Howard County, Laurel Join Forces on MARC Station Issue

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has accepted a request from Laurel City Council President Ed Ricks to support city efforts to keep the Laurel MARC Station open. Both officials are expected to submit a joint letter requesting that CSX open a full station at Laurel Park and also maintain the Laurel station as a full-service stop.

“[This option] will serve as a major economic driver to Main Street, Laurel, and the surrounding region,” Kittleman said. “There is growing demand on both … sides of the border to service high density developments with access to public transportation options. This demand can only be met with the full operation of both stops.”

Ricks said he has made the same request of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, but has not yet received a response.

“Right now the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is looking more strongly at the split stop [option],” said Laurel Historical Society Member Karen Lubieniecki.

According to Ricks, MDOT has proposed bus service as a way to alleviate passenger inconvenience stemming from split stop operation. “I can’t see people standing around at the racetrack … waiting for the next bus to come through; we’re fighting to see that doesn’t happen,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say they’ve also given up on the footpath; for the $10 million that was proposed [for the path], they could build us a very nice parking garage.”

Kittleman Creates Local Business Initiative

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has signed an executive order establishing the Howard County Local Business Initiative. The order creates a process through which the Office of Purchasing will certify that businesses are local companies that maintain their principal place of business in Howard County. The initiative also encourages county departments and agencies to spend procurement dollars to support those local businesses whenever possible.

“Since taking office, I’ve hosted four town halls and met with numerous CEOs of businesses large and small,” said Kittleman. “They all ask for a fair chance to compete for county business. This is a common sense initiative. After all, our procurement dollars come directly from county taxpayers. By spending that money here in our county, we are supporting jobs, helping our neighbors and making Howard County more economically sustainable.”

The initiative is designed to accomplish the following:

  • It encourages county departments and agencies to select from certified local businesses when purchasing goods or services that cost less than $10,000.
  • It orders the Office of Purchasing to notify local businesses of solicitations for goods or services valued at $10,000 or more, as the Office deems appropriate.
  • It allows for solicitations conducted under the formal competitive sealed bid process to contain an evaluation factor for a local business, when appropriate, based on the goods or services being procured.
  • It encourages recipients of county grant funds to select from certified local businesses when using those grants to purchase goods or services.

In fiscal 2016, Howard County awarded $10.4 million in grants to community partners. Those grants support organizations that provide crucial support for a wide range of human services, including crisis intervention, family stabilization, emergency shelter and health services. In addition, the grants also support a variety of arts, culture and tourism efforts.

BridgePoint Healthcare Signals Interest in LRH

BridgePoint Healthcare, a for-profit hospital operator based in Washington, D.C., has initiated a dialogue with Dimensions Healthcare System (DHS) regarding the potential purchase of Laurel Regional Hospital (LRH).

DHS Spokesperson Erika Murray confirmed that her organization’s CEO, Neil Moore, received a letter of intent from BridgePoint on Oct. 8. The parties have not yet held any official discussions, and no official offer has yet been made.

At a Nov. 9 legislative listening session, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker announced that he had met with Laurel Mayor Craig Moe earlier that day to discuss the DHS decision to close LRH. “We’re going to put a workgroup together [to study the issue],” Baker said.

The Service Employees International Union (1199 SEIU), which represents hospital workers at the Laurel facility, provided transportation, lunch and an opportunity to witness DHS’s testimony regarding the issue before the Maryland House Health & Government Operations Committee on Nov. 19.

TCS Selected by DHS for Geo-Targeting Accuracy Research

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will sponsor TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), of Annapolis, for the second phase of research on the topic of “Constructing Algorithms That Utilize RF Cell Site Propagation Footprints for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).”

The research focuses on using area footprints associated with radio frequency (RF) coverage to improve geo-targeting granularity and accuracy for delivery of WEA messages. TCS, which performed the first phase of this study in 2014, is now partnering with ClearTalk Wireless to validate the phase one findings in a real-world carrier environment.

WEA, established by the WARN Act in 2006, is a voluntary national emergency alert system that is designed to deliver critical and emergency messages to the public. WEA messages include presidential emergency alerts, AMBER Alerts, and warnings of imminent national and local threats to life and property, such as natural and man-made disasters.

TCS partnered with ClearTalk Wireless to utilize the carrier’s mobile network. The eight-month study, which kicked off in June 2015, includes field-testing with the mobile operator to verify theoretical concepts in a real-world environment. The field-testing will not affect current ClearTalk Wireless customers or affect the carrier’s current WEA notification system.

“We share [DHS’s] commitment to advancing WEA and E911 services,” said TCS Commercial Software Group, Mobility Solutions Group, Vice President Keith Bhatia. “By successfully designing and testing our algorithm using cell RF propagation with commercial off-the-shelf software, we can improve emergency alert coverage and further protect the public from life-threatening events. ClearTalk Wireless is known for creating simple and affordable wireless solutions, and we are pleased to be working with them as we conduct the real-world environment analysis.”

Veteran-Owned Cyber Company Expanding in Howard County

VOR Technology LLC, a veteran-owned cybersecurity firm based in Columbia, plans to expand its workforce after receiving multiple contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense. To meet the growing demand for its services and cybersecurity expertise, the company anticipates creating more than 60 new jobs in the Fort Meade area.

To provide the company with the working capital necessary to fulfill its government contracts, the Maryland Department of Commerce (DoC) is providing a $50,000 loan through the Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program. The funding will help the company finance equipment upgrades, including computer hardware and software, which will be used to train new employees.

“There is an invisible war being fought in cyberspace, and many individuals don’t know it’s happening until they are impacted,” said Anthony Lawrence, founder of VOR Technology. “This loan program will provide additional funding in our efforts to use innovative, unconventional software and hardware solutions to protect commercial and military communications.”

The company’s three worksites in Maryland currently support more than 20 government contracts, including managing cyberintelligence solutions, geographic information systems, cloud computing and more. The Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program was created in 2006 and is administered by the DoC in consultation with the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs.

JPB Capital Partners Sells The Greene Turtle to Stone-Goff Partners

JPB Capital Partners, a Columbia-based strategic equity investor in lower-middle market consumer-related brands and services, has sold its majority ownership of The Greene Turtle Franchising Corporation (GTFC) to Stone-Goff Partners.

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, founded in Ocean City in 1976, combines comfort food, a casual atmosphere and a sports bar theme. JPB acquired a majority interest in the company in 2007; at that time, The Greene Turtle operated 11 stores in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Today, the company operates and franchises 41 stores in five states and the District of Columbia, and has entered into multiple franchise development agreements for an additional 50 stores in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York in the coming years.

“We were very fortunate to have partnered with the original founders of GTFC to help drive the brand’s growth and expansion of its geographic footprint,” said Greg Carey, JPB managing director. “With the work of Bob Barry and the rest of the GTFC management, The Greene Turtle has developed into a regional brand and a strong growing enterprise. With new franchise development agreements in place, a strong foundation of leadership, an existing base of committed franchisees and strong brand equity, the company is well positioned for significant future growth.”

“The Greene Turtle has experienced tremendous change in its format, menu and execution since our partnership with JPB. It’s been a pleasure working with the entire JPB team to establish the Turtle as a leading-restaurant chain throughout the mid-Atlantic region,” said Bob Barry, Greene Turtle CEO. “We now look forward to our new partnership with Stone-Goff and to continue to see the brand grow and succeed.”

Hopkins School of Medicine, Microsoft at Work on ICU Project

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is involved in a collaboration that has resulted in plans for The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Microsoft to work together to redesign the way medical devices in an intensive care unit (ICU) “talk” to each other.

The two organizations plan to develop a health information technology solution that collects data from different types of monitoring equipment and identifies key trends aimed at preventing injuries and complications that can result from medical care.

The idea stems from The Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality’s research on checklists to reduce infections and its innovative pilot program called Project Emerge. The program uses technology to restructure a hospital’s workflow in an effort to eliminate the most common causes of preventable harm and promote better patient outcomes. While most efforts to improve safety focus on one harm, Project Emerge seeks to eliminate all harms, including medical complications, such as blood clots and pneumonia, as well as emotional harms, like a lack of respect and dignity.

“Today’s intensive care patient room contains anywhere from 50 to 100 pieces of medical equipment developed by different manufacturers that rarely talk to one another,” said Peter Pronovost, senior vice president of patient safety and quality for Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Armstrong Institute. “We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to bring interoperability to these medical devices, to fully realize the benefits of technology and provide better care to our patients and their families. By combining teamwork with technology designed to meet patients’ and clinicians’ needs, we can make care safer, less expensive and more joyful.”

Johns Hopkins and Microsoft plan to scale the project quickly, with pilot projects estimated to begin in 2016. APL, The Armstrong Institute and the University of California, San Francisco, collaborated on the project to develop and test the initial prototype; the initial build of Project Emerge was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

2016 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Baltimore District Office is accepting nominations for the successful small-business person who might become Maryland’s Small Business Person of the Year for 2016 and compete for the national title during National Small Business Week, which will be held from May 2-6, 2016.

Nominees are also being sought for Small Business Champion and Special Award categories. This year’s program features a new streamlined process and financial statements are no longer required.

Small Business Person of the Year nominees will be judged on a variety of criteria, including staying power, growth in employment and sales, innovation of product or service and evidence of contributions to the community; Small Business Champion awards are presented to persons who have used their professional or personal talents to further the public’s understanding and awareness of small business.

Champion award categories include: Financial Services, Home-Based Business, Minority in Business, Veteran in Business, Women in Business, Accountant Champion, Insurance Champion and Attorney Advocate. Special award categories include the Family-Owned Small Business award, Entrepreneurial Success, Small Business Exporter and Young Entrepreneur. The Maryland program accepts nominations for individuals or businesses operating within the City of Baltimore and all Maryland counties, except Prince George’s and Montgomery. All nominations must be received by the SBA Baltimore District Office no later than 3 p.m. EST on Jan. 6, 2016.

To obtain nomination criteria and submission guidelines, visit www.sba.gov/md or contact Rachel Howard at 410-244-3337 or rachel.howard@sba.gov.