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Q & A with Brian Darmody–Growing a Maryland research business


What’s it like having two high-profile jobs at once? Ask Brian Darmody, who’s been serving the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) since 1982 and long ago ascended to the position of associate vice president. Darmody recently accepted a new position as CEO with the Association of University Research Park (AURP), which will keep him in the local focus as he works toward retiring from UMCP at the end of 2019 – while continuing to work out of the Discovery District at UMCP and pursue new challenges.

What instigated your career shift?

I joined AURP many years ago, when the College Park/UMD Metro station opened. At that point, I helped recruit the American Center of Physics to the site and UMCP built a research park adjacent to the station. Later, I was elected to the AURP board and served as president for a year. The AURP CEO position came open last year around the time I had organized AURP’s Annual International Conference at the UMD Discovery District and applied for the position.

What is AURP?

AURP is a nonprofit that represents research parks worldwide. The world’s first research park debuted in 1951 with the Stanford Industry Park, at Stanford University in partnership with the city of Palo Alto. That model was copied by other states, like North Carolina when it founded the Research Triangle, then countries around the world.

What’s a key difference compared to your former job?

This new position is like building a startup. We’re a membership association that doesn’t receive money from the government. I have to build it by offering a service people find beneficial or we’ll be out of business.

Will AURP accentuate its East Coast presence at what’s called its “HQ2”?

While we have our administrative headquarters at the University of Arizona Research Park, we’ve opened the new office in the UMCP Innovation District. The new office is important to our growth because many national organizations are in Washington, D.C., and international delegations often come to town that want the synergy of a major university. We aim to become a port of entry for other countries that want to do business here and along the Eastern Seaboard.

Are research parks changing?

The model is evolving, since they are no longer stand-alone properties. They’re being integrated into research parks and communities of innovation. For example, in the Research Triangle, there’s an area called Centennial Park at North Carolina State University. It was unpopular at first, since the faculty at the engineering school didn’t want to move from its old home. However, since other amenities grew around it, they now love it; it’s part of why the Research Triangle area has the great reputation it has.

To some extent, that’s what we’re trying to do in College Park. It’s all about building synergies. For instance, a housing project at UMD, called the Aloft, just opened near the Discovery District, on Baltimore Avenue. The apartments are geared for young professionals, as opposed to students. Know that we’re trying to get people employed where they work, which is the best thing you can do from an environmental standpoint. It helps reduce commuting and builds a sense of community. Housing is becoming an important element of research parks. UMD also opened a public charter school in its Discovery District that is headed by the UMD president.

Do we need more research parks in Maryland?

Maryland has a uniquely high amount of research development that places us in the nation’s Top 3. But can we always use more? Why not? We need to make sure that our universities and federal labs are accessible by the private sector and research parks are a tool to make that happen.

What is the role of incubators?

They are vitally important to the success of research parks. The short answer is they’re a big part of those facilities and communities, starting with students who are able to gain support for their ideas to faculty that want to develop their intellectual property to corporations that want to set up shop near the universities.

A new federal tax tool called opportunity zones are a way to defer capital gains to provide tax incentives. Many research parks are in the opportunity zones and the amount available to invest in real estate and companies could reach $100 billion nationwide during the next several years.

What are your thoughts about startups acquiring capital in Maryland?

I helped write the legislation when I was a lobbyist at UMD to found the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) about 20 years ago as a way to attract more capital to the state. The knock on Maryland is that you won’t get venture capital (VC) funding here because venture capitalists don’t find enough opportunities. So, we need to ensure that our research is presented in a way that the opportunities are known to them and that we have gap funding to facilitate it. That’s why the programs that TEDCO runs and the university runs, such as UM Ventures, are critical to help secure technology [that’s] investable by the time they reach that stage by angels, gap funders, VC investors, and so on.

Do you plan to add new programs?

Yes. We created the BioHealth Caucus for a segment of our members who are related to the biohealth and health science campuses, like UMB. It takes a very long time to develop new drugs, roughly about 10-15 years, and there are many regulatory challenges, so we need a group within AURP that can focus on that market.

We are working with BioHealth Innovation, in Rockville, to roll out a set of new programs for that segment of the research park community.

What do you feel were your high points of your long career at the University of Maryland?

I was fortunate to have worked with a series of presidents and vice presidents that gave me a lot of autonomy to develop new projects, which is unusual in a public setting. Helping start Maryland Day, which is the nation’s largest university open house that takes place the last Saturday in April; coming up and drafting the legislation that created TEDCO; organizing the university’s first tech transfer office; and working on the $62 million E-novate program, which matches state dollars with private endowment funds to bring smart professors in areas of economic growth to Maryland, are among the highlights.

Howard Bank offers stock buy back


Howard Bancorp, the parent company of Howard Bank has received a non-objection letter from the Federal Reserve Bank, of Richmond, Va., to allow the company to repurchase shares of its common stock. Under the repurchase program, management is authorized to repurchase an aggregate amount of up to $7 million of the outstanding shares of the company’s common stock. The program will expire in December of 2020.

“Howard Bancorp remains committed to enhancing long term shareholder value and in this challenging market for bank stocks,” said Mary Ann Scully, board chair and CEO. “We see this program as an additional capital management tool to complement our continued growth, revenue and expense management emphasis.”

Under the stock repurchase program, shares of common stock may be repurchased by the company from time to time in open market transactions or in privately negotiated transactions as permitted under applicable rules and regulations or through a 10b5-1 trading plan under the Exchange Act, which would permit shares to be repurchased when the Company might otherwise be precluded from doing so because of self-imposed trading blackout periods or other regulatory restrictions.

DataTribe invests $1.9M in BlueRidge.AI


BlueRidge.AI has closed a $1.9 million seed funding led by Fulton-based DataTribe, a global cyber foundry that creates and co-builds next-generation cybersecurity and data science companies.

BlueRidge.AI is integrating the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning (ML) to predict and prevent costly unplanned downtimes with minimal information technology integration. The company was founded by Lloyd Clark, previously a strategic AI leader at the National Security Agency with a track record of bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning to software-defined networks. He brings the real-world experience and expertise needed to make smart manufacturing simple.

The DataTribe funding will accelerate time to market by expanding BlueRidge’s engineering team and sales organization.

“This investment in BlueRidge AI shows the unique talent from the intelligence community applying their expertise to solve commercial problems,” said Mike Janke, DataTribe co-founder and CEO. “Lloyd and his team have developed a technology that is literally three to four generations ahead of the current technology landscape. It is a huge overlooked problem they are solving.”

Reset: 50+ Expo becomes ‘Master Aging’


What has been known in Howard County for two decades as the 50+ Expo will be updated with a name change and will now be known as Master Aging. The next event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Howard Community College, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the former event eventually featured about 160 booths, it will now have about 62 vendors, as well as sponsors, to defray the cost of the event. “Major county agencies have been very supportive and will be involved, and will have their own staff on hand,” said Kim Henry, spokesperson for the Howard County Office on Aging.

The changes also involved making the 21st annual event “more educational, with a more interactive approach to aging,” said Henry, “For instance, the Howard County Health Department will offer more information about opioid addiction, as well as a place to turn in medications that are past their use date.” For more information, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/masteraging

MSCHE: UMD on ‘Warning Status’


The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has announced that the University of Maryland’s (UMD) accreditation is on warning status due to concerns about its transparency and its governance structure, which were well documented after the death of football player Jordan McNair on June 13, 2018.

The warning comes months after the MSCHE concluded that UMD violated one of its seven accreditation standards, Standard VII, which concerns “governance, leadership and administration.” Many of the MSCHE’s concerns involve the university’s Board of Regents, which sets policy for the University System of Maryland’s 12 institutions.

Should the UMD’s accreditation be revoked, students could lose federal funding that is used for financial aid. The university remains accredited while under warning; however, if representatives from the MSCHE are not satisfied with the results after its next scheduled visit in March 2020, the university could then be placed on probation.

Howard Hughes exploring a sale


Howard Hughes, the major developer of downtown Columbia, is exploring a potential sale.

According to Bloomberg, Howard Hughes Corp. is working with advisers to “explore strategic options including potential sales of the company.”

As news leaked out, Howard Hughes stock jumped 37 percent.

Howard Hughes has been a major developer of the revitalization efforts in downtown Columbia as well as other master planned communities across the United States.

Howard Hughes is working with Centerview Partners on the review, which may also result in a sale or spinoff of certain assets, a recapitalization or changes in corporate structure, according to Howard Hughes.

In a statement from the Howard Hughes Corp, Chief Executive Officer David Weinreb said, “Our business continues to perform extremely well across our three core segments, with price per acre of land sold, net operating income, and condo sales all exceeding our expectations; however, our stock continues to languish below its net asset value per share. The board and management are determined to close the significant gap between our share price and the company’s underlying net asset value.”

The company has not set a timetable for the conclusion of its review of strategic alternatives.

APL selected for NASA mission to Titan


NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.

Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency’s New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Juno to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-RExto the asteroid Bennu.

Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

New Frontiers supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

“The New Frontiers program has transformed our understanding of the solar system, uncovering the inner structure and composition of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, discovering the icy secrets of Pluto’s landscape, revealing mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, and exploring a near-Earth asteroid for the building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore.”

Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet.

During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets.

It will first land at the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location. Dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer “leapfrog” flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with diverse geography.

It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water, organics – the complex molecules that contain carbon, combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen – and energy, which together make up the recipe for life.

The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers) – nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

“Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. The moon’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water similar to those that may have sparked life on our planet.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.

For more information about Titan, visit: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/moons/saturn-moons/titan/overview

Read more about NASA’s New Frontiers Program and missions at: https://planetarymissions.nasa.gov



Secom expands in Columbia, add VA office


Secom, a Columbia-based security company, is moving to larger office and expanding to Hampton Roads, VA.

The new office, located at 10240 Old Columbia Road, is designed to offer DoD customers hands-on experience with Secom’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) capabilities. Features include a state-of-the-art demonstration room outfitted with multiple access control, alarm, intercom and CCTV systems.

. “Secom provides such a wide breadth of services, from helping small businesses avoid big trouble locally, to the national level where our state-of-the-art systems help to safeguard some of the nation’s most important information,” said Secom founder and president Mike Toomey. “This new space is the perfect showcase for what we do here.”

Secom’s new office is three times larger than the company’s former headquarters. A grand opening is scheduled for July 15.

Secom also opened its second location July 1 in Hampton Roads, with a specific focus on catering to the region’s UL 2050 and government clients.

Secom’s UL 2050 certification authorizes the company to sell, install, and maintain SCIFs within a radius of 200 miles or 4-hours, making the Hampton Roads office an ideal option for Norfolk and Richmond customers.

In addition to servicing UL 2050 accounts, Secom’s Hampton Roads team will provide security optimization for industrial, commercial and small businesses throughout Virginia.

Secom, LLC, is a top-rated Maryland security company that draws on more than 50 years of design, implementation, and service experience to provide state-of-the-art solutions to small businesses, commercial properties, and Federal, state, and local government agencies in 22 states across the country.

The “No Problem” Problem


I walk into the hotel, wheeling my luggage and briefcase behind me. I am taken aback by the spacious and open modern lobby. I approach the front desk, and Carlos greets me with a smile. We have a friendly exchange – how are you doing, did you have a good flight, how do you like our city – that kind of thing. I ask for a restaurant recommendation for dinner, and he tells me about a fascinating off-the-beaten-path bistro that has excellent reviews. I thank him, and he says, “No problem.”

And there it is. Hanging like a lead balloon. No problem.

What’s the problem with “no problem?” It’s an inherently negative response and, to certain people, off-putting. It has the potential to stagnate the conversation. Instead, offer up a polite and courteous, “you’re welcome.”

Here’s the problem with “no problem.” It assumes that I have a problem to begin with. That I come to you with something I need to have solved. That you are the answer to, well, my problem. Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. I didn’t come to you with a problem. I don’t have a problem.

Until we have a problem, save “no problem” for when we do have a problem. We have a problem when the toilet in my hotel bathroom doesn’t work. We have a problem when a $23 mini-bar charge for a beer and a candy bar shows up on my checkout bill, and I never partook of said goodies. We have a problem when you accidentally serve my dinner in my lap. When you resolve these issues, you may say “no problem,” however a “you’re welcome,” accompanied by a smile will do nicely.

Your customers don’t go through their days with service problems they need to have solved. The social construct we engage in is one of service, not problem-solving. Service is not a problem.

When I hear “no problem,” my mind goes to the negative. The word problem, used in a service context, sullies the exchange between us. One might go so far as to say that it creates an unnecessary power exchange. When you say “no problem” that puts you in a superior position to me, if you will. It’s as if you’ve swooped in to save the day by removing “a problem” from my life (mind you, a problem that doesn’t exist). Congratulations, you have elevated yourself to “hero” status.

I visit my favorite coffee shop and order a plain cup of coffee. “Room for cream?” the young barista asks. “Yes, thank you,” I reply. “No problem!” No, there is no problem. All I want is a simple cup of coffee. It’s not a problem that I want coffee. It’s not a problem that I want room for cream. When I say, “thank you,” say “you’re welcome.”

Bill Flanagan of MTV fame, shared his opinion about “no problem” on CBS Sunday Morning back in 2013. You can watch what Bill has to say at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2E8wmUff5w. He observes that people born before 1980 use “no problem” to say, “you’re welcome.” Is this a generational thing? Bill thinks so. He says there are times when it’s permissible to use “no problem.” I agree. When there’s a problem.

Whether you agree or disagree with “no problem” and when it’s appropriate to use it, you are always safe with “you’re welcome.” “You’re welcome” is right in any situation that requires a response to “thank you.” If you’re interested in changing your “no problem” habit, put a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you think about saying or say, “no problem,” snap the rubber band.

Still not convinced? Use “no problem” for a week. The next week, say “thank you” exclusively. Compare your customer’s and client’s reactions. I’d love to hear you’re your experiences and observations. You’re welcome.

© 2019, Roger Wolkoff.

De novo bank slated for Howard County


NXG Bank could become the first de novo to be founded in Maryland in a decade. The proposed newly chartered bank would be headquartered in Howard County and target small businesses and mortgage lending using financial technology.

In addition to its focus on the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, the bank would undertake national residential lending through a subsidiary called NXG Mortgage, or NXGM, according to the application. NXGM is in the process of obtaining full-service licensure in 34 states. The remaining 16 states have exemptions that do not require state licensure.

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