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Kittleman Announces Energy Initiatives to Benefit Residents, Businesses

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has announced a pair of environmental initiatives that will provide incentives for residents and businesses seeking to make their properties more energy efficient. The bills were pre-filed with the county council on Dec. 23 for consideration by the council in January.

The first initiative will extend the Residential High Performance Building Credit. Signed into law in December 2011 and set to expire June 2017, this program provides credits up to $5,000 annually to homeowners who have invested in a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification as established by the U.S. Green Building Council or equivalent home. The credits are paid over a four-year period. Since its inception, dozens of Howard County homeowners have participated, and the county has awarded $293,000 in credits.

“This program was due to expire in mid-2017,” said Kittleman. “A number of homeowners would have seen their credits disappear before receiving the full four-year benefit. We are protecting them and their investments. We want to continue to make this opportunity available to others and ensure that all applicants receive their full benefit.” With this change, applications will be accepted through April 1, 2017, and credits will be awarded through 2022.

The second initiative will implement the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing program in Howard County. Approved by the state legislature through enabling legislation, PACE provides a mechanism for commercial, industrial and multi-family properties to make energy efficiency improvements or implement renewable energy projects and finance them over 20 years as an additional assessment on their property taxes.

PACE will allow commercial property owners to secure no-down-payment, low-interest loans from private lenders. The loans are repaid to the county as part of property tax payments. The county then forwards the payment to the lender to satisfy the loan. The program is administered with minimal cost to the county.

Bay Bancorp, Hopkins Bancorp Sign Definitive Merger Agreement in $23.8M Deal

Columbia-based Bay Bancorp, the parent company of Bay Bank; and Hopkins Bancorp, the parent company of Hopkins Federal Savings Bank, have jointly announced the execution of a definitive merger agreement.

The agreement provides for the acquisition of Hopkins by Bay Bancorp for cash in a deal valued at approximately $23.8 million after giving effect to a $16 million cash dividend that Hopkins Bancorp proposes to pay to its stockholders prior to the closing. The merger consideration is subject to adjustment based on Hopkins’ tangible book value as of the closing, which will be calculated after deducting all of Hopkins’ transaction-related expenses.

Bay Bancorp, with assets of approximately $475 million on Sept. 30, 2015, serves entrepreneurs, private real estate investors and professionals in the greater Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area through 11 locations. Hopkins, with assets of approximately $242 million on the same date, serves customers located primarily in the Baltimore metropolitan area, with a branch and offices in Pikesville, and a branch in Baltimore City.

The combination is expected to create a $700 million banking institution serving one of the largest, healthiest and fastest-growing markets in the nation. The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Bay Bancorp’s fully diluted earnings per share in 2016 and 2017. The merger, which is subject to regulatory approval, is anticipated to close in the second quarter of 2016.

“We are pleased to announce the combination of Bay Bank and Hopkins Federal Savings Bank. Hopkins has a rich legacy in the Baltimore community and a talented group of seasoned bankers. We are excited about the opportunities this merger will bring to expand on the Hopkins customer relationships with the council of Alvin M. Lapidus as our anticipated new chairman emeritus,” said Joseph Thomas, president and CEO of Bay Bancorp. “We also look forward to engaging Hopkins’ professionals in the mortgage business to enhance the growth of Bay Bank Mortgage. This transaction epitomizes our entrepreneurial strategy of growing within our existing markets both organically and through acquisition.”

WCC’s Louder to Relocate to South Carolina in 2017

The West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce (WCC) announced that Claire Louder, president and CEO, will be stepping down effective the end of 2016. She will continue her transition as a consultant to the organization for the first quarter of 2017.

“Claire has provided outstanding leadership for the chamber. She has dramatically changed the footprint and reach of the West County Chamber. Under her leadership, the chamber has doubled in membership and expanded the staff to provide better member service. Claire’s passion and vision has helped the chamber truly become a leading advocate for business as the area experiences exponential growth,” said Randy Fisher, board chairman and managing partner of the Fisher Law Office, Annapolis.

During the past nine years, Louder has helped jumpstart the long-stalled development of the Odenton Town Center and most recently worked with a team of developers to provide comprehensive revisions to the Odenton Town Center Master Plan. She also chairs the Maryland Live! Casino Local Development Council, which recommends budget allocations for the $16 million provided annually to the county by Maryland Live! Casino’s operations. Louder is also a charter member of the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council.

The impetus for the move was finalized when her husband, Dr. David Louder, a hospital administrator, accepted a new position in Charleston, S.C., as chief of the Medical University of South Carolina Health Clinically Integrated Network (MUSC Health Alliance).

Schuh, Pantelides Highlight City/County Transportation Partnership

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides have highlighted an increased regional transportation effort between the City of Annapolis and the county.

“Our Annapolis area workforce and small businesses are not bound by the city-county border,” said Schuh. “A strong bus system in this area will ensure that we can continue to help grow our county economy.”

“The additional money will help us continue to provide quality transit services in the Capital City,” Pantelides said. “When I took office, I made it a priority that these residents would have a dry place, out of the elements, to wait for Annapolis Transit Buses. I inherited a city that did not have enough bus shelters for our citizens, so we added an additional 10 shelters last year, installed 44 new bus shelters this year and have four remaining shelters which are expected to be installed by the middle of January 2016.”

The fiscal 2016 Anne Arundel County budget increased funding for Annapolis City’s transit bus system by $250,000, which represents an almost 180% increase from the fiscal 2015 budget.

Annapolis City transit bus stops that benefit Anne Arundel County include the following:

  • Annapolis Mall
  • Annapolis (Parole) Towne Center
  • County Heritage Complex
  • Annapolis West Street Library

With 41% of bus miles being located in the county, the regional bus service crosses county lines frequently. Forty percent of bus stops, 28% of shelters and approximately 26% of the system’s bus ridership is from the county. This increased effort between the city and county on transportation is in addition to the recently announced economic development partnership in September and utility agreement in November.

Annapolis Receives Positive Ratings for Revenue Bonds

Three bond rating agencies have assigned positive ratings for the city of Annapolis’s first-time revenue bonds. The city will be issuing a total of $44.5 million dollars in bonds, both tax-exempt and taxable. The goal of the revenue bond issuance is to restructure the majority of the city’s water and sewer capital projects, which are currently backed by general obligation bonds.

“These revenue bonds create a very strong foundation by establishing reserve requirements that will offer the water and sewer funds more operational flexibility, and allow the utility funds to build reserves for the future,” Mayor Mike Pantelides said.

The restructuring will allow the life of the bonds to equal the expected life of the capital projects. When the utilities pay for capital projects based on the life of the project, it benefits the rate payer by creating intergenerational equity and financial flexibility. This allows the residents to pay for their share of the debt service now, paying only for what they use.

“Given this is the first time the city has issued revenue bonds, I am very happy with all three agencies’ ratings,” Finance Director Bruce Miller said. “Annapolis and Baltimore are the only two municipalities in Maryland that have been authorized to use revenue bonds, and getting such high marks with no track record speaks to the strength of our credit.”

The following ratings have now been assigned by the three leading bond rating agencies:

  • Moody’s: Aa3
  • Fitch: AA-
  • Standard & Poor’s: AA-

BGE to Collaborate With Power52 to Help Low-Income Customers Go Solar

In an effort to provide low-income Baltimore area residents with access to renewable energy sources, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) is seeking to develop a community solar facility. With this development, BGE would be able to offer an innovative bill assistance program to program participants.

The company estimates participants could save approximately $28 a month on their electric bills. BGE is requesting approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to move forward with the project, which would be constructed and maintained by Power52, a recently-formed company based in Maryland.

Power52 was established to develop renewable energy projects that reduce the cost of energy for low-income communities and families. “Working with BGE on this community solar initiative will help educate people on how to reduce their energy bills,” said Rob Wallace, the company’s president and CEO. “This project will also provide construction jobs and long-term employment opportunities, which is part of our mission,” said Ray Lewis, the former Baltimore Raven and Pro Football Hall of Famer, who is a founding partner and vice president of Power52.

While more than 10,000 BGE customers currently participate in rooftop solar energy, only a small percentage are customers with low incomes. If the proposed community solar facility is approved and completed in 2016, customers will be able to begin participating in the bill savings program in early 2017.

Kittleman, Fox Pursue Elimination of Watershed Protection, Restoration Fee

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and County Councilmember Greg Fox have announced a plan to phase out the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fee, also known as the rain tax, over the next two fiscal years. The fee will be cut in half in fiscal 2017, and eliminated in fiscal 2018.

“We have a responsibility to our children to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and we can do that through alternative funding,” said Kittleman. “I’ve always said the rain tax created an unnecessary and excessive burden on the residents of Howard County, and particularly small businesses. … I am announcing a fiscally responsible blueprint to eliminate it.”

The administration’s plan will be accompanied by a financial assurance plan that details how the county will maintain funding of its stormwater management program during the phase out period. The county will utilize a variety of sources, including monies from the General Fund, the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund, and government obligation bonds.

The county estimates the fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 costs of administering the stormwater program to be about $19 million and $21 million, respectively. In fiscal 2017, the county will use General Fund and the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund revenues to absorb all of the operating and some of the capital costs. General obligation bonds will be used to fund the additional capital costs. In fiscal 2018, the county will use general fund revenues to fund operating expenses, while using the bonds to fund capital costs.

Video of the news conference can be found at https://youtu.be/CP86jQWGSYM.

Comtech to Acquire TCS for $430.8M

Comtech Telecommunications Corp. and TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), of Annapolis, have announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement, under which Comtech will purchase TCS in a cash transaction for $5 per TCS share, or an approximately $430.8 million enterprise value.

The key strategic benefits for Comtech, of Melville, N.Y., include more diversified earnings; reduced volatility associated with challenging international business conditions, including emerging markets; and entry into commercial markets, including public safety, which has a growing need for next generation emergency 911 systems. It also enhances Comtech’s position with existing customers, which establishes the company as a prime contractor on several U.S. government contracts, including becoming the prime contractor for sale of its over-the-horizon microwave systems products.

Stanton Sloane, president and CEO of Comtech, said, “We are excited to have reached this agreement with TCS and believe this combination is beneficial to the stakeholders of both companies. TCS is a unique business and a leading provider of mission-critical C4ISR solutions and next generation emergency 911 services to leading cellular and VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] providers. The acquisition is a significant step in our strategy of entering complementary markets and expanding our domestic and international commercial offerings. We welcome TCS’s senior management and talented workforce to the Comtech team and are excited about the future.”

Maurice Tosé, president and CEO of TCS, said, “The TCS board of directors and management believe this strategic combination with Comtech is compelling and provides significant benefits for our stockholders, customers and employees. Our customers will benefit from greater resources and more diverse product offerings, and our employees will benefit from being part of a larger, more diversified company.”