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Howard County to host veterans resource fair

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The Office of Veterans and Military Families (OVMF) and the Commission for Veterans and Military Families will host a Veterans Resource Fair on Monday, April 8 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Howard Community College, in the Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Building, 4th floor.

All veterans and their families (active, guard, reserve and dependents) are invited to attend. Admission is free.

“More than 20,000 veterans reside in Howard County and this is an opportunity to provide them with a convenient, one-stop shop where they can talk face-to-face with the organizations and nonprofits that provide services, support and jobs,” said Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive. “We appreciate their selfless service and sacrifice for our country and we value them as members of our community.”

Ball is leading an initiative to collect donations of suits and professional attire, and distribute them free of charge, to assist those engaged in the job search process. Donations of new or gently used professional clothing may be dropped off through April 3 at the Department of Community Resources and Services, 9830 Patuxent Woods Drive in Columbia, at the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City or to Success in Style/Phil’s Closet, 8600 Foundry Street #4 New Weave Building in Savage, MD.

Also new this year, the fair will offer attendees access to free medical screening by Premier Health Express Urgent Care, a Warrior Centric Health Clinic, including blood pressure and biometrics; glucose check; dental screening; and medical and physical therapy consultations.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will offer on the spot eBenefits registration and claim status. Other participating government agencies, non-profit and veterans service organizations, include:

  • Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) Veteran Benefits Specialist
  • Fort Meade Transition Assistance
  • Blue Star DC Chapter
  • Fort Meade ACS Employment Readiness
  • Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center
  • Maryland Legal Aid
  • VA Maryland Health Care System
  • Vet Artists Connect
  • Melwood/Operation Tohidu/Ready4Work
  • Howard Community College
  • Baltimore Veteran Center
  • Howard County Library System
  • HoCo Workforce Development
  • Military Corps Career Connect
  • Hero Dogs
  • Serving Our Willing Warriors (SOWW)
  • Veteran Curation Program
  • Project Opportunity
  • Team Rubicon
  • Office of Human Rights
  • Travis Manion Foundation
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans
  • American Legion Post 156, VFW 7472 and Marine Corps League
  • Howard County Commission on Veterans and Military Families
  • Success in Style/Phil’s Closet

Entertainment will be provided by Voices of Vets, a non-profit organization which brings live music to veterans residing in veteran homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.

Governor Larry Hogan has declared 2019 as the Year of the Veteran in Maryland to raise awareness of the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families. More than 380,000 veterans live in Maryland.

A sign language interpreter for people who are deaf or hard of hearing will be available if requested seven working days prior to the fair. Please call the Department of Community Resources and Services at 410-313-6400 (voice/relay), between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about the Resource Fair or the Office of Veterans and Military Families, contact Lisa Terry at 410-313-0821 (voice/relay).

Federal contracting business update

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There is good news and there is bad news in recently passed and proposed laws affecting all federal contractors. For small businesses, the good news is that now, as signed into law on Dec. 17, 2018, the period for measuring the size of a business by annual revenues or number of employees has increased to five years from the previous three years.

This helps small businesses that have seen recent dramatic growth by taking the average of the last five years to determine if they stay small or transition to a large business, resulting in a longer period of time before growing into a large business status.

Other business changes resulting from the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include increasing the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000 (from $3,500) and the simplified acquisition threshold to $250,000 (from $150,000). Current HUBZone maps are also frozen to Jan. 1, 2020, allowing those businesses located in a geographic area designated as a HUBZone to remain as such instead of being affected by an earlier change.

The rest of this article considers proposed changes, those in the decision-making process before becoming a regulation or law.

The House’s proposed VA-SBA Act intends that all service-disabled and veteran-owned small businesses would no longer be verified as veteran-owned by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) but move responsibility to the Small Business Administration (SBA) thus eliminating the self-certification process for those companies.

The Small Business Administration has itself proposed significant rule changes affecting small business issues. These are proposed changes, not yet a law or regulation and include the following considerations:

Disaster areas: Federal agencies would take a double credit towards their small business goals when they award contracts for services or products to a small business with a primary office located in the affected area and performing work in that same area.

Set-aside within a set-aside: For the type of very large contracts called Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts awarded as total small business set-asides, the SBA has made a complete about face in policy by proposing to allow agencies to conduct a further task-order set-asides designated for veteran, 8a certified, HUBZone or women-owned companies.

This creates the possibility of a small business that has no additional certifications as mentioned above to be ineligible to compete on task orders issues under that IDIQ in which they invested considerable time and effort to pursue and win.

Limits on subcontracting: Additional prime contractor reporting requirements are proposed to improve compliance monitoring; independent contractor vs. employee status is clarified; rules affecting travel, media buys, cloud computing and environmental remediation issues are all recommended.

As these current and proposed rules and regulations affect most federal contractors whether considered large or small businesses, it is important to engage appropriate legal counsel to fully understand the business ramifications.

 

Gloria Larkin is president and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets.

New Art Education Collection to Launch at HCLS Central Branch

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Howard County Library System (HCLS) will launch a new Art Education Collection on Saturday, March 23 as a signature component of HCLS Central Branch. The new initiative is integral to HCLS’ mission to promote art and cultural education for all, and create greater access and exposure to art within the community.

Designed to foster a learning environment that both inspires and supports aspirant, amateur and professional artists, the new collection includes framed artwork (prints and photographs) available for borrowing. Each artwork is accompanied by information about the artist, the piece, and tools to inspire conversation.

The nearly 300 item collection contains diverse visual styles and themes, and features artists such as Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Ernie Barnes, Charles Bibbs, Paul Cezanne, Mark Rothko, and Pablo Picasso. Featured within the collection is the Images of Howard County Collection by the late Columbia resident and photographer Donald Reichle. An avid photographer of historic buildings and structures around Maryland, Reichle documented historic buildings throughout Howard County including a number of buildings along Main Street Ellicott City. Reichle generously donated his Images of Howard County to Howard County Library System in 2012.

The framed artwork is packaged in protective, easy to transport bags. The collection is only available at HCLS Central Branch, and customers must be 18 years of age or older to borrow artwork. Customers may only borrow two items from the collection at any given time for a four-week period. The artwork cannot be reserved or renewed.

Special activities are planned on Saturday, March 23 from 10 am to 2 pm at HCLS Central Branch to celebrate the Library’s reinvigorated focus on the importance of art and the premier of the new educational collection.

The selection of available art can be viewed in the catalog at hclibrary.org.

2019 Session – CMC Legislative Tracker

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We are working hard on your behalf! The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) and its Legislative Committee are very active this legislative session. Below is a tracker of the bills we are actively working to support or oppose. As you will see, we have already done a lot of your behalf, but there is still more to be done. The CMC will continue to fight to make sure we have a business-friendly environment that allows your business to prosper and grow without overly burdensome regulations!

Visit this site to see status updates.

How ‘happy’ is it to be in Columbia?

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WalletHub has ranked its happiest cities in America based across three key dimensions – emotional and physical well-being, income and employment, and community and environment – and analyzing 31 key indicators, ranging from depression rate to income growth.

Since you’re wondering, Columbia came in at No. 74 of the list of 182 locales; Washington, D.C., was ranked No. 51 and Baltimore was No. 161.

Pittman launches planning effort

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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has announced a new strategy to guide the county’s General Development Plan. The new strategy includes shifting the composition of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to representatives of Anne Arundel County’s neighborhoods and communities, launching the process with a day-long workshop managed by a leading national consultant and creating a more robust community visioning process.

“We’re putting the ‘citizen’ back in the Citizens Advisory Committee and we are fulfilling our promise to create a community-driven process that starts with neighborhoods,” said Pittman. “Our new CAC has community representatives from each of the county’s former 16 Small Areas, and none are people whose livelihoods depend on developing land. Instead, we selected people capable of bringing their neighbors together to get engaged in the process. Developers and environmental advocates have at-large seats to ensure that their voices are heard, and we are bringing in outside experts who know best practices in smart growth planning.”

The Citizens Advisory Committee will be chaired by Elizabeth Rosborg, of the Arnold Preservation Council, who was previously on the CAC convened in mid-2018 under the previous administration. Five other previous members of the CAC are continuing their service, but the majority of the new committee is comprised of community leaders who applied in February, when Pittman re-opened the application process.

In addition to the members representing each of the county’s previous Small Area Planning districts, the committee has five at-large positions. These positions are held by Rosborg as chair, Melanie Hartwig-Davis as a representative of the environmental community, one spot each for the residential developers and the commercial developers; and finally, Old Mill High School student Sofia Wahlla, representing the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.

Along with the launch of the new committee, the county’s Office of Planning and Zoning updated the GDP timeline and outlined a greater community engagement effort that includes a visioning process to begin in the spring. That effort includes a kick-off and public education workshop scheduled for April 13 and Small Area Plan outreach sessions to follow in May. The county plans to work with national experts from nonprofit organization Smart Growth America to plan and conduct that meeting.

The new proposed timeline estimates that the General Development Plan would be introduced to the County Council in the spring of 2020. After adoption of the GDP, the Administration will initiate the comprehensive zoning process. The administration plans to consider comprehensive zoning legislation on a community scale, similar to the former Small Area Plan districts, beginning in July 2020.

More information about the CAC and the strategy and timeline for the GDP can be found at www.aacounty.org/departments/planning-and-zoning/long-range-planning/general-development-plan/index.html.

 

Nelson Hockey, Black Bears partner

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The Maryland Black Bears of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) have established a partnership with Odenton-based Nelson Hockey, the umbrella organization that includes the Metro Maple Leafs Youth Hockey organization, to create an alliance designed to benefit elite players through greater engagement with the Black Bears players and coaching staff.

The new deal calls for Jr. Black Bears teams to play in the Chesapeake Bay Hockey League in the Upper A or AA Divisions. Tryouts for the new teams begin April 27, at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena, Odenton.

“Sharing the building with the Maryland Black Bears, an NAHL team with highly-skilled players and coaches, sets our program up for success,” said Nelson Burton, director of Nelson Hockey and former Washington Capital. “The Maryland Jr. Black Bears will be competitive with the right players, coaches and interaction with the Maryland Black Bears organization.”

“The foundation of our fan base is built on hockey families,” said Robyn Remick, president of the Maryland Black Bears and Team Maryland of the Eastern Hockey League. “The brand we are building for our teams is incredibly complimentary to the organization Nelson Burton has built. Our players and coaches will continue to spend time with the Team Maryland youth programs in Rockville, and now we’ll have a second channel of local players to work with more intensively.”

Ball signs MOU for Innovation Center

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), for the Gateway Innovation Center in Columbia. The center is being launched to serve as a nexus of resources for innovation and small, minority, woman, and veteran-owned business creation and support.

The 920-acre Columbia Gateway Innovation District, the center itself will occupy nearly 50,000 square feet. The industry sectors the center will focus on include: cybersecurity technologies, health care IT and medical technologies, agricultural technologies and government solutions providers.

The goal of the center will be to provide programmatic platforms to support and grow new and existing businesses and create access to capital. This programming will include the following, among other opportunities.

● Business Incubation featuring the current Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
● Focused efforts for small, minority-, woman- and veteran-owned business
● Home of the Howard Tech Council, the largest regional tech council in Maryland
● The Catalyst Loan Program, which is specifically targeted for small, minority woman and veteran owned business funded by VLT proceeds
● Co-working, featuring collaborative work space
● Innovation labs in collaboration with national partners
● Collaboration with academia to include Technology Transfer-University System of Maryland, The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Loyola University in Maryland and Howard Community College

“We left Silicon Valley, but this is our new Silicon Valley,” said Theresa Dessaso of the Howard County-based Trimia. “Let’s go do it, let’s solve some big problems.”

Dragos acquires NexDefense

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Hanover-based Dragos Inc., provider of asset identification, threat detection and response platform and services, has announced the acquisition of Atlanta-based NexDefense, a provider of industrial controls system (ICS) visibility technology. As part of this announcement, the company also introduced today Dragos Community Tools, a set of free assessment tools to help organizations of all sizes around the globe forge the path forward towards comprehensive ICS security.

NexDefense further developed and sold Integrity, a tool originally funded by the United States Department of Energy and developed as “Sophia” at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). NexDefense was one of the earliest and most well-known ICS security companies in the space. This acquisition further supports the company’s mission of safeguarding civilization by making ICS security tools and knowledge readily accessible to the ICS security community.

“Dragos is committed to safeguarding civilization, and central to this mission is finding ways to provide tools and resources for the entire community,” said Robert Lee, CEO and founder of Dragos. “With the acquisition of NexDefense, we can provide a free asset identification tool specifically for operators looking to start with situational awareness and enable continuous asset monitoring capabilities, thereby helping move our entire community closer to the next level of maturity in security against cyber threats.”

Dragos Community Tools provide organizations with free asset identification capabilities, an important first step to effective threat detection and response. This is especially important in ICS environments, as they can contain thousands of assets – many potentially unknown to industrial organizations – with interconnected communications. The tools include both the NexDefense product Integrity, as well as Cyberlens, an assessment tool developed by current Dragos team members before founding Dragos Inc.

Coming to grips with problem gamblers

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A gambling court has been established in Nevada. That’s new, but it’s an idea that obviously could have happened many moons ago.

The establishment of the court made national news and immediately got some gears churning around the United States. With the continued inroads the gaming industry is making nationwide, might gambling courts start to pop up elsewhere?

There is no such court in Maryland – the state’s District Court confirmed that the judiciary does not have a gambling treatment program – but could it happen here, too?

Maybe. Judge Cheryl Moss, the presiding judge in Clark County, Nev., has already been “talking to people in Seattle and the state of Louisiana.”

Going Nationwide

While Moss said “it’s early to tell how many cases we’ll get,” in Clark County, it won’t be a surprise if it’s busy: An estimated 142,000 adult Nevada residents, ages 18 and older, are problem gamblers, according to the state’s only problem gambling prevalence study, which was conducted in 2017.

Nevada has had the diversion program since 2009, said Jennifer Roberts, associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “What happened is that some observers felt there were inconsistent applications and allowances for the program, so now they use it in the confines of a specialty court,” which is much like drug or veteran’s court, she said.

The difference, Roberts said, is the program is now being applied within a designated court, and will be overseen by Moss.

“To my knowledge, this is the only gambling court program in the country. We now have gambling in 40 states and that decision [to follow suit] will be up to each one,” she said, adding that a “more uniform application” will help stem problem gambling.

The Home Front

In Maryland, Travis Lamb, general manager of Live! Casino, in Hanover, offered the organization’s stance on identifying and assisting problem gamblers. “Every member of our staff is trained each year to recognize problem gambling and how to offer assistance,” he said.

“If a customer requests information about the program or wants to voluntarily sign up, we facilitate the process with Maryland Lottery officials on site,” he said. “There are signs and brochures available at every customer service location” and “notices are posted on ATMs and ticket redemption machines.”

The casino also has signage posted at all entrances/exits, as well as digital messaging on every slot machine and electronic table game position; in addition, the Responsible Gaming Committee reviews the policies and procedures set forth by the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, which oversees the casinos.

With Maryland a fairly recent addition to the gaming industry, would the adoption of a gambling court be a good idea?

“Yes,” said Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), in Washington, D.C.

Gambling court “has been proven highly effective,” he said, noting that the first was in Amherst County, N.Y., from about 2001-10, when Judge Mark Farrell (now retired and an NCPG board member) presided over the program.

How effective was it? “None of the 250-300 people who went through his court during that period reoffended,” said Whyte. “They were more likely to pay back money owed and, since they received treatment, had much better financial and family relationships.”

A system such as a court, assessment or something similar, would be a good idea, especially for first-time offenders,” said Mary Drexler, program director with the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling, in Columbia, which estimates that 150,000 state residents have a gambling problem.

“Though [Clark County] recently got the new court up and running, the legislation in Vegas passed in 2010, and will be held in Friday sessions of family court only,” said Drexler, adding, “I think you’ll see other states follow suit. That way, people who are addicted can get help early, not after total devastation” of their finances, careers and families.

Spread the Word

The news from Nevada was timely, too, as March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. “It helps to increase awareness of the resources that are available for problem gamblers and their families,” said Drexler, pointing out a help line, no-cost treatment – regardless of insurance – and no-cost assessment, with peer support recovery specialists who are themselves in recovery.

In March, she said, the center will market its services by broadcasting PSAs, and via billboards, social media, www.helpmyproblemgambling.org and 1-800-GAMBLER. Working with the National Alliance for Mental Illness’s state chapter is part of the equation, as is the voluntary self-exclusion program offered by the Lottery.

Drexler said that the light at the end of this tunnel doesn’t always flick on on its own.

“Often with substance abuse or mental health, as well as financial difficulties, we try to tie in treatment of gambling disorders with other addictions,” she said. “Problem gambling wasn’t recognized as a separate addiction until 2013, so we are only recently understanding it as a separate issue.

“Gambling addiction is easy to hide and thought to be invisible,” she said. “You can often see when someone’s drunk, for instance. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to stop gambling until it’s too late.”

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