BGE

• Ambassador of the Year is Kartik Shah, PNC Bank

The event also included a vote on nominees for the board of directors. Charles Camp, M&T Bank; Kelly Mitchell, impactHR; Barbara Nicklas, The Mall in Columbia; and Eric Pfoutz, Edward Jones Investments were all voted in.

Board Chair Jeff Agnor followed the vote by talking about the direction of the chamber during the coming year. Agnor used the acronym DARE to describe the direction of the HCCC: the main points were Diversity, Advocacy, Relevance and Engagement.
Agnor also revealed that the chamber is moving to Old Dobbin Lane in Columbia Crossing. The move will put its office closer to the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s (HCEDA) Center for Entrepreneurship and the Howard Community College Business Training Center.

Lastly Vice President of Operations Joanne Birdsong has decided to move on from the HCCC after 10 years of dedicated service. We wish her a great start to the next chapter of her life.

 

Sarbanes Visits HCCC

Congressman John Sarbanes paid a visit to the HCCC offices to talk with President and CEO Leonardo McClarty, and Board Chair Jeff Agnor. Sarbanes gave a quick recap of the latest from Capitol Hill and detailed some of the recent changes that will directly impact chamber members.

More than a dozen regulatory actions that were put into place by the Obama administration have already been rolled back under the Trump administration. Congressman Sarbanes also explained that there is a great deal of uncertainty right now in Washington regarding what will happen to the Affordable Care Act and what the details of Trump’s tax reform outline will look like.

Sarbanes also asked about what chamber members have been hearing. McClarty and Agnor expressed concerns from small business members about access to financing and uncertainty about health care benefits. They also shared the chamber’s concerns about legislation on the state level, as the HCCC has been advocating against the Paid Sick Leave Act, potential changes to overtime pay and the minimum wage.

Sarbanes also spoke about the need to get more small businesses that are looking for federal government contracts in front of the people awarding those contracts and about how he is pushing for a return to apprenticeships in industries that have trouble finding qualified employees, including information technology, cybersecurity and engineering.

 

Meeting With Van Hollen

HCCC President and CEO Leonardo McClarty and representatives from six chamber member organizations also met last month with Sen. Chris Van Hollen to discuss concerns and issues facing small businesses.
The HCCC invited Mary Ann Scully of Howard Bank, Bob Dealmeida of Hamilton Bank, David Tohn of BTS Software, Mimi Asfaw of Placement Ready, Larry Twele of the HCEDA, Richard Ohnmacht of Bay Bank and Andra Cain of Cain Contracting to meet with Van Hollen.

The senator heard concerns regarding the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and how the Act has made it more difficult for small businesses to get access to capital. The group suggested that Congress could consider amendments to Dodd-Frank to address the issue.

The group also gave several examples of other areas where Van Hollen could aid small businesses by easing regulatory burdens, including raising the appraisal threshold for commercial real estate loans and simplifying the regulatory capital rules.

Martirano Announces HCPSS Central Office Reorganization

Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Acting Superintendent Michael Martirano announced plans for a reorganized central office, structured to drive his vision for a robust instructional program that ensures equity and enables all students to reach their greatest potential.

The new model is aligned to several core principles that include school responsiveness, continuous improvement, employee and community engagement, and transparency in every aspect of school system operations.

The new organization provides a flatter leadership model that fosters cross- and vertical collaboration and opens lines of communication at all levels throughout the school system. With a focus on instruction as a birth-through-graduation continuum, the new structure better positions the school system to address and overcome factors that contribute to the achievement gap.

Martirano’s senior leadership team will consist of the following.

• Karalee Turner-Little, assistant superintendent for administrative affairs, overseeing systemic processes, legislative services and policy management.
• Mark Blom, general counsel, overseeing all legal matters and public information act request fulfillment.

• Kevin Gilbert, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, overseeing the integration of these principles throughout the educational program and school system culture.

• Helen Nixon, chief human resources and professional development officer, overseeing recruitment, hiring, compensation, and staff and leadership development.

• Anissa Brown Dennis, chief operations officer, overseeing capital planning, infrastructure development, facilities management and safety.

• A chief academic officer, overseeing shared accountability, curriculum and instruction, special education and student services. (Position open.)

• A chief business and technology officer, overseeing all financial and technology operations and ensuring responsible stewardship of school system resources. (Position open.)

• A chief communication, community and workforce engagement officer, overseeing communications, workforce engagement and partner engagement. (Position open.)

• A chief school management and instructional leadership officer, overseeing a vertical educational delivery model that encompasses preschool through Grade 12.

• Three new community superintendent positions, each overseeing a regional cluster of elementary, middle and high schools, who will report to the chief school management and instructional leadership officer. These positions are currently open.

Additional new positions to be filled include the following.
• Industrial hygienist/indoor environmental quality manager, reporting to the chief operating officer, to ensure the safety and health of all classrooms and work areas.

• Performance, equity and community response officer, reporting to the community superintendents, to collaborate with principals in implementing instructional and curricular programs.

• Policy manager, reporting to the assistant superintendent for administrative affairs, to oversee planning, revision and management of all HCPSS policies.
• Special education parent liaison, reporting to the interim superintendent, to increase responsiveness to parent concerns.

“A superintendent rarely has the opportunity to effectuate change at this level and scope,” said Martirano. “I am grateful for the tremendous support from our Board of Education, county leaders, parents, teachers and staff, and entire community that make this new direction possible.”

Business Briefs

Wecker Hospitality to Open Bistros in Downtown Columbia
The Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) has announced that the locally-based Wecker Hospitality Group will open Cured, a restaurant that embodies the rustic elegance of the region’s recipes, with a modern new twist; and 18th & 21st, a cocktail lounge featuring dining and live music that gives a nod to the classics.
Both additions to Downtown Columbia will be located on the ground level of the One Merriweather office building at Broken Land Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway. Local restaurateur Steve Wecker, leader of Iron Bridge Wine Co., in Columbia; and Mutiny Pirate Bar & Island Grille, in Glen Burnie, is opening the new bistros, which are scheduled to open this winter.
Cured, a 125-seat restaurant, will feature a menu crafted by the restaurant’s culinary specialists. The forgotten cooking traditions of the mid-Atlantic region will be reimagined, with a changing array of dishes paired with a selection of rustic cocktails and craft beers; 18th & 21st is named after the Constitutional amendments that created and repealed prohibition and will be an intimate, 1,900-square-foot “modern speakeasy,” with a 38-seat dining room and larger bar and lounge with live music six nights a week.

Turf Valley Unveils Multi-Million-Dollar Refresh
Turf Valley Resort, in Ellicott City, has announced a multi-million-dollar renovation to its hotel, which features 172 guest rooms and suites, as well as an American fusion restaurant, spa and two private golf courses.
Renovations included updates to 128 of the 172 hotel room restrooms, which include installing new marble vanities with backlit electric mirrors, magnifying mirrors and sliding shower enclosures; 40-inch flat-screen televisions in all guest rooms; complete redesign of all hotel corridors, including hotel elevator landing areas; and updated kitchen and bathroom areas in all hospitality suites.
Also included in the update are newly renovated ADA-compliant rooms, including roll-in ADA showers and increasing the number of accessible rooms; and a new entryway into “The Garden,” Turf Valley’s outdoor wedding ceremony space. First Finish completed all general contracting work in time for the opening of Turf Valley’s 2017 season, which marks the Mangione family’s 40th year of owning the property.

SHA to Resurface Portion of B-W Parkway Southbound in BWI Business District
The State Highway Administration (SHA) is resurfacing two miles of southbound Route 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) between Winterson Road and Hanover Road, in Anne Arundel County. This $2 million resurfacing project will be complete by late summer, weather permitting.
SHA’s contractor, P. Flanigan & Sons, of Baltimore, will patch, grind, resurface and restripe 2.1 miles of the southbound portion of the parkway. Other work on the project includes upgrading and replacing guardrail; repairing, cleaning and upgrading existing stormwater management inlets and pipes; and roadway slope repair and sediment control.
Crews will work Sundays through Thursdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Motorists should expect single-lane closures through the work zone. Last resurfaced in 1997, this section of Route 295 has an average traffic volume of 101,300 vehicles daily and is a primary route to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Electronic Road Construction Brochure Available From SHA
As temperatures rise, highway construction and maintenance projects across Maryland roadsides will become more prevalent. Marylanders are encouraged to learn about these projects with the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) State Highway Administration’s (SHA) Road Ready 2017 electronic brochure.
SHA contractors and crews are working to enhance safety and reduce congestion through hundreds of improvement projects. With MDOT reaching a record number of projects, drivers will encounter numerous construction zones across the state. This brochure highlights 165 of the major projects and the timelines for completion.
The Road Ready 2017 electronic construction brochure is now available at http://maryland.maps.arcgis.com. It highlights major road construction and maintenance projects in each of MDOT SHA’s seven engineering districts, which cover Maryland’s 23 counties. Maryland drivers can also “know before they go” by calling 511 or visiting www.md511.org for live traffic updates, including construction delays and lane closures.

Howard County Farmers
Market Returns
Howard County has welcomed summer with the return of its local farmers markets, as the county will be hosting the events at five locations, four days a week. Shoppers can buy produce, meats, baked goods and cuisine made in the county.
The Howard County Library System will host local food producers every Wednesday until Nov. 15 at its Miller Branch, in Ellicott City, and every Thursday until Oct. 26 at its East Columbia Branch, in Columbia. The new Clarksville Commons is also hosting markets every Thursday. The Ellicott City Old Town Market has returned and will operate every Saturday until Oct. 28 out of The Wine Bin parking lot, on Main Street in the historic district.
On Sundays, until Nov. 19, the Oakland Mills Village Center, in Columbia, will be hosting a market at 5851 Robert Oliver Place. For more information, visit www.hceda.org/markets.

Capitals to Play Toronto at USNA Stadium Next March
The NHL has announced its latest outdoor game is scheduled for early next year at the U.S. Naval Academy’s football stadium. To be held on Monday, March 3, 2018, the Washington Capitals’ contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs will mark the first time a U.S. service academy will host an NHL outdoor game. The matchup will be a rematch of the first round of the 2017 NHL playoffs.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium — home of the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team, as well as the Military Bowl — will host the event. Its capacity of approximately 34,000 makes it a relatively small venue for an outdoor NHL game, as they are often held in NFL or MLB facilities; but the NHL recently held an outdoor game at Investors Group Field, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which has a capacity of approximately 33,000 for football.
The Capitals have played in two outdoor games, both times in the NHL’s New Year’s Day showcase, the Winter Classic.

Clarksville Commons Hosts
First Look
Clarksville Commons, a 40,000-square-foot sustainable, mixed-use commercial center on Route 108 in the center of Clarksville, has opened. The center, which was developed by GreenStone Ventures II (whose principals, Holly and George Stone, have lived in and raised their family in Clarksville), features environmentally sustainable architectural design, including photovoltaic panels, a living green roof, cisterns to capture rainwater, and stormwater runoff mitigation through rain gardens and porous surfaces.
The project won the 2017 Wintergreen Award for Excellence for Small Commercial Redevelopment from the United States Green Business Council (USGBC) Maryland. Tenants include You Pizza and Scoop & Paddle; Kupcakes & Co. and Vanguard Orthodontics to open in early June; the Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate scheduled to open in July; and Food Plenty is set to open by early fall.

Shore United Bank Opens Three Bank Branches in Area
Metropolitan Area-Shore Bancshares has announced that its banking subsidiary, Shore United Bank, has extended its footprint across the Eastern Shore to the Baltimore area in Elkridge, Arbutus and Owings Mills by opening the doors of three former Northwest Bank branches as Shore United Bank.
The transaction resulted in Shore United Bank receiving $215 million in assets from Northwest Bank, the bank subsidiary of Northwest Bancshares. “We look forward to the opportunities in the Baltimore market area,” said Shore Bancshares’ President and CEO Lloyd “Scott” Beatty Jr. “These branches provide geographic diversification for our organization and will help to support future growth.”

KatzAbosch Announces New Service to Help Optimize Businesses
KatzAbosch has announced that it now offers process improvement services based on Lean Six Sigma methodology for organizations that seek ways to improve performance. The group is led by KatzAbosch’s Claudia Wolter, and the methodology is now common in various industries. It helps identify the cause of a problem and implement a fix based on facts, rather than assumptions.
The benefits include increases in customer satisfaction, revenue and/or resources and production of results. The KatzAbosch team works directly with a business owner, an executive or a team leader to identify the highest-value opportunities, focus on the most critical challenges and help create new strategies.

Hub International Acquires Rossmann-Hurt-Hoffman
Hub International Ltd., a global insurance brokerage, has acquired Ellicott City-based Rossmann-Hurt-Hoffman (RHH). RHH is a multi-lines insurance solutions provider, including commercial and personal lines of insurance, as well as employee benefits solutions. Norman Breitenbach, executive vice president, RHH, will join Hub as president of Hub Mid-Atlantic and report to Charles Brophy, president of Hub New England, regional president U.S. East. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
“RHH is one of the most respected brokerage firms in Maryland, and their staff of seasoned professionals will be a welcome addition to our organization,” said Brophy.
Acquiring RHH provides Hub with an attractive opportunity to establish a footprint in the mid-Atlantic region.”

PharmAthene Acquired by Gaithersburg Firm
Altimmune, of Gaithersburg, has announced the completion of its merger with Annapolis-based PharmAthene. Upon the completion of the merger, the combined company was renamed Altimmune Inc., and has commenced trading on the NASDAQ Capital Market under the ticker symbol ALT. The new entity is a fully-integrated and diversified immunotherapeutics company with one preclinical-stage and four clinical-stage drug-development programs.
Bill Enright, president and CEO of Altimmune, and Elizabeth Czerepak, chief financial officer and executive vice president of corporate development of Altimmune, will serve in their respective positions in the combined company. The new board of directors will be initially composed of three PharmAthene directors and four Altimmune directors. The combined company’s headquarters is located in Gaithersburg.

CA Launches New, Simpler Membership Structure
Columbia Association (CA) launched a new membership structure early last month, offering membership plans that provide improved options for members and residents. The new membership plans are CA Fit&Play, 1Fit, Play, 5Day Golf&Play, 7Day Golf and Golf Fit&Play. Current memberships transitioned on May 1 to the new plan that most closely mirrored their existing plan. Members who are in a current contract will see no rate changes until their normal contract renewal date.
The new membership structure followed a 24-month analysis led by CA’s board of directors and leadership team and a consultant firm. Research identified what options residents would prefer, and CA worked to create a new, simpler membership structure. Information about the restructure is available through various media platforms. Customers seeking to sign up for one of the new membership plans can visit www.ColumbiaAssociation.org/membership/buy-a-membership.

Matan Sells Former Kane/Office Movers Property
Matan Companies has sold its 81,795-square-foot warehouse located at 6500 Kane Way, Elkridge. Acquired by Matan in December 2004, the property was the former headquarters of the Kane Company, one of the nation’s largest commercial movers, which filed for bankruptcy and vacated the space in late 2016. The property features 62,115 square feet of warehouse space with 36-foot clear ceiling height, and an additional 19,680 square feet of office space.
“The Kane building was a unique asset with its highly desirable location and prime visibility along the I-95 corridor,” said Dan Milligan, finance manager for Matan Companies. “After owning the property for almost 15 years, the strong industrial market makes this the perfect time to sell.”

Merkle Becomes a Snapchat Partner for Audience Match
Columbia-based Merkle, a leading technology-enabled, data-driven performance marketing agency, announced that it is a Snapchat Audience Match API Partner. Through the audience match API, Snapchat will enable advertisers to take customer relationship marketing level data — email and mobile ID — and anonymously match that data with Snapchat’s trove of consumer data to reach more consumers more accurately and at scale.
Through M1, Dentsu Aegis Network’s people-based marketing platform, brands can improve their engagement with customers to access a true target market while optimizing cost. The combined solution enables audiences to be targeted on a personal level, with more relevant ads across mobile devices. This presents a new channel for reaching the 150-plus million daily active Snapchatters; more than 60 million of them in the U.S. and Canada.

Holistic Closes on $8M in Investments
Holistic Industries LLC, the only company in Maryland awarded license pre-approval for growing medical cannabis in Prince George’s County, has announced the closing of more than $8 million in investments in a private convertible debt offering. In 2016, the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced that Holistic was awarded license pre-approvals for growing, processing and dispensing medical cannabis in the state. Holistic is building its facility in Capitol Heights and is one of the few companies to be awarded preliminary approval for vertically integrated medical cannabis operations in Maryland.
Holistic, which broke ground on its state-of-the-art cultivation and processing facility in January, is planning for its Prince George’s County facility to be fully operational by August, with medical cannabis product lines coming online late this fall. It is licensed to dispense medical marijuana in Rockville.

BWI Marshall Welcomes International Service From Spirit
Spirit Airlines has announced that it will add international service between BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Cancun, Mexico, starting on Nov. 9. Cancun will be the first international route for Spirit Airlines at BWI Marshall.
Spirit Airlines has grown quickly at BWI Marshall in recent years. With the new service, Spirit will operate flights between BWI Marshall and 19 markets. The airline first shifted its regional operation to BWI Marshall in September 2012 with flights to two destinations. Spirit Airlines operates flights to about 60 markets in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

New Health Company Opens in
Ellicott City
A new company based in Ellicott City, Recharge, is integrating physical therapy, CrossFit and Mindfulness training under one roof, at a company that is run by doctors of physical therapy in an environment with a reactive, instead of a proactive, foundation.
At ReCharge, CrossFit classes are developed and led by doctors of physical therapy and are offered via membership.

Better Homes & Gardens
Expands to Crofton
Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate has added Apex Realty, in Crofton, to its franchise network. The newly named Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Live Well Group, led by broker Bryan Gleason and co-owners Jeff Caruso and Mark Somerville, will continue to serve Crofton, as well as Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
The Apex Realty management team has more than 60 years of combined experience in almost every aspect of real estate including home sales, building and development of properties. In its first three years of business, Apex has seen steady growth, but under the Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate name, the company is poised to further expand and better serve their clients.

ByteGrid Receives FedRAMP
Ready Status
ByteGrid Holdings, which has an office in Annapolis, has been awarded FedRAMP Ready status by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). The designation is granted to cloud systems that are ready to begin the FedRAMP Security Assessment Framework, which is a comprehensive three-step process that helps ensure confidence in cloud solution security and the consistent application of current security practice.
A government-wide program that utilizes a standardized “do once, use many times” approach to security assessment, authorization and monitoring for cloud products and services, FedRAMP works closely with cloud and cybersecurity experts from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and other key government agencies.

Howard County Earns Excellence in Financial Reporting Award in Fifth Decade
Howard County has continued its streak of more than 40 years having merited a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. For the 41st consecutive year, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada has honored the county for exceeding generally accepted accounting principles based on Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) submissions.
Issued by the county each fiscal year, the CAFR is an official financial statement of record that includes statements of special revenue, capital projects, enterprise, internal service and trust, agency and general funds. An independently-audited report, it also provides information on long-term obligations and fixed assets, including infrastructure, and statistical charts on multi-year tax collection and assessable base figures.

Howard County Master Bathroom Wins Remodeling Award
Elkridge-based April Force Parode Interiors is one of 80 companies across the U.S. that has won the Chrysalis Award for Remodeling Excellence. The entries were judged on overall design, creative use of space and materials and the degree to which the project enhanced the original structure.
April Force Pardoe’s modern master bathroom project was awarded the best bathroom remodel under $50,000 in the entire Northeast. The compact master bathroom, which was designed in a home in Columbia, features a wall-mounted vanity with a slab door style and custom gray paint finish. A wall-mounted toilet, chrome plumbing fixtures and straight-stacked linear glass gray tile completes the modern feeling in this bathroom.

COLA Launches Patient, Specimen Misidentification Video
COLA, a national laboratory accreditor and an advocate for quality in laboratory medicine and patient care, unveiled a video designed to address the issue of patient misidentification which the ECRI Institute (formerly the Emergency Care Research Institute), ranked second in a 2016 list of top 10 patient safety concerns for health care organizations.
Entitled “Dr. Daly Discusses … Patient and Specimen Misidentification Issues,” the video is hosted by Dr. John Daly, COLA’s chief medical officer. The video is the third in an ongoing series on topics of interest to laboratory personnel, as well as other health care professionals. Each presentation is less than five minutes in length, and is posted on the on the third Thursday of each month on LabTestingMatters.org. Additional topics currently scheduled include Hand Hygiene (June 15); Liquid Biopsy (July 20) and Tuberculosis (Aug. 17).

Lee & Associates Unveils New
Lee & Associates, the largest broker-owned commercial real estate firm in North America, has revealed its new corporate imaging and brand identity package. The centerpiece of the new program revolves around the design and integration of a modernized logo into all corporate branding elements including signage, the website and the internal and external identity package.
The new design features a modernized icon of the “L” and “A” representing Lee & Associates that reflects a proactive approach that the company feels is embraced by real estate brokerage and property management professionals working for the organization.

St. John Center Dedicated at UMD
The University of Maryland (UMD) recently dedicated the new Edward St. John Learning & Teaching Center, named for Baltimore-based developer, philanthropist and 1961 alumnus Ed St. John, founder and chairman of St. John Properties, who donated $10 million toward the building’s construction. The 187,000-square-foot space, which includes 12 classrooms and nine teaching labs with a total of 1,500 seats, is designed to elevate the culture of collaborative learning on campus.
Focused on a student-centered approach to learning and teaching, the center features labs, informal study spaces, group study rooms and technology-enhanced TERP (Teach, Engage, Respond and Participate) Classrooms with flexibility, such as tiered seating, mobile desks and swiveling chairs that encourage active learning and collaboration. Other unique features include four food spaces and two green roofs, one of which is intended for instructional use.

Newberry Group Acquires Ellicott City-Based Line of Sight
The Newberry Group, an employee-owned information technology consulting and cybersecurity firm based in St. Peters, Mo., with its operational headquarters in Howard County, has announced the acquisition of Line of Sight, an Ellicott City firm with expertise in project management, organizational change and business process improvement services. The move supports the Newberry Group’s ongoing expansion, as the combined firm has more than 100 employees serving clients from Maryland to Hawaii.
“When I started Line of Sight 12 years ago, two of my goals included becoming an employee-owned company and achieving a 50-50 split serving government and commercial clients. Joining the Newberry Group accomplished both goals overnight,” said Line of Sight’s Founder Jon Weinstein, who will join Newberry as the executive director for the new division and is also chair of the Howard County Council.

HCGH Receives Awards for
Stroke Program
Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award with Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to providing the most appropriate stroke treatment according to nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.
Hospitals must achieve 85% or higher adherence to all Get With The Guidelines-Stroke achievement indicators for two or more consecutive 12-month periods and achieve 75% or higher compliance with five of eight Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Quality measures to receive the Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

Welcome Center in Ellicott City to Expand Hours
With the summer travel season beginning and the ensuing increase in traffic to restaurants, shops and attractions on Main Street in Ellicott City, Visit Howard County is expanding the hours at the Howard County Welcome Center.
Beginning June 1, the Howard County Welcome Center will be open from Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and on Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to the increased hours of the Welcome Center, the two public bathrooms accessible from the building’s side entrance are now open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Carillon Bells Return to Columbia With Bell Tree at Lake Kittamaqundi

The carillon bells are once again ringing every 15 minutes in downtown Columbia from a structure informally known as the Bell Tree. The pier at Lake Kittamaqundi was long home to a flag tower that was installed at the time of Columbia’s founding in 1967; the bells were added as a gift from the Rouse Co. in 1977 in celebration of the community’s 10th birthday.

The tower was removed in early 2010 for safety reasons. The wooden structure had deteriorated from exposure to the elements; Columbia Association (CA) has stored the bells since that time.

This spring, CA installed the Bell Tree, an 18-foot metal structure that is meant to be an interim home for the bells until a more permanent place for them is found, completing the approximately $165,000 project to coincide with the celebration of Columbia’s 50th Birthday. A special ceremony celebrating the bells and the 50th anniversary of Columbia’s “People Tree” will be held on Wednesday, June 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront.

Arundel’s Chan to Temporarily
Run State DHMH
Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Jinlene Chan is serving, on a temporary basis, as the acting deputy secretary for Public Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Former Health Officer Fran Philips has agreed to serve the Anne Arundel County Department of Health in an acting capacity until Chan returns.

State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dennis Schrader requested that the current deputy secretary for Public Health Services, Dr. Howard Haft, lead the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange until a search for a permanent executive director could be completed. She was appointed health officer by the county executive in 2014 and has worked with the Department of Health since 2006.

 

LHC Calling for Community
Impact Projects
Leadership Howard County (LHC) is looking to assist nonprofits or government entities in their quests to find solutions to identified organizational challenges or issues. Small project teams of class participants work to conduct research, create a plan or propose a creative, sustainable solution to an identified problem.
Learn more by attending an information session at Loyola University Maryland’s Columbia campus on June 15, at 8:30 a.m., or June 19, at 4 p.m.; the application deadline is July 10. For more information or to RSVP, contact Laurie Remer at 410-730-4474, ext.111, or laurie.remer@leadershiphc.org.

 

Traffic Relief, Parking Enforcement Initiative Set Near Sandy Point

Anne Arundel County’s police department is responding to community concerns regarding traffic and parking issues that arise as a result of overcapacity at Sandy Point State Park. The issues on the arterial roads off College Parkway were first brought to the attention of county government by Councilman Michael Peroutka, who held a series of meetings with the leadership of the Broadneck Council of Communities.

As part of the initiative, Police Chief Tim Altomare has directed his officers to enforce aggressively parking and traffic regulations in the communities around Sandy Point. Any individual parked in prohibited areas will be given a warning and then towed if s/he does not immediately vacate the area. Any resident encountering a vehicle parking illegally has been asked to call 410-222-6145, and the Anne Arundel County Police Department will dispatch personnel to handle the situation.

County police also will help direct traffic moving into the park, helping reduce bottlenecks and ease congestion along the arterial roads.

Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland DOC Partner to Operate Nonprofit Development Center
Maryland Nonprofits has been selected through a competitive bid award by the Maryland Department of Commerce to operate the Nonprofit Development Center, a program that will serve qualifying startup and emerging nonprofits.

The center will provide training and professional development opportunities, and online learning community and consulting services, at no cost to participating organizations. Nonprofits can receive assistance in areas including nonprofit development; strategic planning; fundraising; personnel management; nonprofit legal requirements; accounting; public policy advocacy; marketing and public relations; leadership development and succession planning; and diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Nonprofit organizations can learn how to raise more money, build their boards of directors and manage their finances with one-stop shopping,” said Heather Iliff, president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits.

To be eligible for services under this grant, a Maryland-based nonprofit must have received 501(c)3, (c)4 or (c)6 federal tax-exempt status, be less than 10 years old and have an operating budget under $750,000. All qualifying nonprofits that are accepted to the program will have access to Maryland Nonprofits’ extensive list of member benefits at no cost.

 

Architectural Awards Program Recognizes Local Roofing Company
The James Myers Co., of Beltsville, is among 10 construction firms to receive special recognition during the New York-based Copper Development Association’s (CDA) North American Copper in Architecture awards program in April. Focused on projects highlighting architectural copper and copper alloys in new construction, restoration and ornamental applications, the awards program also showcases projects that highlight craftsmanship, attention to detail and architectural vision.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the NACIA awards, the CDA sought the public’s help in selecting the 10 top copper building projects from the past decade. Public voting ranked Myers’s 2013 project to restore the roof of the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts among those top projects from a field of 129 past award winners.

 

Howard County’s Cycle2Health Kicks Off Fifth Season
The Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services has kicked off the fifth season of the county’s bicycling initiative for older adults, Cycle2Health Howard County (C2H).
Coordinated by the Department’s Office on Aging and Independence, C2H debuted in May 2013 as the first non-competitive, peer-led bicycling club developed for older adults in Howard County to feature weekday rides during daytime hours.

Rides vary in length and difficulty and depart from various locations throughout Maryland. Adults of all ages and riding abilities are welcome to participate; last year, more than 120 individuals participated in C2H, averaging 15 cyclists per ride. For more information or to register, call Jeanne DeCray at 410-313-6535 (voice/relay) or visit www.howardcountymd.gov/C2H.

 

Dobbin Road Paving
Project Underway
A Howard County construction project to mill and repave Dobbin Road between Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway in Columbia is underway. Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by late June.
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 at 410-313-3440 or email publicworks@howardcountymd.gov.

 

Women’s Giving Circle Receives
$20K for JA
The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County received a $20,000 donation from husband-and-wife Columbia residents Bob and Bach Jeffrey to support Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s (JA) Rising Women program, which connects high school girls with mentors who help them with entrepreneurship projects.

This year’s three Rising Women cohorts celebrated their work with a year-end expo and competition last month. The program is accepting applications for new participants this summer for the 2017–18 school year. For more information, visit jamaryland.org/programs/rising-women.

CA Awards Scholarships to Community Service-Minded Students
Columbia Association (CA) has recognized the recipients of the Maggie J. Brown Spirit of Columbia Scholarship Award, a $2,500 scholarship awarded to six graduating high school seniors who have shown extraordinary dedication to performing community service.

They are Jacob Lampf, Atholton High School, an intern with the Howard County Executive Office; Kaitlin Landfried, Hammond High School, a graduate of the Leadership U Howard County program; Cire Nicholson, Oakland Mills High School, who volunteered with Allied Soccer, a varsity sport for teens with disabilities; Olatokunbo Olaniyan, Glenelg Country School, who created a nonprofit organization, Hope for Sickle Cell; Aaron Park, Long Reach High School, who applied his passion for plants and horticulture by helping his community garden association; and Jennifer Zhang, River Hill High School, who has served since her freshman year on the River Hill Teen Advisory Committee.

Robinson Nature Center Recertified as Maryland Green Center
Howard County’s Department of Recreation & Parks announced that the Robinson Nature Center has been recertified as a Maryland Green Center by the Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Educators (MAEOE). The recertification was announced at MAEOE’s annual Maryland Green Schools Youth Summit at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.

This distinction recognizes and honors a facility’s efforts in implementation of environmental education, best management practices and community engagement. Initially certified in 2013, the Robinson Nature Center is one of only two Maryland Green Centers in Howard County. There are 41 Green Centers in Maryland.

The recertification process requires centers to provide documentation and evidence of work completed during a four-year period that shows assistance to local schools becoming Green Schools; environmental education-based professional development for teachers; and the center being a model of sustainable practices for schools and the community.

 

AACPS Honors AACC for Partnership

Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) received a top honor at the recent Excellence in Education banquet, which was presented by Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) and the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.

AACC’s Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute in the School of Business and Law was recognized as Business Partner of the Year for a business with more than 50 employees. The Homeland Security Signature Program at Meade High School, which nominated AACC, offers high school students thematic courses and co-curricular, workforce-relevant experiences.

The 31st annual Excellence in Education banquet honored local businesses that have forged critical partnerships with schools across the county, directly benefitting AACPS’s 81,000 students. At this event, nominees for the 2017 AACPS Teacher of the Year and Independent School Teacher of the Year also were recognized.

 

Howard County, Eagle Scout Open Solar System Walk at Alpha Ridge

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman joined Department of Recreation & Parks (HCRP) Director John Byrd, Boy Scout Colin Brinster and Howard Astronomical League (HAL) Events & Outreach Coordinator and Howard County Recreation & Parks Advisory Board Chair Joel Goodman for a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a Solar System Walk through Alpha Ridge Park.

The brainchild of Brinster, the new Solar System Walk at Alpha Ridge Park offers visitors the opportunity to take a stroll through a scale model of our solar system. The 0.4-mile Solar System Walk loop represents more than three billion miles: it begins with the Sun, leads visitors through the planets in the solar system and ends with Pluto, a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt. The walk begins and ends near the observatory.

As his Eagle Scout project, Brinster oversaw the project from start to finish. The print and installation costs were funded by HAL, HCRP and the Friends of Max Cowan Fund. To learn more, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/alpharidgepark.

 

Special Olympics Howard County Honors Student Volunteers With Scholarships

In recognition of their volunteer service, four students have been selected to receive scholarships from Special Olympics Howard County (SOHO). These scholarships are funded by endowments created by the generosity of three families.

Atholton High School graduate Elizabeth Jordan was selected as this year’s Jackie Burk Memorial Scholarship recipient, and received a $1,500 award. She has been a volunteer for four years in basketball, serving as an on-court mentor who plays with the athletes; two Allan Homes Scholarships were awarded to Marriotts Ridge High School twin brothers Matthew and Spencer Leins, and each received $750. Both have volunteered as coaches with the swimming program for the past four years; and The Kathy Lindner Memorial Scholarship, valued at $500, was awarded to Rylie Chambers of Howard High School. For the past three years, she has served as a soccer coach, earning her certification last year. She has also volunteered with basketball.
For more information on volunteering with SOHO or donating to the scholarship fund, call 410-740-0500.

 

HCGH Honors Heroes in Health Care

Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) will hold Heroes in Health Care, an evening celebrating the hospital’s lifesaving staff, on Friday, June 16. The fundraising event will honor HCGH cardiologists Drs. Michael Silverman and Feroz Padder and their team for saving Marriottsville resident Beverly Nees’s life when she experienced a heart attack last summer at the hospital.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a VIP reception, followed by a welcome reception at 6 p.m., program and dinner at 7 p.m., with live music by The Klassix at 7:45 p.m. The event will take place at the Universities Space Research Association, located at 7178 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia. Tickets cost $125 and all proceeds benefit Howard County General Hospital. They can be purchased online at hcgh.org/heroes. For more information, contact Emily Shreve at 410-720-8706 or eshreve@jhmi.edu.

 

Linwood Center to Hold Unveiling Reception With Yumi Hogan
Linwood Center will hold an unveiling reception and plaque dedication on June 12 in honor of its new sister school relationship with the Daniel School, of South Korea. To mark this new relationship, the schools received a donation of matching sculptures, called “Hyunsu’s Butterfly,” made by artists Thomas Clement and Wonsook Kim.

The new relationship between the schools was facilitated by Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan in coordination with Secretary Carol Beatty from the Maryland Department of Disabilities. Hogan and Beatty felt that Linwood School would be the perfect fit for this new partnership, since the Linwood Center provides comprehensive programs and services for children and adults with autism and related developmental disabilities.
The sculpture and garden plaque will be dedicated on June 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Linwood Center, located at 3421 Martha Bush Drive, Ellicott City. For further information, contact Peyton Plummer at pplummer@linwoodcenter.org or 410-465-1352.

 

MakingChange Wins Financial Education Award
MakingChange is the winner of the Outstanding Organization Award, presented by the Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign, Maryland Council of Economic Education and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

The Financial Education and Capability Awards are intended to highlight the dedication and success of public school teachers, community champions and outstanding organizations who deliver financial education.

MakingChange had a record year in fiscal 2016, attracting more people than ever before to its group seminars, which served more than 700 people, with approximately 100 clients receiving personal financial coaching. MakingChange also prepared free tax returns for 453 people. MakingChange programs are offered in schools, human service agencies, businesses and elsewhere as requested. For information, visit makingchangecenter.org.

 

Keller Williams Participates in Annual R.E.D. Day
In early May, more than 100 real estate agents from Keller Williams Realty Center, in Columbia, donated their time to work on renovating six homes owned by Bridges to Housing Stability, an organization that aims to provide paths to self-sufficiency, as well as prevent homelessness. The real estate agents and their affiliates made repairs, painted and landscaped for the Columbia-based nonprofit.

This community service project was part of Keller Williams Realty’s annual Day of Service, known as R.E.D. Day (Renovate, Energize, Donate), where volunteers in every company market in the country offer their time and expertise toward a worthy cause of their choosing. The agents pictured are making the “V” sign in honor of the Columbia office’s CFO, Vince Scott, who passed away several weeks before the event.

 

Local Rotaries Raise $30K-Plus for Summer Program
The seven rotary clubs of Howard County have worked together to raise $30,700 — marking the second consecutive year the group effort has raised more than $30,000 — that will be used toward the Summer Enrichment Program of Howard County.
The boost in the bottom line will enable the program to reach more children and to operate for longer hours. It has only been in recent years that all seven of the local rotary clubs have joined forces, which has enabled the group to raise more money.

People in Business

The Columbia Bank Adds Two, Promotes One
Anil Pereira and Scott Steele have been named commercial relationship managers in The Columbia Bank’s Commercial Banking Department. Both will serve Frederick County. Pereira comes to the bank from Wells Fargo Bank; Steele was employed by M&T Bank.

In addition, The Columbia Bank promoted Jeff Long to senior vice president commercial relationship manager in its Commercial Banking Department. He will be responsible for developing and managing commercial relationships throughout Greater Baltimore.

 

Locals Serving in Armed Services
Airman Christopher Sherman, an Elkridge native and Howard High graduate; and Petty Officer 3rd Class Elmira-Rose McComb, a Columbia native and Wilde Lake High School grad, are serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. They work as aviation boatswain’s mate aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based ship.

 

Couple Enshrined in Champion Hall
The husband and wife team of Cindy and Tim Tutwiler has been inducted into the Champion Realty Hall of Fame for achieving $50 million in sales. With this honor, the Tutwilers join 62 previous recipients whose plaques are prominently displayed in Champion’s administrative offices in Severna Park.

 

Marriner Promotes Thompson to VP
Marriner Marketing Communications, of Columbia, has promoted Susan Thompson to vice president of production. Thompson has more than 25 years of experience executing integrated advertising and communications programs for business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies.

 

Sladky Joins Crosby
Lacey Sladky has joined Crosby Marketing Communications, of Annapolis, as an integration director. She will help lead the company’s work with organizations that serve the military and veteran community, including Military OneSource, the Department of Defense’s flagship digital services platform.

 

Torphy-Donzella Cited by
Chambers & Partners
Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella is one of seven partners at Shawe Rosenthal to be honored by Chambers & Partners as a top individual labor and employment law practitioner. She defends employers in federal and state cases involving employment discrimination, harassment, contracts and torts, and provides human resources counseling.

 

Spaulding Joins FedData
Linthicum-based Federal Data Systems (FedData) has appointed Charles Spaulding as a senior executive. Spaulding recently retired from the National Security Agency, where he served as technical director of the Systems Engineering and Architecture division.

 

Alessi Named VP at SC&H Capital
Columbia-based SC&H Capital has hired Michael Alessi as a vice president. Alessi brings more than 20 years of financial experience to the firm and nearly 10 years of specialized practice as an investment banker; he will focus the government contracting and health care markets.

 

Kittleman Appoints Hejeebu to
Board of Ed
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has appointed Ananta Hejeebu to the county’s seven-member Board of Education. Hejeebu, the founder and managing partner of Howard Tech Advisors, serves on the Howard County Transition Commission for Youth with Disabilities and the Howard County Public School System Budget Review Committee.

 

BGE Names Galambos VP
BGE has named Denise Galambos vice president of human resources. Galambos has worked closely with BGE’s human resources and executive leadership teams since 2003 as the utility’s associate general counsel for labor and employment.

 

Davis Appointed Arundel’s First Compliance Officer
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has announced the appointment of Angela Davis as the county’s first human relations compliance officer. Davis will institute a diversity and inclusion training program for all county employees and provide resources to the community. Since 2004, she has operated The Davis Law Group.

 

Kittleman Appoints Scott at DCRS
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has appointed Deputy Director Jackie Scott as acting director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. Scott has served as deputy director in the department for the past 3.5 years; she has spent most of her career doing policy and legislative work in the areas of public health and human services.

 

Mayor Appoints Rec and
Parks Director
Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides has appointed Archie Trader as the city’s new recreation and parks director, subject to the approval of the City Council. Trader brings 25 years of recreation administrative and management experience to the position, most recently as the Stanton Center’s manager since 2009.

 

Centennial Student
Recognized by White House
Centennial High School Senior Tingyu Li has been honored as a U.S. Presidential Scholar by the U.S. Department of Education. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars recognized Li for her academic accomplishments, as well as essays, school evaluations and transcripts, and community service and leadership.

 

Borg Named Anti-Trafficking Coordinator
HopeWorks has appointed Charlee Borg as anti-trafficking coordinator. Borg comes to HopeWorks with a background that includes an M.A. in International Disaster Psychology, as well as experience serving survivors of human trafficking from North America, South America and Asia.

 

CarneyKelehan Names Gorsky
Jessica Gorsky has joined Columbia-based Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr as an attorney, focusing her practice on estates and trusts, and elder law. Prior to joining CarneyKelehan, Gorsky was an attorney for Walsh & Co. In her position, she focused on estate planning, litigation matters, guardianship pleadings, and estate and fiduciary income tax returns.

 

Loyola Names Hankin
Business Leader of Year
Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management has named Michael Hankin, president and CEO of Brown Advisory, as Business Leader of the Year. Hankin has led Brown Advisory since 1998. Loyola will honor him at the annual Business Leader of the Year dinner on Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, in Baltimore.

Cap Tech Grad Offers
Commencement Address
Jerry Davis, chief information officer and head of the Information Technology Directorate at NASA’s Ames Research Center, addressed the graduating class at Capitol Technology University’s commencement last month. He is a 2003 alumnus of Capitol’s master’s program in network security.

Columbia’s Howell Wins Award From NAACP

Sherman Howell, a Columbia resident, has been named the recipient of the NAACP Platinum Year Award. Below are his words upon accepting the award.

“As history states, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, were many children, teenagers and young adults.” In fact, Brother Freeman Hrabowski, now president of UMBC here in Maryland, talks of his days in jail. The main challenge here, of course, was insufficient … adults to be arrested to make the movement feasible, meaningful or effective. Solutions at resolving the latter [were] risky, that is, the inclusion of young people, so-called the Children’s Crusade/Children March. … However, parallel to inclusion were assurances of safety for these young people, obviously pointing to crucially needed help from the NAACP or its legal defense force — i.e., guaranteeing that young people could get out of jail, followed by adequate legal protection.

“As Clayborn Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, noted, had King failed in getting youth involvement, his “legacy wouldn’t be what it is. If he hadn’t won, there probably wouldn’t have been an “I Have a Dream” speech or a Man of the Year award or a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. But because of the involvement of the NAACP and its legal framework, King was successful. … All of this speaks well for the NAACP, as well as for those of us who received the NAACP Platinum Year Award this past Sunday.

“Thanks again to you and the NAACP for the Award … and thanks to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity for its support of me getting the award.”

Howell’s involvement in civil rights and community service was inspired by his family’s interest in “Tent City,” a series of civil rights voter registration events that took place in Fayette County, Tenn., from 1959 into the early 1970s. Tent City subsequently led to his leadership, at eight years of age, assisting a poor white family in educating their son.

At 17, he graduated from high school, got a full-time job, entered college and immediately began focusing on civil rights, specifically the eradication of Jim Crow laws of the Deep South.
In 1961, in a solo drive, hedrove through the entire state of Mississippi to, according to him, “test justice in America.” Highway 61, from Memphis to New Orleans, was considered by the press to be the most dangerous highway in America.

His next endeavor was the civil rights movement of the ’60s where he participated in most of what The Christian Science Monitor called “peaceful protest that bolstered Civil Rights” — marches on Washington for jobs and freedom; from Selma to Montgomery; supporting the Vietnam War opposition; for the Poor People Campaign.

Following his Vietnam War service as an academy staff instructor, and using experience from police and civil unrest of the civil rights movement, Howell accepted a three-year grant from the Washington, D.C., Police Department, helping to address community dissatisfaction with police and community relations; from there, he worked for the Peace Corp.

A disappointing moment confronted Howell and his family upon moving to Columbia in 1971. A vociferous reader, he discovered that the “Next America,” as Columbia was called, did not subscribe to the Afro-American newspaper in its library. After much contention, Marvin Thomas, director of the Howard County Library System, agreed to changing the library’s policy and subscribing to the Afro-American papers.

He served on the Oakland Mills Village Board in early 1970. As vice chair of the board, he was a leading advocate for funding of the Oakland Mills Youth Center.

Having spent more than 40 years focusing on local affordable housing, including working with policies of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Howell was selected by General Growth Properties, developer of Columbia at the time, as an expert in the development of affordable housing. He was also vice chair of the Columbia Forum, the Forum being primarily responsible for ensuring that the original promises to those who came to Columbia were kept.

He has served as vice president of the Howard County Chapter of the NAACP and is the founder of the Commitment, the chapter’s newsletter. Howell is the founder and first chairperson of the Howard County Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Commission and currently serves as vice president of research and agenda planning of the African American Coalition of Howard County.

An International Entrepreneurship Platform in Maryland

 

The Maryland Department of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with two Dutch economic development agencies in October 2016. The purpose of the MOU is to create a “soft landing” cyber and security technology platform to help entrepreneurs from Maryland and the Netherlands.

Taking advantage of the flattening, globalized economy, soft landing measures are designed to attract fast-growing new businesses and promising startups to the state. Based on the press release, this is the first agreement of its kind in Maryland.
We’re all very familiar with the positive economic impact of entrepreneurship. Fast-growing new ventures such as Under Armour or Sourcefire bring new jobs to the economy. Great new ideas introduced by creative entrepreneurial teams can transform the landscapes of industries and open up new economic opportunities for others.

For example, Airbnb allows anyone with a spare room to turn idle assets into a profit-generating business, so we don’t have to be millionaires to enter the hospitability industry nowadays.

 

Selling Points

In the race to building a vibrant entrepreneurial environment, Maryland has advantages in good infrastructure and high-quality workforces. According to the 2011 census, about 40% of state residents have college degrees, and 16% of the state population holds an advanced degree.

This is not surprising, since Maryland is home to several world-class research universities and federal research agencies, including the National Institute of Standards Technology and the Food and Drug Administration. Maryland also has the third highest median household income in the United States and is consistently ranked among the top 10 destinations for venture capital investment, according to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). The association’s recent numbers suggest that Maryland has a healthy convergence of ideas, talents and capital for aspiring entrepreneurs.

It still, however, has to make a few major strides to catch up with more established hubs of entrepreneurship. For example, Massachusetts and Maryland are comparable in population, household income and workforce quality, but the venture capital industry seems to view Massachusetts as more fertile ground for entrepreneurship than Maryland. The NVCA has recorded 2,393 venture capital investments in Massachusetts from 2011 to 2015, totaling 22 billion venture capital investments.

In comparison, about 3 billion venture capital funds were invested in less than 500 new ventures in Maryland during the same period. Maryland can certainly use more ideas, more talent and more capital to rival other states.

 

Access to Capital

The essence of the new venture, soft landing concept, is to assist foreign entrepreneurial teams entering the American market. Unlike the conventional import business, soft landing operations aim to bring the whole new venture team (or at least a significant portion of a venture team) from a foreign nation to the United States.

While these new ventures are interested in finding clients for their ideas and businesses, the main motivation for many of them is to access the capital and the American entrepreneurial ecosystem. They are not gigantic international corporations who will immediately create hundreds of new jobs right away.
However, soft landing businesses contribute to our state economy by bringing new ideas and innovations. Good ideas and innovations will attract more venture capital money and other growth opportunities to Maryland. Stories of successes will also motivate more international entrepreneurial teams to come to Maryland for better opportunities.

Several Maryland-based incubators have started offering soft landing services to international entrepreneurial teams. The Baltimore-based Emerging Technology Center is perhaps the most recognized facility, as it is one of the 18 soft landing designees in the United States recognized by the International Business Incubation Association. Market entry assistance and capital access are usually provided by the soft landing incubators to help international venture teams settle and grow in Maryland.
In addition to the incubation service providers, the general environment probably plays an equally important or more important role in attracting foreign new ventures.

International venture teams are basically immigrants with a unique asset: their innovations. They are naturally attracted to where other entrepreneurs have succeeded. That is one of the key reasons Silicon Valley continues to be a magnet of talented, innovative new venture teams from other places.

However, after their initial success, many elect to move their more established, bigger businesses to other locations. A California-based corporate relocation service estimates that more than 10,000 businesses have moved out of California between 2008 and 2015.

 

The Welcome Mat

Although business relocation occurs all the time, we can create a welcoming environment to encourage the international entrepreneurs who have successfully entered the U.S. market to develop roots in Maryland. It may take more root-growing measures, including better public schools, ethnically diverse communities and housing options for active young adults, etc., to convince imported startups to stay. Once they call Maryland home, they are less likely to move away.

Globalization has elevated the competition for new businesses and entrepreneurial talents to the global scale. Maryland has not achieved its full potential to establish a world-class entrepreneurial hub. However, systematic efforts to import soft landing ventures can bring about great improvements to our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The MOU with the Netherlands is a small step. Hopefully, it is only the beginning of long-term, systematic commitments to develop a home for thousands of innovative and fast-growing new businesses here.

Hung-bin Ding, Ph.D., is an associate professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, which has a campus in Columbia. He can be contacted at 410-617-5598 and hding@loyola.edu.

Rebuilding Together Partners With ARL

Rebuilding Together Howard County’s staff expanded from January to April with the addition of an intern, Ayo Adelaja, who was supplied to the nonprofit by the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL), Finance Division.

Adelaja, a senior at Atholton High School who plans to attend the University of Michigan this fall, offers the nonprofit an advanced skill set. “We were a first-time partner with the ARL, and we did not know what to expect when we signed up to host an intern,” said Ann Heavner, executive director of RTHC.

Maddy Halbach, ARL Academy of Finance instructor and head of its intern program, first suggested the idea at a meeting between the two organizations. “How would you like to have an award-winning writer create grant request applications for your nonprofit?” she queried.

Not only did Adelaja write grant requests, the requests were approved. For example, he wrote a grant request for Sears Heroes At Home, which is designed to enable veterans and their families to receive free home repairs. As a result, RTHC was awarded $10,000 in funding to repair not one, but two veteran homes in Howard County.

Adelaja also wrote other applications, and RTHC is waiting to see if more grants will be approved. He also performed other important jobs that freed up RTHC staff to focus on expanding its program and provide more low-income homeowners with free home repairs.

Staff members said Adelaja would receive a project which was anticipated to take a week, then turn it around in a day. After having that experience after hiring its first intern, it’s no surprise that RTHC already has signed up for another intern in 2018.

For more information about Rebuilding Together Howard County, call 443-812-5627 and info@rebuildingtogetherhowardcounty.org.

What to Ask When Your Adult Child Moves Home

 

Facing heavy college debt burdens and an unpredictable job market, many young adults today are returning home to live with their parents. In fact, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, more than 32% of young adults lived with their parents in 2014 — more than lived alone, or with a spouse or partner.

No matter the reason your adult son or daughter is moving back home — job loss, a failed relationship or a desire to save money or pay down debt — having a plan to manage the new arrangement is essential. The following questions can help you set expectations and ensure that both you and your child stay on course toward your financial goals.

• What are your own needs and priorities? It’s natural to want to support your child in a difficult time, but you need to be realistic. Don’t exceed your limits or sabotage your own financial plans. Your child should understand that it’s important for you to maintain your own retirement and debt repayment goals and obligations.

• Does your child have a financial plan? Help your child build good money habits by working together to set a budget and savings goal. Discuss the amount of financial help you’re able to provide without jeopardizing your own savings. Also, decide if your child will stay on your health insurance plan (most plans cover kids up to age 26).

• When does s/he plan to move out? Along with creating a financial plan, setting a move-out deadline will encourage your child to work toward concrete goals. If you don’t set a limit, s/he may stay at home longer than expected or delay moving forward with future plans. If your child needs to start paying off debt or wants to save money for a down payment on a house or a condo, have a realistic discussion about how long it will take. To help everyone stay on track, some parents draw up a contract that both they and the child sign.

• Do you need to reassess the plan? Once you’ve made a financial plan and set a move-out date, ensure that your child is making progress toward those goals. Talk regularly about obstacles s/he has encountered and how you may be able to help. If your child hasn’t been able to find a job or other circumstances change, you may need to update the plan to reflect a more realistic timeßframe.

• Will your child pay rent? Charging rent can help offset the costs of having another person under your roof. If you don’t need rent money to cover your bills, you might consider letting your child save that amount to use when s/he moves out. If your child doesn’t have a job or can’t afford to pay rent, exchanging work for room and board is an option. Your child’s duties might include shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, painting a room or cooking meals.

• What are your child’s debt obligations? Parents are often conflicted about whether to help their children pay off credit card or education debt. If you do decide to help, create a contract that outlines what you expect in return. You could also waive rent for a couple of months if your child agrees to put any savings toward decreasing his or her debt burden.

Dealing with a full house again can be tricky, especially if you’ve lived in an empty nest for an extended period of time. But by setting clear ground rules and financial expectations, you can ensure a much smoother transition when a grown child returns home — and help him or her regain financial independence more quickly.

 

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.

Company Stock in Your 401(k)? What Retirement Investors Need to Know

 

 

Owning company stock in your employer-sponsored retirement plan is not necessarily a bad thing. Company stock can potentially help employees profit from a company’s success and even provide tax benefits. However, holding company stock can present unique risks, particularly if the stock allocation represents a large percentage of your total retirement plan assets.

Let’s consider the case of Enron, which, although occurring long ago, still raises some valid points. Enron filed for bankruptcy late in 2001 after struggling for months with mounting losses and debt — as well as questions about its accounting practices.

At the time, it was the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history. Because more than half of the assets in Enron’s retirement plan were invested in the firm’s stock, the result was devastating. As the share price sank, so did the balance in many employees’ retirement plan accounts. An estimated $1 billion was lost among about 15,000 accounts.

Additionally, the collapse of companies like Lehman Brothers, in 2008, caught the attention of millions of American workers who have company stock in their retirement plan accounts. With their own futures in mind, they have started asking some important questions.

What Can I Do?

Following are some steps each of us can take to evaluate our own situations.
• Know your plan. Brush up on the rules that govern your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Is company stock an investment option? Does your employer make matching contributions in the form of company stock? Are there rules governing management of the stock within your account? You can request a Summary Plan Description, which details the rules. Ask your employer to clarify any rules you don’t understand.

• Consider your share of company stock. If you do own company stock through your employer-sponsored retirement plan, what percentage of your total assets does it represent? The ideal allocation for you will depend on your goals, time horizon and risk tolerance, factors you may want to review with a financial professional.

• Review your overall investment strategy. Take a look at your strategy for investing through your company plan. How much do you contribute and what investment options are you using? If your employer already matches your contributions with company stock, you may not want to invest additional money in it.

You also might want to consider investments with holdings that differ from your company’s stock, which is called diversification. If your company stock is a growth stock, for example, you might want to think about a fund that invests in value stocks. Or if your company is a retail company, you might want to look for funds that invest in other industries and sectors that may perform differently.
The benefit of diversifying is that if one investment declines in value, others can potentially increase in value and help offset potential losses.

• Consider your other investments. Do you invest in an individual retirement account (IRA) or other retirement savings account? Does your spouse have a retirement plan of his or her own? It’s important to look at the investments in those vehicles and determine whether they complement your plan investments. If you can’t control the level of diversification in your own plan as much as you’d like, you may be able to enhance your level of diversification elsewhere.

Evaluate Your Options

While Enron and other company collapses have raised valid questions about owning company stock, you may still want to consider taking advantage of your plan. A matching contribution of company stock may be better than no matching contribution at all.

So, conduct a comprehensive review of your plan assets, your investment strategy and your investments outside of your plan. And given the important role these assets are likely to play in your financial future, be sure to consult a professional before taking action.

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 www.daywm.com.

Even With Retail Evolving

 

It can be easy to get the impression these days that Chicken Little has been fluttering about the retail industry, predicting doom for the brick-and-mortar sector due to the rise of online shopping and the well-publicized issues of some of the iconic department store chains and other sellers of soft goods.

But while some shifting is occurring within the retail sector, that’s not really anything new. Anyone who’s from the Baltimore area remembers names like Hutzler’s and Montgomery Ward, Hochschild Kohn’s and Stewart’s, as well as Hecht’s, which was absorbed by Macy’s more than 11 years ago.

In recent times, it’s been Macy’s and some other contemporary department store stalwarts, like J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and Sears/Kmart, that have closed stores due to associated financial issues (Sears is having problems obtaining merchandise to sell), but is that type of news really anything new? Department stores and many specialty retailers have come and gone with changing retail landscapes for decades.

As for the impact of online shopping, despite its popularity, it hasn’t proven to be the death knell to the shopping experience; the recent Census Bureau in the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 4th Quarter 2016 report revealed that less than 10% of all purchases are made online.

Another telltale sign is the buzz around the large malls and the newer “avenue”-style shopping areas. It’s not always as hard to park at these centers as it used to be — but it can be.

Changing Habits

This latest evolution is “certainly part of a new reality that the industry is facing,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, in Annapolis. “We’re seeing consolidation among larger retailers, but consumers have been changing their approach, too, and spending more on food and travel.”
And while Locklair Tolle also said that Christmas 2016 “was the first that more people shopped online than in brick-and-mortar stores,” she also noted that the new market’s not all doom and gloom, even though,” nationwide, 1,500 store locations have shut down this year.

“Retailers are saying that number will reach 3,500 by the end of the year,” she said, “but we have largely avoided that trend here in Maryland” due the various market factors, including low unemployment and higher incomes.

Those factors have even led to what some observers, including Locklair Tolle, might term “a brick-and-mortar boom, from stores like discounters T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods, which are opening stores nationwide,” she said. “So [today’s market] isn’t just about consolidation, it’s about consumers changing their shopping habits. And that’s not all new, either. Fifteen years ago, those three retailers were also part of the [then budding] big box trend.”

And the good news even extends to the mom ’n pop shops, she said.

“I think we’ll also see the Main Street setups thriving, with more marketing and campaigns, like Midnight Madness,” a ritual in Annapolis and in Ellicott City every Christmas season. “They’re creating an experience. And,” Locklair Tolle said, “the smaller shops are putting stuff online, too. Online’s not just for the big guys.”

The deal today comes down to shoppers having a bigger-than-ever interest in the discount shopping platform, and the old-school anchor stores are still are figuring out how to work within that model.

But all told, Locklair Tolle thinks there will always be a place for brick-and-mortar. “There are things that you need to touch and feel,” she said. “E-commerce will continue to cut into the market to an extent, but it will reach a certain point and stop.”

It’s Happened Before

Tom Maddux, principal with KLNB Retail office in Towson, attended the recent International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) conference in Las Vegas, and is also among those observers who feel that the impact of online shopping, while significant, is often overstated.

“ICSC has had several presentations about the Internet making up less than 10% of total sales, and much of that figure is derived from pharmaceuticals, which makes sense,” Maddux said.

As for the possibility of more large, vacant retail spaces, as in empty anchor stores, Maddux offered his viewpoint. “ICSC figures state that 45% of all retail space is occupied by anchor stores. So, if a mall has four 200,000-square-foot anchors, that’s where [a great deal of empty retail space] is coming from,” he said. “When anchors close, the whole mall is affected.

“But that’s happened before,” Maddux said. “Go back to Hutzler’s, Stewart’s, Wards and Memco. These stores weren’t usually in bad locations, so they were torn down (or maybe renovated) and repurposed.”

Today, the anchors in question seem to be every company — aside from Nordstrom.

“Sears, Penney’s, Macy’s, etc.,” Maddux said. “These companies are closing stores, but not in Westfield Annapolis Mall, The Mall in Columbia or Towson Town Center, all of which are anchored by Nordstrom.

“Then there’s everybody else” around the Beltway, he said, noting Cranberry Mall, Eastpoint Mall and Marley Station, which are in varying stages of economic distress; Hunt Valley and Chatham Mall; which have been renovated and repurposed; and Owings Mills Mall, which was torn down to make room for Greenberg Gibbons’ mixed-use Owings Mills Town Center.
That’s Entertainment

Brian Gibbons is CEO of Owings Mills-based Greenburg Gibbons, which is behind several of the successful retail reinventions in the area. He, like Maddux, noted how many of the smaller malls, like Laurel, have gradually been repurposed to feature the “avenue”/big box hybrid mixed-use concept with a grocery component, like Towne Centre Laurel, which features a Harris Teeter.
With different factors at work, Gibbons stressed that assessing today’s market takes more than just a brief observation and a sound bite.

“You can’t generalize what’s going on with the retail industry, because what’s happening is segment-related,” said Gibbons. “The ‘fortress’ malls [like The Mall in Columbia and Westfield Annapolis] generally thrive, but secondary malls were a dead format that have been mostly repurposed as new products that include grocery, big box, entertainment and food options.”

“Entertainment.” Who ever thought that going to the store was supposed to be entertaining? “That’s my opinion,” Gibbons said, noting the presence of companies like Wegmans (“Grocery-anchored retail is the best way to go, because its part of the whole entertainment concept.”) and L.A. Fitness. “Experiential retail is what the new generation wants. You need to create a reason for them to go to the centers.”.

On that note, Greenburg Gibbons projects also often include a mix of office and residential uses, like at Towne Centre Laurel, both (adjacent) Waugh Chapel centers and Annapolis Town Centre, among the company’s other properties in the Baltimore region.

And that approach has led to a winning formula. “Our portfolio is 98% full,” Gibbons said.

Coming Soon

Gibbons added that much of the softness in brick-and-mortar is in the clothing sector, a remark that was reiterated by Mark Millman, president of Millman & Associates, in Owings Mills. “All clothing categories are having a challenging year, as millennials are shopping online,” he said, though pointing out that many other brick-and-mortar categories are doing much better.

“Electronics, home furnishings and home accessories, and pet supplies or anything else animal-related is going through the roof,” said Millman. “The death of outdoor shopping is greatly exaggerated.”

Head to The Mall in Columbia for proof of that statement. The mall has lost a few tenants of late, notably Champps, a large restaurant in the center’s outdoor area. However, news is forthcoming on that front.

“Retail is an ever-evolving industry and is constantly adapting to meet the new challenges, with the most successful merchants fully embracing omni-channel retailing,” said Barbara Nicklas, general manager of The Mall in Columbia, “and we’re seeing many existing retailers are investing in their stores with renovations and expansions.

“Additionally,” Nicklas said, “several major retailers and restaurants will be announced in the coming months, which is a wonderful indication of the strength and appeal of the Columbia market.”

If a shopping area can be called a fortress, it’s The Mall in Columbia. It opened in 1971 and is still as vital as ever, still evolving and still attracting crowds through the days of the over-malling of America, the big-box/warehouse phase and the return to shopping on a new kind of avenue.

“Why did Two Guys, Ames and Memco go out of business, while Wal-Mart and Target did not?,” queried Maddux. “Because retail constantly evolves. We overbuild retail, office, etc., and the market corrects.”

And now look: “Today, we can’t find space to build warehouses for retail fulfillment centers for the online retailers along Route 95 or elsewhere,” he said.
Speaking of area warehouses, “Everybody worries about Amazon, but what do you think early retailers thought when the Sears catalog first popped up?”

Maddux said. “So know that change is opportunity. When you think something won’t happen, something does. Catch it on the way up or on the way down.”

Advances in Long Reach, Downtown Columbia

 

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and members of the Long Reach Village Center (LRVC) Evaluation Committee have announced the selection of the Ellicott City-based Orchard Development team to purchase and revitalize the center.

Orchard’s plan proposes a Village Green, community space with a pavilion, approximately 75,000 square feet of retail space, medical office space, a food service incubator and vertical garden.

Residential housing incorporated into the design includes 132 units of market-rate multi-family housing, 120 units of senior multi-family housing and 52 for-sale townhomes.

Offering a purchase price of $2.5 million, Orchard expects to close on the sale no later than the first quarter of 2018 and plans to deliver the first use for the property in the first half of 2020.

“This redevelopment plan will help us achieve economic sustainability for this center, making it a vibrant community gathering place with amenities, services, and areas for artists and writers,” Kittleman said. “Orchard has presented a proposal that delivers on the stakeholders’ suggestions and the key features they requested.”

New Chapter

Long Reach Village Center entered a period of decay following the loss of its Safeway grocery anchor in 2011, unable to compete with newer retail, dining establishments and upscale grocery anchors in nearby Dobbin Center and Snowden Square.

As other retailers left during the ensuing years, vacant storefronts and a slow procession of lower quality merchants rotating through the center became the norm. In 2014, an independent study placed the vacancy rate at 65%.

Howard County government intervened in 2014, purchasing 7.7 acres of the blighted property for $5 million with the intention of revitalizing it.

With feedback collected during community engagement meetings, the county completed a Reimagine Long Reach Village Center Plan and issued a Request for Proposal in January of this year, which elicited four proposals.

“We are now about to write the next, exciting chapter for our Long Reach Village Center,” said Howard County Council Vice Chair Calvin Ball, who represents the Village of Long Reach. “While this process has taken longer than anticipated, I’m looking forward to a reimagined space that will breathe new life into the heart and soul of Long Reach and serve as a safe and vibrant focal point for the community.”

Year ’Round Veggies

It’s “not exactly” Orchard’s strategy to pursue RFPs, said Orchard Chairman and CEO Earl Armiger, but the more this team learned about the project, the more appealing it became, he said, “particularly because of the challenge.

“This is an opportunity to do something great and extraordinary, and that’s what we set out to do,” Armiger said. “We knew what Long Reach did not need: the major retailers that are elsewhere in the Columbia area. What Long Reach could use is what the county needs: an energy-efficient project, medical facilities, housing for seniors and gathering spaces. Our plan came about because of the work [the community] put into it.”

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the project is the vertical garden, a three-level hydroponic system with trays that move vertically on a conveyor belt to receive equal sun distribution. An open frame also allows for “easy harvest of the vegetables,” said Cecily Bedwell, an urban design planner for Baltimore-based Design Collective.

“We’ll be able to produce food all year round,” said Jason Jannati, co-founder of energy-efficiency company greeNEWit, who served as an independent consultant for Orchard’s proposal team. “The growing footprint is equivalent to about half an acre. We think we can grow about 100,000 pounds of produce a year; that’s our target.”

The bulk of the produce is destined for people who live in the community.
“We see schools, local restaurants and some of the other food distribution companies as potential clients,” Jannati said.

Orchard will partner with the Power 52 Foundation, co-founded by Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis, to provide workforce training for local community members interested in working at the garden as a pathway to a career in agriculture.

“We see this as a big economic driver for the area,” Jannati said.
The Howard County Planning Board approved Orchard’s proposal on May 18, and will forward the proposal to the County Council for a public hearing and final approval.

According to Armiger, Orchard expects a three-to-five-year build-out, targeting the second quarter of 2020 for the move-in of first users, with final build-out between 2023 and 2025.

“I think it’s quite fitting that during Columbia’s 50th anniversary, the largest and one of our most established villages will lead the way in revitalization, redevelopment, and reimagining what we can be,” Ball said.

Downtown Progress

The news from Long Reach was followed by a grand opening a few miles away on May 24, when Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Kittleman and other elected state and local officials participated in a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of the $80 million Little Patuxent Square building in downtown Columbia.
Developed as the result of a handshake agreement between longtime friends Kingdon Gould, Jr., and President David Costello of Columbia-based Costello Construction, the nine-story building features 158,000 square feet of Class A office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, 160 luxury apartment residences, a rooftop pool and a 6,000-square-foot open-air courtyard with a putting green.
The building is designed to meet LEED Gold criteria with an eye-catching façade, composed of an elaborate curtainwall system that is accented by metal wall panels and natural stone.

“It is indeed the kind of building and the kind of future that I know I was thinking about, and my colleagues were thinking about, when we passed the Downtown Columbia Plan,” said County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, who represents Downtown, adding that Costello “[has] set a standard for what we need to be doing.”

Confirmed tenants include Howard Bank and Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, which has 344 employees who will begin occupying 130,000 square feet of Little Patuxent Square’s office space in June. Additional tenants will be announced in the coming months.

Pre-leasing of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments has already begun at Lakehouse, the 12-floor residential component of the development that overlooks Downtown and Lake Kittamaqundi.

“There’s a lot of energy going on in Columbia with the 50th anniversary coming,” Kittleman said. “I can’t think of a better way to continue to celebrate than with Little Patuxent Square opening up and being part of this landscape of this vibrant renewal and rebirth of Downtown Columbia.”

Honing the Focus for Incubators

 

How many business incubators does it take to spur a thriving startup industry in a state? That’s the question, and it’s open to ample discussion.
Today, the Maryland Business Incubation Association (MBIA) reports that more than 30 incubators are operating across Maryland, making it somewhat of a hotbed for startups that are in various levels of progress.

To hear some of the players involved discuss the topic, there could never be enough incubators. Others feel that, while Maryland’s scene is already thriving — despite the pending closure of one notable player in the game, Anne Arundel County’s Chesapeake Innovation Center (CIC), in Odenton — there are enough now, but any new such entries should be keenly targeted to certain industries, as opposed to geographic bounds.

If new incubators that are targeted to a certain area or region appear, know that they are notorious for losing graduating tenants to other jurisdictions. In fact, one reason the money to keep the CIC functioning (as of press time) is absent in Anne Arundel County’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget is that few of the companies that were tenants in the CIC stayed in the county after they left.

End of the Month

As for the CIC, there are several startups still in the center that are hoping for the best before the end of June, which is when the space has to be vacant.

Founded in the early 2000s in Annapolis, the CIC offices were relocated in summer 2014 to its current location, an 8,000-square-foot office (that came complete with a collaboration space and a moveable wall) in the Seven Oaks section of Odenton. The move was made from Annapolis due to the location, which is almost directly across Route 175 from Fort Meade.

While the CIC was much ballyhooed when it opened, the word from County Executive Steve Schuh’s office was that the numbers generated by the investment in the CIC have not been up to scratch: According to Schuh spokesperson Owen McEvoy, only seven of the 62 companies that used it stayed in the county, and its return was only $130,000 — after a more than $11 million had been invested.

Still, McEvoy said the county is going to try to stay engaged with CIC businesses.
“While we won’t be renewing the lease where the CIC is located, we’ve recently met with several cyber and tech startups to determine their needs,” he said. “All of the programs utilized by companies in the CIC will remain … at their disposal. We’re also looking for ways to further incentivize these businesses that don’t involve below-market office space at taxpayer cost.”

“The latest is that Anne Arundel County is still planning to shut it down, but the occupants are still hoping to find someone else to keep it going,” said Tim Lorello, president and CEO of SecuLore Solutions, a cybersecurity startup and tenant. “I’m looking for space on the second floor of the building, but have not yet finalized a deal. Some other members have found other spaces.”

Tracy Turner, director of the Howard Tech Council, which oversees the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE), said she was “Sad to hear about the demise of the CIC,” adding that she and other MCE insiders “have had some conversations about accommodating some of its companies.”

Obviously, companies in the CIC might — or might not — have been from Howard County. But notice the names of incubators can have a regional or statewide theme, like Chesapeake Innovation Center and Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship? That’s often part of the rub.

Turner’s take is that, “You can’t do enough to assist other startups, no matter where they’re located in Maryland, because we’re all part of the same infrastructure and we need to work together.

“All incubators have their own ‘secret sauce,’” she said. “In our case, that’s due to our relationship with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, which helps us offer more of a lifecycle than some incubators do. The MCE, for instance, hopes to launch companies in three years, but some become anchor companies in the MCE, while others move forward with the assistance of the EDA. So we offer a one-stop shop.”

But what if, after the large investment of money and time, they don’t stay in Howard County?

“We hope to keep them in here and, in this case, it’s almost a game changer, due to Howard’s attributes and its quality of life,” Turner said. “The goal is to get them to live and raise their families here.”

Fillin’ Up Quick

The HCEDA has really embraced this concept,” said Neil Davis, director of entrepreneurial development with the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), in Columbia, noting that the MCE is moving to the Columbia Gateway Business Park project in less than a year.

Davis also has high hopes of a happy resolution at the CIC, which he deemed “one of the more vibrant areas we have in Maryland. My guess is that something will pop up to take its place,” such as a private company, a small venture firm, a nonprofit, etc. “An incubator, or something that looks like one, will figure out that being near Fort Meade makes great sense.”

Noting that Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Gill likes the concept of incubators, Davis pointed out that most are funded by local and state governments, privately or by colleges. Even organizations like The Cordish Co., the commercial real estate and entertainment developer, are behind Spark, for instance, which is located at Cordish’s Power Plant Live! in Downtown Baltimore.

“Such ventures are a huge part of the larger ecosystem,” he said, noting Under Armour/Sagamore’s similar Betamore venture at City Garage, in South Baltimore. “Various people along the firing line are supportive of this concept, so even large businesses are getting on the bandwagon.”

But how many incubators are really needed? And how many can survive?
“There are 32 members of the Maryland Business Incubation Association, with 30–50 more entities that do some element of what incubators do, such as the Impact Hub at the Center Theater on North Avenue in Baltimore City,” he said. “Clearly, someday, there could be too many.”

Still, four or five years ago, he thought that needle on Maryland’s gauge was pointing on full. “But then, every one that opens is full within a few months. Spark (which encompasses about 25,000 square feet and hosts about 80 companies) opened about 18 months ago and has already decided to double capacity after the waiting list hit 20 companies.”

And upon further review, it gets easier to see what the attraction is. “People who work there are not only already working in a mixed-use project, they can walk to the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and the banking district; and it’s 12 minutes off of I-95 and next to I-83,” he said.

There’s that quality of life issue again. As for the CIC, Davis recalls when it was the hottest thing going.

“We perceived them as a threat [when he worked at the] Emerging Technology Center, in Baltimore, because they got so much press and had so much buzz. The challenge,” he said, “is as these programs grow, the bar is [constantly] raised for startups and incubators, so the companies can get up and running faster than ever. So incubators have to keep innovating, so they can be of more and more service.”

Maintain Speed

Buzz can be a great thing when building the roster for an incubator, but what is really required to achieve success, said Mike Binko, founder and CEO of Startup Maryland, is a solid ecosystem, with components that include talent, ​innovative ​service providers, ​mentors​, champions and investors​.

“With a rich landscape of i​ncubators per capita​, entrepreneurs anywhere in Maryland are probably no more than 20-to-30 minutes​ from an incubator or co-working hub. Can we sustain more? Probably,” said Binko, “but particularly ​if incubators and co-working spaces are innovation focused, and not marketed so much by geography or politics. They​ can then align support around ​critical venture growth​, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.”
And Binko added another caveat.

“Having been personally involved in tech incubation, acceleration and venture development for 20-plus years, I have noticed that, when organizations don’t work at entrepreneur-​speed,” he said, “they run the risk ​of ​becoming irrelevant to ecosystem venture building.”

There is also a gray area, he said, with the emerging co-working trend, which offers ​concierge and space support, with third-party ​mentorship and venture development services​. Examples of area co-working ​spaces are Spark, Betamore, 1776 and WeWork. “These alternatives to traditional commercial real estate are becoming the go-to option for entrepreneurs and their startups,” he said.​

Binko also stressed that incubators often thrive when​ ​their ​efforts ​align with those of academia​, due to heightened access to active research/intellectual property pipelines and to top talent​.

Daraius Irani agreed. The vice president of innovation and applied research at Towson University said that incubators are “much more than a commercial real estate deal. They’re places built on a mentored network. They build whole ecosystems. There are many models, but they’re driven by density, which is why you see so many in Baltimore City; a [lack of density] can be troublesome in other more rural or less dense places.”

Irani also discussed what types of graduates come from incubators. “We usually get singles and bunts, but not home runs, like MedImmune,” a biotech success story from Montgomery County, he said. “But many of the companies involved tend to be more deliberate, and eventually more successful, than those that are not involved. That good ecosystem forces accountability.”

And Irani is with Binko about dissolving jurisdictional boundaries.

“At Towson University, we host companies here at our TU Incubator from out of state. Given the city’s history of higher education, they’re a natural fit,” he said. “But [their success] depends more on industry niche. The money [from out-of-state companies] is as green as anybody else’s. They have to open to anybody.”

Industry Focus

These days, those thoughts are coming more often from the chorus. “I’m a big believer in this newer approach,” said Ellen Hemmerly, executive director with bwtech@UMBC. “An industry-focused incubator can bringing more value and bring more specialized services to incubator companies in [a] particular industry. We have found success in being industry-focused, in our case cyber, clean tech and life sciences, and tenants can come here from whatever locations.”
But will the old types of incubators stick around?

“I think there is increasing competition to bring in entrepreneurs to projects, whether they work from incubators, co-working spaces, accelerators or innovation districts, like City Garage and Spark. Each project has its own way of going about its business.

“That,” she said, “is definitely a trend.”

And she thinks having more choices is a good thing.

Binko concurs. “The good news is that Maryland has about 50 entities, encompassing incubators and various co-working spaces. That’s almost unmatched for a state our size.

“We also have a large business base for the core components that make incubators and co-working effective,” he said. “Think of the critical industry sectors and innovation categories we have here that lend themselves to venture building”

Infrastructure Improvements to Impact Route 32, Brighton Dam Traffic

 

A major construction project that will include safety improvements to and the widening of a 2.5-mile section of Route 32 between Route 108 (Clarksville Pike) and Linden Church Road will impact traffic beginning sometime in August.

According to Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) Spokesperson Charlie Gischlar, this construction constitutes the first phase of a major state project to upgrade Route 32 from two to four lanes between Route 108 and U.S. 70. Project completion on the first phase is expected in fall 2019.

The design-build project will address a Howard County priority to improve safety and ease congestion on the highway. Currently, an average of more than 30,000 vehicles per day travel this section of Route 32, with traffic projected to increase to an average of 52,000 vehicles per day by 2040.

“The project is on a fast track, and a majority of the construction will take place behind a concrete barrier wall,” Gischlar said. “There will be single-lane closures with flagging operations during off-peak hours, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.”

For several weeks during the beginning and end of construction activity, the highway may also need to be restricted to a single lane on occasion, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on workdays.

Additionally, the Route 32 ramp to Linden Church Road will be closed for approximately one year.

“We’re asking motorists to add 15 minutes to their commute if they need to follow the detour to Linden Church Road from the next exit,” Gischlar said.
Total project cost is estimated at $30 million to $35 million, and it will be split between Howard County and the state of Maryland.
Brighton Dam Rehab

Another project, the rehabilitation of Brighton Dam, was set to begin on June 1 and to pose ongoing consequences for traffic.

Located on Brighton Dam Road, Brookville, the dam spans the Patuxent River between Montgomery and Howard counties, holding back approximately 6.3 billion gallons of water in the Triadelphia Reservoir. It entered service in 1944 with the primary purpose of providing source drinking water for customers of the Laurel-based Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission (WSSC).

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) inspect the dam regularly and have found that the dam is well maintained and structurally sound,” said Claude Modise, WSSC project manager for the rehabilitation project. “The work is needed to make repairs to the 70-year-old structure to prolong the dam’s life into the future.”

According to information on WSSC’s website, the project calls for replacement of intake tower bar screens and sluice gates, and the replacement of side plates and heaters for the Tainter gates, which are wedge-shaped structures that rotate on a pivot to either hold back or release water.

Workers will also strengthen the Tainter gates, replacing the coating on the gates, and replace the concrete spillway surface. The project will take approximately two years to complete.

According to the WSSC website, the Triadelphia Reservoir may be lowered significantly so that most middle range rain events will not damage the work efforts.

Once construction begins, recreation areas located along the reservoir, including boat ramps, will be closed to the public, including recreational areas at Brighton Dam, Triadelphia, Greenbridge, Pig Trail and Big Branch. The Azalea Garden will remain open, but with limited parking.

Motorists can expect truck traffic, and Brighton Dam Road will be reduced to a one-lane bridge over Brighton Dam, with the traffic flow being controlled by traffic lights for the duration of construction.

Howard’s Projects

In Howard County, several roadway projects are winding down.
Phase 2 of an ongoing Howard County construction project at Blandair Park, in Columbia, started in February, and included the relocation of Oakland Mills Road through Blandair Park.

Oakland Mills Road has been closed from the Old Montgomery Road/Oakland Mills Road intersection to the playing field parking lot entrance, necessitating a detour. According to a county Department of Public Works release, playing fields at Blandair Park will remain open during the construction project, which should be completed by mid-summer.

Also underway, a construction project along Route 1 to align Montevideo Road and Port Capital Drive, in Elkridge, is expected to be completed by late September.

Additions include new roadway and traffic signals, water and sewer connections, storm drains, a storm water management pond and the relocation of overhead wires by BGE. Signs and flagging operations are in place to direct traffic as needed during workday construction hours and the occasional weekday work night.

Finally, milling and paving operations are underway Sundays through Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Dobbin Road, between Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway, in Columbia. Flagging operations and signs are in place to direct traffic as needed during construction hours.

Weather permitting, the project is expected to be completed by late June.

State, Howard County Involve Private Sector in Emergency Management

 

The Howard County Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) updated the community on its emergency management planning efforts in May. During the event, LEPC provided information on programs designed to incorporate the private sector into the emergency management framework, providing the business community a voice during emergencies and increasing information sharing between the private and public sectors.

“We’ve taken the next step forward, so that you, as the consuming public, know where to go during an emergency when you hear about something and want to learn more,” said Howard County OEM Deputy Director Thomas McNeal.
In an event such as last year’s historic Ellicott City flood, it’s helpful to have a coordinated approach to information vetting and dissemination, he said.
“The point is, we’ve got to do more outreach to start making things work better,” McNeal said.

Approximately 30 participants, ranging from private business owners to nonprofit organization and local government agency representatives, attended the event.

New Reception Center

Aside from natural disasters, the region’s residents and first responders are also susceptible to emergencies stemming from potential terrorist attacks, accidents involving hazardous chemicals or radiological material, and environmental hazards related to illicit drug use.

“Several [fire] department members recently participated in a counterterrorism workshop that involved a simulated coordinated attack at several locations throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region,” said Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Dixon. “It tested the response and capabilities of responders across the region.”

The department has also acquired a robot that can assist in water recovery efforts.

“Every year, we have people in Howard County who drown in bodies of water, and it puts [responders] at risk to recover these bodies,” Dixon said. “This robot helps mitigate some of that risk.”

According to Bert Nixon, director of Howard County’s Bureau of Environmental Health, the county’s Health Department is developing plans for a Community Reception Center capable of addressing human decontamination and dealing with medical issues resulting from a radiological exposure event.

“I think it will be a worthwhile thing to have,” he said, adding that the county is also beginning a public service announcement campaign to educate the public about prevention measures in relation to the approaching Zika season.

Nixon provided an update on the Bureau’s work with other county agencies on ongoing efforts still tied to Ellicott City’s flood recovery.

“There are still a number of businesses in various stages of trying to reopen,” he said, adding that the primary focus is now on food facilities. “We’re down to just two restaurants at this point in time, a new one trying to move into an impacted place and an existing restaurant that’s trying to reopen.”

Community Crises

In March, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring the state’s opioid crisis a state of emergency and tasked emergency managers with coordinating response efforts in their respective jurisdictions.

Finding that a number of organizations were already working on the problem, “OEM was able to coordinate those different bodies together and help them bridge their own gaps,” McNeal said.

While it’s effective to attack the problem at a local jurisdictional level, “This is an act of war, and it’s being discussed at that level,” he said. “Enemies are making this stuff and dumping it into America.”

In some cases, skin contact with some of the dangerous substances that are being mixed with heroin have the potential to kill first responders, posing yet another risk for police and emergency medical technicians. “A lot of jurisdictions are no longer doing field tests,” McNeal said. “They’re packaging [substances] up to send to the lab where they can be tested in a controlled environment.”

Speaking on behalf of the Howard County Community Emergency Response Network (CERN), Pamela Simonson said her organization focused on emergency communications at its last meeting. CERN is looking to become more involved in participatory operations and collaboration with LEPC, she added, to include sharing resources and working together to plan and co-present trainings and programs.

“With that in mind, we are working with the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network (FIRN) on a pictorial emergency card that will hopefully address some of the needs during emergencies with our non-English speaking residents,” Simonson said.

Business Integration

Charissa Cooper, who serves as private sector liaison and National Capitol Region planner for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), provided an overview of unique resources available to business owners who join MEMA’s free Private Sector Integration Program (PSIP).

These include the Maryland Joint Operations Center that aggregates information for major flood and traffic issues, the Business Operations Center (BOC) that disseminates information during emergency situations and the Virtual Business Operations Center (VBOC), which displays specific event information on an interactive website hosted on the Homeland Security Information Network.

“BOC members receive a direct e-mail address and phone line to receive information during an emergency situation,” Cooper said. “It is a one-stop shop for private sector members during emergencies. We sort out your questions and needs and get information back to you.”

With information coming from a variety of sources official and unofficial, the BOC helps separate legitimate information from misinformation, helping business owners make informed operational decisions, she said.

Enabled by Adobe Connect web conferencing software, the interactive VBOC website consolidates traffic camera access, weather maps and other tools that increase situational awareness into a single online platform to provide information relevant to a specific situation.

Vince Collurafici, a sales representative for the Elkridge-based Alban CAT construction and power equipment company, said the PSIP could benefit his organization.

“We do a lot of work helping Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions, as far as emergencies and power outages,” Collurafici said. “We always have generators on standby and can respond within about two hours, so it makes sense for us to try the partnership. We can help them, and they can help us.”

As the calendar approaches the one-year anniversary of the most recent Ellicott City flood, MEMA is urging business owners in Maryland to take advantage of an opportunity to better facilitate communication and situational awareness.

“The PSIP has members ranging from large corporations and big box stores down to mom-and-pops and everything in between,” Cooper said. “The size and scope of member organizations does not matter, and the program is free.”

Howard County High Schools Ranked Among Most Challenging 

 

All 12 Howard County public high schools have been ranked among the most challenging in Maryland and in the nation by the Washington Post in its 2017 list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.” Two Howard County high schools, River Hill and Centennial, are in the top 12 of the Maryland rankings.
The list ranks the nation’s 2,323 schools considered the most challenging — which represents approximately 12% of U.S. high schools.

To qualify for inclusion in the list, schools must participate in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge testing programs. The rankings are based on the ratio of the total number of AP, IB and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at the school each year, divided by the number of graduates.

The Howard County high schools included on the list, and their rank among the 104 top Maryland schools, are River Hill (11), Centennial (12), Marriotts Ridge (21), Glenelg (41), Howard (44), Mount Hebron (45), Atholton (47), Hammond (54), Reservoir (57), Oakland Mills (69), Wilde Lake (70) and Long Reach (74).
Overall, the list shows a sustained increase in the number of schools that qualify through AP, IB and Cambridge test participation, even though the vast majority of U.S. schools still do not make the list.

As he participated in high school graduation ceremonies and shook hands with young people the end of May, Howard County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano said he is extremely proud of the performance of the schools, the educators and the students.

“When the young people walk across the stage, that diploma really needs to matter,” he said. “When they graduate from a Howard County high school, we can be assured that they have a top diploma, and that they will be ready to go into college and go into careers fully engaged.”

College Readiness

The report looks at public and private high schools nationwide, ranking them based on academic rigor as well as how much this curricula is used by all students, not just academically elite students.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said it was no surprise to see Howard County schools ranked high on the list.

“Our top-ranked school system works hard to ensure that our students succeed beyond high school,” he said. “Through innovative partnerships to support career and college readiness, we are ensuring that Howard County students are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. As a product of Howard County schools, father of four children who have graduated from our schools and as county executive, I am proud every day of what our students, parents, teachers and administrators, working together, can achieve.”

AP courses mimic introductory college courses in state universities. The final exams are written and graded by outside experts.

The state of Maryland had 104 schools in the list, while Virginia had 84, California had 271 and New York had 88.

Other Rankings

Local educators also carefully watch other rankings, including the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools list, which ranks 2,600 schools considered the best in the nation, then awards gold, silver or bronze medals based on students performing better than expected in their state; disadvantaged students performing better than the state average; student graduation rates meeting or exceeding a national standard; and students being prepared for college-level coursework.

In 2017, Marriotts Ridge High School was ranked No. 226 nationally and sixth in Maryland by U.S. News. River Hill was No. 258 and seventh, Centennial No. 373 and 11th, Mount Hebron No. 658 and 18th, Atholton No. 1,427 and 34th, respectively, while the rest of Howard County’s high schools missed the cut.
Marriotts Ridge, River Hill and Centennial earned gold medals from U.S. News while Mount Hebron and Atholton earned silver.

“We are proud of these measures because they are based on how prepared students are for colleges and careers after graduation,” said Mount Hebron Principal Andrew Cockley. “While the rankings do not capture all of the different ways students can excel, they are important in helping guide our school improvement efforts. These rankings help show that students from Mount Hebron High School are being academically prepared to face the challenges that await them after high school.”

High-Achieving State

Howard County high schools are highly ranked in a state that, in turn, ranks at the top nationally. In data published in April by U.S. News, Maryland had a higher percentage of top-ranked high schools than any other state in the nation. This marks the third year in a row Maryland has ranked as the best in the nation. Among Maryland high schools, 5.9% earned gold medal status and 21.6% earned silver medals.

Maryland state Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon joined Kittleman in commending students and educators in their consistently high rankings.
“Maryland education has never rested on its laurels, but is constantly innovating to better serve our evolving and growing student body,” she said. “Each one of our 24 school systems — and their educators — is hard at work to improve instruction and produce graduates that are ready for postsecondary education or the job market. Our students are meeting that challenge.”

Statewide, Maryland educators have been emphasizing training programs, such as the Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, which offer partnerships that allow students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree in an economically relevent tech field.

Q&A With Inner Arbor Trust President & CEO Nina Basu

 

Nina Basu is the new president and CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust, the entity developing Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, the 36-acre arts and culture park in Downtown Columbia. The Trust opened its first improvement to the Park, the Chrysalis, a sculpture, park pavilion and amphitheater, in April.
Since taking over the Trust on May 1, Basu has focused on operating the Chrysalis, creating fundraising and operating plans for the Trust and creating strategic partnerships to bring arts and culture to Downtown Columbia.

Prior to taking the helm at the Trust, Basu practiced as an attorney, handling civil litigation matters including commercial, employment, general business and financial services litigation. Prior to forming her own firm in 2012, she practiced as an associate at McGuireWoods, from which point her law career eventually led her an introduction to Michael McCall and the Trust. Initially a volunteer, she then served as the Trust’s general counsel. When McCall began to focus on other projects, Basu was named as his successor.

A lifelong resident of Howard County, she sees herself as a steward for Columbia’s next generation and is motivated to create the type of arts and culture destinations that support families and residents of all ages.

What made you want to leave practicing law to work in your current role?

I’m not sure if I’ve truly left practicing law. I’m a half-time executive here and am managing a small case load in my practice. While I love being a lawyer, it is conflict driven, especially the type of litigation work that I do. Here, I am having way more fun getting to build something that my children and their children will enjoy.

How did you get involved in the Inner Arbor Trust?

I’ve always been involved in Columbia, through the Long Reach Village Board, Columbia Association (CA) and as a volunteer for a number of county commissions and task forces [the General Plan Task Force, the Commission for Women and the Spending and Affordability Task Force]. In 2012, I volunteered to help Michael with social media, planning events and similar issues, then began to serve as the Trust’s general counsel.

After Michael and his company, Strategic Leisure, delivered the Chrysalis and moved on [as planned] to other projects after, he asked me to be his successor.

What will be done to get the Chrysalis operating at peak capacity?

I.M.P. has booked one paid show there already.

The Chrysalis is more than an amphitheater, and has many functions other than merely being a place for paid shows. It is a piece of visual art. It was used during Wine in the Woods and during the Capital Jazz Fest.

It was amazing to see an estimate of 3,000 people on the lawn during Wine in the Woods, enjoying great music at a great new structure. Next on the schedule is the Downtown Partnership hosting Books in Bloom, a performance of the Columbia Orchestra, three concerts sponsored by the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks, a photo shoot for ManneqART — plus the paid I.M.P. bluegrass show. We’re waiting for confirmation on other events.

How do you work with the people who run Merriweather Post Pavilion?

We are working with I.M.A. (It’s My Amphitheater, a subsidiary of I.M.P.), which pays the Trust base rent for three events at the Chrysalis; the bluegrass show is the first of the three. In addition, I.M.A.’s base rent covers a certain number of festivals. I talk constantly with Jean Parker and Brad Canfield of Merriweather, as well as two principals of I.M.P., which is owned by long-time Washington, D.C.-area promoter Seth Hurwitz.

We have a great relationship with I.M.A. as a partner, both in their rental of the Chrysalis and the Park, and as a service provider. They have event management costs, and we turn to them for other services, too. Brad and Jean, especially, understand and buy into what we are trying to do in the Park, which is make Downtown Columbia a destination for all arts and culture. I think the investment of time and money made by all of them speaks for itself.

What’s the latest on the rest of Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods?

Today, we want to get people there to enjoy the space. The Chrysalis is open to the public when not in use. We have varied rental rates, including those for nonprofits, such as the Columbia Orchestra event, which we hope will draw 2,000 people. We also want more up-and-coming bands to get a chance to play there.

We’re trying to activate the space and to help accomplish that goal. To do so, we’re working with Imagination Playground to create play space, and we’re placing picnic tables in the park and creating partnerships to hold more free events, including small “pop-up” events. We’re also holding a public art contest to design chairs as pieces of art that will be displayed in the Park. And by next spring, I want to get a single pathway connection built between the multi-use path on Little Patuxent Parkway and the Chrysalis.

Looking ahead, we need to raise capital as soon as we can for the entire path system and the Butterfly, which will include concessions, bathrooms and a rooftop deck that can be used by the community and can also become a party deck for events, [and] thus will produce revenue. Along with these improvements, we will be planting more trees, fixing the lawns and turf, and restoring the streams.

How optimistic are you that the entire project will get built out?

Very. To ensure that we do that, we are taking care of the infrastructure first. It’s going to take time and money from private donors, CA and Howard County, but with the amazing first step online, … I think its success this season will lead to the rest being built in an expeditious manner.

On that note, there are people who still want to talk about the design for things that are far in the future, but for today I’m on the Butterfly and the path system.
Do you have a timeline for what you want to accomplish?

We want the first pathway connection between the multi-use pathway on Little Patuxent Parkway and the Chrysalis in place by next summer. As for the Butterfly, we want our financing in place within two years. Happily, it will be much easier to build than the Chrysalis, which was a complicated design project. So the Butterfly should take about a year to build, after it’s funded.

How do you plan to find the money to continue building out the park and bring the remainder of the $30 million in amenities and improvements online?

This is about partnerships. Today, we need a revenue stream to pay our ongoing expenses. In addition to private fundraising, we will be making requests of the county and CA, to entities and other partners in our capital programs.

What was your most memorable legal event?

It was a pro bono case where I represented a young woman who was over 18, but still in foster care because the age-out is 21. She and a foster agency were sued by a former foster parent. She was going to get rolled over, but my firm and I jumped in and got a favorable outcome. Sometimes I feel like my most interesting and meaningful cases are those that I don’t get paid for.

What are your thoughts on the plan for Long Reach Village Center?

I am excited about the plan, which will be an economic development driver. Long Reach is an amazing and diverse neighborhood. The center had been mismanaged in the many years after Kimco left by Cedar Properties and then America’s Realty, which was horrible for Long Reach. But our residents are forward-thinking, and we were grateful to [former County Executive] Ken Ulman and the County Council, notably Calvin Ball, for the county purchasing the center.

Today, the Orchard Development team put great thought into a world-class redevelopment plan, which is anchored by a vertical farm with a food court. That also puts power back into the grid and some housing, plus it will be a driver for art and include a dog park.

What nonprofit organizations are you involved with?

Aside from the Long Reach Community Association, I’m involved with the Howard County Commission for Women, the Maryland State Bar Association and the University of Maryland Law School Alumni Board. In addition, I do pro bono legal work for Maryland Volunteer Lawyer’s Service and Free State Legal, the nonprofit providing legal services to Maryland’s low-income LGBTQ community. I’m also super-involved with my children’s school.

What’s the latest on the Howard Commission for Women?

That’s my favorite thing to talk about. We just held a feminine hygiene products drive because there is a need, and no one ever donates them. This is our seventh year holding this drive; know that this is important, because they are not covered by food stamps, and they’re expensive.

And know that food banks served almost 10% of the county’s population of 300,000 last year and that more than one-in-five single-parent families in the county live in poverty. Remember, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck and that means a job loss, the end of a relationship or a health issue can spur most anyone’s financial situation into a tailspin.

You describe yourself as a “Leslie Knope wannabe” in your profile. Why?
“Parks and Recreation” is a great TV show, and I’ve always loved that character because she’s so confident and wants to get things done. I’m also somewhat hyper and completely obsessed with binders, like her character. And now I can direct building this park, which involved a melding of my professional skills and personal passion.
v

High School Students Get College Head Start at HCC

The first cohort of students in the Early College Program, a partnership program between Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and Howard Community College (HCC), will graduate high school in the coming weeks with up to 40 college credits. The students are part of the HCPSS Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL) Early College Program in cybersecurity.

“The Early College Program is a terrific way for students to get a jump on college and graduate career-ready,” said Acting HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano. “This partnership with HCC provides tremendous benefits to students, both academically and personally.”

“Students are thriving in the Early College program,” said HCC President Kathleen Hetherington. “They are accelerating their education in a supportive environment created by college and high school faculty, advisers and counselors.”

Students begin the Early College Program in the 10th grade, and take four HCC college courses in the 11th grade at the HCPSS ARL. In their senior year, students take all HCC classes on campus. As part of the program, students have opportunities to participate in internship experiences and receive one-on-one support to write a career-ready résumé and to prepare for job interviews.
After high school graduation, the Early College students have the option to spend one more year at HCC and earn an associate degree, or they can apply to a four-year university and take their transcripted credits with them.

In addition to the Early College Program in cybersecurity, HCC and HCPSS have also partnered on Early College STEM, which is for students at Oakland Mills High School who are interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The first cohort will attend HCC full-time this coming fall semester.
To learn more about the Early College program, visit howardcc.edu/earlycollege.

Kittleman Submits Transportation Priority Letter to MDOT

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced the county has submitted its transportation Priority Letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). The letter, which was endorsed by County Council Chairperson Jon Weinstein, Sen. Guy Guzzone and Del. Vanessa Atterbeary on behalf of the County Council and general assembly delegation, recommends highway and transportation projects to be included in MDOT’s fiscal 2018-23 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP).

The letter prioritizes 20 capital, construction and design projects. In determining its priorities, the county received extensive input from elected officials and the public. More than 1,400 people took part in an online survey and more than 300 unique written comments were received; additionally, input was collected at a public meeting held on Feb. 21. The results of the survey and public meeting materials can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/2018-Priority-Letter.

“This was truly a collaborative effort with our residents, the council and our state delegation,” said Kittleman. “This letter shows a strategic, balanced approach and reaffirms our commitment to creating a more sustainable community by addressing the needs of motorists, those who use public transit, pedestrians and bicyclists. We know we must be innovative and forward-thinking in addressing our present and future transportation challenges. I am grateful for the expertise and guidance provided by our internal staff from the Department of Public Works, Department of Planning and Zoning and Office of Transportation.”
The letter lists five capital and construction projects. Top priorities include the following.

U.S. Route 29. Middle Patuxent River to Seneca Drive widening, including access improvements to the Rivers Edge community and accommodations for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Transit Capital Improvements. To purchase new buses to replace those that have exhausted their useful life to maintain a fleet in good repair and to expand service on a number of the most traveled routes. The county also requested buses, road and signal improvements and the development of high quality BRT stations in Downtown Columbia and future stations for the U.S. 29 BRT system.
U.S. 1 Sidewalk. To construct sidewalks along U.S. 1 southbound in the median between North Laurel Road and the Prince George’s County line.

Route 108. For intersection improvements along Route 108 at Ten Mills Road.
Route 100 and Route 103. To replace the existing interchange.

Additionally, the county ranked design and engineering projects. Those receiving the highest priority include the following.
• I-70

U.S. 29 to U.S. 40; widen one lane in each direction
Upgrade/reconstruct the I-70/Marriottsville Road interchange

Design and implement I-70/U.S. 29 interchange capacity enhancements
• Route 175. Evaluate the improvement of existing access points into Columbia Gateway Drive, including a third access point through the potential extension of MD 108 across MD 175 into Columbia Gateway Drive and direct access to Columbia Gateway Drive from I-95.

• Route 175-U.S. 1 to Snowden River Parkway. Continued comprehensive traffic modeling leading to design alternatives including the U.S. 1/Route 175 and U.S.1/I-95 interchanges.

• Pedestrian, Bicycle and ADA Access and Safety Improvements. Design and construct sidewalks, pedestrian safety improvement, bicycle safety improvements, and final design and construction of short-term network projects in Howard County’s Bicycle Master Plan.

Specifically, the county is requesting state grant funding for the following projects.

• Conduct planning for pedestrian and bicycle access into Columbia Gateway
• Finalize design of the Downtown Columbia to Stevens Forest Road connector
• Finalize design of pedestrian and bicycle improvements along Dobbin and McGaw roads

• Finalize design of the North Laurel Connections project to join Savage and Laurel in a connected bicycle and pedestrian network.

The Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) is Maryland’s six-year capital budget for transportation projects. The CTP contains projects and programs of the Maryland Aviation Administration, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Maryland Port Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The CTP includes capital projects that will provide new, expanded or significantly improved facilities or services that may involve planning, environmental studies, design, right-of-way acquisition, construction or the purchase of essential equipment related to the facility or service.

Seafood Distributors Taking Greater Measures to Keep Catch Cold for Safety

 

J.J. McDonnell & Co., of Elkridge, processes thousands of pounds of fish a day: lobster trucked to its headquarters from Maine, crabs plucked from Tangier Sound, farmed oysters from Southern Maryland and tuna flown in from Africa.
They’re different species, but their requirements are the same — constant, consistent cold. Under 50 degrees for live fish, under 40 degrees for dead ones.
With uncertainty about new regulations and increases in the reported cases of food-borne illnesses, wholesale fish distributors are taking their need for refrigeration to a whole new level — and place. Some, like McDonnell, have moved out of the wholesale city markets that used to be gathering places for early-morning fish delivery and banter; others are going out of business, selling out to competitors or merging to share space and expenses.

All of this is happening because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has in the past signaled it was looking at tougher regulations to bring seafood under refrigeration, which is the first line of defense against pathogens and illnesses. But changes are also happening because distributors’ customers are getting larger and more global, as well as seeking increasingly high standards to ensure their food is safe.

Illnesses from Seafood
The pressure is coming from the threat of regulatory changes and from the industry. Regulators in the past have been concerned about Vibrio, a bacteria that lives in warm waters and can contaminate seafood. In 2013, 104 cases of illness from ingesting the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention — including several in Maryland and Virginia. That type of Vibrio, which typically results in a severely upset stomach, comes from eating raw or undercooked seafood, usually oysters. It often occurs in the warmer months, as Vibrio thrives in temperatures above 70 degrees.

Vibrio can contaminate tuna, sardines, shrimp and other species, but it is most known for infecting oysters, mussels and clams. A diner can’t [if there is a problem] from looking at a raw oyster, but eating one can bring on the illness. (Another kind of bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is more serious and can enter the skin through a cut when it’s present in the water. Those infections, though far rarer, can result in the loss of a limb or even death; but they are not from seafood.)

Most people who consume shellfish do not get sick from Vibrio, and even when they do it’s hard to confirm that the infections were the result of eating tainted seafood. Several years ago, in a rare instance, Maryland health officials, with federal help, did trace a pair of Vibrio cases from restaurant patrons in Baltimore to infected oysters in state waters.

When the FDA floated its uniform standard, the state and its seafood businesses were already working on Vibrio control plans. Maryland had agreed to get its oysters under refrigeration within five hours of harvest for the summer months, a provision that only affected oyster aquaculture because the wild fishery is closed then.

The FDA accepted the plan, which differed on temperature from state to state. The agency then decided in 2014 that it wanted a uniform standard: under refrigeration within one hour of harvest. The states fought the plan, and won, but are not sure if it will re-emerge.

Spokespeople for the agency said they could not comment on possible future regulations.

Less Regs: Better?
Also unknown is what will become of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which former President Barack Obama signed into law in 2011. The law gave companies a few years to put in place plans that showed better control over their supply chains and the temperature of their food. FDA inspections of public markets and warehouses also increased. The law was passed so the agency would be proactive and attempt to prevent outbreaks, rather than react to them.

The Trump administration has signaled that it is interested in less regulation, not more. But seafood processors say less regulation is not necessarily better. The Maryland seafood industry has not had a “peanut moment,” where it had to recall millions of dollars’ worth of nuts because of E.coli poisoning; or a “Jack in the Box” situation, where E.coli-tainted hamburgers sickened more than 700 people and stained the fast-food brand for decades. One reason for that, distributors say, are the strict protocols in place.

“They’re tough to meet, but we certainly don’t want to get anyone sick,” said Harris Seafood Co.’s Jason Ruth, whose Kent Island company is the state’s only remaining year-round oyster shucker. The new administration, he said, “could be less restrictive, which is not a good thing.”

The FDA accepted the plan, which differed on temperature from state to state. The agency then decided in 2014 that it wanted a uniform standard: under refrigeration within one hour of harvest. The states fought the plan, and won, but are not sure if it will re-emerge.

Spokespeople for the agency said they could not comment on possible future regulations.

Regardless of what the FDA does, seafood distributors know that a case of food-borne illness in Maryland from seafood can cost them not only millions of dollars in business, but customers for life. It’s especially important as fish reclaims a spot on the U.S. diet as a heart-healthy food — and farm-raised Chesapeake oysters enjoy a resurgence at the raw bar.

For decades, J. J. McDonnell and 17 other seafood distributors shared a large, communal wholesale market — first at the Baltimore Harbor, and since 1984, in Jessup. A state agency, the Maryland Food Center Authority, runs the market and leases space to vendors and distributors.

The market arrangement met McDonnell’s needs for many years, said owner George McManus, who started at the company as a truck driver in 1978 and took the helm eight years later. But the lack of control over the space proved to be a problem; the open dock where trucks delivered shipments was not refrigerated.

Preserving the Cold Chain
That came to present a weak link in what wholesalers call the “cold chain”: the need to keep fish cold from the time it’s caught until it’s served raw or cooked. Cold chain provisions in the law allow for delivery at docks that are unrefrigerated, said Donald Darnall, the Maryland Food Center Authority’s executive director. It is up to each distributor at the market to ensure that deliveries come through the unrefrigerated dock to their places at the market in a way that maintains their required temperatures.

Violations are rare, but they do happen. In 2010, FDA inspectors shut down Congressional Seafood Co. for a few days because of several violations, including refrigeration. Congressional made some changes in their plan and management and, after further inspections, was cleared to reopen.

Darnall said the FDA is unlikely to impose stricter regulations, because then it would have to hire more enforcement officers, which it has been reluctant to do.
But even though the market’s refrigeration met requirements, as companies like McDonnell and Congressional expanded their businesses, the cold chain became a more pressing issue, tenants and market officials agreed. That was especially true as distributors’ clients became more global and insisted on a uniform standard of refrigeration to comply not only with the laws, but with their industry protocols, as well.

An example would be the Giant grocery store chain, once a regional company based in Landover that is now owned by the Dutch conglomerate Ahold Delhaize. They want their seafood suppliers certified by the Safe Quality Food Institute; Congressional’s facility meets the institute’s standards, but the former market space did not. The Food Center Authority, which receives no taxpayer funding, did not have the money to invest in a refrigerated dock. Raising such funds, Darnall said, would mean increasing everyone’s rent, including those businesses that didn’t need it.

“There was no way we could continue in an operation like that. I knew we had to develop other avenues,” McManus said.

Colder Quarters
J.J. McDonnell’s departure in October 2016, to a 55,000-square-foot warehouse with a refrigeration system that consumes 70% less energy than the one at the wholesale market, follows the departure of one its largest competitors, Congressional Seafood. Congressional, along with its sister company, NAFCO, moved in 2015 into an 88,000-square-foot facility that cost nearly $9 million to develop across from the market.

At its new facility, Congressional processes more than 20,000 pounds of fish a day, which it delivers to 750 restaurants in Washington, Baltimore and Richmond, Va.

Jon Pearlman, Congressional’s director of operations, said the company wanted to attain the highest possible food-safety certification to deliver to customers like Safeway and Giant. The certifications come from private, third-party verifiers, who inspect the facilities and deem them to meet the large company’s standards. They couldn’t achieve it without a consistent cold chain, something they worried might one day become mandatory.

“We can account for the temperature of the product from the time that we receive it until the time that it gets to customer’s door. That’s something that everyone is going to have to face, and the old market would not allow us to do,” he said. “We definitely saw the writing on the wall that this was going to become a mandatory issue. We always try to stay ahead of the curve. The biggest thing that the old seafood market just could not do was have a closed dock, and that was our number one priority when we built this place.”

Of the 18 seafood dealers in the wholesale seafood market at Jessup when McManus started, only five remain, though managers expect to fill two vacated spots soon and will be renovating the market.

While he can’t predict what will happen next at the FDA, McManus said he invested in the new facility, even if the dealing with the expense, which he said was in the “multi-millions,” was painful.

“The responsibility to run a good organization is much different from what it was 20 years ago, or 30 years ago,” McManus said. “As long as you build the equipment with flexibility, you will be able to meet any requirement.”

 

This article appeared in a recent edition of The Bay Journal, which is published by Bay Journal Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to inform the public about issues and events that affect the Chesapeake Bay. A print edition is published monthly except for midsummer and midwinter and is distributed free of charge. News, features and commentary are also available free online at bayjournal.com; Rona Kobell can be reached at rkobell@bayjournal.com.

Biz Roundup

Arundel Physicians Encouraged to Tighten Opioid Prescription Guidelines
In a recent joint letter to health care providers, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Health Officer Jinlene Chan are encouraging county physicians to follow strict guidelines when prescribing opioids and other painkillers.

“We are counting on you as a prescriber to be part of the solution for your patients. Most of our constituents with substance-use disorders began their path to addiction after forming dependencies to opioids prescribed as a result of an injury or other medical issue,” wrote the pair. “Their opioid dependence may have led to obtaining illegal street opioids like heroin, sometimes laced with fentanyl, after valid prescriptions ran out.”

The letter asks county health care providers to practice extreme caution when prescribing these medications to patients and to consider non-pharmaceutical therapies and non-opioid medications for the treatment of pain. Where opioids are appropriate, Schuh and Chan ask providers to prescribe the minimum amount necessary for the pain and closely monitor patients’ response to the medication.

The letter is part of an overall effort to raise awareness of the dangers of opioid abuse in the county. In addition, Schuh’s office continues to sponsor “Not My Child” opioid abuse awareness panels across the county.

 

Kittleman Extends Deadline for Aging-in-Place Tax Credit

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is extending the deadline to Sept. 1 for residents applying for a tax credit designed to assist them age in place. Kittleman proposed the tax credit in November 2016, and it was approved unanimously by the County Council a month later. As of May 12, the county has received 1,374 applications for the credit.

Kittleman said the extension was necessary due to the large response from residents interested in taking advantage of this credit and because of a change made by the state legislature to expand those who qualify as retired military.
Residents are eligible for the Aging-In-Place tax credit if they are 65 years of age or older and have either lived in their dwelling for 40 years or are a retired member of the military. The credit may be granted for up to five years as long as the property owner remains qualified.

It provides a 20% tax credit on up to $500,000 of assessed property value. Annual Renewal Statements will be mailed in February of each year and will need to be completed and received by May 1 in order to continue to receive the credit. A property owner cannot receive this credit and the Senior Tax Credit simultaneously.

Kittleman said applications received at this point are unlikely to be processed in time for the credit to appear on the initial billing to be mailed on July 1. Once awarded, amended bills will be mailed to qualified homeowners, and if payment has already been made, a refund will be generated. The county’s senior population continues to grow rapidly: In 2010, 10% of residents were 65 or older. By 2025, this will increase to 18% and by 2035, to nearly 22%.

 

USM Launches $25M Fund to Back Startup Companies Formed From Campus Research

The University System of Maryland (USM) has launched its $25 million early-stage investment fund, called the Maryland Momentum Fund.
USM Vice Chancellor Thomas Sadowski stated that the fund will “help our entrepreneurs address funding gaps, gain access to other sources of investment capital and gain marketplace footing, further enhancing the system’s high impact on the Maryland economy.”

The fund has a $10 million commitment from the USM in place, and the system is collaborating with UM Ventures and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to reach out to area venture capitalists and angel investors for an additional $15 million. UM Ventures is a joint initiative of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and University of Maryland, College Park, to commercialize technologies and expand industry collaboration. Individual investments will range from $50,000 to $500,000 per company.

As it approaches the $25 million level, the Maryland Momentum Fund will leverage this financial support to achieve several objectives.

• Accelerate the success and profitability of USM startups

• Attract promising entrepreneurs and innovators to USM institutions

• Seize the opportunity to commercialize valuable USM intellectual property

• Develop long-term financial returns that can be reinvested in future startups affiliated with the USM

The USM accelerated its efforts in technology commercialization during fiscal 2014, when the USM Board of Regents approved the Policy on Investments and Loans to Maryland-based businesses that license university intellectual property. The policy helped establish investments and loans totaling $400,000 in five startups during fiscal 2015 from UM Ventures.

Investor Group to Acquire
Evergreen Health

A group of investors — JARS Health Investments, Anne Arundel Health System (AAHS) and LifeBridge Health — has formally agreed to acquire Evergreen Health. The stock purchase agreement is pending Evergreen’s final transition to a for-profit company, which the Maryland Insurance Administration is expected to consider this month.

“This agreement with some of Maryland’s most respected health care organizations will ensure Evergreen’s success for many years to come,” said Dr. Peter Beilenson, CEO of Evergreen. “I am especially pleased that our new partners share Evergreen’s abiding goal: to provide Maryland residents with the highest-quality services at the most affordable prices.”

JARS is an investment group formed and funded by some of Maryland’s top health care executives specifically to support Evergreen’s mission of providing health insurance to Maryland residents. AAHS includes a 380-bed nonprofit hospital, Anne Arundel Medical Center; a medical group; imaging services; a substance use treatment center; and health enterprises. In addition to a 95-acre Annapolis campus, Anne Arundel Medical Center has outpatient pavilions in Bowie, Kent Island, Odenton, Pasadena and Waugh Chapel.

LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. It includes Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and related subsidiaries and affiliates.

Public-Private Partnership to Clean Up Anne Arundel Waterways

The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) Watershed Protection and Restoration Program (WPRP) has entered into a public-private partnership to clean up the Severn Run, Patapsco and Patuxent waterways.

The contract with Houston-based Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) is a first-of-its-kind agreement to utilize cutting-edge technology for needed stormwater capital projects and pollution reductions at no risk to the county.

The $3.8 million Full Delivery of Water Quality Improvements contract is uniquely structured to help the county better satisfy its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) and Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) permits and goals, and will be paid only upon completion of the projects and verification of the projects’ benefits.

The suite of water quality protection and improvement practices proposed by RES includes more than 3,500 linear feet of stream and outfall restoration in the Severn Run watershed and new, cutting-edge optimization technology applied to three large, private stormwater facilities in the Patapsco and Patuxent River watersheds.

RES’s work will focus on sites that had not initially been targeted for restoration by the county. The county’s capital program includes a similar effort for fiscal 2018 and, contingent upon approval in the upcoming budget, an additional solicitation of $5 million would be made in the summer of 2017.

Kittleman Applauds Restoration of State Construction Funds for School System

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman applauded the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) for restoring $9.6 million in school construction funding to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), citing satisfaction with the additional information provided by the school system regarding its handling of mold in school buildings.

BPW voted in January to temporarily withhold the funding, which was slated for upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) at several HCPSS schools during the 2017–18 academic year.

Several weeks ago, the school system received a letter from the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency commending HCPSS for its success in implementing best practices for maintaining good Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and its commitment to providing safe and healthy schools and offices.
The latest independent indoor air quality assessments, commissioned last year by Howard County government, concluded that, “HCPSS maintenance staff at each school is doing a good job of controlling indoor moisture and mold growth, resulting in the protection of the health of students and staff.” The county contracted with Skelly & Loy, an independent professional engineering and environmental services firm, to conduct the independent IEQ assessments at Glenwood Middle School and 11 other schools. Results of those assessments can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/schoolairtests.

 

City of Annapolis Pursues the Purchase of Part of Parkeside Preserve

Mayor Michael Pantelides has announced that the City of Annapolis is pursuing the purchase of a portion of the proposed Parkeside Preserve development to maintain as a nature area for Annapolis residents. The city acquisition parcels, coupled with the homeowner association conservation easement area, totals more than 57% of the total tract that will be left as natural open space; this would call for less than 43% of the 39-plus acre tract to be developed.

The city plans to purchase 22 platted and recorded lots, along with the roadways/access areas associated with the lots, in the Southwest portion of the Parkeside Preserve subdivision. Program Open Space funds will be used by the city in connection with this property acquisition and will preserve one of the largest contiguous forested tracts in the city, which is currently in private ownership.

“This is the first time in the city’s history that Program Open Space money has been used to purchase land in Annapolis,” Pantelides said. “I signed an agreement with the developers of Parkeside Preserve to purchase the southwest portion of the subdivision, not for development, but rather to create a passive recreational nature area for all to enjoy.”

The county has approved the city’s application for the use of these Program Open Space funds for this purpose, and the application has been forwarded to the Department of Natural Resources for its approval. The city will pay the developer $1.5 million for the 22 platted and recorded lots that were assessed in two separate appraisals for $1.7 million and $1.95 million, respectively. Pantelides is asking residents to help name the new nature area by sending in their suggestions to Mayor@Annapolis.gov.

STEMaction Programs Acquired by USRA

STEMaction has announced that its operations and programs have been acquired by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), of Columbia. With the acquisition, USRA expands its range of activities to inspire, engage and develop the next-generation science and technology workforce through K–12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
”We’re delighted that USRA has chosen to build upon our efforts as a partner for FIRST robotics programs in Maryland, the new Maryland Tech Invitational tournament, and as founding sponsor of the Maryland STEM Festival,” said Bill Duncan, executive director of STEMaction. “We’re proud of what’s been accomplished in the five years since STEMaction’s founding and look forward to USRA offering an even broader range of great STEM activities to the region’s students and families.”

Government Had Key Role in Columbia’s Birth, Its Future

As we celebrate Columbia’s 50th birthday, it’s important to remember the key role that government, at all levels, played in the development of Jim Rouse’s aging “new town.”

From the 30,000-foot view, the picture starts with Washington, D.C. Without the capital so near and continuing to grow as a metropolis, the Corridor between Columbia and Washington would not have been as likely a target for development as it was in the 1960s.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s program to build a national system of interstate highways was a factor in this story. The construction of I-95, now the Main Street of the entire East Coast, and a bit later, I-70, from Baltimore to Denver, made rural Howard County much more accessible.

After surreptitiously acquiring 14,000 acres, Rouse had to persuade three-conservative Republican county commissioners — who had run on an anti-growth platform — that developing Columbia was Howard County’s best way to guard against suburban sprawl. It was a tough sell, largely accomplished by months of meetings with Howard County citizens and civic leaders to persuade them that Columbia was a good idea.

Those conservative commissioners came to regret their decision when all the out-of-state liberals came flocking in, attracted by Rouse’s aspirations for a community that was economically, socially, racially and religiously diverse.
Ultimately, Columbia was not a vaccination against the suburban sprawl that is visible all over Howard County today. The town may have delayed the spread of helter-skelter single-family housing developments, but it did not prevent them. The economic pressures were too strong once Columbia had raised the bar for the services the county offered — good schools, shopping, libraries, a community college and a hospital.

Columbia did prevent Route 29 from becoming the same hodge-podge of strip shopping centers that now stretch five miles along Route 40 from Patapsco State Park to the edge of Turf Valley. Route 29 has become a six-lane asphalt river that divides East and West Columbia, an expressway now complemented by the Great Wall of Columbia on the east.

Big Role for SHA

The State Highway Administration (SHA) has played a crucial role in how Columbia was developed. The Columbia Archives record a lot of back-and-forth between The Rouse Co. and the highway folks; back in 1968, Jim Rouse once suggested to incoming Gov.-Elect Spiro Agnew that he hire a prominent highway engineer to head what was then called the State Roads Commission. The engineer was a consultant for Rouse. Agnew appointed him — Agnew, as Baltimore County executive, probably knew the Towson-based engineer.
At the Founder’s Day celebration honoring Rouse that was held at the community college last month, Dave Forrester, one of The Rouse Co.’s key project managers for Columbia, reminded me of the special state tax break that helped Rouse. The state agreed to tax these large parcels Rouse owned as farmland until they were actually developed. Had the company had to pay a tax rate based on what the land was worth as development, Columbia wouldn’t have been financially feasible.

At every step of the way, Columbia was the result of cooperation between a relatively benign developer and relatively open-minded government officials representing the citizenry. (After Jim Rouse ran into some problems over campaign contributions, the company established a policy that executives and the firm would not contribute to local and state political campaigns.).

Jim Rouse promised the residents of Howard County in 1964 that Columbia would not be a burden on the county, and that it would generate more in tax revenues than it would cost. That has generally proved to be the case.

That’s the prism by which the county needs to judge the future development of Downtown Columbia and Columbia Gateway Business Park. The Rouse Co. got a lot of concessions from Howard County and the state of Maryland, but it didn’t get everything it asked for. The same should be true for the Howard Hughes Corp. and the scores of other property owners seeking concessions from the county and state; what one person calls a “giveaway” to a developer, another can see as a reasonable exchange.

We must count on Columbia Association and the Howard County government to maintain, adapt and update the vision that Rouse had for Columbia.
People won’t always agree on outcomes — planners inside The Rouse Co. had fierce disagreements on some long-forgotten issues. But unlike those private disputes, the future for Howard County’s downtown in Columbia needs to be determined in a public process that is open and transparent.

Foose Out, Martirano In

For at least two decades, the average tenure for an urban superintendent of schools in the United States has been under four years, Outside of Columbia, Howard County is not officially “urban,” but it does rank about 80th among the 100 largest U.S. school districts out of 13,000 districts nationwide.
So, by most standards, with 55,000 students, Howard is a big school district with many typical urban problems.

Renee Foose lasted almost five years until last month, a little bit longer than average as big school systems go. But Howard County is not used to such turnover, nor such turmoil, in getting rid of a superintendent, as happened in May. In the past 68 years, Howard County has had only seven superintendents. Until the school board did not renew Superintendent John O’Rourke’s contract in 2004 after only four years in the job, the two previous superintendents served for 16 years, and the one before them for 19 years.

The split this time was messy and predictable once three new school board members won last year’s election. They ousted three incumbents who had given Foose a second four-year contract. Foose then sued the board for usurping her power, a move that sealed her departure.

But getting rid of someone who has a contract is expensive. In this case, it cost county taxpayers $1.6 million, with some generous retirement benefits thrown in.

At $273,000 a year, Foose was already the highest paid county government employee. In 2016, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of state data, the highest paid state employee was Randy Edsall, the University of Maryland’s football coach who was fired in 2015.

The one saving grace in the cases of O’Rourke and Foose is that the Howard County school board immediately found interim superintendents who were already familiar with the school system. In 2004, they hired Sydney Cousin, who had retired from the system and would ultimately serve eight years. In May, they hired Michael Martirano as acting superintendent to replace Foose, then quickly named him interim chief for a year.

Martirano had served as supervisor of elementary schools here, then served as superintendent in St. Mary’s County and state superintendent in West Virginia. He resigned that post after his wife took her life and he returned to Howard County to be near his grown children.

Right off the bat, Martirano announced he had been interested in being superintendent in Howard County for the long term. So far he’s gotten good reviews, and provided a sharp contrast to the less outgoing Foose.

Besides Foose, another casualty of the dissension on the board was former board chair Christine O’Connor, who resigned a day after Foose “retired.” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, who had served as the mediator between the board and Foose, appointed Ananta Hejeebu to fill the newly-opened seat on the county’s seven-member Board of Education.

Hejeebu already serves on the Howard County Public School System Budget Review Committee, established by the Howard County Council.
The council must approve Hejeebu’s appointment.

Sparing With Vetoes

Gov. Larry Hogan again this year was very sparing with his veto letters, rejecting only four proposed bills outright. He used separate press conferences to announce three of the vetoes: paid sick leave, a bill defining standards for failing schools and legislative redistricting.

Those weren’t the only bills from the legislature Hogan was unhappy with. He allowed 74 bills (some of them duplicates by House and Senate) to go into law without his signature. These included bills on drug price gouging and local beer breweries. Some included provisions he didn’t like or think would be effective.
The Republican governor chooses his fights with the majority Democrats carefully — not because he can win them (he usually doesn’t), but because they make political points.

In addition, he signed at least 758 other bills, including much of his own legislative package. Unlike other years, Hogan did not veto the many duplicate bills that are cross-filed between House and Senate to better guarantee passage.
Democrats, unions and progressive groups were most perturbed with his veto of the paid sick leave bill they tried to pass for five years. The governor preferred his own bill, which covered fewer people, and used the carrot of tax credits instead of the penalty sticks in the legislature’s bill.

Given his druthers, Hogan would probably prefer no more regulations on business. But mandating paid sick leave is popular, even among Republican voters, a Goucher College poll found. So Hogan came up with his own plan. He and the Dems will argue about it in the interim. The vote could be close on veto override, but Democratic leaders see this as a good campaign cudgel against Hogan, so the pressure will be on Democratic lawmakers to stick with the party line.

Hogan did an elaborate veto of a rather outlandish bill Democrats labeled as redistricting reform. It sets up an independent commission to redraw congressional district lines in Maryland — but only if five other states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, do the same. Partisan gerrymandering is as bad or worse in North Carolina; the U.S. Supreme Court just told North Carolina to redraw its lines because of the way they pack black Democrats into weirdly-shaped districts.

Hogan also chose to pick a fight with the teachers union concerning a bill establishing accountability standards for public schools required by the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Hogan said the bill set academic standards too low and would trap students in failing schools. He vetoed the bill April 5; the House and Senate easily overrode his veto the next day.

Yungmann, McFarlane for Council

A year away from the June 26, 2018, primary, candidates are beginning to file for the three seats on the Howard County Council that will become available due to term limits.

Republican Realtor David Yungmann announced last month for the District 5 seat now held by the council’s lone Republican, Greg Fox. Yungmann serves on the boards of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, Howard County Association of Realtors, Howard County Junior Achievement, Friends of the Howard County Library System and various other boards and committees.
Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane, a Democrat, is angling for a pay cut, but more power and visibility when he kicks off his campaign June 10 for the Council’s District 4, the seat held for three terms by Mary Kay Sigaty.
“I love my job, but it’s time for me to move on,” said Macfarlane (via email), who has progressive credentials about a mile long that will serve him well in this West Columbia district, the heart of liberal Columbia.

Howard Council Again Unanimously Approves Kittleman’s Budget

For the third consecutive year, the Howard County Council passed, by a vote of 5-0, the fiscal 2018 capital and operating budgets that had been submitted by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.

Kittleman said that despite modest revenue growth, this balanced budget holds the line on taxes while increasing funding for targeted priority areas and reflects “our shared priorities as a community, investing in new efforts and building on our progress” during the last two years to improve the quality of life for Howard County families.

“As we have in each of my previous two budgets, we have again provided more money to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) than the mandated Maintenance of Effort level,” Kittleman said. “The budget fully funds teacher salary increases, special education needs and restores 87 para-educator positions and the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion position. Thanks to the efforts of the school board and Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano, we were able to work with HCPSS to advance the replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary and keep the 13th high school project on track.”

Other critical projects and initiatives in this budget include the following.
• Launch of the 24/7 Education Initiative for programs tackling achievement disparities. Initiatives will help provide mental health services for children; provide summer food access in targeted areas; address critical performance gaps; and add a human services specialist to support the initiative, grants management and program development

• Support for mental health initiatives and substance abuse services, including $150,000 for coordinated efforts in fighting the opioid crisis and funding for site selection and design for a detox and outpatient treatment center

• Funding for a new human trafficking prevention manager to coordinate with county agencies involved in the effort

• Creation of the Community Resources Campus, bringing together county departments, the state Department of Social Services and many nonprofits at one central, convenient location

• Creation of the Howard County Innovation Center in Columbia Gateway Business Park to serve as a catalyst to attract private investments and expand the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship

• Funding to replace the aging Circuit Courthouse

• $4.5 million in PAYGO to continue progress on the 10-year backlog of road resurfacing projects

• Developing an implementation plan to revitalize the U.S. Route 1 corridor and expanding the Route 1 Tax Credit

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

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

• Funding for improvements to the U.S. Route 29 Pedestrian Bridge
The approved budget also continues the Aging-in-Place tax credit and the expansion of the Senior Tax Credit to help residents stay in their homes. So far, more than 1,500 people have taken advantage of these credits.

For additional information on projects and initiatives for fiscal 2018, see the county executive’s transmittal letters for the operating and capital budgets at www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Budget/Budget-Documents.

Schools Superintendent Resigns, Budget Passes in Howard County

Embattled Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Renee Foose tendered her resignation, which was couched as a retirement, in May, taking a $1.65 million payout. Foose’s resignation served to clear the air and end an escalating power struggle between the superintendent and the Board of Education; it was fueled by the school administration’s lack of communication with, and responsiveness to, the community, and the community’s lack of confidence in the school system’s leadership.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman acknowledged that he worked behind the scenes during a period of months to mediate an agreement between the superintendent and the school board.

Following Foose’s announcement, Board of Education Member and Foose ally Christine O’Connor announced her own resignation.

On May 18, the Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment of Michael Martirano, a former state superintendent of West Virginia schools who also served as supervisor of Howard County elementary schools during his career, as interim superintendent. His contract has been extended through the next full school year.

Meanwhile, Kittleman appointed Ananta Hejeebu to fill O’Connor’s vacant seat on the seven-member Board of Education.

Hejeebu serves on the Howard County Transition Commission for Youth With Disabilities and the HCPSS Budget Review Committee, which was established by the Howard County Council.

Hejeebu also serves as vice chair of the Board of Directors for Leadership Howard County and on the Executive Committee of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.

“His personal experience with special education, understanding of the HCPSS budget and business background uniquely qualifies him to bring a fresh perspective to the Board of Education,” Kittleman said.

The council was to consider his appointment at its June 5 legislative session and its June 19 public hearing.

New Superintendent

At a town hall held at Howard High School on May 23, Martirano asked those in attendance not to trust him, but to give him a chance to prove himself to a community he’s lived in for two decades.

“I understand that the Board of Education is who I report to, I understand that they set the policy and it is my responsibility to carry that out on behalf of the individuals [this county’s residents] elected,” he said.

Martirano said he would work with the school board “with a sense of urgency” to consider growth in the county and the need for redistricting.

“I want to take it on in a very comprehensive, thoughtfu,l deliberate way, all at once, to address the issues, be aware of developmental needs and hear from the community,” he said.

Since assuming the interim position, Martirano has shaved $40 million off the HCPSS long-term capital improvement project budget. He said the move would enable the county to build a new, modern replacement at Talbott Springs Elementary School for a difference of only $10 million above the cost of renovation, as well as deliver a LEED-certified school that would serve students for a longer period of time.

Martirano suggested that the remaining funds be used for a systemic complete renovation of Oakland Mills Middle School, support for the Applications & Research Laboratory and technology enhancements throughout the school system.

He also announced the possibility of adopting a simulated work environment model used in West Virginia schools that makes students responsible for their learning and helps prepare students not on track for college for a smoother transition to a career.

“I think Howard County is absolutely ripe for further work in terms of putting additional programs into schools, if I can get the support of our county leaders in areas where we know some of our children have greater challenges,” Martirano said. “They’re not throwaway children.”

Budget Approved

On May 24, the Howard County Council unanimously approved Kittleman’s fiscal 2018 capital and operating budgets.

Despite modest revenue growth, Kittleman said the budget holds the line on taxes while increasing funding for targeted priority areas.

“The budget fully funds teacher salary increases and special education needs, and restores 87 para-educator positions and the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion position,” he said. “[W]e were able to work with HCPSS to advance the replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary and keep the 13th high school project on track.”

Other highlights include initiatives to provide mental health services for children; creation of the Community Resources Campus that consolidates county departments, the state Department of Social Services and many nonprofit organizations at a central, easily accessible location; creation of the Howard County Innovation Center, in Columbia Gateway Business Park; and funding to replace the aging courthouse, as well as $1.8 for flood remediation projects for Main Street in Ellicott City and Valley Mede.

Council Business

In May, the County Council considered the extension of a tax credit set to expire in 2018 that incentivizes aesthetic renovations and upgrades to properties along the Route 1 Corridor. According to George Saliba, a Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) planner, extending the credit until June 30, 2023, would allow at least three potential property owners who previously didn’t qualify for the credit to make improvements.

DPZ Deputy Director Amy Gowan also announced plans to proceed with a study and evaluation of the entire Route 1 Corridor, focused on economic development and multi-modal transportation that was postponed while the county dealt with the Ellicott City flood. The study will commence in January 2018, Gowan said.
The council is also considering extension of a high-efficiency building tax credit until 2023.

“Green building is becoming more mainstream, and eventually the program will become obsolete, but we’re not quite there yet,” said Elissa Reineck of the county’s Office of Community Sustainability.

Since the program’s establishment, 134 homes have received credits at a cost of $550,000 to the county, Reineck said.

The council also approved a bill allowing broadband service providers to improve their networks by installing wireless facilities on streetlights, as well as a bill authorizing cottage food businesses as a permitted Home Occupation, and voted to remove the Business Rural Crossroads (BRX) designation from the county’s approved zoning districts.

Council Candidates

Howard County’s 2018 political races have already begun to formulate, with four of five seats on the County Council set to expire due to term limits in 2018.
To date, six residents have announced their candidacy for County Council by filing applications with the State Board of Elections.

Filed Republican candidates include real estate professional Raj Kathuria for District 1, John Liao for District 2, Lisa Kim for District 3, and farmer Keith Ohlinger and real estate professional David Yungmann for District 5.

Filed candidates on the Democrat side include Deb Jung for District 4.

Although they haven’t yet filed, several other residents have announced their candidacy intentions. Among them are Democrat Opel Jones in District 2, Democrat Christiana Rigby in District 3 and Democrat Byron McFarlane in District 4.
The Business Monthly will provide more in-depth coverage of these candidates in the next issue.

Howard Council Again Unanimously Approves Kittleman’s Budget

For the third consecutive year, the Howard County Council passed, by a vote of 5-0, the fiscal 2018 capital and operating budgets that had been submitted by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.

Kittleman said that despite modest revenue growth, this balanced budget holds the line on taxes while increasing funding for targeted priority areas and reflects “our shared priorities as a community, investing in new efforts and building on our progress” during the last two years to improve the quality of life for Howard County families.

“As we have in each of my previous two budgets, we have again provided more money to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) than the mandated Maintenance of Effort level,” Kittleman said. “The budget fully funds teacher salary increases, special education needs and restores 87 para-educator positions and the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion position. Thanks to the efforts of the school board and Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano, we were able to work with HCPSS to advance the replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary and keep the 13th high school project on track.”

Other critical projects and initiatives in this budget include the following.
• Launch of the 24/7 Education Initiative for programs tackling achievement disparities. Initiatives will help provide mental health services for children; provide summer food access in targeted areas; address critical performance gaps; and add a human services specialist to support the initiative, grants management and program development

• Support for mental health initiatives and substance abuse services, including $150,000 for coordinated efforts in fighting the opioid crisis and funding for site selection and design for a detox and outpatient treatment center

• Funding for a new human trafficking prevention manager to coordinate with county agencies involved in the effort

• Creation of the Community Resources Campus, bringing together county departments, the state Department of Social Services and many nonprofits at one central, convenient location

• Creation of the Howard County Innovation Center in Columbia Gateway Business Park to serve as a catalyst to attract private investments and expand the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship

• Funding to replace the aging Circuit Courthouse

• $4.5 million in PAYGO to continue progress on the 10-year backlog of road resurfacing projects

• Developing an implementation plan to revitalize the U.S. Route 1 corridor and expanding the Route 1 Tax Credit

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

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

• Funding for improvements to the U.S. Route 29 Pedestrian Bridge
The approved budget also continues the Aging-in-Place tax credit and the expansion of the Senior Tax Credit to help residents stay in their homes. So far, more than 1,500 people have taken advantage of these credits.

For additional information on projects and initiatives for fiscal 2018, see the county executive’s transmittal letters for the operating and capital budgets at www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Budget/Budget-Documents.

Schuh Proposes Tax Cuts, Spending Hikes

Steve Schuh is at it again. The Republican Anne Arundel County executive last month proposed a nearly $1.5 billion budget that provides tax and fee cuts, albeit small, and increased spending on schools, public safety and quality of life projects, like public boat ramps and waterway cleanup.

“People have been talking about a new Crofton high school for over 30 years, but nothing has ever happened,” Schuh said in an energetic YouTube video standing outside one of the entrances to the planned community where Schuh grew up. “Well, the wait is over. Construction will begin this year on this long overdue school, and our children will no longer be split from their friends and neighbors when they leave middle school.”

No surprise here. Building a high school in Crofton was one of Schuh’s core campaign promises, and part of his long-term plan to build more, smaller high schools.

Tax and fee cuts are part of the five core promises, too. The property tax rate would be trimmed just a notch to $.907. Schuh also wants to eliminate the $1 a ticket charge on movie tickets, the $36 a year charge for athletic facilities and the $300 fee on mobile homes.

Schuh is benefiting from a strong local economy and low unemployment rate that allows him to keep a lid on taxes, while increasing spending $60 million, or 4.3%.

Sore Spot in Education

The sore spot in Schuh’s budget continues to be funding for the health benefits in the public school system. The county spends half its budget on schools, but the executive has little direct control over how the money is spent.

The fund that pays for health insurance for teachers and other school personnel is “on the brink of insolvency,” Schuh said in a PowerPoint presentation to the County Council. Contributions are falling short $30 million every year. This is a long-standing complaint by Schuh that has put him at odds with the county’s teachers unions.

Schuh said that the fund is running at a deficit because money was diverted from it to give teachers raises, health care costs have been escalating, the teachers don’t pay enough for their own health insurance and their co-pays for doctor’s visits are very low.

His remedy for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 is what he calls “shared sacrifice” from the teachers, the school system and the county government. Schuh wants teachers to contribute $8 million more per year in payroll deductions (offset by a one-time county subsidy of $7.5 million), he wants the school board to shift some money around, and he’s pledging an additional $15 million county “rescue,” along with CareFirst contract savings, to keep the health benefits funds solvent.

Schuh is also proposing increased funding for public safety, hiring 44 more police officers, 26 more firefighters and nine more prosecutors.

However, the opioid overdoses continue to rise. In 2016, there were 814 overdoses from heroin and other drugs, up 136%, with 119 fatalities, up 133%. This year, the overdose rate continues to rise, but fatalities are down, probably because of better emergency treatment. Schuh’s budget provides more money for enforcement and treatment of the problem.

The County Council is scheduled to finish its work on the Schuh’s budget June 15.

Grasso Running for Senate

The current chairman of the County Council, Republican John Grasso, announced last month he would run for State Senate in District 32, the seat now held by Democrat Ed DeGrange. Grasso, perhaps the most flamboyant and outspoken of the council’s Republican majority, cannot seek a third term, a fate shared by four of the seven council members next year.

District 32 includes the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport area and Jessup. It is one of the few truly swing districts in the state, and was once represented by Republican Sen. Edward Middlebrooks, whom DeGrange defeated in 1998. DeGrange, one of the last of the moderate Democrats left in the state Senate, has won about 60% of the vote in the last four elections. He sometimes votes with Republicans on taxes and business regulation.

In Grasso, he would face probably his most formidable opponent since his first election. The seat is one of the five the state GOP is targeting to pick up.

Other Candidates

Democrats view Anne Arundel County the same way. They are energized by opposition to President Trump, and encouraged by the fact that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Anne Arundel last year. This was the first time in the 21st century the Democratic presidential candidate carried Anne Arundel County. President Obama lost the county to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 by 197 votes.

Gov. Larry Hogan is not the only Anne Arundel resident running for governor. Democrat Ben Jealous, former president of the national NAACP, surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders and a Pasadena resident, announced last month he would challenge Hogan on a host of progressive issues.
Republican Beth Smith, a former lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Department, announced last month she plans to challenge incumbent Sheriff Ron Bateman in the Republican primary.

Democrat Pam Luby filed in April to run for the House of Delegates in District 33, the solidly Republican district now represented by Dels. Michael Malone, Tony McConkey and Sid Saab. Republican County Councilman Jerry Walker also plans to run for delegate.

Schuh Submits Budget to Arundel Council

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has unveiled his fiscal 2018 budget plan to the County Council. The budget is designed to accelerate Schuh’s five-point strategic plan, which includes the following items.

• Reducing taxes and fees: During the last two years, the Schuh administration has enacted more than $64 million in tax and fee relief. The fiscal 2018 budget continues this initiative by eliminating the movie tax and athletic facility and mobile home taxes.

• Strengthening Education: The budget fully funds a $15.6 million teacher salary step increase and the largest school construction effort in county history, including construction money for Crofton High School.
• Investing in Public Safety: The budget includes funding for 38 new public safety personnel and funds the construction of the new police academy and central booking facility.

• Reforming County Government: The budget will centralize all background checks so front line departments, particularly public safety, are not distracted from their primary missions by having to conduct background checks. The Department of Inspections and Permits also has been restructured for better deployment of staff, and the county is digitizing personnel forms to help reduce red tape in hiring.

• Improving the Overall Quality of Life: The budget also makes strategic investments to protect county waterways and enhance recreational opportunities. It includes more than $233 million over six years to improve waterways, $36 million for a fully connected system of bike trails and funding to open two new boat ramps this year in Shady Side and Solley Cove.
Schuh’s budget plan will be submitted for final consideration by the Anne Arundel County Council by June 15.

$53M Fraud Costs Contractor Five Years in Federal Prison

In April, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland Judge Marvin Garbis sentenced John Wilkerson, age 51, to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The punishment was for a wire fraud conspiracy and for paying illegal gratuities to a government official in connection with the award of more than $53 million in federal government contracts. Garbis also ordered Wilkerson to pay forfeiture and restitution in the amount of $9,441,340.11.

This procurement fraud and illegal gratuities scheme decision was announced in a news release from the National Procurement Fraud Task Force by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen Schenning; Commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI); Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Mid-Atlantic Field Office; and U.S. Small Business Administration Acting Inspector General Mike Ware.

Involved and sentenced also were another contractor, Andrew Bennett, and a government employee, James Shank.

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The task force includes the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and several other federal law enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the task force, demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

According to his plea agreement, Wilkerson was a Department of Defense account manager for Iron Bow Technologies, which provided information technology consulting and other services to government and industry customers. Wilkerson was also part owner and operated an information technology company, Superior Communications Solutions (SCSI).

Bennett, who was separately charged and has pled guilty, was a program manager for an information technology company, Advanced C4 Solutions (AC4S) from 2005 until 2011.

Shank, who was separately charged and has pled guilty, was a program manager at the United States Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center. He also initiated the procurement process on more than 11 delivery orders that purchased telecommunications equipment and furniture as part of the Air Force project. Those delivery orders were issued to Iron Bow in 2010 and 2011; SCSI received approximately $33 million of the $35 million paid to Iron Bow under the various furniture and equipment delivery orders. Wilkerson charged the United States a 25% markup on furniture purchased under these two purchase orders, resulting in a profit to him of more than $6 million.

In addition, from 2010 until his retirement in June 2011, Shank falsely certified that the United States government received more than $1 million worth of goods under the W91QUZ-07-D-0010 contract that the government did not in fact receive.

In late 2010 or early 2011, Wilkerson offered Shank employment. Shank did not disclose that fact to anyone at SPAWAR and did not recuse himself from any of the contracts that benefited Wilkerson. In February 2011, Bennett left AC4S and went to work for Wilkerson at SCSI. Bennett received a $500,000 bonus when he joined SCSI, which was paid for by profit Wilkerson had earned on the furniture contracts.

Shank accepted employment with SCSI in May 2011, but was still working for SPAWAR when he approved more than $1.1 million worth of invoices that benefitted SCSI and Wilkerson.

Between July 2011 until August 2012, Wilkerson paid Shank approximately $86,000. The funds that Wilkerson paid Shank were funneled through T&M Communications, a company owned by “T.R.,” a senior executive at SCSI, who ultimately paid out the funds to Shank. Further, in some instances funds paid to Shank were also funneled through Decision Point Technologies, another company owned by Wilkerson. Shank did no work for Decision Point Technologies or T&M Communications during that time period.

For further details, visit www.justice.gov/usao-md/pr/defense-contractor-sentenced-5-years-federal-prison-53-million-procurement-fraud-and or https://tinyurl.com/knf7tzf.

To contact the DOJ’s U.S. Attorney’s District of Maryland about suspected fraud or abuse, call 410-209-4800. The office is located at 36 S. Charles Street, Baltimore.

Gloria Larkin is founder and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets. Email glorialarkin@targetgov.com, visit www.targetgov.com or call 866-579-1346 for more information.

A 50-Year-Old Town Faces Its Future

This is the 12th and final part in a series of monthly essays leading up to Columbia’s 50th birthday celebration this month.

By Len Lazarick

No one had ever lived in apartment #301 at 8812 Tamar Drive in Long Reach when we moved in in June 1973. Called Bentana, it was brand-new, with two bedrooms and parquet floors. A balcony overlooked an empty field across the street where bobwhites could be heard. Rent was $200 a month, but the first two months were free, a signing bonus for the newest apartment complex in Columbia’s fourth village.
Columbia was 6 years old, and Maureen and I were making a fresh start in new jobs in a new place very different from the urban commercial strip we had left in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood.
We were in the South, Maureen said, and I laughed. This is Maryland. “Yes, south of the Mason-Dixon line,” she pointed out. Her Rhode Island accent would mark her as a foreigner to some of the patients she would see as a visiting nurse. A native of Philadelphia, I had spent time in Baltimore, D.C. and Ocean City. Maryland was hardly the South to me, but I discovered Maureen was more right than I was once I learned more about Howard County.
We were hardly “pioneers,” in Columbia lingo, those people who had moved in amid the mud and bulldozers of the new town’s first 12 months. But things were still very new. The Long Reach Village Center a short walk away would not open for a year. We would wind our way over Oakland Mills Road to the little Pantry Pride supermarket in the long-gone enclosed village center, since Route 175 had not yet been built. The Mall in Columbia and the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center had just opened two years before.
The housing, the shops, the schools were fresh and modern. So were the people, like us, mostly younger couples starting families — the term baby boomer had just been coined — and even older couples in their forties with kids in high school looking for a different kind of suburb. Most, like us, were from out of state, and there was a 1960s vibe about everything in this community that was to be environmentally sensitive and open to all races, faiths and incomes living next to each other.
The new town was not about old ideas, old people, old houses, old stores, old offices, but in its 50th year that is much of what it has become.
In the original economic model, Columbia was to be completed in 1980. In earlier installments, we have seen how a recession and an oil embargo delayed the time frame. These events were accompanied by high inflation and then price controls that kept our rent steady for two years.
These factors were among the many outside forces that were not foreseen or factored into the original Columbia plans.

Women’s Liberation
Feminism would have to be at the top of the list of things that had not been foreseen. The planners of Columbia were all white men with traditional families. The planning work group of professors and consultants in various fields included just one woman. This was 1963, at the very beginning of the women’s liberation movement in the United States, ignited by the publishing of Betty Friedan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique.”
An early marketing brochure for Columbia shows a large picture of a family: a “creative” wife in a dress, three kids, a dog, and a suited husband with a briefcase. The expectation was that dad would go off to work and mom would stay at home, even if she were college educated. There would be outlets for these educated “creative” wives outside of the home — pools and tennis courts, arts and crafts, and child care facilities.
And of course the stay-at-home moms would gather around the cluster mailboxes after the mail was dropped off. Really? I have heard this sexist old wives’ tale — or if you prefer, “urban myth” — repeated in print and in person, as recently as last month. Maybe it was so at the beginning. I rarely saw it.
Allegedly a community-building amenity, group mailboxes were actually, as best as we can determine, an experiment by the post office to reduce the cost of delivery. By 1978, what had become the U.S. Postal Service would demand that all new suburban developments across the nation have curbside or group mailboxes; no more door-to-door delivery. A 1995 USPS study found that cluster mailboxes cut the cost of delivery per home by more than half. Now such centralized delivery is found in tens of thousands of developments across the country. My sister has one in Mesa, Ariz.
The planners’ vision of domestic tranquility did not match what was going on in the culture as a whole. Columbia had to adapt to women working outside the home, the two-income household and the demand for all-day child care. Still excluded from the leadership of major business institutions — even in the forward-thinking Rouse Co. there were “men and girls” — women developed their own institutions in the arts, the media and nonprofit organizations.
“If it wasn’t here, you had to start it,” recalled pioneer Helen Ruther. Many of these women are now among the hundred honored in the 20-year-old Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame.
The changing role of women did not come easily. Power of any kind, after all, is usually not given away but must be taken. There were many battles fought and won or lost, or a truce declared. One small but significant battle was Columbia resident Mary Stuart’s fight in 1972 to keep her own name on her voter registration and her driver’s license. She won the lawsuit on appeal, but married couples with separate names are still an oddity for some people and databases, as Maureen Kelley and Leonard Lazarick can attest.
The most visible success of the women’s movement, as it once was called, was in Howard County politics. Women first made up a majority of the County Council in 1982. One of its members, Liz Bobo, became Maryland’s first female county executive in 1986. Five women currently are among 12 state legislators, and the elected school board has been all-female for several years, except for the student member.
Few young women call themselves feminists these days, yet most have benefited from the expansion of opportunities for women brought about by the movement. On the other hand, many of the homemaking burdens of the two-income family still fall on women.

The River and the Wall
A key to Rouse’s plan for developing a community was maintaining control of what was placed where to build up a sense of community, land values and the bottom line. But there are so many forces outside the control of the developer — the economy, interest rates, the role of women, divorce, county politics and even the State Highway Administration.
There are two small rivers that run through Columbia, with many streams flowing into them. The big river that divides Columbia now has a wall to buttress that division. Route 29 is that asphalt river.
When Columbia began, it was a two-lane highway, with several at-grade crossings with traffic lights. In the 1970s, it became four lanes. In 1992, the last traffic light was replaced with Broken Land Parkway overpasses connecting east and west. Now there are six lanes, often choked with rush hour traffic due to the building of high sound barrier walls along its east side. The cars come mostly from outside Columbia.
Most of the important institutions in Columbia are west of the Route 29 river. The iconic images of Columbia are taken looking west over Lake Kittamaqundi, the way the first model for the new town shown to Howard County residents was photographed. From “The People Tree” and the fountain on the lakefront plaza; to Columbia’s first office buildings and exhibit center; to Symphony Woods and Merriweather; to the first village center, the community college and the hospital, all are west of Route 29. Rouse executives and many of its first community leaders lived west of the Route 29 river, as well, and now there’s a wall.
In that original model, there is a bridge across the highway, seeming to connect to the Oakland Mills Village Center, the most isolated of the struggling centers. Instead, Route 175 and Broken Land Parkway cross the river. The pedestrian bridge from Oakland Mills is slated to be improved, but it only connects to downtown by foot or by bike, which is not how most residents travel back and forth.
Seldom do we see the view looking east depicted. It is most assuredly green until you hit Dobbin Road and Snowden River Parkway. On the edges of this greenery that make up the villages of Oakland Mills, Long Reach and Owen Brown are the big box stores and the bulk of Columbia’s employment centers. The BJ’s, Wegmans, Wal-Mart, Apple Ford and other car care outlets, along with the business parks, are arguably as important institutions to many residents as most anything in Town Center.
Then again, Rouse’s notion was that people would be more conscious of living in neighborhoods, connected at their core by a village center with all the essential services — except the gas stations in Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills are long-gone. People can’t go much of anywhere without a car, and if they don’t leave Columbia, they pay some of the highest gas prices in the Baltimore region.

Commuting
A core Rouse ideal was that people of all ages, backgrounds and incomes would live and work in Columbia. That ideal couldn’t survive the patterns of work and housing in post-industrial Maryland — or the success of the new town itself, even in its early years.
On Columbia’s sixth birthday in June 1973, the month Maureen Kelley and I moved in, editor Jean Moon wrote the Columbia Flier cover story bemoaning the lack of the promised diversity.
“Where are our ‘blue collar’ workers, those 2,700 men and women who work at General Electric, located in the town with the ‘sound economic base.’ Where are the 6,500 construction workers who are building this city?” Moon asked.
“They are not here,” she went on. “Not in Columbia where more than one out of four residents has completed post-graduate work. They are not among the doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, architects, planners and government employees who comprise the majority of our working population.”
This is the city that Jim Rouse said would provide “houses and apartments at rents and prices to match the income of all who work here, from company janitor to company executive,” she wrote.
Moon critiqued the rapid rise in housing values that allowed the early settlers to make a killing on their low-priced townhomes and move on to something bigger and better — further putting housing prices out of the reach of middle incomes.
“We are so successful that we are really a failure,” Moon said. Not much has changed in 44 years, except the need for two incomes to afford to live here.
The notion that most of these professionals would somehow work in Columbia was never true. Today, at least two-thirds if not more of employed Columbia residents have commutes of greater than 15 minutes. This means they travel to work somewhere outside the boundaries of Columbia in a region with some of the worst commutes in the country. As in the past, many people work at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade or its contractors, or at Social Security in Woodlawn, or in Baltimore, or in the Washington suburbs and even the capital itself. Rush hour traffic jams near NSA are routine.
Tens of thousands more employees flow into Columbia’s business parks from elsewhere in the region. Many of these non-Columbia residents will not tread too far off the major roads to venture into the Columbia villages, lest they get lost in the loop streets and maze of cul-de-sacs with funny names.
Jim Rouse himself commuted to Columbia from Baltimore until he bought a home in 1974. Columbia pioneers planning their 50th birthday reunion laugh recalling the debate about whether the non-resident Rouse should be invited to their fifth birthday get-together. Columbia now has its own suburbs in Clarksville and Ellicott City. Maple Lawn just south of Columbia could be mistaken for another Columbia village.
County officials, Columbia Association (CA), the Howard Hughes Corp. and many others still struggle with finding ways to provide affordable housing for even middle income teachers, cops and residents without the federal housing subsidies that fostered Columbia’s housing mix in its early years. Attracted to the new town’s cheapest housing, many minorities sacrifice much to buy and rent in Columbia for its better schools, or use their Section 8 vouchers.
The housing bubble of the early 2000s followed by the housing bust in the Great Recession did not help the cause to make living here affordable.

Retail Hurricane
The turmoil in retailing has been going on for decades. Columbia’s village centers were once dominated by small merchants and supermarkets, some of them locally owned. (Giant, once dominant in the region, is now part of a Belgian corporation.) All of them are threatened by discount grocers and warehouse stores, like Wal-Mart and Costco. The original Columbia supermarkets were not built large enough for all the special services the modern chains needed to add.
The biggest changes are in the regional shopping malls that Rouse pioneered, that helped to kill the downtown department stores that once flourished in big cities till their customers moved to the suburbs.
Urban historian Howard Gillette wrote that Columbia has been “described, accurately enough, as a city built around a shopping mall.” Rouse rejected the advice of his own planners to locate the mall near I-95. He envisioned it central to the town, as Columbia’s Main Street. In its first decade, it was full of local merchants and community activities.
On Facebook pages, Columbians and folks who grew up here wax nostalgic about hanging out at the mall or getting their first job there. But malls have been constantly evolving. Three of the four anchor department stores at the Mall in Columbia — Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s — are struggling to survive the Internet wave and competition of the big box stores the Rouse Co. would build here. Two of the mall’s original anchors are gone, and Macy’s is the third occupant in that same building. Sears recently closed its top floor.
The Rouse Co. had for decades gained most of its revenue from its national network of shopping malls, a source of some resentment in the company where Columbia got much of the spotlight. Rouse executives probably picked an excellent time in 2004 to sell the business, given the trends in retailing since.
Once at the center of community life, the Mall in Columbia is now a hub of commercialism surrounded by a sea of parking lots. The latest trend in urban planning is for more mixed-use development — mixing apartments, shops and civic uses together as seen in the revamped Wilde Lake Village Center, the Metropolitan apartment complexes near the mall and the future plans for the Merriweather District.
The mall, which Jim Rouse considered one of his company’s best, was one of the key selling points to the women who already lived in Howard County when Rouse first pitched his idea for a new city. Given its location and its affluent market, it seems likely to survive the shuttering of regional malls across the country.

Crime
In January 2014, the mall bounced back quickly from its worst calamity, the fatal shooting of three people, including the suicide of the gunman. What the incident revealed, among other things, was how well the Howard County police and its young, Columbia-born executive Ken Ulman responded to a crisis that was blasted across the national news. It gave Columbia more, but more negative, coverage than it had received in decades. It also disclosed that the county police had quietly practiced shelter-in-place drills with mall personnel that would have saved lives in a worse shooting incident.
For many Columbia residents, crime has no place in any narrative of their time here. “One of the advantages of Columbia is that you feel safe,” said Ethel Hill, a longtime resident, activist and former Columbia Association board member who moved here from West Philadelphia in 1969.
As the news editor of the Flier and Howard County Times for four years in the 1980s, crime was one of the beats I supervised — murder, rape, assault, robbery, embezzlement, drug busts, child abuse, all occurred at one time or another. My late mother once told me she didn’t read newspapers because they contained so much bad news. Sorry, Mom, but that’s what we do.
I once had to tell a new Flier reporter that there had been a change in plans, and she was being switched to the cops beat. She broke down in tears. At a previous job, she had been traumatized by covering a murder that she could smell as she approached the victim’s house.
Columbia indeed is safer than many places, and certainly safer than North Philly where I went to high school or West Baltimore where my wife has seen patients for years. But besides my professional connection supervising cops and courts coverage, crime has hit close to home.
In October 1985, a Washington Post distributor was stabbed to death in the early morning hours outside the High’s convenience store next to the Dasher Green pool where we all spent so much time. We didn’t get our Post that day. Police soon arrested the 19-year-old who had left a note on the body taunting them. He lived in our neighborhood a short walk away.
Less than a year later, there was another murder with much closer personal connections. Aruna Mittal was suffocated in her home, where she had provided day care for my daughters until just a few weeks before. Her husband first claimed it was a robbery gone bad, a report that set the neighborhood on edge. It turned out her husband actually did the crime, as part of an affair with Aruna’s sister who lived with them. When Maureen and 6-year-old Sarai attended the funeral, they didn’t realize they would be seeing their first Hindu cremation.
Our current house was broken into before Christmas the following year. No one was home. The audio system and some Christmas gifts were stolen. I regretted not having installed the bars over the basement window that the thieves had crawled through. The police investigated, and eventually arrested two teens who lived on the next cul de sac. Columbia’s wooded pathways have many uses.
In 2005, my 3-month-old Honda Accord was stolen from our driveway during the night. The owner had stupidly left the valet key in the center console; otherwise, the car thieves might not have been able to drive it off after breaking in. A day or two later, the speeding car, with five people inside, was involved in a high speed police chase up Route 29 and onto Route 40 toward the Patapsco State Park. The occupants eventually bailed out by the park, fleeing into the woods. State Farm wound up paying $12,000 to repair the almost-new car.
From the fingerprints, Howard County police eventually tracked down all five occupants of the car, all Columbians, a couple of them juveniles. As a victim, I got to witness my first juvenile hearing for one of the boys, clad in orange jumpsuit and chains. Nabbing all the males involved was a surprise. A bigger surprise came months later when I got a check from the state as restitution for the items stolen from the car.

Lemonade
I could go on and on about the things in Columbia that went wrong, weren’t planned or didn’t succeed. The bad news my mother avoided.
That was not Jim Rouse’s way, as he reminded us at a lunch on Founder’s Day at the community college on May 9, 2017, organized to discuss the developer and his vision with the Rouse scholars, the college’s honors students. On film, he related the oft-told story of the first meeting of the Work Group in 1963. Round and round the experts at the table went, telling him how and why his city for growing people wouldn’t work and couldn’t work. The same happened the second day, until finally one of the group said, wait a minute, aren’t we talking about fostering love in a community? And the whole tenor of the discussion changed.
“Everybody comes with a vested negative,” Rouse tells the video interviewer. In an earlier video, we had heard Rouse say, “The development business is one of managing crises. … There’s no such thing as an adverse event.” It’s how it is handled that counts, he said.
That’s why, on the wall of his office, Rouse had a framed poster of the now-familiar saying popularized by Dale Carnegie: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Rouse was forever making lemonade, adding sugar and ice to many situations, and selling it to people who couldn’t believe how quenching it was.
A series of interviews with many of the early settlers by a University of Maryland anthropology class in 2015 found them no less enthusiastic.
“Interviewed residents, regardless of when they first moved in, agreed that Rouse’s original vision and goals remain important for Columbia. Some expressed a concern that the goals have weakened over time due to rapid population growth, increased emphasis in pursuing profit over growing people, and larger changes in society,” their report found.
“Residents cited increasing traffic congestion, the technology revolution, better understandings of the natural environment, rising housing prices, generational turnover, and new incoming populations as areas Columbia will need to address in planning ahead for the future.”
The students found that “many newcomers didn’t know about Rouse’s vision or goals until they were brought up in interview.” While the social goals were more elusive, the dedication to the environment and open space won some over, despite earlier misgivings.
Adam Herson moved to Columbia at the end of 2012 after repeated visits to a friend there.
“I didn’t like just about everything about Columbia,” he said. “You pretty much had to drive everywhere. The fact that you couldn’t find anything. There are no signs.” Over time, Herson became impressed that “pretty much everywhere is nothing but green.”
That respect for the land led to 94 miles of pathways through streambeds and woods that actually establish most of the boundaries of Columbia’s 10 villages and 32 neighborhoods — its basic building blocks.
Harvard urban design professor Ann Forsyth, who has studied Columbia for many years, said this open space planning “took advantage of the strengths of the rural landscape but has made the shape of each neighborhood and village difficult to perceive from the ground, because the edges are literally buried in trees.”
In almost any aerial view of Columbia, even its densest Town Center, the buildings are always poking out of trees. First-time foreign visitors often remark how green it is.
“Open space is probably one of the major successes of Columbia,” environmental author Ned Tillman said. “Many cities and towns did not do a good job of that.”
Forsyth returned to Columbia for Founder’s Day, with a new focus on creating healthy environments from urban design. Her studies have found that the greenery display not far from most any doorstep in Columbia is good for mental health, not just the physical health of walkers, joggers and bikers. “Rouse instincts were pretty good,” Forsyth said.

Cherishing Diversity
It is the socio-economic, racial, ethnic and religious diversity that Columbia’s longer residents most cherish, as does Dr. Terri Hill, who represents west Columbia in the House of Delegates.
Ethel Hill’s daughter moved to the Running Brook neighborhood with her parents in 1969 when she was 10. Her father worked at Social Security in Woodlawn, as many Columbians still do. Her older sister Donna, who would eventually become a judge and deputy attorney general, was among the first students at the new Wilde Lake Middle School and then the Wilde Lake High in Columbia’s first village. Both schools were innovations designed to operate in the round. Both have been replaced, the middle school in 2016 as a solar-powered building. In the round, some students flourished and others languished.
“By the time I got [to high school], we had schedules, but you were still working at your own pace,” said Terri Hill.
Hill, who is African-American, threw herself into Columbia’s opportunities — the winter swim league, dance classes, lifeguarding, using the Call-a-Ride system to get around. She was president of her Wilde Lake High class in her junior and senior years.
She went off to Harvard and then Columbia University for medical school, and Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for a residency in plastic surgery.
“When you leave Columbia and start dealing with people from other places, you realized how different Columbia is,” said Hill, who returned in 1991. “I still think Columbia is something special.”
Her high school classmates get together for reunions every five years, and “a lot of them live in Columbia. … My closest friends are still in Columbia,” Hill said. Many of them left and came back as she did.
Newcomers to Columbia are different from those early decades. “People come for the amenities and not [for] a community based on shared ethics and values,” Hill said. Like many of the old-timers, she mourns the long-gone Exhibit Center where new arrivals would learn of Rouse, his goals and housing opportunities.
“I think it’s still striving to be that community with very unique beliefs in socio-economic, ethnic, religious mix. I do think it works toward those goals.”
The 50th birthday events a coalition of community organizations is sponsoring seek to remind Columbia residents of what the planned community was supposed to be.
Reminders also take place on Facebook and in blogs and private chats.
A typical comment came from Tricia McDonaugh in 2016: “I just want to take a moment to say how privileged I feel to have grown up in Columbia. My own children are mixed race and we have lived in the south and north. When they began school I thought it was imperative that they live in Columbia. We were and still are the fishbowl of America. I’m so proud to raise my children in a place where skin color and religion are not a reason for judgment.”
McDonaugh’s post drew scores of positive comments like Kim O’Malley’s: “You knew you grew up in Columbia when … Your mom was a Russian Jew and your Father was Irish Catholic and in high school your boyfriend was black and you NEVER experienced racism until you moved to another state as a grown up.”
In 2016, Money magazine rated Columbia as the best place to live in America. The town had been among the top 10 for a decade, providing the kind of external validation Columbia used to get in its early years. “I think we all knew before Money magazine that this was a wonderful place to live,” said Del. Vanessa Atterbeary at the mall kickoff for Columbia’s 50th. She is a lawyer who was born and raised in Columbia, and now represents part of it.

Where It Ends
Where to end this long walk down memory lane?
One way is a drive down Route 108 toward Clarksville. Cross the Middle Patuxent River, still a stream valley, not a lake as originally envisioned. Up the hill on the left is Columbia Memorial Park.
There are four small historic cemeteries surrounded by development in Columbia, but the official Columbia cemetery is not in Columbia at all. In the late 1970s, I once casually asked Jim Rouse, as we chatted before an interview, why there was no cemetery in Columbia. With my armchair psychology, I envisioned some attempt by Rouse to deny death by avoiding its repository. His parents died when he was a teenager, and his siblings all died young. Instead, Rouse told me the numbers didn’t work — Columbia land was too valuable for use as a final resting place. Cemeteries are businesses, too.

The 38-acre Columbia Memorial Park opened in 1988. Like many modern cemeteries, the grave markers are ground-level metal plaques. A number of gravesites, like the Rouses’, have low-slung stone benches with the family name.
Five miles from his home on Wilde Lake, Jim Rouse lies buried with his second wife Patty. Jim died April 9, 1996, two weeks before his 83rd birthday and 17 years after he left the company that bore his name. Patty lived on another 16 years, dying March 3, 2012. They lived full lives of great accomplishment.

A short walk back towards the woods is another more poignant gravesite with three markers: Michael David Spear, Judith Sue Spear, Jodi Lynn Spear. They all died Aug. 24, 1990, when the plane Mike was piloting crashed in Boston with his wife and a daughter aboard. Mike had just turned 49 and was president of the Rouse Co., where he had worked since 1967 on the Columbia project, living modestly in a Wilde Lake townhouse and raising their family.

“Mike Spear was a brilliant, compassionate, wise man,” Rouse said. “In many respects, he is irreplaceable.” Many of us would agree with Rouse and wonder what might have happened to Columbia in that decade if Spear had lived.
Jim Rouse and Mike Spear may be buried there, but the story doesn’t end there. There is a brief inscription on Rouse’s grave marker: “We raise up rational visions. What ought to be can be.”

What ought to be, can be. Rouse said it often, and it has been repeated many times by acolytes and admirers. It reflects his optimism and his consistently aspirational rhetoric. Without his aspirations, his noble aims, how could he conceive of building a city — “a garden for growing people” — on 14,000 acres of Howard County farmland?

But Rouse was also a realist. How could a mortgage banker turned shopping mall developer not be tethered to the realities of topography and interest rates, material costs and time?

Time is not kind to stick-built homes, or once fashionable shopping centers. The new structures of Columbia’s heyday are now old; the new families who lived in them are getting old as well.

Maturation Planning

In her keynote address at Founder’s Day, Harvard professor Ann Forsyth pointed out Columbia was part of the first golden age of new towns in the 1960s. More than 115 planned communities of more than 30,000 people were started around the world. Like Columbia, they are now reaching middle age and need to address their aging.
But now, around the world, “we’re in the midst of another new town golden age,” especially in urbanizing China, where 111 new towns were started in the last decade.

“Columbia still stands out as one of the most admirable new towns in terms of its overall planning,” Forsyth said. Columbia represents an important model, even though Jim Rouse “couldn’t create a General Motors of city building.”
Even in the 1980s, it was recognized that few entities could assemble this much undeveloped land with financiers patient enough to wait decades for a return on their investment.

Yet in the planning literature, Columbia is still one of the most cited developments, Forsyth said, and it could be that again as it deals with “maturation planning,” moving beyond the initial vision. Maturation planning “has not been done very well” most places, she said. “Columbia could be a real leader because Columbia has always been forward looking.”

While Howard County grew around and west of Columbia in the 1990s, the planned community largely expanded commercially on its eastern edge and residentially in River Hill. That village will forever remain disconnected from the rest of West Columbia since Little Patuxent Parkway does not cross the Middle Patuxent.

Except for some garden apartments and townhouses built near the mall on land once planned for offices, Town Center had been largely stagnant till the last few years.

The planner’s job is much harder now. There is no master developer like the Rouse Co. owning thousands of empty acres. With no one else in charge, Howard County government and the Columbia Association are the only institutions with a broader view of the public interest. Neither have the imagination or power Jim Rouse possessed to execute his innovations. The institutions he fostered or imagined are now powers in their own right.

Unlike green pastures and cornfields with a few farmhouses and scattered suburbanites, there are thousands of Columbia residents with firm views on what the town’s future should look like. Pioneers were not voiceless but they had to reach only a few ears, not cajole multiple power centers.

Many of them call on the legacy of Jim Rouse as they choose to interpret it. “One of the unique things [about Columbia] is that it has a founder and a patron saint,” Rouse biographer Josh Olsen told the Founder’s Day audience.

WWJD?

WWJD? What would Jim Rouse do? The gospel according to Jim Rouse is subject to many interpretations. One of the claims is that Rouse did not plan for urban density.

In a long 1986 video interview, Rouse was asked what Columbia would be like in 20 years.

“I don’t believe much in these kinds of distant views of what it” will be, Rouse said. Nevertheless, he went on:

“Columbia will become in 20 years clearly the third major city in the Columbia-Washington corridor. What will be called Columbia — which means Columbia and its developed environs — will be a city of, oh, 300,000 people, maybe more, maybe half a million.” (Howard County’s entire population in 2017 is approaching 320,000.)

He also said there will be six department stores, an opera house, a symphony hall, a stadium for soccer, which “will become by then a very major sport,” said Rouse. And of course, “there ought to be a livelier downtown.”
Rouse at that point had become more famous for developing festival marketplaces in downtown Boston and Baltimore, repurposing the historic Faneuil Hall and the once-decaying Inner Harbor waterfront.

What about the awful prospect of high-rise office buildings? Surely Jim Rouse, of the white stucco four-floor headquarters building on Lake Kittamaqundi, now a Whole Foods, would not have approved. Then you discover his 1966 letter to Connecticut General proposing to erect a 300–500-foot office building, with a restaurant on top where diners might catch a glimpse of the Baltimore or Washington skyline. That’s 25 to 40 stories, 10 to 15 stories taller than anything currently planned. Connecticut General said no, and no more was heard of it.
Would Jim Rouse have approved the stunning new lime green Chrysalis stage in Symphony Woods, its hue called “Greenery,” named Color of the Year by the Pantone Color Institute? Who knows? Except we might note that Michael McCall, who led the work on the Inner Arbor development, worked closely with Rouse in his final career at Enterprise Development. And Rouse, way back when, had painted his own front door yellow without asking the permission of the Wilde Lake architectural committee.

McCall pointed to the results of a three-year Knight Foundation Soul of the Community study done with the Gallup polling folks, who surveyed residents in 26 communities — cities small, medium and large. The study focused on the emotional side of the connection between residents and their communities.
“What attaches residents to their communities doesn’t change much from place to place,” said the study. “While one might expect the drivers of attachment would be different in Miami from those in Macon, Ga., in fact the main drivers of attachment differ little across communities. Whether you live in San Jose, Calif., or State College, Pa., the things that connect you to your community are generally the same,” said the study’s summary of its findings.

“When examining each factor in the study and its relationship to attachment, the same items rise to the top, year after year:

• Social offerings — Places for people to meet each other and the feeling that people in the community care about each other

• Openness — How welcoming the community is to different types of people, including families with young children, minorities, and talented college graduates

• Aesthetics — The physical beauty of the community including the availability of parks and green spaces.”

“Interestingly, the usual suspects — jobs, the economy, and safety — are not among the top drivers. Rather, people consistently give higher ratings for elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life: an area’s physical beauty, opportunities for socializing, and a community’s openness to all people.”
“Remarkably, the study also showed that the communities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rates of gross domestic product growth. Discoveries like these open numerous possibilities for leaders from all sectors to inform their decisions and policies with concrete data about what generates community and economic benefits.”

Columbia is already way ahead on the most important factors. Of course, McCall sees the Chrysalis project, and overall revamping of the Merriweather District, contributing to both socializing and aesthetics, and an appeal to Millennials. A vocal minority of Columbians disagrees.

Terri Hill is not thrilled with some of the new downtown development just beginning in the Merriweather District, the new MedStar building for one. She believes Columbia has “the best of urban living and the best of suburban living.”
“Columbia doesn’t want to be Bethesda,” Hill said. “If Columbia is not urban enough for you, then go move to another place.”

Thousands of property owners of homes and businesses must also be encouraged to update, improve and rehabilitate their aging structures, or even forced to do that if the decline is bad enough. A healthy, 40-year-old tree is a nice amenity; a 40-year-old house that has been neglected is not. The village associations and CA have some power to force upkeep, and CA is studying taking over responsibility for the business parks and commercial areas where Howard Hughes Corp. still has nominal control, though not ownership.

There are concerns that property values are at risk, but a 2013 CA study of market trends found: “Residential sales prices in Columbia’s villages have fared well in the past decade even with the ‘great recession’ of 2008 to 2009. … In general, the percentage increase in average sales prices for the Columbia villages were equivalent or exceeded those for Howard County for the years between 2001 and 2007 and fell less steeply than those in the county in 2008 and 2009.”
A more recent 2017 study for the always-struggling Oakland Mills Village Center and environs found the housing market there was “at a stage of general value stability relative to the surrounding regional market, with prices moving more or less in tandem with other locations.” Home prices were sometimes lower there because the houses were smaller.

There is wild talk of a used car lot at Route 108 and Red Branch Road, and how awful that might be. Presumably, those residents get around town on foot or by bike and are appalled by the huge Apple Ford complex on Snowden River Parkway, used cars and all.

With little but acreage in downtown (and some in Gateway) in control of Howard Hughes, the county has taken the lead. First steps have been taken to make Gateway into an “innovation center.” It is now as bland and un-Columbia-like as any office park in the region, but could it be transformed into another Columbia neighborhood with mixed uses on some still-vacant lots, or redevelopment of one-story flex office buildings? The county is also asking the state to look at better access from I-95.

There is even more concrete hope for the Long Reach Village Center, with more apartments and townhouses. Orchard Development Corp. is taking the lead as it has for Toby Orenstein’s part of Merriweather District.

While the town may be turning 50, and a quarter of its residents are 55 or older, another quarter of its residents are 19 or younger. There’s a lot of young blood in the aging new town if they can be enticed to stay here.

The Founder’s Day event at Howard Community College concluded with a short video clip from Jimmy Rouse offering the typical Rouse-like uplift.
His father, said Jimmy, “was not into being a hero or saint. He was into the growth of human potential.”

“He was a deeply spiritual person” who believed that “we are co-creators with God,” Jimmy told several hundred people in the Smith Theatre, mostly an over-50 crowd.

“You all are co-creators with him of Columbia. It is for you all to go out and create this great city.”

Columbia has been for me and many a great place to live, work, thrive, raise a family and even die. Can it be that great city in the future?
It’s in our hands and in the hands of a generation to come.

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 Maryland Reporter.com, a news website about state government and politics, and a political columnist for The Business Monthly.

From Saddles to Cyberspace: A Century of Innovation, Security

Military installations all have a distinct history of service to nation. Fort Meade is no exception.

Originally called Camp Meade, the base was authorized by an Act of Congress in May 1917 as one of 16 cantonments built for troops drafted for World War 1. Camp Meade was named in honor of Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, whose victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 proved a major factor in turning the tide of the Civil War in favor of the North.

The present Maryland site was selected June 23, 1917, because of its proximity to three railroads, Baltimore’s ports and Washington, D.C. More than 15,000 men were involved in the construction of 1,200 wooden buildings that accommodated the more than 400,000 men who deployed through the camp during the course of the war, en route to France. In addition to processing troops, Camp Meade included a remount station, which held 12,000 horses, mules and a blacksmith school.

The people who have, and are, serving at the post have carved a deep-seated place in the military and community history for Maryland and the United States. This year provides an opportunity to remember and recognize the significant contributions to the United States military that have come from the personal and professional endeavors of people who lived, worked and played at what is now known as Fort Meade.

This article looks back and captures again the beginnings and progress of the post. This look back also affords the opportunity to look to the future of what has become known as the “Nation’s Center for Information, Intelligence and Cyber Operations.”

Camp Meade 1917

On April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war on Germany and entered World War I.

On battlefields where a million men — on each side — had grappled with each other for three bloody years, the United States Army consisted of 133,000 men. The immediate problem was to access the needed number of men, form fighting units, train and equip them, and then deploy them across the Atlantic Ocean to the battlefields of France.

Congress turned to a draft as the most efficient mechanism for mobilization. An ambitious plan was formed to create eight National Guard divisions and eight National Army divisions, composed solely of draftees.

In order to train these units, the Army had to quickly identify cantonment areas. A delegation led by Maryland Rep. Charles Linthicum lobbied the War Department to build one of the cantonment areas at a rural site in western Anne Arundel County, centrally located between Baltimore and Washington and blessed with railheads for three railroads to bring troops and supplies. The area, known as Annapolis Junction, was composed of small truck farms raising fruits and vegetables for markets in the city.

• On June 14, the secretary of war announced that Maryland had won its bid for the camp at the Annapolis Junction site. There, selectees from Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia would organize into a National Army Division and train to go to the battlefields of France.

• By June 19, leases were secured on 7,000 acres of land (the current post, for reference, encompasses 5,500 acres).

• On June 24, the Army awarded a contract to a New York City firm, and construction began on the Annapolis Junction site on July 2.

• On July 18, the War Department announced that the Maryland camp would be named for the hero of Gettysburg, Philadelphian George G. Meade.

• By Aug. 1, more than 5,500 full-time construction workers were engaged in building Camp Meade.

• On Sept. 15, the initial construction phase was deemed complete and the cantonment was ready to receive troops. The first of 40,000 men began pouring into the camp on Sept. 20 to form the 79th Division.

It had taken 10 weeks, at a cost of $16 million, to go from orchards to a military installation capable of housing, supporting and training a division. By the end of November, when construction was declared to be complete, Camp Meade was the second largest city in Maryland.

In total, 450 million linear feet of lumber had been used to build 1,200 barracks, headquarters, warehouses and hospital facilities. In addition, 52 miles of wooden sewer pipe were laid and 50 miles of wooden water pipes distributed 3 million gallons of water daily to the troops.

From its significant contributions to victory in World War I through Fort Meade units’ engagements during succeeding conflicts — such as World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terrorism, the Gulf Wars and others, as well as being the home of cavalry units, America’s Tank Corp and more recently becoming the Nation’s Center for Information, Intelligence and Cyber Operations — Fort Meade has demonstrated the resilience and readiness to serve as an able platform for America’s defense.

Fort Meade 2017

Fort Meade’s current primary mission is to provide a variety of services, including the required infrastructure to ensure a safe and secure environment to more than 119 partner organizations from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as numerous federal agencies, including U.S. CyberCommand, the National Security Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Defense Media Activity, Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Courier Service.

The installation lies approximately five miles east of Interstate 95 and one-half mile east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between Maryland state Routes 175 and 32, and adjacent to Route 198, and near the communities of Odenton, Laurel, Columbia and Jessup. It is home to more than 56,000 military and civilian employees.

In addition, more than 11,000 service members and their family members reside on post. Fort Meade is Maryland’s largest employer and has the third largest workforce of any Army installation in the U.S.

There are a series of events scheduled to remember and celebrate Fort Meade’s 100 years of service. The 100th Year Gala, scheduled for the evening of June 17 on post at Club Meade, will give proper recognition to the installation’s past, honor its present and demonstrate readiness for future service to the nation.

 

This article was provided by the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office. Portions of its content are taken from an opinion column written by Ret. Col. Kenneth McCreedy, senior director, division of cyber and aerospace, Maryland Department of Commerce, for the Fort Meade SoundOff! newspaper.

U.S. CyberCommand Brings Big Dividends to Region

 

The United States CyberCommand, established in May 2010, was designed to oversee activities tied to the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense (DoD) networks. If necessary, its mission includes the ability to conduct full-spectrum cyberspace operations, ensuring U.S. and Allied freedom of action in cyberspace — while denying that freedom to adversaries.

CyberCommand’s location, at Fort Meade, naturally translates into a benefit for the local area, registered largely in government spending for construction, leases, and the vendors and support contractors who, in turn, contribute to the local tax base. It also serves as a driver for local cybersecurity startup businesses eager to take advantage of its easy proximity.

“The key fact is that CyberCommand continues to raise the profile of this area as a leader in the field of information security,” said Maryland Department of Commerce Director of Cyber Development Ken McCreedy. “The intellectual capital attracted [by Cyber Command] leads to businesses making a decision to locate into this area and tap into that intellectual capital.”

The splash effect carries over into internships and partnership opportunities that benefit the University System of Maryland, Howard Community College and Anne Arundel Community College, said Cybersecurity Association of Maryland Inc. (CAMI) Board Chairman Art Jacoby.

“It’s a magnet that draws students here to study, and local companies don’t have to look very far to find qualified graduates to hire,” he said.

Development Engine

According to Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC) spokeswoman Rosa Cruz, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures showed 714 cyber technology companies in Anne Arundel County during the 2015 calendar year.

Those companies provided jobs for 8,844 employees in the county’s private sector.

During that same time, the BLS tallied 28,500 additional cyber employees working for the public sector within Anne Arundel County.

“CyberCommand is obviously a big driver for business development, especially when you consider The National Business Park (NBP),” McCreedy said. “You see not only large national defense contractors there, like Boeing, Raytheon, Oracle and Booz Allen Hamilton, but you also find smaller local companies, like Bridges Consulting and Praxis. You can see that [CyberCommand’s] influence cuts a broad swath.”

Owned and developed by Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), of Columbia, the 500-acre NBP business community houses a large network of government and contractor businesses serving Fort Meade, NSA and CyberCommand.

It’s hard to isolate data exclusive to CyberCommand, but the latest all-inclusive figures published online in COPT’s March 2017 Baltimore/Washington Corridor Property Tour documented 29 operating properties providing nearly 3.5 million square feet of Class A office space that is 97% leased at asking rents more than $10 per square foot above the local market rate.

As of March 31, two additional NBP properties with a combined 336,000 square feet of space were under construction.

According to the same online document, COPT plans to develop at least 1 million square feet of Class A office space, including two existing projects, within the 300-acre, mixed-use Arundel Preserve community of Arundel Mills.

Those existing projects currently provide 267,000 square feet of Class A office space that is 88% leased to a handful of tenants that include KeyW Corp., a significant player in the cybersecurity domain.

Outlook

In terms of what the developments at NBP and Arundel Preserve mean to the local economy, the construction of one building alone — 7740 Milestone Parkway in Arundel Preserve — resulted in more than $23.5 million in contract work for local construction and trade firms, and more than $30,000 in fees for Anne Arundel County during a 10-year period, according to an online permit history search.

The good news (which, unfortunately, is driven by bad news) is that the potential for cybersecurity industry growth and the associated demand for more operational space are enormous.

“Analytics companies and businesses doing AI (artificial intelligence) and predictive work are making an all-out effort to adapt to the reality of a workforce shortage,” Jacoby said. “The upside is that the outlook for Maryland jobs in cyber has never looked brighter, but it’s tied to the sad fact that globally, collectively, we are losing ground to adversaries who want to do damage and profit from our losses.”

As Jacoby noted, workers in the cybersecurity world follow the movement of organizations like CyberCommand; and as McCreedy added, the commercial real estate market follows suit.

“At the moment the federal government is making significant investments in cybersecurity that should translate to more opportunity for Maryland, in general, and areas surrounding Fort Meade in particular,” McCreedy said.
Additionally, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order on cybersecurity, calling for a number of reports and studies during a relatively short period of time that, hopefully, will lead to increased startup and training activity and incentives.

“The heat has definitely been turned up to develop a programmatic approach to deal with the cyberthreat,” McCreedy said. “As a result, more vendors and contractors will be drawn here to continue fueling the activity in and around Fort Meade.”

Elevated Status?

A 2015 economic development case study on NBP prepared by Cole Greene of the University of Maryland Urban Studies and Planning Program appropriately ascribes its success in employment and employment growth to government-induced demand.

However, it suggests that the “seclusion and secrecy associated with [NBP] hampers the potential for knowledge spillover effects throughout the region.”
To ensure readiness for sustained success, the case study recommends continued government and educational institution coordination with both public and private leaders in cybersecurity; zoning changes and infrastructure improvements by local jurisdictions to meet the security and facility needs of private firms; and the influence of economic development organizations to encourage commercialization of cybersecurity technologies originally developed for the public sector.

“Diversifying the customer market will ensure the continued growth of the industry locally,” Greene said.

Even without an overarching, orchestrated strategy, “anybody will concur that economic activity is brisk,” Jacoby said. “In my day job, I’m in discussion with international and West Coast companies that want to be here, and there are more of them than ever before.”

Likewise, he said, “we’re seeing more and more workforce development programs, as everybody is trying to figure out how we solve this problem and help people learn entry-level skills so that [veteran cybersecurity specialists] can be doing more sophisticated stuff.”

As an armed forces sub-unified command subordinate to the United States Strategic Command, the U.S. CyberCommand stands to gain stature and muscle should the Trump administration decide to elevate the organization to a full-fledged combatant command, tasked with creating its own training and force development programs.

“If and when that happens, we can expect to see additional resources and budget appropriations coming to CyberCommand,” McCreedy said; and in turn, increasingly positive economic impact implications for the BWI Business District, Anne Arundel County, surrounding jurisdictions and Maryland.

International Wing at BWI Marshall Soars Into Expansion Mode

 

“If you build it, they will come.” So goes the famous suggestion that eventually became the cliché from the famous baseball movie, “Field of Dreams.”
More than two decades ago, that train of thought was followed by Maryland’s planners and builders of the Gov. William Donald Schaefer era at what was then called BWI Airport. Only the “they” in question — the international carriers, and leisure and business travelers, who were supposed to make the new wing at the airport a moneymaker — didn’t come. Not in the hoped-for numbers, anyway.
Instead, they went to Philadelphia International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, in Northern Virginia, depending on their point of origination in the Baltimore-Washington region. And there BWI Airport was, with its new, quite attractive and underused facility.

But not anymore. An upswing in leisure travel at what is now called BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport has boosted use to the earlier projected levels and beyond, particularly between 2010 and 2016, when international passenger traffic grew 135%.

Those are the kinds of numbers that lead to bigger things at the William Donald Schaefer International Terminal, and they have: They included the recent unveiling of the $125 million expansion of the D/E Connector, with the latest news being the roughly $100 million expansion that will feature six additional gates.

Almost Underway

The state Board of Public Works approved the $70 million construction contract (which is most of the $100 million) for Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. earlier his year. Jonathan Dean, spokesman for BWI Marshall, said that most preliminary site work for the expansion is complete and that construction will begin shortly.

The project will encompass six new airline gates, including two full-service, with airline hold rooms for departing flights; and four for arrivals. The project also includes supporting functions, such as new restrooms, electrical and mechanical support and other infrastructure.

The preliminary timeline calls for the new gates to be available “by summer 2018. So this is an aggressive schedule,” Dean said, adding that while 2016 set another all-time record for passenger traffic in general at BWI Marshall with 24.7 million total passengers, it also marked a new record for international passenger traffic, which reached 1.2 million.

And growth has been good since the start of this year, Dean said, spurred by news such as Spirit Airlines offering its first international flight out of BWI Marshall, to Cancun International Airport, beginning this fall; and the previous announcement by Iceland-based WOW Air, which is adding service to Israel starting in September. And Southwest Airlines, the BWI Marshall stalwart and by far its largest carrier, is also looking to again expand its international presence.

Spread the Word

Observers of the expansion are quick to note that most of the international business at BWI Marshall comes from the leisure sector. Lou Zagarino, president and CEO of Whitehall Management Group, offered his input of that topic.

“We’ve been able to attract some very productive airlines,” he said. “The one carrier that caters more to the corporate market is British Airways, but to the leisure sector is where BWI Marshall’s market is heading with Condor, WOW, Spirit and Southwest, which operates many of the old AirTran routes and is also offering internally-routed flights that often have domestic stops.”

Dennis Donovan, principal/co-owner with Wadley Donovan Gutshaw, of Bridgewater, N.J., continued. “Here’s the bottom line: Many business operations, especially headquarters and [large] operations that serve global markets, tend to gravitate to areas that have nonstop service overseas” — like British Airways offers from BWI Marshall to London Heathrow.

Donovan also said BWI Marshall has an advantage for nonstop and connecting flights, simply due to its convenience. “You can still go to Dulles, but that’s a good hour’s drive from much of the BWI Marshall market. It’s the same deal with Philadelphia, too, from the northern suburbs.”

So while the rise in service at BWI Marshall is much to do with its leisure travelers, Donovan pointed out that that alone can lead to bigger things. “You may say, ‘So what?’ but those travelers bring in money, and they also get to experience the area, and that can prove helpful in recruiting new business.”
That train of thought is “all about image,” he said.

“It’s a brand. I think it’s positive for people recruitment and business recruitment. It’ll bring new capacity,” Donovan said, “and I think it will continue. Now, how travelers can get to either city, and even to Philadelphia, needs more promotion from the state and from [Anne Arundel] county.

Macro View

Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, in Baltimore, said the airport expansion scene is a bright one across the U.S.

“We continue to observe ambitious airport construction projects across the nation, including in Orlando, Los Angeles, Tampa and New Orleans. Many serve to strengthen airport capacity for both domestic and international travelers, but others pertain directly to international terminals,” said Basu. “There are many factors that determine where these investments take place, including the growth trajectory of airlines attached to certain airports, state capital budgets, competition from other airports and the aspirations of elected officials.”

BWI Marshall’s international wing continues to gain traction, he said, in part because of Southwest’s growing international business, with its base of leisure customers. “However, the presence of Dulles makes expanding the number of business routes far more difficult,” he said.

“If BWI Marshall wants to attract more global business travelers, the key is for its carriers to expand global service to markets serving leisure and business travelers in large numbers, such as Rio or Barcelona, as opposed to currently served markets like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun.”

And that may not happen soon. “Those types of markets appear to be outside of Southwest’s near-term footprint,” Basu said, “which means that BWI Marshall officials must continue to work to recruit other international carriers.”

Now is apparently a good time to make that effort, according to Matthew Cornelius, vice president, air policy, at the Washington, D.C.-based Airports Council International, who also cited the rise in the market.

“International travel has been growing around the country for several years due to many of the advances in liberalized air service agreements,” said Cornelius, noting that the U.S. departments of State, Transportation and Commerce set up international travel agreements on a constant basis.

“This year is special because it’s the 10th anniversary of the first Open Skies Agreement” between the U.S.-European Union, he said. “The U.S. now has about 120 of them, with more in discussion. What [such agreements basically do] is move away from an old agreement of a specific number of flights/cities, which allows free movement between different points in different countries.”

“That’s what made WOW a great spot for BWI, as well as a prime connection to the U.K. and the rest of Europe,” said Cornelius. “It allows new services to start in cities that didn’t have the access to foreign markets — like [at that time] Baltimore. And it brings more competition to the market, which brings prices down and encourages travel.

These factors have also “helped make BWI Marshall a place that international carriers consider when new opportunities for international routes come up,” he said, citing figures from 2015 that listed Dulles among the Top 10 U.S.

international carriers with 7 million international passengers, with Philadelphia 16th (with more than 600,000) and BWI Marshall at 27th, with approximately 1 million, according to U.S. Department of Transportation figures.

Then there’s the fact that the highest concentration of residents in the U.S. is the Northeast Corridor. “The population of the area drives demand, and it’s getting more and more crowded,” Cornelius said, also noting that “When one carrier adds routes, other international carriers notice, and there is some subliminal messaging goes on. When one carrier sees another put money into new routes, they notice and may take similar action.”

‘Easy Come, Easy Go’

All that said, Cornelius said that another familiar factor comes in this mix aside from airport and flight access: the exchange rate.

“The U.S. dollar is strong, and that makes it easier to travel outside the country,” he said. “I think that’s the No. 1 influence today.”

While flight booking decisions can come down to price, veterans of the BWI Marshall scene will often mention the convenience of what’s still often called the “Easy Come, Easy Go” airport — just like those vanity Maryland license tags say — remaining a key factor in its appeal.

Today, the access from Montgomery County that’s provided by the Inter-County Connector and improvements to MARC rail service have made it easier to reach BWI Marshall from the Washington market. And local officials are banking that helps further fuel the rise of its international service.

“It’s great that international travelers have realized the convenience of BWI Marshall as their gateway in and out of the Baltimore-Washington region,” said Greg Pecoraro, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership, who has spent part of his career connecting to BWI Marshall from the outer reaches of its market, including the Washington, D.C., area.

“I think what’s happening [with the international travel sector] at BWI Marshall is indicative of the industry’s general view,” Pecoraro said, “that BWI Marshall is the airport in the region where they want to do business.”

AACC Offers Focus on BWI Business District

With an ever-growing need for education in various disciplines on and around Fort Meade, Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) has expanded its offerings in the area. The programs included below are featured within the college’s most recent course listings.

• The Corporate Training Group, in Hanover, is part of the corporate side of the college, and is a gateway into how it serves the business community through leadership development, employee development, coaching, consulting services and e-learning solutions.

• AACC’s Corporate Training Group, which is offered in cooperation with the School of Business & Law’s Business Management Department, recently created a customized 21-credit Transportation, Logistics and Cargo Security (TLCS) Certificate for the National Security Agency (NSA). The accelerated classroom-based delivery format proved to be successful with the first cohort, and as the designated partner of choice for the agency, AACC is currently providing the program to a second cohort. NSA has recognized the certificate program and made it the Intelligence Community Standard for Career Development for all logisticians. Cohort 3 is planned to begin January 2018, with up to 20 participants.

• The Center for Cyber and Professional Training, in Hanover, has options for accelerated training in health and technology, from certified nursing assistant and administrative medical assistant to network security and information technology project management. The center is to aid fast-tracking careers in growing fields and offers three certificates/degrees in health and eight in technology.

• AACC offers services at the Fort Meade Army Education Center. Services provided include admissions and registration, placement testing, academic advising, bill/payment plans and career services. The center’s services are available to active duty military, military dependents, veterans, reservists and civilians who have base access.

• The Homeland Security Signature Program at Meade High School offers high school students unique thematic courses and co-curricular opportunities that are workforce-relevant. Students examine various policy measures and practices related to homeland security and emergency management through workshops, internships, networking and other co-curricular activities.

An upcoming opportunity for rising seventh and eighth graders is the GenCyber Summer Day Camp, fully funded by NSA and the National Science Foundation. Applicants must write an essay detailing why they want to attend the week-long camp that covers cybersecurity, ethics, app development, wearable technology and building your own computer with Raspberry Pi. The camp will be at The Center for Cyber and Professional Training, across the street from Arundel Mills.
AACC, in partnership with the Anne Arundel County Workforce Development Corp., and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, offers career counseling, job fairs, office equipment, GED Test prep courses and English as a Second Language courses for employers and job seekers as part of the One-Stop Career Center at AACC’s Sales and Service Training Center in Hanover.

The AACC University Consortium is a select group of four-year colleges and universities headquartered at AACC at Arundel Mills, a Maryland Regional Higher Education Center. Degree options include business, cybersecurity, education, engineering, information systems and public safety administration.
AACC at Arundel Mills also includes the Physician’s Assistant Program, TEACH Institute and The Parenting Center. The Glen Burnie campus hosts a number of programs and classes.

As part of the Early College Access Program, a bus now runs from Glen Burnie High School to AACC daily, providing the chance for students to earn college credit while in high school.

Personal Perspective Why Not the BWI Business District?

 

Port Covington. Tradepoint Atlantic.

There are two enormous, ambitious, even transformational redevelopment projects in the Baltimore region. Projects expected to bring tens of thousands of jobs to the region. Projects that will stimulate and create new businesses, commercial ventures and residential settings. Projects that will capitalize on their proximity to Baltimore’s world-class educational, cultural, scientific and research institutions. Projects that will benefit from Baltimore’s historic location as a nexus for transportation by sea, rail, road and air.

These projects are exciting for everyone in the region. The opportunities they create will extend throughout the metropolitan area.

Nevertheless, the plans for both beg the question — why not the BWI Business District?

The BWI Business District was established in 1985, along with the predecessor of the BWI Business Partnership, the BWI Commuter Assistance Center. Its goal was to bring together the businesses and hotels in the region, creating a better, stronger connection with BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, nearby Fort Meade and its largest tenant, the National Security Agency, plus numerous other federal, state and county government agencies. With the development of the Arundel Mills and its surrounds, a new major locus was created, adding shopping and entertainment venues.

Situated adjacent to one of the nation’s best airports, the District is just a few miles away from the Port of Baltimore; it spans major inter- and intrastate highways, like I-95, Route 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway), I-97 and Route100; as well as rail lines used by national carriers such as Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern and MARC, the state’s own commuter rail.

Nearby educational institutions include the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore County community colleges; Capitol Technology University, and the University of Maryland University College’s Dorsey Station Center, to name a few. The University of Maryland’s Baltimore-Washington Medical Center provides outstanding health care, with other major medical facilities just minutes away in downtown Baltimore.
Tens of thousands of highly-skilled and -educated employees already work at Fort Meade and BWI Marshall, and elsewhere you will read of their increasing levels of activity. Thousands more work for contractors and affiliated organizations that support their growing missions.

Arundel Mills continues to grow as a shopping and entertainment venue, with a new 17-story luxury hotel under construction at Maryland Live! that will boast a 1,500-seat event center.

If location is everything, the BWI Business District has it made. It features highway and rail connections; the airport and the port; educational, medical and research institutions; the nation’s foremost center for cybersecurity; and an educated and skilled workforce. Call up an aerial view of the region on your favorite Internet mapping tool and you’ll see a highly developed transportation network — interspersed with considerable tracts available for development.
Visionary leaders are forging ahead with Tradepoint Atlantic and Port Covington in Baltimore City; here, with BWI Marshall and Fort Meade in the middle of ample resources and infrastructure, what can be done to attract and facilitate the same kind of transformational development?

This is the challenge for the region and its leaders, in both the development community and in government. It’s also a question the BWI Business Partnership is uniquely positioned to help explore. During the coming months, we look forward to beginning this discussion and invite your interest.

Greg Pecoraro is the executive director of the BWI Business Partnership. He can be contacted at 410-859-1000 and gpecoraro @bwipartner.org.

VAAAC Touts West County

The area that encompasses BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Arundel Mills and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County is booming. That’s the message Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (VAAAC) continues to share with meeting and event planners and visitors who want to maximize their travels.

Capitalizing on the popularity of recently launched TheHotelsAtBWI.com website, VAAAC added a new Deals and Specials section to the site in May that includes Park, Sleep and Fly packages that offer travelers the option of parking at BWI/Arundel Mills-area hotels, spending the night and hopping a complimentary hotel shuttle to BWI Marshall the following day; in addition, a Fly, Park, Sleep and Cruise package encourages passengers departing from the Port of Baltimore to get an early start on their vacation by flying into BWI Marshall and staying overnight before boarding a complimentary shuttle to the cruise terminal.

Park, Stay and Go packages make it easy for visitors and area residents to use a BWI/Arundel Mills-area hotel as home base before heading to Baltimore for an Orioles game, the Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium and a host of other Baltimore and Washington, D.C., attractions. And a new Events section helps individuals to plan for upcoming concerts and activities.

TheHotelsAtBWI.com website was enhanced at a time when the eyes of thousands of international tour operators, suppliers and journalists were focused on the Washington, Maryland and Virginia markets. More than 6,300 delegates from more than 70 countries attended the International Pow Wow (IPW), which was held in early June at the Washington Convention Center. The event is the largest generator of travel to the United States and a key marketplace for connecting directly with travel buyers to grow international business; it is expected to generate $4.7 billion in future U.S. travel expenditures.
VAAAC President and CEO Connie Del Signore said IPW 2017’s proximity to Annapolis and Anne Arundel County provides the destination with an unprecedented opportunity.

“It’s unlikely an international tourism event of this magnitude will happen again in our lifetime,” said Del Signore. “Thousands of tourism professionals and journalists from around the world are right in our backyard. We’re taking advantage of the opportunity by giving attendees a first-hand taste of what Annapolis and Anne Arundel County have to offer.”

In partnership with the Maryland Department of Commerce, Capital Region USA (CRUSA) and Destination D.C., VAAAC represented he destination on the IPW marketplace floor and at networking events.

Destination D.C.-coordinated sightseeing tours, as well as Maryland Department of Commerce- and CRUSA-coordinated pre- and post-IPW familiarization tours, are providing destination marketing organizations across Maryland with the opportunity to showcase their regions to IPW delegates.

VAAAC teamed up with Arundel Mills and the National Cryptologic Museum, at Fort Meade, to orchestrate the final day of the recent “Spectacular Maryland” pre-IPW familiarization (FAM) tour. The Mills arranged for participating IPW tour operators, suppliers and journalists to enjoy curated shopping experiences at Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, before they took in lunch and a show at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. The afternoon also included opportunities for more shopping and a tour of the National Cryptologic Museum, which was led by Curator Patrick Weadon. FAM tour participants later tried their luck during free game play at Live! Casino and Hotel and attended a farewell reception at The Prime Rib before they departed for Washington.

Veteran Unemployment Tackled Head On

The military and veterans are an important part of Maryland’s economy. The state is home to eight active military installations that represent all military branches; with such a strong military presence, it is of concern that Maryland’s veteran unemployment rate took a turn for the worse in 2014 and continues to be higher than the state’s overall unemployment rate. Veterans under age 35, which include most of recently separated veterans, have the highest unemployment rate among veterans.

A majority of veterans have a period of unemployment during the first 15 months after separation from the military. On that note, the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. (AAWDC) is setting out to address these issues with the launch of its new Military Corps Career Connection (C3) initiative. The initiative helps transitioning service members, recently separated veterans and active duty spouses prepare for and connect to civilian careers.

As former service members have extensive knowledge, C3 taps into that existing experience to find the best fit for each individual in the civilian workplace. The new initiative provides individualized career planning, coaching and job preparation to ensure a successful career transition. C3 also will assist individuals in getting industry-recognized licenses and certifications required for civilian positions, or the hands-on work experience needed to boost their résumés.

Skills and experience, but personal connections are just as important. C3 provides individuals a chance to build their civilian network and connect with businesses through partnerships with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hire Our Heroes program and Maryland’s Veteran Affairs Operation Hire.

Through an individualized approach and strong partnerships across the state, C3 expands on the transition services already provided by the military branches in order to tackle veterans’ struggles and reduce veteran unemployment.

BWI Summer Youth Initiative to Be Held Again This Summer

The Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Summer Youth Initiative was established in 2015 by the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT-MAA) in response to the civil unrest experienced in the Baltimore-Washington region in April of that year.

To “Capture the Imagination” of inner-city youth in the region, the program was designed to expose young people to careers and mentors within the aviation industry that they might not typically see in their own neighborhoods.
Last year, The BWI Business Partnership, with its industry partners, participated in the second annual event that reached out to 50 Baltimore City youth between the ages of 10 and 15 to take them inside two of the most fascinating workplaces in the world — a major metropolitan airport and a premier maritime education center.

During the week of Aug. 15–19, 2016, these youth experienced the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a large variety of potential career opportunities in the world of aviation, maritime, engineering, military and much more. They experienced flying at Martin State Airport and being at the helm of a large ship in the simulator at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies, observed flight operations at BWI Marshall Airport and drove snow removal equipment, to name a few of the activities.

Today, under the leadership of Executive Director/CEO Ricky D. Smith Sr., the tradition continues as MDOT-MAA and partnering stakeholders begin planning for the 3rd Annual BWI Thurgood Marshall Summer Youth Initiative, scheduled for Aug. 7–11.

All of this would not be possible without the program’s partners and sponsors. In addition to the cost of operations, the young people are sent home with a variety of school supplies to ensure they are ready to go back to their schools in September ready to get to work. The Partnership is seeking tax-deductible donations to defray the cost of the program, as well as the school supplies. For more information on how you can support this effort, contact the partnership at 410-859-1000.

Personal Perspective Getting the Workforce to Work

 

Simply stated, this area is very fortunate to have Fort Meade serving as the pulse of the region. Between the post, the National Security Agency and The National Business Park, more than 100,000 employees from the area work within that three-mile radius.

Then come the tens of thousands of additional employees who are spread across a 10-mile radius of the post, including employees at Arundel Mills, Maryland Live! Casino and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

So when the Maryland Department of Transportation decides where to spend a finite amount of transportation money, funds spent within that larger radius improves the quality of life for more employees than anywhere else in the state. This allows employers in the market to compete for the employees needed to fill what includes a large number of highly-skilled jobs. That represents a true return on investment.

During the past four years, for Route 175, from the Route 295 (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) interchange east to Route 32, the state, federal and a U.S. DOT TIGER Grant have funded more than $150 million in road and intersection improvements to handle the previous growth spurt of the Base Realignment and Closure, and the current growth coming from the U.S. CyberCommand.

Additional dollars will be needed down the road (so to speak) for Route 198, widening/Route 32 flyover, and the widening of Route 32 — which was originally designed as a six-lane highway, but only two were built due to budget constraints.

During the past year, there was much debate between Gov. Larry Hogan and the state delegation concerning the way prioritizing transportation projects within the state is conducted. Legislation was passed in 2016 which placed many of these projects at risk; both parties worked on a compromise this past session to repeal the current bill and work on a future bill by 2019 that incorporates good ideas and best intentions from both sides.

On the other hand, public transit services have not had the same positive results. Promises of savings and new routes made when the Local Operating Transit System (LOTS) changed hands about three years ago have never materialized. With hundreds of thousands of employees and now thousands of new families living in local communities within a 10-mile radius of Fort Meade, another opportunity to connect people to jobs by public transit should not be undervalued.

The Mass Transit Administration (MTA) is about to undergo a long-needed revamping in Baltimore City, including equipment and route revisions, which hadn’t occurred in 40 years. However, on the MTA’s web site map with the new routes, no commuter or express bus service is within three miles of Odenton/Fort Meade, arguably the largest employment area in the state.

This, after months of studies and public meetings more than demonstrating the need —but unfortunately, deemed not important enough to address at this time, with limited available funds.

Anne Arundel County did receive from the MTA a two-year grant for almost $900,000 to run shuttle services between the transit hubs and some local residential communities. Also, a Central Maryland Transit Plan is available that can be accessed via www.kfhgroup.com/centralmd/transitplan.html.

Although the local LOTS, the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland, is a direct recipient of funding from the MTA, most of its funds come from participating counties that infuse varying amounts of money.

Anne Arundel County has a new transportation director, Ramon Robinson, who has come on the scene with innovative ideas, with the background and knowledge to implement — if afforded the proper leeway and funding.

Stuart Title is vice president at A.J. Properties, in Odenton, chair of the Fort Meade Alliance Transportation Committee and president of Public/Private Transit Solutions Consulting. He can be reached at stuart@ajprop.net.

BWI Marshall Airport Expands Wellness Options With New Gym

As the facility continues to evolve and grow, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is focusing on delivering an expanded variety of services and amenities to its clientele.

Working with concessions developer AIRMALL Maryland, in recent years BWI Marshall has made it a priority to meet the growing demand for healthy food and service options, as modern travelers want a variety of menu choices and opportunities for fitness.

The recent emphasis on healthier menu items has been a success. In 2014, BWI Marshall was ranked the best U.S. airport for healthy meal options by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The PCRM annual Airport Food Review report found that 92% of the airport’s restaurants served at least one nutritious option for passengers.

Beyond the healthy options in the concessions program, BWI Marshall has introduced other initiatives. For instance, a bike share program was created in 2014 for passengers, employees and local residents; and the airport also established the BWI Cardio Trail, two marked walking paths inside the airport terminal. BWI Marshall also offers a 12.5-mile scenic trail that encircles the entire airport property; known as the BWI Trail, the recreational resource offers opportunities for biking, running and walking.

In January 2017, BWI Marshall took the next step in providing healthy services for travelers with the opening of ROAM Fitness, a unique, full-service airport gym. The 1,175-square-foot facility offers a workout space for about 20 people that includes a full range of cardio equipment and free weights, and a designated stretching space. In addition, a storage wall includes secure lockers with charging for customers’ electronic devices.

ROAM Fitness is located post-security along the new D/E Connector that opened in late 2016. Gym users have access to private shower rooms with complimentary towels and shower products. Daily, monthly and annual passes are available for travelers.

Bay Bank: Built by Entrepreneurs, for Entrepreneurs

 

When Sunil and Deepak Shrestha, owners of an IHOP franchise in Catonsville, decided to build in a new location, they approached Bay Bank. Headquartered in Columbia and overseeing a network of 11 branches located throughout the region, Bay Bank now has total assets of around $633 million. Positioned as the bank “built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,” it prides itself on building and nurturing relationships with local businessfolks.

“Bay Bank listened to our plan for building a new location,” said Sunil Shrestha. “They were quite responsive, knowledgeable, and worked quickly to approve the loan for our newest restaurant.” The $2.31 million solution from Bay Bank included funding to buy the land and build the restaurant, as well as an equipment line for the Shresthas to easily make purchases to outfit the interior.

Entrepreneurial From the Inside Out

Working for the bank itself tends to feel entrepreneurial, said Rich Ohnmacht, a senior vice president and corridor market president for Bay Bank. After nearly two decades of working for banks of various sizes, Ohnmacht finds he enjoys the ability to have a definite influence over decision-making, as well as the agility to quickly get the right people from the organization in front of the customers that need them. The result is a quicker, better solution for the client.

At Bay Bank, as each relationship manager — which is how Ohnmacht describes his own job — builds his or her book of business, s/he is encouraged to take an entrepreneurial approach. Bay Bank has grown to just more than 130 employees since it began in 2010, but no matter how big the bank gets, that’s an approach and a culture that will never change.

“It’s a meritocracy,” said Ohnmacht. “We’re not very hierarchical, and we’re trying to move fast, be small, be nimble. If any associate has an idea, we want to get to it quickly, whether it’s a better way to do something or a new line of business we should be considering.”

The entrepreneurial approach supports Bay Bank’s established expertise at all levels. If a startup business is without the necessary credentials to get a loan, Ohnmacht still has a conversation with that business owner. “We talk about where we see their business going in the next year or two in terms of revenues, cash flow and probability.” And for more established prospects and clients, Bay Bank has been in their shoes. It understands what’s needed — experience, insight and flexibility — to grow a client’s business.

 

Strategic Industry Expansion

Bay Bank is growing, too, and with that growth comes some challenges. “The first six years of the bank’s life, Bay Bank focused on mergers,” said Ohnmacht. “The last two years, we’ve also been heavily focused on organic growth. Combining grassroots efforts with an entrepreneurial mentality allows Bay Bank to build the sales culture it needs to be successful.

“If you’re a community bank, you can’t do everything,” Ohnmacht said, “so we have tried to expand strategically within certain industries.” Areas of expansion include dental practices, manufacturing companies, government contractors and cyber. By targeting certain industries, Bay Bank can align its approach with clients that are a good fit. Manufacturing in particular is a high-growth area — Maryland manufacturers have added almost 5,000 positions since 2014, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Strategic growth includes strategic hiring. Bay Bank’s latest hire, Kyle Becraft, joined the company as senior vice president and director of mortgage banking in early May. Becraft has a track record of working with residential builders and will help to expand Bay Bank’s financing product array to serve land acquisition, development, construction, and construction to permanent mortgage solutions for builders and consumer clients.

 

Building Community

In addition to expanding its work in various sectors, Bay Bank is also growing its ties to the community through its involvement in local business and charitable organizations and volunteer efforts.

Through a corporate volunteer program, Bay Bank employees volunteer as a team for various nonprofits, including First Fruits Farm, the Maryland Food Bank and Junior Achievement. Employees are also given a set number of hours per quarter to use for paid volunteer time. Ohnmacht himself is active in local business organizations including the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the Howard County Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency, as well as the BWI Partnership.

That kind of involvement is what defines Bay Bank as a true community bank. “As community ties grow stronger, so do ties between staff members,” said Ohnmacht. “In this way, a small bank can have a big impact.”

Understanding Common Market Benchmarks

 

The dictionary defines the word benchmark as “a point of reference from which measurements may be made.”

In investing, benchmarks (or market indexes) are used by investors, portfolio managers and market watchers to track how a particular asset class or sector performs, and to compare relevant investments to that measurement.
Each market index tracks a representative sampling of stocks, bonds or other securities that may be similar to the holdings in a given investment portfolio. In order to use benchmarks accurately, you should always compare apples to apples. It helps to be familiar with a variety of benchmarks and the sectors and asset classes they track.

Various Measures

Following are some of the more popular and widely used indexes.
• The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index tracks the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market.

• The 10-Year U.S. Treasury Bond is issued by the Treasury Department with a 10-year maturity. It is the most popular type of U.S. Treasury debt and is often used as a barometer for the overall U.S. economy.

• The S&P 500 is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large-cap U.S. equities.

• The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted measure of 30 U.S. blue-chip companies.

• The NASDAQ Composite Index measures all domestic and international common stocks listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market. Launched in 1971, the index today includes more than 3,000 securities.

• Morgan Stanley Capital International’s Europe, Australasia, Far East (EAFE) Index represents the performance of large- and mid-cap securities across 21 developed markets, including countries in Europe, Australasia and the Far East, excluding the U.S. and Canada.

Many benchmarks, including those listed above, are reported regularly on major financial websites and in the business section of local newspapers; national publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily; and internationally, in the Financial Times.

Using Benchmarks

Benchmarks can be used to assess the types of investments that may be most suitable to an individual’s goals and investment timeframe. By looking at the past performance of a market index, you can gauge the relative return potential of a particular asset class, as well as its risk characteristics. Keep in mind, however, that past performance is not a guarantee of future results and these unmanaged indexes cannot be invested into directly.

Also, be careful to use the right benchmark. For example, you wouldn’t want to invest in corporate bonds maturing in five years based on the benchmark performance of 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds. Your financial adviser can help you assess which benchmarks to use in evaluating the performance and risk of a given market.

Finally, when using market indexes, keep in mind that even though an investment vehicle performs well in relation to its market benchmark, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an appropriate vehicle for your money. Investments should be made based upon a number of criteria, including your objectives, time horizon and risk tolerance.

 

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

In Brief

Bay Bank Sees 80% Earnings Increase in Best Quarter Ever
Columbia-based Bay Bank announced its highest quarterly earnings ever for the quarter ending March 31, 2017. With a net income of $.96 million, the bank increased earnings 80% since last year, with 15% of that growth occurring just in the last quarter. The entrepreneurially-focused bank has experienced growth in all areas, expanding its opportunities to better serve its customers.
Highlights from the past year include the following.

• A profitable merger with Hopkins Bancorp and Hopkins Federal Savings Bank. With the Hopkins merger, the bank’s total assets top $633 million, and it is now the fifth-largest community bank headquartered in the Baltimore region.
• A successful record in acquisitions and acquired problem asset resolutions. At the end of the first quarter, Bay Bank held $7.6 million in remaining net purchase discounts on acquired loan portfolios.

• Greater equity for stockholders. Increases related to corporate earnings improved the book value of the bank’s common stock by 3.6% per share.

 

KatzAbosch Announces New Service to Help Optimize Businesses
KatzAbosch, a CPA and business consulting service, now offers process improvement services based on Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Top-performing companies often turn to strategy and operations consulting firms to assist them with their business process improvement initiatives. An outside partner can provide objectivity in assessing the company’s current processes, identifying and prioritizing opportunities for process improvement and designing and implementing solutions.

“For nearly 50 years KatzAbosch has been helping our clients achieve operational excellence. It seemed like a natural extension to offer a defined service offering around our expertise in this area,” said Mark Cissell, KatzAbosch’s CEO and president.

The Process Improvement Service group is led by KatzAbosch’s Claudia R. Wolter, CPA. As a certified Lean Six Sigma expert, Wolter is uniquely trained to utilize Lean Six Sigma methodology with process improvement strategies. This methodology is now commonplace throughout various industries. It helps identify the cause of the problem and implement a fix based on facts, rather than assumptions. The benefits include increases in customer satisfaction, revenue and/or resources and production of results.

Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness: What You Should Know

 

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP) began in 2007 with a simple idea: forgive the student loans of borrowers employed in crucial but often low-paying government or nonprofit positions after they make timely payments for 10 years. Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education lists a broad range of jobs that are eligible for loan forgiveness: law enforcement, emergency management, military service, early childhood education, public librarians, health care providers for disabled or incapacitated individuals and legal aid attorneys. The department sent letters to borrowers to certify their eligibility for the PSLFP.

Now, the Department is notifying some borrowers who chose their career path based on the PSLFP, worked for 10 years in public service jobs and made 120 loan payments that their debt does not qualify for forgiveness. It maintains that its certification letters are neither binding nor a final determination of a borrower’s eligibility. Understandably, borrowers are reacting with anxiety, outrage and litigation. And, because of a pending lawsuit brought by the American Bar Association, the Department hasn’t clarified what types of loans, employment and payments qualify for loan forgiveness.

What should you do if you thought your student loans would be forgiven under the PSLFP? Or, what if your child or grandchild is pondering an altruistic career choice that might qualify for the PSLFP? A good starting point is to review the Department’s current guidance, which outlines four criteria: loan, payment, payment program and employment.

What type of loan qualifies for the PSLFP?

It’s imperative for borrowers to understand the terms of the loan and verify that it will qualify for loan forgiveness. Only direct federal student loans qualify for the PSLFP. The name of the loan will identify whether it is a direct loan. Look for these specific titles: “direct subsidized loans,” “direct unsubsidized loans,” “direct PLUS loans” and “direct consolidation loans.”

If you have other types of federal student loans, such as a Perkins, Stafford or Federal Family Education Loan, ask whether it will be possible to consolidate that debt into a direct consolidation loan. If you consolidate direct and indirect loans, only loan payments made after the consolidation is complete will qualify for the 120-payment threshold. Note that consolidation effectively resets the count, and prior payments made on direct loans will not count.

What type of payment qualifies for the PSLFP?

All 120 loan payments must be made in full and on time while the borrower is working full-time in a qualifying public service position. The payments do not have to be consecutive. If, however, a borrower pays more than required, the additional amount will not be applied either to the next payment or the 120-payment goal. Also, payments made while the borrower is still in school or in a grace, deferment or forbearance period are not qualifying payments.

What type of loan repayment program qualifies for the PSLFP?

Because the loan repayment term for student loans is 10 years, borrowers who are not in an income-driven program will repay their loans in 120 payments. Consequently, only income-driven programs that base repayment on the borrower’s monthly income will qualify for loan forgiveness under the PSLFP. Graduated and extended repayment plans, which extend the repayment term, are not based on monthly income and do not qualify as income-driven repayment programs. The primary income-based repayment programs are as follows.

• Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan)
• Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan)
• Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan)
• Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

What type of employer and employment qualify for the PSLFP?

The employment criteria include quantitative and qualitative components. The borrower must work at least 30 hours per week or meet the employer’s definition of full-time work. Borrowers who work in more than one public service job may combine their employment to reach the weekly requirement. In its publications, the Department states that government employment at the local, state or federal level qualifies for the PSLFP. Full-time service in AmeriCorps or Peace Corps is also qualifying employment.

The Department’s general terms for nonprofit employment have caused uncertainty, however. It broadly states that employment with organizations exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and “other types of not-for-profit organizations that provide certain types of qualifying public service” are eligible for the PSLFP. Aside from explicitly excluding employment with a labor union or partisan political organization, the Department has not clarified what other types of not-for-profit organizations are qualifying employers.

For example, although the Department previously certified employment with the American Bar Association and the Vietnam Veterans of America, it recently revoked some borrowers’ eligibility for the PSLFP, prompting the pending lawsuit. In its legal filings, the Department maintains that annual approval of the employer certification form is not conclusive and that it does not make a final decision on qualifying employment until after the borrower makes 120 loan payments.

What to do now?

The Department’s existing guidance aside, the requirements for loan forgiveness under the PSLFP remain in question. As the first groups of borrowers approach the 120-payment goal, policymakers are beginning to grasp the true cost of loan forgiveness, and the Department appears to be refining its position on qualifying employment.

This uncertainty doesn’t mean that borrowers should dismiss the PSLFP entirely. At a minimum, students should understand the kind of loan they accept as they enter school; after graduation, they need to confirm that their payments and repayment program qualify for the PSLFP. Also, each year they must submit the Department’s employer certification form. As more borrowers seek repayment under the PSLFP and the Department refines its requirements, the result may well adhere to the program’s original intent: easing the student loan burden for those who pursue public service careers.

 

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.

Even Exemption Increases Warrant Revisiting Your Estate Plan

 

How much money you can leave to your heirs free of estate/death tax depends on where you live and own property and businesses, to whom you’re leaving your assets and whether your estate planning documents are current.
With significant changes being proposed to the federal tax code, and several states, including Maryland, plus the District of Columbia, tied to that outcome, the time to have your documents reviewed is now so you are well-prepared to make any necessary changes.

Maryland

Maryland’s death tax rules are fully dependent on federal law. The Maryland estate tax return begins with the federal total gross estate and the allowable deductions from the federal form. Maryland’s 2017 exemption level is $3 million (up from $2 million in 2016). It will continue to rise to $4 million in 2018, and it is slated to match the current federal exemption amount of $5.49 million by 2019. By the time Maryland reaches current federal exemption level, it’s anticipated that only two in every 1,000 Maryland estates would be affected.

D.C.

In 2014, D.C. adopted legislation that would trigger certain tax cuts (including the estate tax) depending on revenue collections. Per a recent announcement from D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, the District met those revenue projections, so the slated estate tax exemption increase from $1 million to $2 million for 2017 will proceed. The exemption level may continue to phase up to the federal level if sufficient revenue becomes available.

The Bottom Line

With a Republican-controlled House and Senate, estate tax reform is highly likely. However, there is still quite a lot of uncertainty with respect to the specifics and also the timing.
It is important to remember as well that tax code changes, including raising the exemptions, can be easily undone in the future. If you’re a resident of or own properties and/or businesses in Maryland, D.C. or another state that’s making changes or has made changes recently — even if the change is tax repeal — you should meet with a qualified estate planning attorney to review your plan, prepare for potential curveballs, consider taking advantage of wealth transfer options and make sure that all of the many critical estate planning decisions that have nothing to do with taxes (e.g., Power of Attorney, Medical Directives, beneficiary designations, etc.) also have been properly addressed.

Gary Altman, Esq., is the principal and founder of Altman & Associates (www.altmanassociates.net). He can be reached at 301-468-3220 and gary@altmanassociates.net.

Industry Perspective Millennials and Money

 

Overwhelming student debt. Lack of savings. The housing market crash. Saving for college. No formal financial education. These sentiments are heard time and again regarding millennials and their financial habits.

Financial Concerns

Like the members of every generation before them, millennials feel the financial burden of and have many concerns about their financial futures. Although millennials are going to college in record numbers, they are making significantly less than past generations and are dealing with record amounts of student debt.
Millennials’ biggest financial concerns are the following.
• Loans, especially student debt
• Saving for retirement
• Job and housing market
• Losing their job
• Paying for college for their children

Saving Habits

Despite what you may hear about “kids these days,” millennials are outsaving older generations. Revere Bank’s 2016 study of millennials and their financial habits revealed that, in response to the question, “What would you do if someone handed you a large sum of money?” almost all participants said they would save all or a majority of the money (or use it to pay off bills).

The participants were first asked what they would do with an unexpected $5,000, which triggered the save response for the majority of respondents. Even when it was followed up with a question about $15,000, almost all of the respondents’ answers stayed the same. Some claimed they would plan a small night out or a nice dinner, but nearly all said they’d put the money into a savings or investment account or use it to pay bills.

During the study, participants were also questioned about impending big purchases — cars, houses, vacations, etc.— and how they were saving for those eventualities. Almost all participants had a big investment on the horizon, which the study found to be the biggest savings motivator for millennials. A majority of respondents claimed they were saving or budgeting to prepare for big spends, but admitted they were struggling to stick to their budgets.

Budgeting

The Revere Bank study found that millennials are budget-conscious. Only 12% of respondents (who could choose multiple answers to this question) do not track spending in any way. More than half of respondents (61%) use their bank’s online features to track spending, and another quarter (26%) use other online methods like Mint or YNAB. Almost 27% of respondents, however, claim to use an offline method to track.

When budgeting for future expenses (as opposed to day-to-day spending), the survey found that the majority (75%) of millennials use an offline method (like a spreadsheet) to plan ahead. Twenty-one percent use online applications like Mint or YNAB to budget, and 36% do not have a determined method of budgeting.

Future Financial Preparation

When planning for their financial future, millennials are starting to save more than older generations. The Revere Bank study found that nearly all (90%) of millennials are saving in at least one way. The majority of respondents (72%) participate in their employers’ 401(k) plans and an additional 30% contribute to a private 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan (respondents were allowed to choose multiple options in response to this question).

Even those who aren’t saving know they should be — 14% of those who do not save now plan to do so. Only 10% of respondents claimed to save no money at all.

Investing

As the millennial generation matures, it will soon have the greatest investing power of any generation. However, the survey found millennials are more conservative about investing than might be expected. While a very large majority of respondents invest in traditionally “safe” ways (like employer-sponsored retirement plans), 40% do not invest at all on top of that. Another 36% invest in typically lower-risk ways (like mutual funds or other managed funds).
Whether millennials will be super-savers, entrepreneurs or big investors is yet to be cast in stone. From the initial findings of the Revere Bank survey and others that mirrored the results, millennials appear — at least for now — to be saving more at a younger age and requiring more flexibility from their banking products and services than previous generations. They are more conservative with their money — investing less and budgeting more — less likely to start their own business, and are most concerned with student debt, the housing and job markets and saving for retirement.

 

To read the full report, visit RevereBank.com.

Andrew F. Flott is co-president and CEO of Revere Bank. He can be reached at Andrew.flott@reverebank.com.

Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About SBA Loans

 

Small Business Administration (SBA)-backed loans provide affordable financing options for small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining financing via traditional channels. Here are seven things you probably don’t know about SBA loans.

1 The SBA doesn’t actually lend directly to businesses. The bank makes the loan, and then works with the SBA to get it to guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan.

2 Personal credit is important in the SBA loan process. Especially with true startups, there is usually no credit history for the business and little collateral, so the credit history of the business owner(s) is significant. The owners’ credit history is an indication of how they handle credit.

3 The SBA won’t deny a loan because of collateral (lack of), but all collateral must be taken into account. The SBA requires the bank to consider all available collateral for the loan request. This could include the business owner’s equity in his or her home, vacation home, etc.

4 Quality is more important than quantity when you are deciding whether to apply. Business plans should be concise and cover the important details: the “what,” “why,” “who,” “how” and “when” of your business.

5 Banks are interested in small business loans. In general, they are very interested in helping small businesses grow and become really good bank customers. The SBA is a great tool that helps them add value to the businesses in the communities they serve.

6 The SBA process doesn’t take as long as most people think. Especially with an experienced SBA-preferred lender, it is easy to navigate this process smoothly and avoid any potential obstacles.

7 Borrowers must be a small for-profit business in order to be eligible for an SBA loan. A business must meet size standards to qualify for an SBA loan. Generally this means $7.5 million or less in revenue and 500 employees or less (depending on the industry).

Rosa Scharf is the SBA Champion at Howard Bank. This article originally appeared on the Howard Bank blog.

Hogan Announces Excel Maryland Initiative to Grow Life Sciences, Cyber Startups

Last month, Gov. Larry Hogan opened Maryland’s inaugural Governor’s Business Summit before a crowd of more than 700 business, education and community leaders at the Hilton Baltimore. The day-long economic development conference, hosted by the Maryland Marketing Partnership, highlighted the issues and industries driving Maryland’s economy, including developing workforce through innovation training, protecting businesses from cyberthreats, tapping into global markets and attracting venture capital, among other key topics.

Hogan described how his administration’s commitment to making Maryland “Open for Business” has delivered positive results around the state. Since January 2015, Maryland has added nearly 100,000 jobs and has successfully recruited major new investments from companies like Amazon, Lidl, Under Armour and Pinnacle Foods. Notable job creation wins include the announcement of Marriott’s $600 million new headquarters complex in Bethesda; the retention of McCormick’s headquarters in Baltimore County; Morgan Stanley’s 800-job expansion in Baltimore City; and $100 million in new investment by Northrop Grumman Corp., which directly supports more than 10,000 jobs in Maryland.

“Saying we are ‘Open for Business’ isn’t just a catchy slogan on road signs. It actually defines our mission, and it’s why I ran for governor,” said Hogan. “We said we were going to help our businesses grow, put more Marylanders to work and turn our economy around, and we have been doing exactly what we said we would do. Maryland’s economy is stronger than it’s been in more than a decade.”

 

New Strategies

To build on the progress of the last two years, Hogan announced that the administration is launching a new, comprehensive, statewide economic development strategy called Excel Maryland. The initiative will be focused on developing new, collaborative strategies to accelerate growth in the life sciences and cybersecurity industries, which are already flourishing in the state.
A steering committee includes officials from the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, in partnership with The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the University System of Maryland (USM), along with the Maryland Economic Development Corp. The committee is being led by Susan Windham Bannister, the founding president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, who helped drive Massachusetts to become a leading state for life sciences employment per capita.
“With the launch of our comprehensive, statewide economic development strategy called Excel Maryland, we will focus on new, collaborative strategies to accelerate growth in some of the sectors where Maryland already leads, including the life sciences and cybersecurity industries,” said Hogan. “Excel Maryland will help pool the talents of our state agencies, our universities and our private sector industry experts to help us create an environment in Maryland where more companies can start up here and never stop growing here.”

 

Group Effort

The Excel Maryland steering committee co-chairs include Bob Caret, chancellor of USM, and Ronald Daniels, president of JHU. Steering committee members are Dr. Bahija Jallal, executive vice president, MedImmune and AstraZeneca; Stephanie Hill, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin; Daniel Abdun-Nabi, CEO of Emergent BioSolutions and chair of the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board; Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries; Ron Gula, president of Gula Tech Adventures and co-founder of Tenable Network Security; Peter Barris, managing general partner of New Enterprise Associates; Bill Niland, CEO of Harpoon Medical; Larry Letow, president and CEO of Convergence Technology Consulting; Robert Lord, CEO of Protenus; Wendy Perrow, CEO of AsclepiX, Therapeutics; and Paul Silber, founding principal of Blu Venture Investors.

Ex-officio members are Sam Malhotra, chief of staff to Hogan; Secretary of Commerce Mike Gill; Secretary Kelly Schulz, Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; Secretary of State John Wobensmith; General Linda Singh, adjutant general of Maryland; Sen. Robert Neall; John Wasilisin, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO); and Bob Brennan, executive director of MEDCO.

 

‘Great Assets’

“As one of the nation’s leading states for university research and development, we have an enormous opportunity to help transform our state’s great assets in advanced industries into a compelling, visionary strategy that will ultimately accelerate economic development,” said Daniels. “Through the Excel Maryland initiative, we want to create a true public-private partnership of ideas and resources that will provide a compelling vision for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.”

The initiative will culminate in a report by the end of August, which will serve as a roadmap to securing Maryland’s position as the epicenter of cybersecurity and advancing Maryland’s leadership position in biohealth and life sciences.

Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission Presents Merriweather Movie Nights

As it has for nearly 50 years, Merriweather Post Pavilion will be home to this summer’s hottest concerts. And for the first time, it is also home to a series of classic summer movies. Utilizing the amphitheater’s high-definition video screens and featuring food and beverage choices from Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern, Merriweather Movie Nights 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 Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission (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 kicked off on Memorial Day Weekend with the musical “Grease”; subsequent movies will include “The Last Waltz” on June 28, “Moana” on July 26 and “School of Rock” on Aug. 30. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 7:30 p.m.

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. Tickets, free or paid, are required for attendees and can be obtained at www.merriweathermusic.com/community-events/ or www.dcacc.info/mppmovies.

But it’s not just the venue that will make this series special. Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern will be on hand each night with a diverse selection of locally-crafted food and beer available for purchase.

“People have come to expect great things from Manor Hill and Merriweather, so the pairing is a natural fit,” said Randy Marriner of Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern. “We can’t wait to help redefine the ‘dinner and a movie’ experience in Howard County this summer.”

In addition to Manor Hill, the Merriweather Movie Nights are possible because of the support of its sponsors — Costello Construction of Maryland, Howard Bank, Columbia Association, the Howard County Economic Development Authority and the Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate.

“We want to be able to offer programming at Merriweather that is open and accessible to everyone at low- or no-cost to residents, and that’s only possible because of the great community partners who have offered to support these movie nights,” said Kennedy.

In Brief

ManneqART is an international arts and education nonprofit whose mission is to inspire creativity, teach problem-solving skills and reward excellence in creation of sculpture on the human form. Its 2017 ManneqART Sculptural Artworks Competition is now underway.

Each year, the competition presents four themes. A $1,000 award is given for the best artwork in each theme, as determined by an independent panel of expert judges. In addition, a $3,000 Master Award is given for the best overall artwork, which may not be a theme winner. This year’s four themes are Eco, Ocean, Energy and Aviation.

In addition, ManneqART is collaborating with the Sandy Spring Museum, located in the old Quaker village of Sandy Spring, Md., to encourage and reward artworks that have an “inner light” component. Artists may treat this as a fifth theme or may add an “inner light” element to an artwork reflecting one of the other four themes. Works that reflect the “inner light” theme are eligible for a $2,000 award, plus their works may be selected for a two-month exhibition at the Sandy Spring Museum.

The competition includes the following events.

• June 25, ManneqART Madness Photography Day, Historic Savage Mill, 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. Free

All entries for the competition will be unveiled to the public on live models, fully made up and professionally photographed. Photography is donated to ManneqART by Irvin-Simon Photographers. The photos will capture the 2017 competition and appear in the 2018 ManneqART Calendar. Fifty volunteer models to wear artworks at this and other events during the year are needed. Hair and makeup artists collaborate with the creators of the sculptures to create the final presentation for the competition. The public gets an inside view of these activities and can watch the narrated photo shoot of each artwork. Five judges, including Coleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, will be present at Savage Mill to assess the artworks and pick the winners.

• Sept. 9–24, Public Exhibition, Columbia Mall, Columbia Center for the Arts, the ManneqART Museum and other Howard County locations

• Sept. 9–Nov. 18, Inner Light exhibit, Sandy Spring Museum, 17901 Bentley Road, Sandy Spring. ManneqART produces a map for this self-guided tour of the artworks.

• Nov. 5, Annual Awards Gala and ManneqART Masquerade Party, Ten Oaks Ballroom, Clarksville, 6–9 p.m. Enjoy dinner, dancing and an unusual “fashion show.”

ManneqART has now opened a museum where the public can experience, up close, these artistic creations. Located inside the Andersen Becker wearable art clothing factory on Maier Road in Laurel, the ManneqART Museum is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m.– 4 p.m. and by special arrangement. The space is also available for meetings and special events, including wedding and other receptions.

Visit www.manneqart.org or call 301-778-0616 for more information.

Fifth Season of ManneqART Has Begun

ManneqART is an international arts and education nonprofit whose mission is to inspire creativity, teach problem-solving skills and reward excellence in creation of sculpture on the human form. Its 2017 ManneqART Sculptural Artworks Competition is now underway.

Each year, the competition presents four themes. A $1,000 award is given for the best artwork in each theme, as determined by an independent panel of expert judges. In addition, a $3,000 Master Award is given for the best overall artwork, which may not be a theme winner. This year’s four themes are Eco, Ocean, Energy and Aviation.

In addition, ManneqART is collaborating with the Sandy Spring Museum, located in the old Quaker village of Sandy Spring, Md., to encourage and reward artworks that have an “inner light” component. Artists may treat this as a fifth theme or may add an “inner light” element to an artwork reflecting one of the other four themes. Works that reflect the “inner light” theme are eligible for a $2,000 award, plus their works may be selected for a two-month exhibition at the Sandy Spring Museum.

The competition includes the following events.

• June 25, ManneqART Madness Photography Day, Historic Savage Mill, 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. Free

All entries for the competition will be unveiled to the public on live models, fully made up and professionally photographed. Photography is donated to ManneqART by Irvin-Simon Photographers. The photos will capture the 2017 competition and appear in the 2018 ManneqART Calendar. Fifty volunteer models to wear artworks at this and other events during the year are needed.
Hair and makeup artists collaborate with the creators of the sculptures to create the final presentation for the competition. The public gets an inside view of these activities and can watch the narrated photo shoot of each artwork. Five judges, including Coleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, will be present at Savage Mill to assess the artworks and pick the winners.

• Sept. 9–24, Public Exhibition, Columbia Mall, Columbia Center for the Arts, the ManneqART Museum and other Howard County locations

• Sept. 9–Nov. 18, Inner Light exhibit, Sandy Spring Museum, 17901 Bentley Road, Sandy Spring. ManneqART produces a map for this self-guided tour of the artworks.

• Nov. 5, Annual Awards Gala and ManneqART Masquerade Party, Ten Oaks Ballroom, Clarksville, 6–9 p.m. Enjoy dinner, dancing and an unusual “fashion show.”

ManneqART has now opened a museum where the public can experience, up close, these artistic creations. Located inside the Andersen Becker wearable art clothing factory on Maier Road in Laurel, the ManneqART Museum is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m.– 4 p.m. and by special arrangement. The space is also available for meetings and special events, including wedding and other receptions.

Visit www.manneqart.org or call 301-778-0616 for more information.

Adichie Headlines Books in Bloom Book Festival in Downtown Columbia

Best-selling Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will headline Howard County’s first major book festival, Books in Bloom, on Sunday, June 11, noon–5 p.m., in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods, Downtown Columbia.
Hosted by the Downtown Columbia Partnership in cooperation with the Howard County Library, Books in Bloom will bring together two-dozen of the country’s best and brightest writers for a daylong festival. Readings, panel discussions and author conversations will take place in the new Chrysalis amphitheater and on the grounds of the park.

Adichie is the author of We Should All be Feminists and the best-selling Americanah and has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Among the festival’s other headlining authors are White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, political analyst for CNN and award-winning journalist April Ryan; and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, professor and one of Ebony magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Michael Eric Dyson. The two will be paired for a conversation on race in America, moderated by civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson. Ryan is the author of At Mama’s Knee. Dyson wrote Tears We Cannot Stop.

Best-selling writer David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl, will read from his work, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film of the same title. Other featured writers include Mikita Brottman, author of The Maximum Security Book Club; Jennifer Close, The Hopefuls; Laurel Frankel, This Is How It Always Is; Katherine Heiny, Standard Deviation; Eric Puchner, Last Day on Earth; Alec Ross, The Industries of the Future; Ursula Werner, The Good at Heart; and Ariel Winter, Barren Cove.

A panel discussing summer reading includes Tayla Burney, curator of WAMU’s “In Your Bookstore” series; Carrie Callaghan, senior assignments editor for Washington Independent Review of Books; Petra Mayer, book editor at NPR; and Mary McCauley, arts reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

A panel on Feminism in Young Adult Fiction will include writers Sonia Belasco, Speak of Me as I Am; Christina June, It Started With Goodbye; Miranda Keannelly, Catching Jordan; and Katy Upperman, Kissing Max Holden.

A dedicated children’s stage will feature children’s authors performing lively readings and interactive family activities related to their books. Authors include Mary Amato, Our Teacher is a Vampire; Karen Leggett Abouraya, Malala Yousafzai; Debbie Levy, I Dissent; and Jerdine Nolen, Calico Girl.

The Howard County Library will launch Summer @ Your Library program with crafts, games and activities for all ages. Other attractions include a pop-up bookstore provided by Politics & Prose, a Poetry Wall and Coloring Wall, and an interactive activation with Haiku Guys and Gals.

Food and beverages will be available for sale from a variety of vendors, including the popular Astro Donut, Peruvian Brothers and Swizzler food trucks.

Presenting sponsor of Books in Bloom is the Howard Hughes Corp., the developer revitalizing the 391-acre center of Columbia. Gold Sponsor is Columbia Association, Silver Sponsor is M&T Bank, and Bronze Sponsors are Harkins and Wells & Associates.

The festival is free and open to the public. Register at: booksinbloom.eventbrite.com.

Columbia Festival of the Arts 2017 Summer Lineup

The Columbia Festival of the Arts is back this June with free and ticketed events. The goal is to bring the community together to celebrate Columbia’s 50th birthday and the Festival’s 30th anniversary.

Opening Weekend, Columbia Lakefront, June 16, 17 & 18
This weekend-long event on the lakefront in Columbia Town Center includes live music, an invitational arts and crafts show, special activities for the kids and strolling performers. There will be plenty of food and drink, including a food festival sponsored by Whole Foods Market and a Howard County beer garden from Clyde’s of Columbia.

Dominating the LakeFest landscape and soaring 35 feet in the air throughout the weekend will be the United Kingdom’s “Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium,” a lighted inflatable sculpture that has been wowing audiences all over the world. Festival-goers enter the sculpture on foot and are transported into a world of architectural beauty, filled with subtle and saturated hues, creating a unique visual arts sensory experience.

Invitational Fine Arts & Crafts Show

The festival’s juried, invitational show returns with 60 artisans displaying and selling their one-of-a-kind artwork representing a breadth of media including functional and wearable art at a wide range of prices. Booths will be located through the festival grounds.

Show hours are Friday, June 16, 5–9 p.m.; Saturday, June 17, Noon–9 p.m.; Sunday, June 18, Noon–7 p.m.

 

Kids’ Arts & Crafts Activities

Presented in partnership with KidzArt Howard County
Children are invited to explore the visual arts with unique activities led by KidzArt, Howard County’s advocates of child creativity. Each session will last approximately 45 minutes. Onsite registration is required as space is limited. There will be a special Father’s Day project for dad and child at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Olenka School of Music also will be providing musical activities for the kids.

 

LakeStage Music Lineup

The LakeStage will be rocking all weekend with music from every genre. The highlight of the weekend will be Saturday, June 17, at 7 p.m., with the Happy 50th Birthday Columbia Celebration.

Ticketed Events

Following the LakeFest weekend, the soaring falsetto sounds of the Aaron Neville Duo, the ambassador of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, kicks off seven days of ticketed events with a one-performance-only concert at the Jim Rouse Theatre on Sunday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m.

Other performances include the following.

Stoop Storytelling Series: 50 Years of Cinema on Friday, June 23, 8 p.m., at Smith Theatre, Horowitz Center at Howard Community College. The Stoop Storytelling Series is a popular event in which seven people get seven minutes each to tell a true, personal tale on a shared theme in front of a live audience.
Sprout Film Festival (Presented in Partnership with the Arc of Howard County and Autism Howard County) on Saturday, June 24, 4 p.m., Monteabaro Hall, Horowitz Center at Howard Community College. Poignant, beautiful, humorous and thought-provoking short films created by, for and about individuals with disabilities.

Manual Cinema: The End of TV on Saturday, June 24, 8 p.m., Smith Theatre, Horowitz Center at Howard Community College. Told as a song cycle with live visuals, and set in post-industrial Detroit, Manual Cinema’s “The End of TV” peers through the neon reflections of late 20th century advertising and television culture and into the American imagination as it existed at the onset of the Internet age.

Sundance Shorts on Tour on June 25, 1 & 4 p.m., Monteabaro Hall, Horowitz Center at Howard Community College.

Tickets are now on sale. For more information and the lineup for the Lake Stage Music, visit columbiafestival.org or call the Festival offices at 410-715-3044.

It’s Time to Go to Basque Country

Now that the warm weather is here, I’m looking forward to my favorite summer foods paired with all the wonderful wines that make them taste so much better. Grilled fish, fresh seafood, barbeque, grilled meats, salads and grilled vegetables — along with crisp white wines and fresh red wines; some light-bodied, some not so light. The possibilities are exciting and endless.

If all that sounds good to you, it’s time to check out the foods and wines from the Basque Country of northern Spain. Basque cuisine and wines seem like they were made for summer enjoyment.

 

What Is Basque Country?

Basque Country is an autonomous community in northwest Spain and southeast France. On one side is the Bay of Biscay, on another the Pyrenees Mountains and on the third the Ebro River. Home to the Basque people, it is divided into seven districts, three in France and four in Spain. The Basque language is unrelated to any current or extinct language and pre-dates the colonization of Spain by the Romans.

 

Basque Cuisine

In Basque Country, food is a major part of life. There are many Michelin starred restaurants in the cities of Bilboa and San Sebastian, which have become destinations for foodies everywhere. The style of food prepared by these talented chefs is called New Basque cuisine; the chefs take traditional and locally-sourced ingredients and use them in unusual combinations of fish, meat and fruit to create dishes with innovative tastes, textures and aromas.

There’s an abundance of seafood from the Bay of Biscay to the north, and fresh and cured meats, game, mushrooms, vegetables and cheese from inland. This mix of sea and land, along with the Basque tradition of featuring delicious food as the center of any social occasion, makes this a culinary paradise.

Basque Country is also famous for its natural cider (or sidra). Unlike the hard ciders we know here, sidra is made with indigenous varieties of apples, and no sugar is added. Between January and April, visitors can go out and sample the latest vintage at a cider house (or sidreria). Basque cider is traditionally poured into the glass from an arm’s length height to aerate it. The typical cider house meal consists of a cod omelets followed by a large steak cooked rare.

 

Then, There’s the Wine

It’s important to note that a portion of Spain’s famed Rioja wine region lies in southern Basque Country. The sub-region of Rioja Alavesa is home to some of Riojas oldest wineries.

Here the main grape variety is Tempranillo, along with Graciano, for red wines; and Viura for white wines. Producers here often make their wines using carbonic maceration. Instead of crushing before fermentation, whole grapes with their stems on are loaded into large vats. Some of the berries begin to burst under their own weight and natural yeast on the skins starts fermentation. This process produces wines that are lighter, softer and loaded with fruit.

Grapes from the vineyards located near the Basque coast are used in the production of Txakoli (Chacoli, in Spanish), a light, fruity and slightly sparkling wine that is high in acidity and low in alcohol. Made primarily from the Hondarribi Zuri grape, this light white wine is perfect when paired with all kinds of fresh fish and seafood dishes. There are three different Txakoli regions; Getaria Txakoli, Alava Txakoli and Bizkaia Txakoli.

In all three areas, most of the production is white, but some rosé and red wines are also made from Ondarribi Beltza grapes.

 

A Few to Try

• 2016 Bodegas Itsasmendi Txakoli. Made with Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratie grapes. It’s crisp, fresh and balanced with aromas and flavors of stone fruit, citrus, pineapple and a slight fennel note on the long, crisp finish. It’s perfect with all kinds of fresh seafood and grilled fish dishes. Priced in the low $20s.

• 2015 Tierra Aricola Labastida, El Primavera. Made from 100% Tempranillo, this wine is bursting with aromas and flavors of blackberry fruit with a savory note on the long finish. It pairs well with appetizers, grilled lamb and tapas. It’s priced in the mid-teens.

• 2014 Tierra Aricola Labastida, Letras Minusculus. Made with Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano, this is the perfect summer red. Fresh and clean with complex aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry, balanced with notes of spice, herbs and Earth. Enjoy with grilled steaks, barbecue and even cheeseburgers. It’s priced in the upper teens.

• Urbitarte Sagardotia, Eusko Sidra Natural. The Eusko cider is made from 100% native Basque apples. It shows refreshing acidity and complex tartness with a briny note. That makes it the perfect match with seafood, but it’s also great with grilled sausages and steak sliders. Belgian Sour Beer and Lambic drinkers will love this. It’s priced in the mid-teens for a .750 ml bottle.

Now that Basque inspired restaurants, foods and wines are becoming more available here, you don’t have to travel overseas to give them a try. What could be better on a warm summer evening than some fresh fish, hot off the grill, and a chilled glass of Txakoli? Cheers.

 

Sam Audia is a former advertising and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. He is a wine specialist at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, in Annapolis, holds a Certification Diploma from the Sommelier Society of America and Intermediate and Advanced Certificates from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He can be reached at sippingwithsam@verizon.net.

Hack Attack

As this is being written, a wave of ransomware has spread across the globe, encrypting people’s data and demanding 300 euro in bitcoins to unlock. If you don’t pony up in a week, it goes to 700 euro. After two weeks, it stays locked.
The WannaCry (or WannaCrypt) ransomware, as it is known, results from a known vulnerability in the Windows operating system. We can blame a group of hackers who published data on vulnerabilities gathered originally by our own National Security Agency for use in cyberattacks on hostile nations. More than 200,000 users in 150 nations were hit in the first wave of the attack, and many more are expected, despite efforts to thwart it.

Most of the successful targets were systems running Windows XP, an operating system that’s support from Microsoft ended in 2014. It may seem incredible that so many are still doing so, but large organizations with tons of computers have been slow to change — too slow, as it turns out. Britain’s National Health has been particularly hard hit, but there are reports of Chinese universities also infected. It was reported back in 2014 that large corporations, such as Bank of America, had contracted with Microsoft to keep support after the free support ended.

Even more surprising were recent reports that the U.S. Navy has paid Microsoft $9 million a year for extended XP support since 2015.

 

What Now?

Two things have happened that may slow the spread of WannaCry, but probably only temporarily. First, a malware researcher at a U.K. company called MalwareTech discovered what is called a “sinkhole” in the attacking software, and by registering a new domain name for $10, was able to turn off most of the spread. You can be sure that those spreading the malware (and collecting the ransoms) will quickly fix that and release a new version.

Also, in an unprecedented move, Microsoft released a series of patches for old systems that it no longer supports, such as XP or Server 2003. Go to https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks. You will be led to a post on their TechNet site that has patches.

Microsoft had already released updates in March for newer supported systems, and if you have automatic updates on, you should be OK. If yours are not automatic, this would be an excellent time to make that so.

Yes, it may be scary to cede that control of what to install to the evil that is Microsoft, but situations such as this instance may overcome that wariness.
This also highlights the need for decent backups. While many ransomware schemes will try to find connected drives (and even servers) and infect them, having an external hard drive with backups set for once a week or more can help. Better yet, have two external drives (they have gotten as cheap as party favors now) and swap them weekly; that way, you’ll have the “old” one to fall back on.
You could also consider an off-site backup service such as Carbonite. For about $5 a month, it could be your salvation.

 

Other Nasty Things

So the “Internet of things” (or the “IoT,” in happening language) is proceeding, if you have the money and inclination for it. This has expanded from Internet connected thermostats and wireless cameras to many different appliances. There is, for instance, an Internet-connected toaster oven, the June Intelligent Oven, that costs $1,500 and is, essentially, well, a toaster oven. Can it recognize what you put in and adjust? Sometimes and perhaps. For that kind of money, it should dance and sing while toasting, just to keep us amused. And there are LIFX Color 1000 light bulbs that you can control with a smart phone or Amazon’s Alexa (another IoT gadget). Price? $49.99 each.

You know, for that amount of money I’ll spin in my own colored bulbs, if I’m in the mood for a flashback.

Anyway, all these potential ways into your home network have not gone unnoticed by the hackers. A virus named BrickerBot is now out that “bricks” IoT appliances, thus rendering them expensive counter decorations. And your DVR, router and smart coffeepot can be used as agents to spread Internet denial-of-service attacks or as botnet machines.

Since very few people will change the default password on their router, for instance, they are open far more than the computers that have usually decent protection. You’re not likely to see firewall protection on your coffeepot.
But maybe, just maybe, having to set your own time to start brewing in the morning by pushing a few buttons could be worth it.

 

Actually Pretty

Add another place to your “have to visit next spring” list — the azalea gardens at Brighton Dam, at the end of the Triadelphia Reservoir, which encompasses more than 22,000 azalea bushes over five acres to wander.

Started in the late 1950s, it does show some signs of reduced funding, but is still a lovely place for an afternoon stroll. And it makes you forget hackers.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing, and offers PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval for small businesses. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns available at http://feldwick.com.

How Will You Use Your Milestone?

Is your company nearing an important anniversary or achievement? Whether it’s a 10th year in business, the 10,000th customer served or other measurement that signals your organization’s stability, longevity or success, you can leverage it to share your story.

You’ll need to start your celebration with a plan. Here’s how you can get set up.
• Define your audience(s). You’ll want to consider customers, prospects, employees, volunteers and any other stakeholders in your business.

• Determine your campaign objectives. This year is BBB’s 100th anniversary in Maryland. Not only will we be serving a lot of birthday cake, we’ll be telling stories to increase engagement through email and social media, both of which are measureable. At the same time, we’ll use stories to enhance visibility for our sponsors and accredited businesses, and create excitement leading up to this fall’s Centennial Celebration. Your business might use its milestone as a way to thank the clients and employees who helped you achieve it or even roll out a new product, service or line of business.

• Brand it. It might be a special logo, tagline, hashtag or all of the above. But your milestone needs its own visual signature.

• Set a budget. Cake aside, you’ll need to decide how much to invest. For an anniversary, you’ll likely launch, and/or end, your campaign with a party. In order to allocate the needed resources, you have to determine who will be involved to turn the plan into action, and how and where you’ll communicate your story.

Your story should be personal. It should be used to deepen a connection with your desired audience. What got you started? Where did you start, and how far have you come? What makes your organization special? Consider sharing memories that convey your core values.

When celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2014, Sparks-based McCormick & Co. used the hashtag #flavorstory. Its goal was to collect 1.25 million “flavor stories” from employees, chefs and consumers around the world. For every story, which ranged from letters to recipes and videos, the company donated $1 to the United Way.

McCormick’s campaign to celebrate its milestone using the role flavor plays in life was the perfect recipe for success. By November, its year-long initiative resulted in $1.25 million in donations to feed the hungry.

So, as you approach the next benchmark in the life cycle of your organization, think of it as an opportunity to enlist your promoters, internally and externally, to make it memorable. And, on that note, I hope to see you at BBB’s Centennial Celebration. It’ll be held on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, from 5 to 8 p.m.

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.

Pinnacle Prize Awarded at HCC’s Spring Entrepreneurial Celebration

A large crowd was on hand to watch 12 Howard Community College (HCC) students pitch their innovative business ideas in a judged competition during the college’s May 2 Entrepreneurial Celebration, sponsored by HCC’s Center for Entrepreneurial & Business Excellence (CEBE), Pinnacle Advisory Group, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce (HCCC), the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEAD) and the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE).

In this bi-annual event, select students from HCC’s introductory entrepreneurship and creativity course have five minutes each to present their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial business professionals. The judges score the students on quality of presentation, content and time. The top scorers receive the Pinnacle Entrepreneur Prize, with an award of $1,800 for first place, and $700 for placing second. The CEBE awards the third place winner and the People’s Choice with a cash prize.

Additionally, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce hosts the top two student winners from both the fall and spring competitions for an entrepreneurial showdown at the Chamber Annual Meeting on May 18.
Pinnacle Director of Sales & Marketing John Riina, awarded the following students.

• First Place and People’s Choice awards: Thomas Harsham, for his presentation of FlashServe, a platform to ensure the ultimate public dining experience.

• Second Place: Megan Whalen for her presentation of Kai, a business that will harness wave currents to produce energy.

• Third Place: Brandon Banh for his presentation of Powerswap, a device that allows users to share power between mobile devices for ease in charging.
The Pinnacle Pitch judges are selected for their proven business acumen and entrepreneurial experience; also, the CEBE acknowledges the volunteer services and contributions of the following five judges to the spring 2017 Entrepreneurial Celebration.

Aaron Altscher, CEO, Handteq

Paige Donahue, Ratcliffe Entrepreneurship Fellow, University of Baltimore
Paul Hogan, computer science faculty, Howard Community College
Tracy Turner, director, Howard Tech Council/HCEDA
Sharon Brackett, CEO, Tiresias Technologies

The CEBE helps aspiring and existing business owners, and students, to develop themselves and their businesses by utilizing the Center’s programs, services and resources, including degree and certificate programs in entrepreneurship, and individualized coaching programs. Visit howardcc.edu/CEBE or call 443-518-1520 for more information.

Three Contemporary Classics Slated for Rep Stage’s 2017–18 Season

Rep Stage, the professional regional theater in residence at Howard Community College, has announced its 25th anniversary season lineup of three contemporary classics — ”The Heidi Chronicles,” “Last 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 provides an opportunity for past Rep Stage artists and those who are new to Rep Stage to collaborate on creating the very best in regional theater,” said Joseph Ritsch, producing artistic director. “As Rep Stage celebrates its past and looks toward the future, I am committed to producing engaging and evocative American contemporary classics and new work for seasons to come.”

The season marks a transition in leadership for Rep Stage as Suzanne Beal, co-producing artistic director, will retire at the conclusion of the current 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

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. The play is a moving examination of the progress of a generation, from the socially and politically activist ’60s to the success-oriented ’80s. As Heidi determines her place in society and how to juggle success and failures in work, friendship and romance, the play asks the ever-present question: Can women have it all?

“Last Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”

By Lanie Robertson

Directed by Danielle Drakes

Musical Direction by Cedric D. Lyles

Nov. 1–19

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, given 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.

“All She Must Possess”

By Susan McCully

Directed by Joseph Ritsch

World Premiere

Feb. 7–25, 2018

The Baltimore Cone sisters, Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta, could have lived tranquil, appropriate lives as respected Victorian ladies. Instead, the duo voraciously collected art and curios from around the world. Unassuming Etta, often overshadowed by her sister, sits 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 life. Works of art come alive, and her one-time lover, Gertrude Stein, sings her praises as she journeys from society laughingstock to doyen of modernity. This will be Rep Stage’s production in participation with the 2018 DC 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.

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