Home Blog

Pittman extends COVID-19 restrictions

0
Photo courtesy AA County Gov’t

Citing continuing high COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization numbers, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman signed a new executive order, reinforcing the restrictions put in place in December. Executive Order #41 includes several new provisions, including permitting outdoor “garden dome” seating for restaurants, allowing limited sports practices or skills sessions, additional contact tracing provisions and clarifying the Department of Health’s right of entry for inspections.

“When we announced restrictions in December, we promised to reassess in four weeks. Since that time, we have unfortunately seen case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths increase in our county and across the country and discovered a faster-spreading COVID variant in our community,” said Pittman. “We must keep these restrictions in place, and each one of us must continue making the personal sacrifices that will save the lives of our neighbors. At the same time, we are assessing the impacts of restrictions and adjusting where we can to protect jobs and quality of life without spreading the virus.

“This is the last, and most deadly, battle in our war against COVID-19 and the end is near. Our vaccination process is underway and hospitalization projections for the late January peak are nearing a level that is manageable. Let’s come together for these final weeks and win this battle decisively.”

On Jan. 12, Anne Arundel County reported a record seven-day average case rate of 64.9 cases per 100,000 residents. Hospitalizations due to COVID remain at or near record levels for both county hospitals. Modeling by Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests hospitalizations could peak in late January to early February. Therefore, Pittman is urging residents and businesses to keep up their resolve to weather the ongoing winter surge of COVID cases.

Executive Order #41 maintains the maximum capacity for restaurants, retail businesses and social clubs at 25 percent and religious facilities at 33 percent. Social gathering limits remain at 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors. Indoor ice rinks and roller rinks may now open at a maximum capacity of 25 percent, provided that masks are worn at all time.

The county’s winter sports season remains suspended, but the executive order allows sports practices and skills sessions, provided they are limited to a total of 25 participants outdoors or 25 percent of maximum capacity for indoor facilities, with no more than 10 people per activity at once. All coaches, participants and spectators shall wear face coverings at all times. Outdoor sports activities, fitness centers and indoor sports facilities shall maintain a log of all persons who participate in the activity or enter an indoor facility.

The executive order also expressly permits outdoor “garden domes,” which are stand-alone clear weatherproof domes designed to fit over and enclose a single dining table. Several local restaurants are using these structures to provide safe dining enclosures and the executive order now brings them into compliance with state and local regulations.

Finally, Executive Order #41 also reinforces the right of county health inspectors to gain access to facilities in order to conduct their official inspection duties. Any attempt to prevent that entry or inspection is a violation of the executive order.

Daily COVID health data is available on the Department of Health’s website: aahealth.org/daily-covid-19-data.

Allegiant flies to Punta Gorda

0

Allegiant Air will offer new nonstop service between BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Punta Gorda, Fla., beginning May 27. Allegiant’s new seasonal service will operate twice per week, on Thursdays and Sundays, between BWI Marshall and Punta Gorda Airport. Allegiant Air first started service at BWI Marshall in April 2016.

With the new Punta Gorda route, Allegiant will now serve six markets from BWI Marshall, adding to existing service to Sarasota and Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Asheville, N.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Knoxville, Tenn.

Vision Technologies reappraised at CMMI Level 3

0

Vision Technologies of Glen Burnie has been successfully reappraised at Level 3 of the new CMMI Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration for Services (CMMI-SVC) version 2.0. CMMI is a capability improvement framework providing organizations with the essential elements of effective processes that ultimately improve their performance. Vision’s practices consistently provide high-quality results using CMMI principles.

“CMMI validates Vision’s capability to deliver an outstanding, outcome-driven customer experience,” said Vision Vice President of Professional Services Pete Morneau. “It is also a testament to Vision’s 20-plus years and helps ensure our success on projects as we continue to experience rapid growth in response to increasing demand for our unique capabilities.”

ECD ready to renovate Hickory Ridge Place

0

 

Enterprise Community Development (ECD) closed on financing last month for the preservation and modernization of Hickory Ridge Place, an existing apartment community located at Hickory Ridge Road in Columbia.

ECD will soon begin the $37.4 million recapitalization and renovation with completion by December 2021.

Built in 1979, the three-story elevator building features 108 apartment homes comprised of a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The modernization program includes upgrades for both energy efficiency and improvements to enhance residents’ occupancy experience. Common areas throughout the property will also be renovated including the community rooms, fitness center and lobbies.

Three years ago, ECD acquired a portfolio of 43 properties from the Shelter Group, representing one of the single largest affordable housing preservation transactions in the country. Hickory Ridge Place is the second largest property in that portfolio and is the fourth property in the portfolio to be recapitalized, renovated and preserved.

“As housing affordability reached crisis proportions, ECD recognized that preserving these properties would be vital to our existing and future residents. With the recapitalization and refinancing of Hickory Ridge Place, ECD continues to fulfill its commitment to preserve the affordability and physical sustainability of each community,” said Brian McLaughlin, president and CEO of ECD.

Non-partisan commission to oversee redistricting​

0

Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new non-partisan citizen commission to remove partisan politics from redistricting and restore fairness and trust in the process.

For the past six years, Hogan has introduced the Redistricting Reform Act to stop partisan politicians from drawing district lines. Despite the overwhelming support of Marylanders across the political spectrum, partisan politicians in the legislature have refused to even give this common sense bill a vote.

Last year, Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved non-partisan redistricting reform. Hogan’s latest action breathes new life into the bipartisan and grassroots effort to bring these reforms to Maryland and to make sure that voters pick the politicians, not the other way around.

Grace to review 40 North proposal

0

Columbia-based W. R. Grace & Co. confirmed that it has received a revised proposal from 40 North Management to acquire all outstanding shares of Grace for $65 per share in cash, subject to certain conditions.

The Grace Board of Directors, consistent with its fiduciary duties and in consultation with its independent financial and legal advisors, will carefully review and evaluate the proposal to determine the course of action it believes is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. As part of this review, the board will consider the proposal in the context of the corporation’s ongoing review of potential strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value.

Hogan unveils $1B in relief for Marylanders ​ 

0

Gov. Larry Hogan is continuing to fight to provide tax cuts and economic relief directly to those who desperately need it the most, unveiling a major proposal targeted to Maryland working families, small businesses, and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Urging the economic recovery to be “the primary focus of the 2021 legislative session,” Hogan introduced the RELIEF Act of 2021 at a press conference earlier today. This emergency legislation would provide direct stimulus payments for low to moderate-income Marylanders, repeal income taxes on state unemployment benefits, support small businesses with sales tax credits, extend unemployment tax relief for small businesses, and safeguard Maryland businesses against tax increases.

Hogan is urging the Maryland legislature to pass this emergency legislation “as quickly as possible,” noting that “every day that goes by without passing this bill means that more businesses will close, more jobs will be lost and more people will suffer.

“I cannot imagine anything could possibly be more important for all Marylanders … amid so much suffering,” he said, “the last thing we should ever do is increase taxes.”

Women Entrepreneurs: Equity gaps don’t hold back start ups

0

Local women entrepreneurs are thriving, even though the playing field still favors men in many ways.

By some measures, Maryland is regarded as a state that supports women entrepreneurs.

Ranked by Zippia as the fourth most supportive state for women-owned businesses, Maryland is home to over 21,000 women-owned businesses that employ over 200,000 workers and bring in $32 billion in revenue.

These women’s accomplishments are even more impressive given that they have been reached in a world that still systematically still favors male entrepreneurs.

Aphaia Harper

“One of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs is accessing venture capital or loans,” said Aphaia Harper, strategic engagement manager for the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA).

The data on investment indicates a significant equity gap for women, agreed Wendy Bolger, founding director for the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Loyola University Maryland.

Wendy Bolger

Nationwide, women receive just seven percent of venture funds for their startups, according to research by Fundera updated in March 2020. Female entrepreneurs ask for roughly $35,000 less in business financing than men. Overall, men receive an average loan size of $43,916 while women receive $38,942.

“On top of that, inequality issues are significantly amplified for women entrepreneurs of color,” Bolger added.

Growing Expectations

Women entrepreneurs bring unique strengths to the table because many of them have been forced to navigate societal expectations placed on them simply because they’re female, advocates say.

Those expectations have grown bigger during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bolger.

“Parents have an extra burden managing remote schooling and keeping their families safe. There is so much new research emerging about how the bulk of that caregiving responsibility is going to women, even if both partners work,” said Bolger, noting that it disproportionately impacts women owned entrepreneurial ventures.

Though Bolger hasn’t seen as much research on caring for elders during COVID, she suspects women carry more of that responsibility right now too – even if they also carry the title of CEO or founder.

With the service sector hardest hit by COVID-19, women entrepreneurs are also bearing a disproportionate brunt because their businesses often gravitate toward personal services, healthcare, wellness and fitness, apparel and accessories.

“It’s likely that established women entrepreneurs are taking a bigger hit than male counterparts just because the sectors they most often work in have greater exposure or more vulnerability because they are public facing and service-oriented,” pointed out Bolger.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs

If women entrepreneurs face significant obstacles, they’re also even more inspiring for it, she added. “Women entrepreneurs, like any other group that has been marginalized, have developed added resilience and wisdom beyond their years.”

Harper agreed.

“I think women entrepreneurs are able to excel at wearing multiple hats,” she said. “Women are very resourceful and comfortable juggling different tasks.”

Dr. Tammira Lucas, co-founder of The Cube, Maryland’s first co-working space that focuses on helping parents and entrepreneurs, echoed her colleagues on women and multi-tasking.

“Women can actually grow businesses much faster than men – that’s because as women we know how to multitask,” she said. “What I do know is that men don’t have the pressure that women entrepreneurs do – especially if you add on being a mom entrepreneur.”

She added, “We have more responsibility than men. Society has always elevated the man.”

Heather Yeung, an attorney with Kagan, Stern, Marinello & Beard, LLC, who often offers legal advice to entrepreneurs, agreed that sometimes women must work harder to gain respect from potential clients.

Heather Yeung

“Especially in male-dominated industries like IT, construction, and government contracting, I think that women can be underestimated,” said Yeung. “What stands out to me almost universally about my female clients is their intuition about when they need to ask for help and when they don’t, the faith they put in me as a trusted advisor, and the ease with which they engage in teamwork.”

Women entrepreneurs have access to more resources than they did in the past. From Video Lottery Terminal Funds that assist small, minority, and women-owned businesses located in targeted areas surrounding six Maryland casinos, to roundtable discussions with policymakers, the voice of women entrepreneurs is slowly being amplified.

More Role Models

Young women entrepreneurs also have more role models than previous generations. There are 114 percent more women entrepreneurs in the U.S. than 20 years ago, according to Fundera.

“Plus, this is not a group who tend to complain about the challenges they face, or let the slights slow them down,” Bolger said. “But eventually, very successful women will hit the glass ceiling. Even if you are your own boss, funders and board members and others with power, often unconsciously, perform gatekeeping roles and the message will be sent that you are not what’s expected.”

Lucas pointed out that supporting women entrepreneurs means more than just throwing money at them.

“If you’re not educating but simply providing the money, it’s not going to help,” she said. “Some women entrepreneurs may receive money but they don’t have the technical assistance to take what they receive and strategically place it in their business. We have to be very intentional.”

Those who work closely with women entrepreneurs also emphasized the importance of mentors.

“Find mentors and co-conspirators who will both keep you fueled and keep you honest with yourself and in turn with your customers and staff,” advised Bolger. “Take care of yourself or else you will burn out.”

Remember why you are starting your venture and stay true to that vision or passion, she added. “Be a sponge and expose yourself to lots of new ideas and people but listen especially to what your future customers have to say,” she said. “To women in particular, I would emphasize be ready to delegate and give up control well before you think it’s time rather than carry a chip on your shoulder. Use the fact that you might be underestimated as a woman to your advantage!”

Yeung said that almost every woman she knows – including herself – confronts “imposter syndrome” or feelings of self-doubt.

“I think that the key to overcoming that is to recognize it and to talk about it,” said Yeung, who also serves as a board member of the Business Women’s Network (BWN) of Howard County. “Networking with other women is particularly helpful.”

Through both her role as an attorney and her involvement with BWN, Yeung said she’s constantly amazed by the confidence and drive of the women entrepreneurs she’s gotten to know.

“Each one inspires me in my own life and helps me to be a better advisor to other entrepreneurs,” she said.

“I wish that there were more women entrepreneurs out there and I wish that more of them participated in women-focused networking groups,” said Yeung. “My participation in business women’s networking groups has been invaluable to my development as a professional woman.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | January 2021 Issue

Arundel’s Pittman extends COVID restrictions

0

Citing continuing high COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization numbers, County Executive Steuart Pittman signed a new executive order on January 13 reinforcing the restrictions put in place in December. Executive Order #41 includes several new provisions, including permitting outdoor “garden dome” seating for restaurants, allowing limited sports practices or skills sessions, additional contact tracing provisions, and clarifying the Department of Health’s right of entry for inspections.

“When we announced restrictions in December, we promised to reassess in four weeks. Since that time we have unfortunately seen case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths increase in our county and across the country, and discovered a faster-spreading COVID variant in our community,” said County Executive Pittman. “We must keep these restrictions in place, and each one of us must continue making the personal sacrifices that will save the lives of our neighbors. At the same time, we are assessing the impacts of restrictions and making adjustments where we can to protect jobs and quality of life without spreading the virus.

“This is the last, and most deadly, battle in our war against COVID-19, and the end is near. Our vaccination process is underway and hospitalization projections for the late January peak are nearing a level that is manageable. Let’s come together for these final weeks and win this battle decisively.”

On January 12, Anne Arundel County reported a record seven-day average case rate of 64.9 cases per 100,000 residents. Hospitalizations due to COVID remain at or near record levels for both county hospitals. Modeling by Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests hospitalizations could peak in late January to early February. Therefore County Executive Pittman is urging residents and businesses to keep up their resolve to weather the ongoing winter surge of COVID cases.

Executive Order #41 maintains the maximum capacity for restaurants, retail businesses and social clubs at 25 percent and religious facilities at 33 percent. Social gathering limits remain at 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors. Indoor ice rinks and roller rinks may now open at a maximum capacity of 25 percent, provided that masks are worn at all time.

The county’s winter sports season remains suspended, but the executive order allows sports practices and skills sessions, provided they are limited to a total of 25 participants outdoors or 25 percent of maximum capacity for indoor facilities, with no more than 10 people per activity at once. All coaches, participants and spectators shall wear face coverings at all times. Outdoor sports activities, fitness centers and indoor sports facilities shall maintain a log of all persons who participate in the activity or enter an indoor facility.

The executive order also expressly permits outdoor “garden domes,” which are stand-alone clear weatherproof domes designed to fit over and enclose a single dining table. Several local restaurants are using these structures to provide safe dining enclosures and the executive order now brings them into compliance with state and local regulations.

Finally, Executive Order #41 also reinforces the right of county health inspectors to gain access to facilities in order to conduct their official inspection duties. Any attempt to prevent that entry or inspection is a violation of the executive order.

Daily COVID health data is available on the Department of Health’s website: aahealth.org/daily-covid-19-data. An updated Frequently Asked Questions document will be available shortly on the county’s Road to Recovery website.

Aldi, Lidl shaking up the grocery market

0

Two German companies are making inroads to the highly competitive grocery market.

Lidl’s first store in Maryland opened two years ago in Bowie.

Aldi and Lidl are challenging old guard stores like Giant and Safeway as well as Amazon, discount warehouses, supercenters, other retailers and scattered independent stores that target the right niche in a cut-throat industry.

Legendarily fierce rivals in Europe, Aldi and Lidl have largely flown under the radar in the U.S. While they’re rivals on this side of the pond, they’re still perceived as a double-threat in the domestic market that will drive the razor-thin margins of the industry down even more.

‘Down Market Cache’

Aldi recently reached a long-delayed goal when it opened store number 2,000 in the U.S. Of the 52 stores in Maryland, shoppers in can find an Aldi in Bowie, Columbia, Crofton, Hanover, Glen Burnie and Laurel.

Lidl operates more than 100 stores in the U.S. with 11 in Maryland, including Bowie, Brooklyn Park and just-opened Glen Burnie, with others under construction at The Mall in Columbia and in Annapolis.

Lidl reported 2019 revenues of $1.09 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF)/Kantar 2020 Hot 100 Retailers list.

Aldi, which “Progressive Grocer” estimates generated sales in 2019 of more than $15 billion, has been cited by various sources as a potential number one player in the market.

The fast growing grocer employs “a contrarian strategy of operating many of its stores close to Walmart Supercenters,” said Carol Spieckerman, founder and national retail consultant with Spieckerman Retail of Bentonville, Ark. “That exhibits confidence. Doing so ensures that its nondescript storefronts get noticed and allows Aldi to wick off traffic from Walmart.”

Those shoppers who are headed to Walmart “who would never have noticed Aldi before decide to stop in and from there, they’re hooked,” Spieckerman said. “Aldi shoppers feel smart for ‘discovering’ Aldi, [which] enjoys a down-market cache that keeps shoppers coming back.”

Aldi has a very aggressive branding strategy, as its private brands compete well against name brands, “not just as low-price alternatives to them. Aldi’s loyal customers come to its stores just for these brands,” she said, adding that it “stays on top of food trends by stocking gluten free, organic and plant-based options while offering gourmet and international foods that aren’t readily available elsewhere.”

Slimmer Shares

Still, Aldi is also not against selling direct knock-offs of famous brands. “There’s a real art to that shameless mimicry and Aldi has perfected it in packaging as well as beer and wine,” Spieckerman said.

And there are few personnel running an Aldi store.

“The company pays well and the workers are very skilled and tend to stick around. It’s all part of its highly efficient, non-union operating model,” she said. “Stores also feature ever-changing ‘treasure hunt’ aisles filled with merchandise you wouldn’t expect to see in a grocery store. You never know what you’ll find with its opportunity buys.”

Mark Millman, CEO of Millman Search Group, in Owings Mills, is impressed with the new comers.

“It’s a good concept and their local expansion means that the region’s market share is up for grabs,” he said.

Both companies, said Millman, are siphoning business away from the big U.S. players “by offering solid values and easy parking. Each operates thousands of stores throughout Europe and have also acquired valuable real estate,” he said. “They also have loyal followings similar to that of Trader Joe’s, which is what led to their dramatic expansions overseas. In Europe, it seems like they have a store on every corner.”

With bigger players like Giant, Safeway and Food Lion losing market share, Millman recalled a different time in the industry. “Thirty years ago, Giant owned the Baltimore-Washington market with 30 percent market share,” he said, “but not today.”

Not lost in the market where consumers can buy groceries anywhere from a warehouse operation to the Dollar Store are the independent operators, who often earn a living catering to niche markets.

“I think many more people are trying to eat organically,” said Zack England, store manager for the Gambrills location of David’s Natural Market, which also has a location in Columbia. “I think Aldi and Lidl will take some business away from the larger chains. We all compete but the circumstances are different for each store.”

England said the frequent customers at David’s “often have questions that pertain to our product lines, which are 100 percent organic or all natural. The other stores cater to more traditional products and typically have certain aisles set aside for the types of products that we sell, but not the whole store.”

Walmart No. 1

Even before COVID-19, “retailers like Target and Dollar General were laser-focused on upping their grocery game,” said Spieckerman, “[because grocery buyers] keep the flow of customers coming through the doors.

“The grocery departments help drive traffic to higher-margin discretionary categories and make it easier for shoppers to accomplish more in one trip,” she said. “Particularly of late, shoppers want everything in one place.”

The increasing variety of places to buy groceries is just another angle of the current change in food shopping.

“Aldi and Lidl are likely in the early stages of having a significant impact on the American grocery market, just as they have done in Europe,” said Scott Moses, managing director with grocery investment banking at PJ Solomon.

“Roughly one in seven grocery dollars in the U.K. is spent at an Aldi or Lidl store,” Moses said, “which is extraordinary given the competitive dynamics there.”

There are some equally-eye-opening figures in the U.S. market for alternative grocers. “Roughly 80 percent of sales at Dollar General and Family Dollar are the same food and consumables sold in supermarkets,” he said. “Together, they have a nearly $40 billion U.S. grocery business, as do CVS and Walgreens combined.”

He added that alternative grocers “account for far more U.S. grocery sales than traditional supermarkets,” Moses said. “For example, Walmart is the largest grocer in the U.S. with more than $200 billion in sales – approximately 25 percent market share and growing – particularly given their significant recent investment in online grocery to compete with Amazon, which has a rapidly-growing $40 billion U.S. grocery business.”

Maybe Not?

Cailey Locklair, CEO of the Maryland Retailers Association in Annapolis, expressed concerns about a shakeout in the industry.

“Grocers only have a 1-3 percent profit margin, so might yet more competition take some grocers out of the market? Absolutely,” she said, noting that Lidl has already moved into some empty Shoppers Food Warehouse spaces in Annapolis.

While some shoppers will move to Aldi or Lidl if they haven’t already, Locklair isn’t so sure that the expansion in Maryland will seriously alter the local landscape “as much as people think it will. The market is already saturated and most people don’t go more than a couple of miles out of their way to buy groceries.”

By Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | January 2020 Issue

Recent Posts