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HCC unveils collaborative learning spaces


In time for the fall semester, Howard Community College (HCC) celebrated the reopening of its newly renovated Academic Commons and Howard Hall with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 19.

At approximately 107,204 square feet, the two buildings now feature modern classrooms, innovative laboratories, and learning spaces specifically designed with collaboration in mind.

“What makes this project stand out is that these buildings will serve so many of our students … who cannot wait to start opening their own restaurants and event planning businesses, to those who dream of [working on] an ancient archaeological dig, or joining the Howard County Police Department, teaching children in Howard County’s elementary schools, or serving as a counselor to families in crisis,” said Kate Hetherington, HCC president. “All of these students will find their academic home here … [as well as] a vibrant student life and academic support and enrichment.”

The features of the Academic Commons include instructional support spaces for the social sciences and teacher education areas, including an anthropology undergraduate research lab, early childhood education and teacher labs, and a mock trial room for criminal justice courses.

The Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Turf Valley Resort Hospitality and Culinary Suite not only features state-of-the-art kitchen equipment, but also provides a production kitchen that will provide students with the opportunity to cook and learn hospitality skills in a future student-operated restaurant.

Structured Support

At the Nicholas B. and Mary C. Mangione/Lorien Health Systems Simulation Suite in Howard Hall, continuing education students training to become certified nursing assistants or seeking advanced patient care skills can do so in a dedicated space with modern beds, equipment and training dummies.

Additionally, Howard Hall includes the Clare E. McHugh Honors Commons that brings together all the college’s honors programs in one location and provides space for Howard P.R.I.D.E. and Silas Craft Collegians.

“We’re an academic support and mentor program for minority men of color … but we are inclusive to everybody,” said Terrell Bratcher, coordinator of the Howard P.R.I.D.E. program. “We pay particular attention to developmental math, college level math and the sciences, and plan on using this space for students to get away from the lab area and have their own space to work, study or have one-on-one interaction.”

Silas Craft Collegians assists member students looking to improve or maximize their academic potential through personal coaching and academic support, said Jarrell Anderson, the program’s director, serving approximately 75 students each year in three different cohorts.

The Academic Commons, meanwhile, feature two specialized early childhood and elementary education classrooms equipped with the same smart technology that teachers are expected to use in the Howard County Public School System.

“These were all fairly dated spaces before,” said Laura Cripps, a professor of Anthropology who oversees HCC’s Anthropology Undergraduate Research Lab where students frequently assist the Maryland Historical Society with excavations and surveys and conduct archaeological research.

Real World Classroom

HCC’s culinary and hospitality programming gets a major boost from a uniquely designed teaching environment that will also benefit people outside the program.

“In our A la Carte Production program, culinary students will learn the functions of a restaurant kitchen while we’re running a dining room class for hospitality students in the front of the house at the same time,” explained David Milburn, coordinator of HCC’s Baking and Pastry Program. “I can teach you how to make a hamburger, but it’s a thoroughly different world when you’ve got tickets coming in fast.”

The student-run operation will eventually provide a sit-down, waitered lunch option for faculty, other students and special college guests several days a week, delivering real-world experience to students while they learn.

Nearby, HCC’s new specialized Baking Kitchen is the result of five years of planning and consultations with designers and architects. Forward-thinking amenities include go-pro cameras inside large demonstration mixers to provide good widescreen views to everybody attending a lecture and four streamlined workstations providing three-person teams with dedicated pots, pans, appliances and utensils to minimize unnecessary trips across a busy teaching kitchen.

Students will have access to some of the most modern commercial equipment on the market in all areas of the kitchen.

The baking program’s unpaid support staff includes 120,000 honeybees occupying four hives on campus, which are expected to yield about 30 pounds of honey this year. According to Milburn, any leftover honey would be donated to a food pantry, with some of it being sold to help fund culinary student scholarships.


“As a former instructor here … I have seen first-hand how the programs at HCC impact the lives of its students and uplift all of Howard County for our residents,” said Boyd Rutherford, Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor, who was on hand for the ceremony. “[They] give our residents the skills to be successful in our 21st century economy and contribute to a vibrant community.”

The Academic Commons and Howard Hall project began in fiscal year 2015, with Howard County and the state of Maryland sharing the $43.4 million cost of renovation.

“It’s a testament to how community colleges are changing and evolving with the times,” noted Clarence Lam, Maryland State Senator for District 12, adding that enrollment has skyrocketed since the recession. “We’re up to almost 30,000 current students … and are looking at about 40,000 students by 2030. With the rough economic waters we’re seeing, enrollment may continue to increase.”

Moreover, he said, a growing number of older workers are interested in retooling their skills or are looking to HCC for additional programming or hobbies.

“It is clear that we are not celebrating just the physical building of these structures,” said Liz Walsh, Howard County’s District 1 Councilwoman. “We’re celebrating building our future and the next generation of scholars.”

On-the-go snacks getting healthier–County requires options


Vending machines in Howard County will have new selections beginning in October.

As a result of a law approved in 2015, vending machines will include healthy food and beverage options.

The contract for vending machines in Howard County government buildings will be announced on Friday, Sept. 13.

This marks the first vending machine contract renewal since passage of the law.

The contract will adhere to the nutritional standards requiring healthy food and beverages on county properties and for county programs.

The winning bidder will cover 84 vending machines – 52 with refrigerated products, 29 with snacks and three with heated foods or beverages.

What’s the law say? New vending machines on Howard County government property must include at least 75 percent healthy snacks and drinks, and offer water, fruit and vegetable juices and non-fat and low-fat milk.

The vending machines will include snacks with no trans-fat, no more than 200 calories per package, and less than 35 percent of calories from fat.

“Even though Howard County is in the top ten healthiest jurisdictions in the country, we still have work to do to get to number one and be the example of health and wellness for all,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “Among our Howard County neighbors earning under $50,000, over 40 percent eat fewer than one serving per day of fruit or vegetables.”

The Howard County plan reflects a larger trend in an industry that has been rapidly changing to help consumers figure out better options when they need an on-the-go snack.

Not your mother’s Coke machine

Nationwide, vending machines are a $25 billion business with more than five million machines. Local entrepreneur Larry Pellerito, who founded Columbia-based Achieve Vending as a part-time operation in 1992, switched to full-time in 1995.

“Vending machines have gotten healthier in the past few years because more people are demanding healthier options, and more manufactures are offering healthier products,” Pellerito said.

The machines are not only healthier, but they’ve gotten a lot more high-tech.
“At Achieve Vending, all of our vending machines are equipped with credit card readers that also take Apple or Samsung pay from any wireless device,” said Pellerito. “This technology allows us to monitor stock usage in real time and avoids machines running out of key products.”

On the rise are “micro markets,” or unattended retail environments, where consumers can engage with products on shelves and in open coolers, allowing them to pick up products and review nutrition information.

Consumers use a self-checkout kiosk with a cashless payment system – they pay by credit card, company card or by thumbprint.

Is snacking the new dining?

At the National Automatic Merchandising Association, where the motto is “Snacking is the New Dining,” a flagship program called Fit Pick was established in 2005, and periodically updates its guidelines to reflect new recommendations in nutrition.

The program promotes clear labeling and easy-to-understand nutrition information, particularly for calories and sodium.

All branches of the U.S. military and U.S. government have adopted the Fit Pick program for their vending machines.

Throughout the U.S., the convenience services industry provides 140,000 jobs with $7.21 billion in wages and pays $3.5 billion taxes at every level of government.

Q&A with Lou Zagarino – Meet the BWI Business District Icon


The name of Lou Zagarino is synonymous with the BWI Business District. Few people have invested as much time, money and energy into building businesses in that submarket – or have as many stories about what the landscape looked like as it was growing as well as the hopes for its continued success.

What was your introduction to the BWI Business District?

I followed a college friend here from Michigan State University, after a stint in the U.S. Navy, to work in a restaurant group.

I got into the hotel business in 1971 at what is now the DoubleTree by Hilton Baltimore-BWI Airport on Elkridge Landing Road. It was one of the two hotels in what we now call the BWI Business District. The other was the Friendship Hotel which I moved over to in 1972 and stayed with until its ownership was sold in 1980.

My next move was to a restaurant in North Linthicum, Lancer’s, which I eventually bought and renamed The Rose; then I established the Comfort Inn, which is still there, and eventually the adjacent Sleep Inn (now a Best Western). Our company sold all three businesses in 2008.

What is a solid occupancy rate?

There are variances for different hotels but generally, 69 percent is what you need to be profitable.

What was different about being the only solo owner/operator in the BWI submarket when you owned the Comfort Inn (1984-2012) and the Sleep Inn (2002-2012), especially when all of the big chains moved in?

The difference is that the success of the property was on me – not the company, the stockholders or corporate. There were some very difficult times in the early years of our ownership. However, that also allowed me to make decisions out-of-the-box and to adjust to the market and to become more involved in the community and have opportunities to participate in, and contribute to, various causes.

Did you ever dream this submarket would grow so large?

Absolutely not. I knew it would grow but in 1980, BWI Airport served two million passengers per year; now it serves 27 million per year. Today, airport officials think that number will increase to more than 30 million in the not-too-distant future and are predicting 40 million eventually. So, the sky’s the limit. I knew that the District had a phenomenal future, but not to this degree.

Do you ever wonder what the BWI Business District would be if Southwest Airlines hadn’t put down stakes here in 1993?

I have but similar experiments were previously undertaken that were not successful. We had Laker, Texas International and Icelandair, among several other low-cost airlines, come in and out of BWI Marshall. Even if they had had success, we still wouldn’t have had 27 million passengers come through here last year.

Also, before state and local governmental agencies were increasingly present, a small group of stakeholders often went on promotional marketing trips to sell the airport.

What is the strength of the hotels at BWI?

It’s a tremendous market due to all of our businesses, industries and government entities in the area as well as being inside the “Golden Triangle” of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, through Howard County to Baltimore, south to Annapolis, then back to D.C.

When you owned hotel properties and The Rose, how many nights did you sleep with one eye open?

Every night. There are very few good calls you can get after 2 a.m. Thankfully, that situation improved as the business matured.

What are your thoughts on building a new hotel at BWI Marshall?

For more than two decades I’ve been on record that the Maryland Aviation Administration should build a hotel at the airport. The bottom line is that it’s a huge, expensive and complicated project.

What do you tell young people who want to get into the hotel industry?

It can be a great business but expect long hours of hard and often tedious work. And know that, while dealing with the public is often not easy, the business can be extremely rewarding.

What are your favorite career memories?

One is certainly that both of my hotels won Hotel of the Year in the early ’00s for the whole Choice Hotels chain. Others include meeting officials from Southwest Airlines, including CEO Herb Kelleher, with elected officials, state aviation representatives and business leaders. That deal took several years before it finally happened.

What organizations do you recall working with the most fondly?

Serving on the boards of different organizations including Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, Hospice of the Chesapeake, the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency, UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center, the University of Maryland Medical System, Skål Club International and the BWI Business Partnership.

Also, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) for the golf tournament I held in Queenstown Harbor (Upper Eastern Shore) for more than 20 years, the inspiration for which was my struggle with myasthenia gravis – which is a neuromuscular disease. I’ve been lucky in dealing with it, as some people with the disorder are bound to wheelchairs. All told, we raised more than $1 million for the MDA.

What’s coming up for you?

I’m planning on staying involved. The word “retirement” doesn’t mean much to me at the moment but I do want to reduce my commitments.

VarcoMac acquired by Therma Holdings


Therma Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Gemspring Capital, has acquired VarcoMac LLC, an Odenton-based provider of electrical systems and solutions serving the commercial, institutional and government markets.

VarcoMac operates in the data center, health care and high technology industries. Services range from the design-assist delivery of electrical systems, to comprehensive ongoing and preventative maintenance arrangements throughout the lifecycle of buildings.

“VarcoMac’s strong base of service and maintenance – with a focus on complex systems in mission-critical environments – expands our service offerings, customer and geographic reach. VarcoMac’s high-quality workforce and experienced management team share our culture, values and commitment to delivering superior service and value to our customers,” said Therma CEO Jeff Sprau.

Shane Wilemon, president of VarcoMac, will operate as VarcoMac LLC, a subsidiary of Therma Holdings LLC, said, “We look forward to joining the Therma family and building upon the work we’ve done over the past 37 years to serve our customers, propel our growth and provide new opportunities for our employees.”

ACell, Southmedic launch Gentrix in Canada


ACell Inc., of Columbia, and Southmedic have announced the Canadian launch of the GentrixTM Surgical Matrix family of devices, comprised of ACell’s platform MatriStem UBM (Urinary Bladder Matrix) technology.

Gentrix products have been shown to facilitate the remodeling of biomechanically functional, site-appropriate tissue and demonstrate resistance to infection through a bacteriostatic effect. The products may be utilized to manage a variety of complex hernia and abdominal wall repairs, including in a contaminated field.

“Our partnership will now offer Canadian surgeons and patients access to safe, cost-efficient, and clinically effective devices for complex hernia repair,” said Patrick McBrayer, ACell president and CEO.

Hospital receives $500K donation


Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) received a $500,000 donation from Ellicott City-residents Cyndi and Ron Gula to support the hospital’s campus construction project.

Cyndi and Ron Gula are co-founders of Columbia-headquartered cybersecurity company Tenable and now run Gula Tech Adventures, an investment firm focused on helping early stage cybersecurity companies. Cyndi Gula first became acquainted with the vision of HCGH at a health advocacy session held at the hospital for community leaders.

Howard County General Hospital’s $45 million campus construction project includes a two-story addition with a new emergency room entrance, inpatient psychiatry unit and patient observation unit as well as renovations to existing space. Construction began in 2017 and will be completed at the end of this year.

“The Gulas’ donation and the previously announced $1 million donation from The Kahlert Foundation, combined with 34 new commitments from community residents and businesses, bring the total raised to $9.2 million in support of the addition,” said Jennifer Smith, vice president of development for Howard Hospital Foundation, which supports HCGH.

Two years remain in the capital campaign with a goal of raising an additional $5.8 million. To learn more, visit HCGHofTomorrow.org.

HCPSS Superintendent presents progress report


Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Michael Martirano presented his first system-wide overview of progress toward achieving the desired outcomes of his strategic plan and announced a new Strategic Call to Action (SCTA) website for monitoring performance measures moving forward.

The Strategic Call to Action (SCTA) Annual Report for 2018-19, presented during the Sept. 5 meeting of the Howard County Board of Education, reflects the work of all HCPSS schools, offices and divisions in their efforts to increase equity, close opportunity gaps and elevate expectations across the system.

“This first annual report provides an assessment of our progress and challenges, and takes our system to a higher level in terms of transparency and accountability to our stakeholders,” Martirano said. “The new SCTA website makes this information available in a user-friendly format to help our staff and community members review our ongoing efforts and strategies to provide equitable opportunities for all our students to be successful.”

Martirano established the Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity (SCTA) during the 2017-18 school year, his first year at the helm of the school system. The SCTA identifies the system’s four overarching commitments of value, achieve, connect and empower to students and other stakeholders, as well as 15 desired outcomes relating to student-centered practices, inclusive relationships, and responsive and efficient operations.

Performance measures, added when the SCTA was updated at the start of the 2018-19 school year, support HCPSS in implementing a continuous cycle of action, alignment and accountability.

The SCTA Annual Report identifies the level of progress achieved during the 2018-19 school year for each desired outcome, and includes key metrics, preliminary measures and key strategies for continued progress moving forward. Progress is defined for each outcome on a scale from Level 1 through Level 4.

At the close of the first year of implementing the SCTA, HCPSS demonstrated Level 1 progress in nine of 15 outcomes and Level 2 progress in four outcomes. Outcomes showing the most progress relate to creating inclusive relationships and responsive and efficient operations. The report notes two areas of concern in outcomes related to student-centered practices.

The SCTA website provides baseline data across desired outcomes and will continue to track progress moving forward for performance measures. It can be found at www.hcpss.org/scta.

Maryland Casinos generate $154.3M


Maryland Lottery & Gaming announced that August 2019 gaming revenues for the state’s six casinos were $154,260,719 – the fourth-best month in the history of Maryland’s casino gaming program. The total represents a $7,969,691 (5.4%) increase compared to the August 2018 total of $146,291,028.

Contributions to the state of Maryland from August 2019 casino gaming revenue totaled $63,271,425, including $47,431,956 for the Education Trust Fund. Casino gaming revenues also support local communities and jurisdictions where the six casinos are located, as well as Maryland’s horse racing industry.

Maryland has six privately owned casinos that offer both slot machines and table games, including Live! Casino & Hotel, in Anne Arundel County, and the MGM National Harbor, in Prince George’s County, both of which reported increases from August 2018 totals; and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, in Baltimore City.

  • MGM National Harbor (3,139 slot machines, 205 table games)
    $62,390,075 in August 2019, an increase of $4,079,147 (7.0%) from August 2018
  • Live! Casino & Hotel (3,790 slot machines, 191 table games)
    $53,022,710 in August 2019, an increase of $5,974,184 (12.7%) from August 2018
  • Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (2,201 slot machines, 145 table games)
    $18,284,122 in August 2019, a decrease of $2,734,449 (-13.0%) from August 2018

Details on each casino’s gaming revenues and contributions to the state of Maryland are included in the attached charts, and fiscal and calendar year-to-date totals available at www.mdgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/August-2019-Casino-Revenue-Data.pdf.

CA to discuss new budgets


The Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors is scheduled to discuss CA’s budget at several upcoming work sessions and meetings through February 2020. The full schedule is available at ColumbiaAssociation.org/budget.

CA’s budget process provides ample opportunities for input from residents, representatives of village community associations, advisory committee members and others to weigh in on the budget for fiscal 2021 (which runs from May 2020 through April 2021) and the conditional budget for fiscal 2022 (which runs May 2021 through April 2022).

Work sessions and meetings are open to the public, held at CA Headquarters, 6310 Hillside Court. Speakers are encouraged to provide written versions of their remarks. There will be time limits for each speaker.

Testimony may also be submitted via email at Board.Members.fy20@ColumbiaAssociation.org or by standard mail to CA’s Board of Directors, c/o Columbia Association Accounting Division, 6310 Hillside Court, Columbia, MD 21046. Drafts of the budgets will be issued on Dec. 20.

Kalyanaraman confirmed as Arundel health officer


In a unanimous vote, the Anne Arundel County Council confirmed County Executive Steuart Pittman’s nomination of Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman as the county health officer. Passage of the resolution gives Maryland Governor Larry Hogan the authority to appoint Kalyanaraman as Anne Arundel County Health Officer.

Prior to his nomination, Kalyanaraman was the chief health officer for Health Care for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization with 250 staff that provides health care and housing support to 10,000 people annually.

He has a bachelor’s of science degree from Yale University and received his doctor of medicine from SUNY Brooklyn School of Medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine and has nearly 10 years of senior health management experience.

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