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Hunt to retire as head of LHC

Stacie Hunt will retire as president and CEO of Leadership Howard County (LHC) on June 30 after 20 years in the position. Under Hunt’s guidance, LHC redesigned the organization’s leadership development programs, including the flagship Leadership Premier program and introduced Leadership Essentials, a program for emerging leaders.

In addition, LHC expanded opportunities for high school students through Leadership U.

Hunt helped lead LHC through two strategic plan redevelopments to solidify the organization’s vision for the future and ensure its sustainability. The organization moved into new offices in Columbia and celebrated three milestone anniversaries under her direction.

Hunt graduated from LHC and joined as executive director in 2002. She also chairs the grants committee for the Horizon Foundation and serves on BGE’s Howard County Local Advisory Council, the Howard County Public School System Superintendent’s Program Innovation Advisory Board and Howard Community College’s International Education Advisory Board.


Ball commits $2.4M for health care worker critical staffing

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has committed $2 million to the Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) and $400,000 to the Howard County Health Department in American Rescue Plan funding. The $2.4 million will address critical staffing needs at both organizations amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

The funding support for HCGH comes as hospitalizations are expected to reach new heights amid the surge fueled by the delta and omicron variants. From mid-December to early January, HCGH saw a 411 percent increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. According to the Maryland Department of Health, Howard County’s current positivity rate is nearly 30 percent, with an average of 165 cases per 100,000 residents.

Just one month ago, the county’s positivity rate was just under 4 percent, with a case rate of approximately 10 per 100,000. HCGH currently has 63 COVID-19 patients in Acute Care and the ICU, compared to seven COVID patients a month ago.

Ball allocated the $400,000 to the Health Department during the holiday break, citing the phenomenal efforts of the staff to set-up testing, contact tracing, vaccination clinics, and the need to continue addressing other public health needs of the community.

The Ball Administration has provided more than $24 million in federal relief dollars to support private and public workers across industries. Ball allocated more than $12 million in hazard pay, straight time and overtime for county public safety workers, staff on the front line of the pandemic and members of the health department.

Last month, County Executive Ball also committed $8 million to Howard County Public School System educators and $2 million in ARP funding to provide retention and signing bonuses for school bus drivers.


HCGH activates Crisis Standards of Care

Johns Hopkins Health System and Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) leaders have announced that the hospital will implement Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) protocols. This is the second hospital in the Hopkins System to implement CSC; on Dec. 29, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (JHBMC) transitioned to CSC.

Since mid-December, HCGH saw a 411 percent increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. JHBMC had seen a 360 percent increase in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 last week.

Johns Hopkins Medicine has worked with the University of Maryland Medical System to standardize the process for activating CSC.

To meet the growing demand for the care and safety of patients with COVID-19 while caring for patients with other medical needs, Hopkins hospitals have already opened additional treatment spaces for patients with COVID-19, rescheduled elective surgical procedures and redeployed staff to ensure that patients with COVID-19 and those dealing with other medical conditions are receiving safe, high-quality care.

Changes under CSC protocols will allow additional flexibility in:

  • Advance different clinical care models
  • Further modify elective surgical schedules
  • Simplify documentation requirements
  • Redeploy clinical and nonclinical staff
  • Improve patient flow through measures such as early discharges, when safe and appropriate

Merkle debuts contactless shopping products at CES

Merkle, of Columbia, unveiled two new contactless shopping products in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Scan & Know and UnboxIt are the world’s first app-free in-store and on-delivery contactless shopping experiences, available exclusively from Merkle.

Scan & Know empowers shoppers to know more in store with its amplified assistance and product recognition technology. UnboxIt is a smart packaging content platform that connects with shoppers out of the box.

The patent-pending products leverage innovative digital technology and will be the newest additions to ShopNXT ― Merkle’s collection of retail innovation products focused on helping brands create intelligent shopping experiences, increasing loyalty and sales. ​Scan & Go, Merkle’s patent-pending, app-free contactless payment technology that was announced at CES 2021, completes the current ShopNXT suite of products.

Scan & Know and UnboxIt are slated to debut during the “Shop But Don’t Touch” panel discussion featuring Val Vacante, director of strategy, product innovation at Merkle. The session will explore how contactless technology and experiences are helping retailers and consumers establish a sense of safety around in-person shopping.

During the past 18 months, many consumers have turned to online shopping, however, consumers still desire the in-person element of shopping and are exploring it in new ways. Seventy-eight percent of US smartphone users will not download an app to continue a transaction and $98 billion a year is left on the table.

With Scan & Know and UnboxIt, retailers can bring their customers the best of both worlds, blending personalized, connected, contactless experiences in-store and upon arrival.


GCOM acquires ASR Analytics

GCOM, of Columbia, has acquired ASR Analytics, a leader in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and advanced analytics for federal, state, and local governments, as well as higher education institutions.

ASR is GCOM’s seventh acquisition since 2018 and its second in the data analytics space.

The acquisition supercharges GCOM’s ability to support its government clients by embedding AI/ML into its suite of services and SaaS solutions. ASR has a strong track record of deploying solutions that are “AI first,” leveraging analytical models to detect fraud, automate workflows and improve customer experience.

RevHub, ASR’s enterprise tax analytics platform, will be a new addition to GCOM’s product line-up. RevHub uses natural language processing and behavioral analytics to uncover insider threats, identify potential noncompliance, and predict how legislative changes will affect revenue.

The comprehensive solution optimizes revenue capture strategies, helping governments secure the funding needed to deliver vital services and improve community outcomes. In addition to expanding GCOM’s capabilities in fraud and tax analytics, the acquisition broadens ASR’s hybrid cloud offering for Student Success Analytics, which provides a complete lifecycle view of student enrollment, equity and outcomes for higher education institutions.

The partnership also creates a new federal practice at GCOM, to be led by ASR Founding Principal Michael Stavrianos. ASR has proven success developing data-driven solutions for federal agencies, including The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and The Department of Veterans Affairs.


Howard seeks nominees for environmental awards

The Howard County Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services has announced that nomination forms are available for its fourth annual “Business Recycling and Waste Reduction” and “Green Community Leadership” awards. Deadline for nominations is 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11.

The Business Recycling and Waste Reduction Award recognizes Howard County businesses for their efforts during the 2021 calendar year. The Green Community Leadership Award recognizes a Howard County-based community group or organization that demonstrates efforts, projects or programs that help protect Howard County’s natural environment and preserve its resources. This award is open to community groups and organizations that are based in Howard County.

Nomination forms are available online at www.workgreenhoward.org. All nominations must be delivered or postmarked by 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11 to: Kaitlyn Harvey, Recycling Coordinator, 9801 Broken Land Parkway, Columbia, MD 21046, or emailed to kaharvey@howardcountymd.gov.

Awards will be presented at the 15th annual Howard County GreenFest on Saturday, April 9, at Howard Community College.  For more information, or to request a nomination form in an alternate format, contact the Bureau of Environmental Services at 410-313-6444 or email help@howardcountyrecycles.org.


MariMed to acquire Kind Therapeutics

MariMed, a multi-state cannabis operator, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Kind Therapeutics U.S.A., a vertically-integrated cannabis business in Maryland, for $20 million. The transaction will result in the third state, incremental to Massachusetts and Illinois, in which MariMed will have acquired a licensed cannabis business it manages and assisted in developing.


Kind, which holds cannabis licenses for cultivation and production as well as a provisional license for a dispensary, currently leases from MariMed subsidiary Mari Holdings MD a 180,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility, in Hagerstown that MariMed developed; Mari Holdings also owns and is developing a dispensary for Kind in Annapolis, which is slated to open in early 2022.

The acquisition will further represent MariMed’s implementation of its strategic growth plan to consolidate the multiple state cannabis businesses it organically developed and manages.

Under MariMed’s management, Kind has been successfully manufacturing and distributing cannabis and cannabis products into Maryland’s robust wholesale cannabis industry, which has grown to 103 dispensaries.

“I am pleased to announce our agreement to acquire Kind, which operates in one of the top medical cannabis programs and markets in the country,” said Bob Fireman, CEO of MariMed. “This acquisition will deliver another transformational year for MariMed in 2022, building on two consecutive years of more than 100 percent cannabis revenue and Adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) growth.”

In addition, MariMed will acquire the minority interests of one of the current owners of Kind in two subsidiaries of the company that own cannabis facilities in Maryland and Delaware for $2 million.

Maryland’s legal medical cannabis program currently has more than 139,000 registered patients and, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the state receives more than 200 applications for medical cannabis cards every day. Maryland’s medical cannabis program was on pace to generate more than $500 million in sales in 2021.

According to Cowen Research, with a population of 6.2 million, Maryland’s medical cannabis program boasts some of the highest rates of registered medical consumers, incidence usage and spending, on a per capita basis, among all legal medical cannabis programs in the U.S. The state legislature is reviewing proposals to implement an adult use cannabis program in the future.


Hogan announces key department appointments

Photo courtesy National Governors Association.

Gov. Larry Hogan has hired former Maryland Secretary of Commerce Mike Gill has been named secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, succeeding Secretary Kelly Schulz; has named Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Executive Director James Ports, Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), succeeding Secretary Greg Slater; and named William Pines, MDTA’s chief engineer, succeed Ports as MDTA’s executive director.

Gill is chairman of Columbia-based Evergreen Advisors, which was his role prior to serving as Maryland’s secretary of commerce from 2015 to 2019. He has four decades of experience in business, which includes founding Hoyt Capital, an investment and advisory firm serving startups and growth companies. He served as a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents from 2004 to 2009.

As MDTA’s executive director, Ports oversees all of the state’s toll facilities and the E-ZPass Maryland system. Prior to his appointment as executive director, Ports served as MDOT’s deputy secretary under two administrations. He previously served as deputy administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and chief executive officer for Harford County’s transit system.

Pines has served as MDTA’s chief engineer since 2019. He has contributed to significant regional endeavors such as the District Department of Transportation’s selection committee for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge Replacement and an ongoing National Cooperative Highway Research Program panel for the evaluation of suspension bridges.

Slater has accepted an opportunity in the transportation industry out of state. Each of these appointments are effective Jan. 11.


WalletHub: Columbia No. 1 for job seekers

Columbia ranked no. 1 on WalletHub’s list of Best Places to Find a Job out of 182 U.S. cities that were analyzed across two key dimensions: job market and socioeconomics.

The job market category encompassed opportunities and employment growth, while socioeconomics category examined median annual income and average commute time.  Columbia ranked first place for socioeconomics and second for job market.

Rounding out the overall top 10 were Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Portland, Me.; and Austin, Texas; followed by Orlando; Seattle; Scottsdale, Ariz.; San Jose, Calif.; and Nashua, N.H., respectively.

The list comes as American workers are leaving their jobs at record highs in what is sometimes referred to as The Great Resignation. In November, 4.5 million people walked off the job, according to the United States Department of Labor (USDOL). The surge in quitting in recent months may be an advantage for job seekers, as it has led to more job openings and given workers leverage to seek better pay and working conditions.

In Maryland, the state gained 8,400 jobs and the unemployment rate decreased to 5.4 percent in November – the lowest rate since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic ― also according to the USDOL. In the same month, Maryland added jobs more than twice as fast as the rest of the U.S.


Arundel distributing rapid at-home COVID-19 tests

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health (DOH) announced plans for the distribution of 200,000 rapid at-home COVID tests, including an allocation of 100,000 for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).

The remainder will be distributed through a variety of equity-based channels, to help provide kits to residents and communities that have faced barriers to accessing kits through traditional means.

Through the partnership with AACPS, the county will provide 100,000 tests, to be distributed to students, teachers and staff throughout the system. AACPS is ordering and reimbursing the county with 100,000 tests, to help ensure it meets its original goal of providing 200,000 total tests out through community distribution points.

The remaining 100,000 tests the county will receive this week will be distributed through a variety of equity- and client-based channels, including libraries, faith-based organizations, DOH Health Ambassador partners, senior centers, homeless shelters, food pantries and other organizations.

While tests are distributed, county officials continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible to protect against the spread and effects of COVID-19. To schedule an appointment, visit www.aacounty.org/covidvax.


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