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Grace to Separate Into Two Public Companies

Columbia-based W. R. Grace & Co. has announced that its board of directors has approved a plan to separate into two independent, publicly traded companies. The two companies, to be named prior to closing, will be “New Grace,” composed of Grace’s Catalysts Technologies and Materials Technologies business segments (excluding the Darex packaging business); and “New GCP,” composed of Grace’s Construction Products business segment and the Darex packaging business.

The separation transaction is intended to be a tax-free spin-off to Grace shareholders for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months.

“Grace has created significant shareholder value by focusing on our customers, driving innovation and growth and executing a disciplined capital allocation strategy,” said Fred Festa, Grace chairman and CEO.

“Our board and management team continuously evaluate strategic options to create value, and after a comprehensive review, determined that this separation is in the best interest of the company and our shareholders,” said Festa. “The time is right to create two strong, independent companies that will benefit from improved strategic focus, simplified operating structures and more efficient capital allocation.”

Kittleman Approves Budget Reductions to Close Fiscal ’15 Shortfall

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman approved budget reductions needed to close a $15.8 million shortfall in this year’s operating budget.

“We need to balance the budget, as required by county law,” Kittleman said. “We’ve worked closely with all department heads to do this in a way that has the least amount of negative impact on residents. Taking these steps now will head off more serious consequences later this year and in subsequent fiscal years.”

In December, Kittleman requested recommendations from county departments to reduce their current budgets by 5% to close the shortfall, caused by less-than-expected income tax revenue and lower than expected revenue from recordation taxes on real estate transactions. After reviewing the reduction proposals submitted by all departments, Kittleman and county budget staff created the savings plan, which impacts the second half of fiscal 2015, running through June 30.

Significant savings will be achieved by postponing the filling of vacant positions, as many as 100 across all departments. Vacant positions in public safety and other critical services are exempt from the hiring freeze.

The savings plan also eliminates multiple one-time purchases that would have been funded by previous fiscal year surpluses (or PAYGO funded initiatives). Expenditures for a pilot street lighting conversion program, computers, office equipment, non-critical staff training and other non-essential items will be eliminated or delayed. The plan avoids furloughs and layoffs in the county workforce, and does not impact mandated cost-of-living increases and step increases for county employees.

AAMC Aims to Bring Cardiac Surgery Program to Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) is working to bring a cardiac surgery center to Anne Arundel County, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine. As it stands, Anne Arundel County is the largest county in Maryland (with a population of 550,000-plus) without a cardiac surgery program.

AAMC filed a Certificate of Need application with the Maryland Health Care Commission to gain approval to develop a cardiac surgery program. The commission must grant approval of the application before cardiac surgery is available to the community served by AAMC.

“Anne Arundel Medical Center is nationally recognized in heart care. Our experts perform thousands of cardiac-related procedures every year,” said Jerome Segal, M.D., medical director of the Heart Institute at AAMC. “We offer a wide range of quality heart services, from prevention and diagnosis of heart disease to interventional cardiology procedures and rehabilitation. The missing link is heart surgery.”

The Heart & Vascular Institute at AAMC saw 20,000 patients in fiscal year 2014. In addition, the hospital performed more than 1,000 cardiac catheterizations and 500 electrophysiology procedures.

Local Indie Western ‘Day of the Gun’ Garners National Distribution

One-Eyed Horse Productions, of Jessup, has announced the acquisition of national distribution of the independent western “Day of the Gun” with Monarch Entertainment. The feature was written and directed by Anne Arundel County native Wayne Shipley.

Established in 1989, Monarch Home Entertainment bills itself as a “proven distributor and valuable marketing partner to filmmakers and producers of exceptional independent films.” A division of Ingram Entertainment, Monarch is the largest wholesaler of prerecorded DVDs in the United States.

Set in 1890s Montana, “Day of the Gun” revolves around a conflict between widowed ranch owner Maggie Carter (LaDon Hall) and cattle baron Cyrus McCall (Jim Osborn). The tension escalates into a range war when McCall threatens Maggie’s survival as a rancher by putting up a barbed-wire fence.

Shot in Maryland and Montana, “Day of the Gun” features veteran actor Eric Roberts as Abraham Tanner, who returns from Maggie’s shadowy past to help settle a score. A nominee for 13 Indie Capitol Awards, “Day of the Gun” had a limited theatrical engagement at the new Sun Valley 6 Cinema, in Glen Burnie, to coincide with the DVD release.

Howard County Graduation Rates Continue to Outpace Statewide Trends

Howard County students earn high school diplomas at significantly higher rates than their statewide peers, according to data released by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

At 92.85%, the graduation rate for the Howard County Public School System Class of 2014 cohort exceeds the 86.39 Maryland average by 6.46%, and shows a notable jump — 2.21 percentage points — since just four years ago, when the graduation rate for the HCPSS Class of 2011 was 90.64%. The statistics reflect data for the cohort of students graduating within four years after entering high school.

Graduation rates among specific student groups, including African-American and Hispanic students, were especially encouraging. At 87.11%, the graduation rate for African-American students is well above the Maryland average of 80.54%, and 6.16% above their HCPSS Class of 2011 peers. The 86.94% rate for Hispanic students shows an increase of 8.18% since 2011 and well exceeds the 77.5% 2014 average for the state.

“The fact that rates for specific student groups, including African-American and Hispanic students, are rising faster overall reaffirms our Vision 2018 strategies for helping every child thrive through relevant, rigorous instruction and personalized learning,” said Superintendent Renee Foose.

HCPSS dropout patterns echo the graduation rate trends. The four-year adjusted cohort dropout rates decreased from 2011 to 2014 for students overall and among nearly all student groups. At 4.04%, the dropout rate for the Class of 2014 cohort decreased 1.89% between 2011 and 2014, and is less than half the state average of 8.35%.

Lime Kiln Middle Students Win National App Competition

A group of students from Lime Kiln Middle School, in Fulton, is among eight middle and high school teams that are Best in Nation winners in the third national Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

The all-girls student team came up with an app concept called VolunteerMe that provides information about volunteer opportunities in their school or community.

The winners were selected from more than 1,099 app concepts submitted. “This whole experience is surreal. It really taught us to never give up,” said the members of the team, which includes Annie Larkins, Jessica Zinderman, Korie Scott, Lauren Hayden and Rebecca Li. “We would have missed a once-in-a-lifetime experience if we didn’t follow through. Volunteering is an important part of our lives, and we want it to be important for others too.”

Best in Nation teams earned their schools $20,000 in cash grants from the Verizon Foundation to further develop or support STEM-related programming. Each team member received a Samsung tablet, courtesy of Samsung Electronics America.

Ironmark Adds Division With Acquisition of United Book Press

Ironmark has announced the acquisition of a $13 million book and journal publisher based in Baltimore, United Book Press (UBP), creating a separate book publishing division for the Annapolis Junction-based printing and image company. With the acquisition, Ironmark will grow from $22 million in annual revenue to $35 million.

Founded in 1989, the family-owned UBP serves a customer base of publishers, trade associations, foundations, professional societies, colleges and universities, government agencies, corporations and self-publishers.

UBP will remain at its 80,000-square-foot facility in Woodlawn and operate under the name United Book Press, a division of Ironmark. Ironmark has placed Rich Day as vice president of operations of UBP to oversee the daily activities of the company.

“This is a strategic acquisition that allows us to introduce our suite of printing and marketing services to UBP’s existing customer base,” said Scott Hargest, Ironmark president, “and UBP’s web printing and book bindery capabilities are also a nice complement to our existing offerings.”

The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves by Ironmark, which relocated and rebranded last year.

Peak Mobile Bandwidth per User to Increase Fivefold by 2018

Peak period mobile bandwidth consumption per user is expected to increase five-fold during the next three years, according to a recent Mobile Broadband Bandwidth Demand study conducted by ACG Research and sponsored by Hanover-based Ciena Corp.

Service provider backhaul networks are plagued with growing bottlenecks due to increasing device penetration and an abundance of new entertainment services and applications, like video streaming, social networking and multi-player gaming. The study looks at peak period mobile bandwidth requirements (bits per second), rather than total data usage (bytes per month), in order to provide the bandwidth projections that are needed to help service providers plan network capacity.

By forecasting users’ expected bandwidth demand in comparison to service providers’ current backhaul capacity, the study predicts that the typical macro cell capacity requirements will rise from 260 megabits per second (Mbps) today to 1.5 gigabits per second (Gbps) within five years. This equates to 1,000 users streaming a movie or live sport event at 1.5 Mbps on their smartphones simultaneously.

To handle this level of growth, networks need to have sufficient backhaul capacity to accommodate the plethora of new devices, data and applications, as well as varying and often unpredictable traffic patterns. An optimized, agile mobile backhaul solution supporting 10 Gbps to the macro cell tower will be essential to alleviate this projected bandwidth and ensure the expected quality of experience.

Bon Secours Launches Good Help Connections

Marriottsville-based Bon Secours Health System (BSHS) announced the creation of a wholly-owned, taxable subsidiary corporation for the purpose of better serving communities by helping partners execute on and optimize the use of electronic health records (EHRs) to improve care and reduce costs.

The new company will provide Bon Secours ConnectCare implementation and support services, including offering the EPIC record and other third-party vendor applications that make up the Bon Secours EHR system, as well as related advisory services to other health systems.

The goals for this new company, named Good Help Connections, include building an integrated and transparent record to support population health management, expanding ability to serve its communities and improve the integration of care delivery among providers, and building strategic partnerships to support other health systems, among others.

“Good Help Connections will provide application implementation and support services both to BSHS and to other health systems that share in Bon Secours’ vision of higher quality care for our communities at a lower cost,” said Dr. Marlon Priest, chief medical officer for BSHS. “Good Help Connections may also hold intellectual property developed and owned by BSHS, such as software code for various order sets and interfaces.”

Maryland Launches Online Business Personal Property Return Service

The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) recently announced the ability for businesses and tax preparers in Maryland to submit annual business personal property returns online.

The Business Personal Property Return Filing Service is the latest addition to Maryland’s Central Business Licensing and Registration Portal (CBL Portal), which was created to make it easier to conduct business in Maryland. Businesses and tax preparers can access the portal via www.maryland.gov or by visiting www.egov.maryland.gov/easy to file their personal property return with SDAT.

Fliers register for an account, enter the required information and upload documents, and then submit payment.Registering for an account allows users to save their filing information to reference year after year. Tax preparers also can file multiple returns for different customers under one login. The online system accepts all major credit cards, with immediate filing confirmation once the filing has been submitted.

A Maryland personal property return must be submitted by April 15 for all businesses that are incorporated, qualified or registered to do business in the state. The state fee for filing business personal property returns in Maryland is $300 for most legal entities.

Board of Education Approves Fiscal ’16 Budget Request

The Howard County Board of Education has approved an Operating Budget Request for the 2015–16 school year totaling $776.3 million. The amount requested represents a reduction of $4.4 million from the superintendent’s budget request.

The $4.4 million reduction primarily reflects reductions to the budget amounts originally proposed for building maintenance, contributions to the Employee Health and Workers’ Compensation funds, office supplies, conference travel and temporary wages.

No reduction was made to the $11.5 million allocated to cover the salary increases agreed upon in negotiation last summer. The budget also includes $3.6 million in funding for 68.8 new educators and materials needed to serve the 1,645 additional students expected in fiscal ’16. The costs associated with the increase in enrollment are not covered by Maintenance of Effort, which is the amount that the county is required by state law to fund, based on prior year enrollment.

The board will submit its budget request to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman by mid-March.