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Biz Roundup

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Merkle Acquires dbg, Partners With Tapad

Columbia-based Merkle has announced its acquisition of dbg, a United Kingdom-based, independent marketing solutions agency that specializes in optimizing client data to make connections to drive growth and improve marketing and business performance.

Launched in 2007, dbg specializes in the use and assimilation of first-, second- and third-party data, employing analytics and technology to create informed customer interactions that drive growth for brands. The company delivers expertise in database marketing, campaign management and marketing automation to a wide range of European and international clients, including Renault, Ted Baker, Center Parcs, RBS and VW. Dbg’s team of 140 experts will join Merkle’s Marketing Solutions Group, bringing Merkle’s total number of U.K.-based employees to more than 300.

This is the second in a series of planned European acquisitions, following Merkle’s 2015 acquisition of Periscopix, a London-based performance marketing and programmatic agency. Tim Berry, who formerly served as president of Merkle’s CRM solutions, will assume the role of president of Merkle Europe, driving the agency’s overall European growth strategy.

The company also announced a strategic partnership with Tapad, a marketing technology firm that provides unified, cross-device solutions. Leveraging Tapad’s Device Graph for cross-device identification, Merkle will help its clients to more effectively reach their end users’ devices and conduct performance marketing with a high degree of accuracy.

MDOT Supports Dual Stop MARC Option for Laurel

Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn has announced state support for maintaining the historic Laurel MARC Station on the Camden Line.

In a letter to Laurel City Council President Ed Ricks and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, Rahn said, “MDOT supports the ‘Double Stop’ option and is in agreement with the City of Laurel and Howard County that this option best serves the interests of all parties concerned.”

Under this option, the CSX stop on Laurel’s Main Street would stay open, and another stop would be located 2,500 feet away at the Laurel Park Transit Oriented Development site in Howard County. MDOT presented the dual stop option to CSX previously, but CSX does not favor the option due to the potential impact on its freight operations.

Ricks said he and City Councilwoman Donna Crary will meet with Kittleman to plan a future meeting with CSX officials to advocate for the dual stop option. “The state of Maryland has given us the third leg of what we need to make this happen,” Ricks said. “[Laurel Station] has been there 184 years, and we want to make sure it stays there.”

Ruppersberger Applauds Proposed Cybersecurity Plan in ’17 Budget

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger supports the White House proposal of a Cybersecurity National Action Plan that includes a 35% budget increase and a new, high-level official focused solely on implementing a cyberstrategy across the entire federal government. As former Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Ruppersberger has long advocated for a cabinet-level cyber position with budget authority because the threat is so severe.

“The President has proposed a solid framework,” Ruppersberger said. “For too long, each individual federal agency has been building and operating its own cyberdefense piecemeal, with varying degrees of capabilities and resources. We are all fighting the same adversaries and are stronger when we work together. I urge the president to give this new official real authority to drive change across the federal government and for Congress to fund these priorities.”

Ruppersberger also called on his colleagues to continue working on issues still unaddressed by the proposal, such as the “insider threat” posed by people within the government. This is especially critical in the wake of a data breech affecting more than 22 million current, former and prospective federal employees last June.

The cyber plan is part of President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, which requests a $19 billion increase in cybersecurity funding across all government agencies, including $3.1 billion to modernize outdated computer equipment that can expose the government to cyberattacks. Money is also allocated for improving cybersecurity education and hiring more experts to secure federal agencies.

Schuh Proposes Legislation to Forward Fund Crofton High, Cromwell Elementary

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has announced legislation to forward fund designs for the new Crofton Area High School and George Cromwell Elementary Revitalization capital projects.

“Accelerating school construction is a major priority of my administration,” said Schuh. “This legislation will help both of these projects become a reality in a shorter period of time.”

“Our school system continues to work collaboratively with the county executive and county council to improve the educational environment for all of our children,” said Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto. “The forward funding of these two projects would allow us to eliminate down time and continue forward movement on two projects that are essential to that goal.”

The legislation would increase the funding in the fiscal 2016 budget for the new Crofton Area High School capital project by $500,000, and George Cromwell Elementary School by $250,000. The increased investment will allow the current contractors, GWWO Inc. and HMC Inc., to continue with their survey and planning work. The forward funding would speed up the timetables for both projects.

All proposed funding would be subject to council approval.

Military Bowl Generates Nearly $17M in Economic Impact

The 2015 Military Bowl, which was held on Dec. 28 in Annapolis at U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, directly generated nearly $17 million for the Annapolis/Washington region, according to a report prepared by Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel County (VAAAC). In the three years that the game has been held in Annapolis, it has generated more than $47 million in direct economic impact.

“We are thrilled that the game continues to contribute so much to the regional economy,” Military Bowl President & Executive Director Steve Beck said. “Even with Navy participating in the game and a significant number of local attendees, our 2015 impact nearly matches the $17 million result from last year. This can be attributed in large measure to the outstanding job Pitt did in mobilizing its fan base. Also, we [spent] considerable time and energy planning events in Annapolis and Washington that will appeal to fans, and we know the support we receive from the local community is crucial.”

Using Destination Marketing Association International’s Event Impact Calculator, VAAAC determined that Military Bowl attendees accounted for $4.1 million in lodging revenues. Military Bowl fans also spent $3.3 million on retail, $3.3 million on recreation, $3.1 million on food and beverages and $2.6 million on transportation from Dec. 26–28. The event directly supported nearly 8,000 jobs and benefited the entire region.

“I was most pleased to see that flights from Pittsburgh to BWI Thurgood Marshall were sold out the day before the Bowl,” said Connie Del Signore, VAAAC president and CEO. “Many of the BWI hotels were impacted by the Annapolis-held game, resulting in a truly countywide event that benefited every resident in Anne Arundel County.”

For the record, Navy defeated Pitt 44-28 in front of a sellout crowd of 36,352. That number marked the largest attendance for a Military Bowl held in Annapolis, and was the second-largest overall attendance in the bowl’s eight-year history.

Former Food Products Salesman Sentenced for Felony Theft

A former food products salesman convicted last year of stealing more than $61,000 from his employer has been sentenced to 28 days in jail. Last April, Jun Sung Kim, 56, of the 5600 block of Faircloth Court in Centreville, Va., pleaded guilty to a single count of felony theft scheme before Howard County Circuit Court Judge Richard Bernhardt.

According to prosecutors, Kim was responsible for a sales territory in the Midwest, calling on restaurants and grocery stores that carried or used food products sold and distributed by Rhee Bros., a Hanover-based international food wholesaler and distributor. Among Kim’s duties was to collect payments owed to his employer from customers.

In March 2013, one customer called Rhee Bros. to dispute a claim that it was late on payments as indicated on account statements. A supervisor questioned Kim, who admitted that a series of 13 checks were paid directly to him and deposited in his personal bank account between August 2012 and March 2013.

At sentencing, Judge Bernhardt noted the reported development of an unspecified disease that is threatening Kim with blindness unless he completes out-of-state treatments. “It would be fully inappropriate to impose a sentence that would put his eyesight at risk,” he stated. The judge sentenced Kim to 360 days in jail, suspending all but 28 days and placed him on 11 months of unsupervised probation upon his release.

Howard County Holds Meeting to Discuss New Clarksville Post Office

A community meeting was held by Howard County in conjunction with the United States Postal Service (USPS) on Jan. 27 at Claret Hall, Clarksville, to discuss the possibility of reopening or building a new post office in the suburb.

Residents have inquired about reopening a USPS post office in their community since the former facility on Auto Drive closed in 2011. During Kittleman’s recent Town Hall meeting, residents explained to him that traveling 10 miles to the post office on Ellicott Center Drive, in Ellicott City — where they must go to retrieve mail and packages — is inconvenient and time-consuming.

About 85 people attended the meeting and were informed that it would take from one to three years to reopen a branch in Clarksville and that an existing structure is preferred, unless it’s in a new development. It would require a 5,000-square-foot space, with 40 parking spaces, and would also be more of a distribution point for packages.

Mayor Proposes Reorganization as Part of Budget Process

Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides has announced his proposal to reorganize and realign several city offices and departments in an effort to improve the efficiency of services provided to the citizens of Annapolis.

As part of the reorganization, Pantelides proposes to transfer the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs (DNEP) and its functions to several departments, including planning and zoning, public works and the police department. In turn, an Office of Environmental Policy would be created under the Office of the Mayor to oversee urban forestry, environmental grants, policy development and compliance coordination, among other matters.

Meanwhile, the office of Management Information Technology (MIT) will be directed by the city manager, rather than the finance director. This move will better reflect MIT’s mission as an office that works for all levels of city government and one that works with volunteers, businesses and residents.

Also, The Department of Human Resources (HR) no longer will remain a department, but will merge with the finance department and become the Department of Finance and Administration, which is an organizational model employed by many small to mid-size city governments. The proposal is to consolidate the human resources function and existing staff within the finance department to provide additional support and coordination in several areas, including benefit administration, payroll and workers’ compensation.

“There are several benefits associated with adopting this proposal,” City Manager Tom Andrews said. “Some of those benefits include making authority and accountability more direct and transparent, creating a more understandable government operation, streamlining permitting functions, establishing priorities and funding requirements in the budget, reducing costs and creating more efficient ways to deliver services.”