Ball Calls for Independent Review of Proposed TIF for Columbia

Howard County Council Member Calvin Ball has called for an independent analysis to assist the council in its review of the proposed tax increment financing (TIF) for Downtown Columbia.

“I have asked our county auditor to engage an appropriate consultant with specific expertise in TIF analysis,” Ball explained. “Howard County has only ever approved one TIF in the past, and it was less than 20% the size of what the county executive is currently proposing. This proposal, which uses $90 million of county funds, is far too extensive not to have a thorough, independent and critical review.”

The proposed TIF would dedicate $90 million of tax revenue generated from new development in Downtown Columbia to finance a parking garage, roads and intersection improvements. At a recent work session, council members asked questions reflecting concern that remaining revenue to fund other capital and operating expenses associated with the new development may be insufficient after the debt service for the TIF is covered.

The County Department of Finance has presented the council with extensive financial analysis of the proposed TIF, prepared by MuniCap Inc., a public finance consulting firm that specializes in tax increment financing. Ball is seeking another independent expert in the field of tax increment financing to provide a critical review of MuniCap’s analysis and the assumptions on which it is based. Members of the public can submit written testimony to councilmail@howardcountymd.gov.

Kittleman Announces New Offices in Reorganized DCS

To make it easier for residents to access vital human services and connect to other programs, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced that the Department of Citizen Services will be renamed the Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) and include four new service offices.

The department’s three existing offices have also adopted new names: the Office on Aging has become the Office on Aging and Independence; the Office of Consumer Affairs has become the Office of Consumer Protection; and the Office of Children’s Services has become the Office of Children and Families.

“We’ve initiated these changes to improve the delivery of human services to those who need help, particularly those with complex issues that involve multiple agencies,” said Kittleman. “As part of the reorganization, staff will follow a ‘No Wrong Door’ approach, so that residents can be connected to services without spending an entire day going from place to place to find support.”

The new DCRS structure includes four new offices to facilitate outreach to an increasingly diverse Howard County community including: an Office of Veterans and Military Families; Office of Community Partnerships; Office of Local Children’s Board; and Office of ADA Coordination. A new Commission for Veterans and Military Families will advocate for the more than 20,000 veterans who live in Howard County. To contact DCRS, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/communityresources or email communityresources@howardcountymd.gov.

SP+ Begins Improved Residential Parking Enforcement

Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides announced that SP+, the city’s comprehensive parking firm, has begun more efficient parking enforcement on residential streets.

SP+ will be utilizing new License Plate Recognition technology, which will be mounted on two enforcement vehicles and will allow for a more accurate reading of license plates on vehicles that have been parked illegally in a residential district. By mounting the technology on vehicles, enforcement officers can cover routes faster and more efficiently than they previously have on foot.

Residents have requested that the city impose stiffer penalties for individuals who park beyond permitted time limits in residential parking districts. In the past the fine was $35 for each violation, but the city council adopted a new fine schedule and SP+ will be enforcing the schedule.

  • • Fine for initial offense: $40 (twice the daily maximum garage fee)
  • • Second violation in a one-year period: $70
  • • Third violation in a one-year period: $105
  • • Fourth violation (or greater) in a one-year period: $140

Pantelides asked SP+ to work with local business owners to ensure that employees have options for affordable parking and don’t rely on residential parking as an option. SP+ is revitalizing a program that allows employees of local businesses to park at specific garages for $2 a day between certain hours. SP+ is meeting with local business owners to tailor the program to best fit the needs of their employees.

Howard County, HCC Sign Exchange Agreements With Korea’s Naju City

Howard County Government, Howard Community College (HCC) and Naju City of the Republic of Korea agreed to a cultural and educational exchange program during a recent ceremony held at HCC. Two agreements, one with the county and one with the college, will serve as the framework for these (and potentially additional) partnerships between the governments.

County Executive Allan Kittleman, HCC President Kate Hetherington and officials from the Korean city government pledged to build relationships through “mutually beneficial activity, including educational exchanges, cultural exchanges, governmental collaboration and other related activities of mutual interest,” according to one of the memorandums of understanding signed, which is for a two-year period.

The memorandum signed by Kittleman focuses on exploring business and investment opportunities with Naju City, as well as promoting the potential for cultural exchanges; the memorandum signed by Hetherington is the foundation for future discussions about the college offering English as a Second Language (ESOL) instruction for students from Naju City in the summer of 2017.

Naju City is the hometown of Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan, a first-generation Korean-American, who attended the signing. Howard County has nearly 47,000 residents of Asian descent, representing roughly 15% of the population. Of that number, about 12,000 residents are of Korean descent, about 4% of the county’s population.

HCGH Named Blue Distinction Center+ in Maternity Services and Knee/Hip Replacement

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has selected Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) as one of the first hospitals to receive the Blue Distinction Center+ for Maternity Care designation, a new designation under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. HCGH also has been designated a Blue Distinction Center+ for Knee and Hip Replacement.

HCGH’s Maternal/Child Services welcomes more than 3,500 babies into the world each year. In addition to the traditional obstetrical services, HCGH also offers the Center for Maternal Fetal Medicine, which cares for high-risk expectant mothers. Additionally, the hospital’s Lundy Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a state-of-the-art Level III+ facility that provides care for newborn babies who need specialized attention because of premature birth or medical conditions.

HCGH also is working toward achieving “Baby Friendly” designation by successfully implementing the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, developed by the World Health Organization/UNICEF. The program will help ensure that the hospital promotes good breastfeeding practices for new mothers and provides an opportunity to further educate physicians and nursing staff by sharing information and best practices with other leading breastfeeding experts.

For the nearly 300 patients who undergo joint replacement at HCGH each year, the program approaches the experience as a partnership among the patient, doctor and hospital, which focuses on engaging and educating patients throughout the surgical process so they can more fully participate in their own care and recovery.

Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated health care facilities shown to deliver improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

County Tourism Introduces Harvest-Howard County

Howard County Tourism & Promotion and Howard County Economic Development Authority have partnered to showcase agriculture in Howard County. The new Harvest-Howard County agritourism guide is a magazine that offers readers opportunities to explore the county farms during the different seasons and to make memories while purchasing the locally produced foods and products the farms provide.

“Although agriculture is a $32 million industry in Howard County, its true value comes from the locally grown foods, the sustainability and the opportunity to enjoy nature while learning about agriculture,” said Kathy Johnson, agricultural development manager for Howard County Economic Development Authority.

In addition to information about area farms, the guide includes fun facts, kids’ activities, recipes, calendar listings, a growing season chart and more. The guide’s passport program encourages readers to visit area farms. When visiting the participating farms, readers should ask farms to stamp the passport portion of their guide. Passports can be redeemed at the Howard County Welcome Center in Old Ellicott City located at 8267 Main Street.

The guide will be available at the Howard County Fair, Howard County Welcome Centers in Historic Ellicott City and Historic Savage Mill, Welcome Centers across Maryland, Howard County Public Library System branches, area farms and various other locations. For more information, call 410-313-1900 or go to VisitHowardCounty.com/Outdoors/Farms.

Taylor Farms to Expand in Annapolis Junction, Add 150 Jobs

Taylor Farms, a produce manufacturing and distribution company, is growing its footprint in Maryland to meet growing customer demand for its healthy products. The company is expanding its Annapolis Junction manufacturing operations and plans to add 150 new jobs in Howard County, bringing its roster to nearly 500 workers in Maryland.

Formed in 1995, Taylor Farms began as one facility with seven employees in Salinas Valley, Calif. Since, the company has grown to operate 13 facilities across North America that produce 7 billion servings of fresh vegetables annually, feeding more than 120 million Americans per week. The fresh produce manufacturer states that it prepares one in three salads consumed in the United States.

As a result of its expansion, the company is eligible for a number of state and local tax credits, including Maryland’s Job Creation Tax Credit that is administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce.

Taylor Farms’ three divisions — food service, retail and deli — provide products for various retail corporations, restaurant chains and convenience stores across the nation and abroad. The company also embraces a culture of giving back to the local communities it serves around the nation; during the last year, Taylor Farms contributed $4.9 million to community organizations and philanthropies.

Kittleman Hails Progress of Local Business Initiative

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has released figures showing substantial progress in efforts to see that county funds are spent with local companies whenever possible, and to encourage growth, success and diversity among local business owners.

In the eight months since Kittleman signed an Executive Order creating a Local Business Initiative, 33 companies have registered with the County’s Office of Purchasing and have been certified as maintaining their principal place of business in Howard County. Since the initiative was established, $772,133.05 in county funds have been spent on projects with these local enterprises, and of that amount, $170,133.05 has gone to minority-owned companies.

The companies that have registered thus far include firms providing information technology, real estate development, financial planning, marketing, pest control, chemical distribution and janitorial services. The contracts awarded range from a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000.

The initiative also encourages private firms to consider contracting with local Howard County companies when needed; one of the businesses enrolled in the program is Inband Networks of Elkridge. Company President Lisa Bernard said.

Businesses seeking to register as a local firm can find an application at www.howardcountymd.gov/LocalBusinessInitiative.htm.

HCEDA Issues Cyber Startup Bricata $250K VLT Loan

The Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) announced that it has issued Howard County-based cyber startup Bricata a $250,000 loan through its Catalyst Loan Fund.

The funding was acquired through the use of the Maryland Department of Commerce’s video lottery terminal (VLT) revenue from Maryland casinos. The Board of Public Works and the Maryland Department of Commerce, which administers the program, receives 1.5% revenue from the video lottery terminals yearly to be issued out as small business loans.

“Both Howard County and the state of Maryland have been instrumental in helping Bricata start and grow our business. The loan we received from the Catalyst Fund will help further our expansion through the acquisition of new office space in preparation to hire up to 30 new employees in 2017,” said Randy Stephens, COO at Bricata.

Bricata is a developer of network security solutions. It specializes in commercial-grade next-generation intrusion prevention solutions designed for multi-location and high-bandwidth deployments. Built on the advanced open source IPS engines Bro and Suricata, Bricata delivers solutions that combine signature-based detection with network and behavioral analysis.

Coastal Companies Cuts Ribbon on New Laurel Headquarters

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and officials from the Coastal Companies officially opened Coastal’s new 330,000-square-foot headquarters in North Laurel on July 27.

The new facility doubles the capacity of Coastal’s previous location in Jessup and will allow it to add 500 new employees in the next few years. The company currently employs slightly more than 1,000 workers, and worked with state and county officials, as well as the Howard County Economic Development Authority, to find its new headquarters site.

“They have done so much to help Howard County, so much to help Laurel, and you don’t find those kinds of companies all the time,” Kittleman said. “We couldn’t take a chance of losing them.”

Coastal broke ground on the location in 2014 and moved into the building this past May. The new facility hosts Coastal Companies’ operating divisions including Coastal Sunbelt Produce, East Coast Fresh, Cold Chain Logistics and Cold Chain Imports, as well as The Coastal Companies Foundation.

The Coastal Companies and its subsidiaries currently deliver to foodservice customers across six states and Washington, D.C. It was named one the 50 fastest growing companies in Baltimore in 2010 and 2011, and was honored in 2012 by Smart CEO Magazine as one of the 100 Best Run Companies in the Baltimore region.

HCEDA Awarded $3M in VLT Funding

The Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) has been awarded $3 million in Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) Funding to be issued as small business loans across the state during the next two years. The funding was awarded by the Maryland Department of Commerce, which receives 1.5% of the video lottery terminal revenue from Maryland casinos yearly.

“These loans have been very beneficial for businesses all across the state,” said Beth Woodring, vice president of finance and strategic initiatives. “Our target market for this program is broad, and the purpose is to provide access to capital for businesses that might otherwise be challenged to obtain funding on reasonable terms. Our program evaluates a number of factors, which means we can often support the startup and small business community.”

The HCEDA was designated a fund manager for the program starting in 2014 and has since approved 23 loans totaling $3.25 million to businesses throughout the state as part of its Catalyst Fund.

Small businesses all across the state are eligible to receive funding, not just those located in Howard County. Loan fund managers are required to loan 50% of the funds to businesses located within a 10-mile radius of any casino in the state and/or designated counties, but the other 50% can be loaned to qualified candidates anywhere across the state. Much of Howard County is located within the 10 mile radius of Maryland Live! in Arundel Mills. Other Maryland casinos are located in Baltimore, Ocean City, Cumberland, Perryville and soon, National Harbor.

A maximum loan term is five years, and interest rates vary based upon credit risk. Application processing time varies, but the key to quick processing is a complete, accurate data package. More information can be found at www.hceda.org/catalyst.