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Ball Establishes LGBTQ+ Work Group

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball signed an Executive Order to create a LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+) Work Group to promote the shared community values of diversity and civility. The Work Group will work with county agencies, non-profit organizations and other community groups to facilitate an environment of inclusion, communication, understanding, and respect throughout Howard County.

The new LGBTQ+ Work Group is charged with the following:
• Conduct quarterly meetings, open to the public, which will include the members of the Work Group, the Administrator of the Office of Human Rights and designated staff
• Organize a series of events and facilitated discussions, in partnership with community and non-profit organizations, to provide opportunities to share concerns, promote mutual understanding and foster stronger relationships to encourage a more inclusive community. This may include things like focus groups, facilitated dialogues, summits and additional outreach efforts
• Advise the County Executive on best practices and strategies to further protect and promote the LGBTQ+ community
• Work with Howard County Government employees to identify best practices to affirm members of the LGBTQ+ community
• Ensure that all meeting minutes are made available to the public on the Office of Human Rights website
• Submit a yearly report to the County Executive by November 1st each year about the work of the Work Group, in addition to current and emerging issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community

The Work Group will include:
• Two representatives from PFLAG Columbia/Howard County
• One representative from HopeWorks
• One representative from the Howard County Human Rights Commission (HRC)
• At least two student representatives
• At least five representatives from the Howard County community (employee and/or resident)

In addition, Office of Human Rights Administrator Yolanda Sonnier will provide leadership, oversight, staffing and logistical support. Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Janssen Evelyn will serve as Ball’s liaison for the group.

Tourism spending grows to $18B

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Visitors to Maryland spent more than $18 billion in calendar year 2018, up 2.1 percent from the previous year and 47 percent from 2009.

The announcement was made by Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz at the annual Maryland Tourism and Travel Summit held at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort.

The Economic Impact of Tourism in Maryland, a report conducted by Tourism Economics, shows that visitor spending went up by $370 million to $18.1 billion and generated $2.5 billion in state and local taxes, saving every Maryland citizen $1,140 in annual taxes.

Visitor spending in Maryland has continued to grow every year since 2009.

In early 2019 the Maryland Office of Tourism, an agency of Maryland Commerce, launched their ‘Open for It’ branding campaign, which included marketing and advertising the state’s unique tourism assets in nine key markets around the country.

A study of the effectiveness of the campaign showed that more than 53,000 trips to Maryland were generated by travelers seeing the ads, and that for every dollar spent on the campaign, $31 came back into Maryland’s economy.

Tourism remains the 10th largest private sector employer in Maryland with a growth of 1,000 tourism jobs to 150,000.

While overall visitation decreased slightly from 42.5 million to 41.9 million in 2018, the decrease was offset by increases in visitor per-trip spending which were driven by longer stays at more in-state destinations.

Most of Maryland’s visitors come by car but BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport served a record 27.15 million passengers in 2018.

“Maryland’s aggressive tourism marketing strategy is showing significant results with consistent increases in spending at our state’s lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreation and transportation providers,” said Secretary Schulz. “The state and our tourism industry partners are working hard to ensure that Maryland is truly ‘Open for Business.’ ”

Mother-Daughter date night in Old Ellicott City

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It’s date night for mothers and daughters of all ages in Old Ellicott City on Saturday, November 9.

Mothers and daughters are invited to come to OEC form 4-9 p.m., choose an activity or two, enjoy dinner and drinks at one of our many restaurants, then score some great deals on clothing, accessories, home goods, classes and services.

Jen Yocum, who brought her business Willow & Oak Wellness Center to Main Street earlier this year, is the energy behind this new event. “I wanted to come up with a way to spotlight Old Ellicott City’s unique collection of experiences, not just our great shops and restaurants, but the many creative outlets and pampering options. A mother-daughter event seemed like a fresh new way to get there.”

Ladies will enjoy free and ticketed activities including “Make Your Own Gemstone Mala Bead Bracelet” at Willow and Oak Wellness Center, “Vintage Dress-Up & Photo Booth” at Taylor’s Collective, “Intro to Ballet” at Ballet Conservatoire XIV, “Create your own Bouquet” at Flower Barn’s flower bar, “Vision Board Workshop” at Miss Fit, “Make & Take” activity at Reclaimed by You, “Mother-Daughter Craft Class” at A Journey from Junk, and “Mommy and Me” and “Mother-Daughter Yoga” classes at Main Street Yoga.

Activity participants receive a set of coupons to redeem that night for specials at local restaurants, shops and salons. Free and discounted dessert, wine and cocktail/mocktails are offered by Ellicott Mills Brewing Co., La Palapa, Manor Hill Tavern, Matcha Time Café and Park Ridge Creamery. Discounts abound at Attic Antiques, B Boutique, The Clayground Studio & Gallery, Envy Salon, Lotus, Poppy & Stella, Primitive Beginnings, Southwest Connection, Sweet Elizabeth Jane, Sweet Suds, and The Wine Bin.

Come see what’s new in Old Ellicott City! For more information visit https://visitoldellicottcity.com/event-pro/mother-daughter-date-night-in-oec/

Competitive Health partners with Welldoc

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Competitive Health and Welldoc, of Columbia, announced a partnership that will offer Competitive Health’s clients a digital assistant known as BlueStar, Welldoc’s tailored guidance solution driven by artificial intelligence, for individuals living with type 2 diabetes.

This year, Competitive Health launched the SHOWBenefits platform to its enrolled employers to streamline the way healthcare is delivered by consolidating all medical and healthcare services onto one mobile platform.

“Welldoc’s BlueStar mobile health solution is utilized by some of the largest companies in the United States to help control diabetes; Competitive Health can now deliver an award-winning chronic care digital health solution through its wholesaler partners to employers,” said Kim Darling, Competitive Health CEO & Founder. “BlueStar adds value to our clients by providing a meaningful solution to populations that wouldn’t typically have access, which is very exciting.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in 2015, more than 30 million U.S. adults have diabetes, and most have at least one comorbid condition, including high blood pressure and weight management. BlueStar supports Competitive Health’s initiative to improve the lives of its members with type 2 diabetes by providing them support anytime, anywhere through real-time, AI-driven, clinically-precise digital coaching.

“Partnering with a progressive organization like Competitive Health to extend our ability to get BlueStar to more people who need it is incredibly exciting,” said Welldoc CEO Kevin McRaith.

Maryland MEP, Arnold Automation introduce incentive plan

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The Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP), of Columbia, has partnered with Arnold Automation to help Maryland manufacturers reduce the cost of implementing robotic and automated technologies through the Impact Driven Incentive Program.

By providing a financial incentive for manufacturers to invest in new, advanced technologies, the program aims to help facilitate growth, as well as create and retain more jobs in Maryland’s manufacturing sector.

“The two biggest barriers that prevent many manufacturers from adopting robotics and automation in their facilities are lack of funding and lack of understanding of how these technologies will impact their bottom line,” says Mike Kelleher, executive director, MD MEP. “The Impact Driven Incentive Program addresses both challenges by providing financial assistance to offset the cost of implementation along with access to the technical expertise of the Arnold Automation team. We are excited to offer manufacturers this great opportunity to advance their operations.”

To be eligible for the Impact Driven Incentive Program, organizations must be registered with Dun and Bradstreet, have a valid manufacturing NAICS code, have a physical location in Maryland and provide all required project documentation. For more information, Maryland manufacturers may contact Samantha Calvo at scalvo@mdmep.org.

Merkle launches scalable marketing analytics solution

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Merkle, a leading technology-enabled, data-driven performance marketing agency based in Columbia, announced the launch of Archie, a scalable solution for marketers to gain cross-channel media and marketing insights, using best-in-class platforms and tools.

Archie features rapid campaign reporting in a collaborative analytics environment, allowing advanced and unified performance measurement across media and CRM channels. Marketers who work with Archie can begin with basic or advanced campaign reporting and are provided options to adjust and expand reports based on the organization’s unique needs.

“With Archie, Merkle now centralizes marketing performance measurement, applying data standards and a templatized approach with the industry’s best-in-class technologies, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Tableau,” said Alex Yoder, executive vice president, analytics at Merkle. “As a trusted partner to our clients, we leverage Archie to understand basic insights, set benchmarks, help align internal stakeholders, and deliver quick wins. Within the solution, we can dramatically advance the discovery of complex analytical modeling on the same data set. We use Archie to help clients swiftly stand up marketing campaign reporting and deliver advanced measurement like attribution, media mix modeling, connected attribution, and customer journey analytics.”

Merkle clients have experienced meaningful results with Archie, including seven times faster speed in reporting and insights and 60 percent fewer resources needed to maintain reporting.

Empower Energies, Hannon Armstrong invest in solar

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Empower Energies, a leading renewable energy development and financing company, and Annapolis-based Hannon Armstrong, an investor in climate change solutions, will jointly invest in renewable energy projects in the commercial & industrial (C&I) and municipal, university, school and hospital (MUSH) markets across the United States.

The collaboration unites Hannon Armstrong’s experience in providing long-term financing with Empower Energies’ existing platform for the development and acquisition of C&I-scale solar rooftop, ground-mount solar and canopy projects, as well as energy storage and related distributed generation technologies.

Major Fortune 1000 companies turn to Empower, of Bethesda, to meet their renewable project and programmatic needs, including one of the largest banks in the world, which recently awarded Empower Energies a three-year contract to manage its corporate renewable development and project construction program of up to 100 megawatts of renewable projects across more than 30 sites in the United States.

“We have seen our business expand significantly, particularly with the growing demand for on-site and off-site renewable projects by corporations and institutions committed to achieving 100% renewable energy targets, like the RE100,” said John Clapp, CEO of Empower Energies. “Hannon Armstrong provides us with a world-class financing partner with a long-term commitment to investing on the right side of the climate change line.

“We are pleased to support the Empower Energies team with capital to facilitate a wide variety of solutions sought by C&I customers,” said Hannon Armstrong Chairman & CEO Jeffrey Eckel. “There is a clear and growing demand from companies seeking to harness distributed, clean energy and this investment will further diversify our investment in a market that is making meaningful carbon reductions.”

According to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie, U.S. C&I firms signed agreements facilitating the buildout of more than 10 GW of renewable power generation through 2018, many of which were financed as power purchase agreements. Wood Mackenzie estimates that up to 85 GW of renewable energy demand exists within the Fortune 1000 through 2030.

Laurel awards Main Street business grants

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The City of Laurel has announced that four Main Street Grants have been awarded to three businesses within our Main Street grant area.  The city’s interest in providing these grants is to help businesses succeed and grow on Main Street and in the process, continue to provide local jobs and create new jobs for residents of the greater Laurel area.

The City of Laurel has two Main Street Grant Programs: the Main Street Business Relocation Grant and the Main Street Storefront Façade Improvement Program. The goal of these programs is to provide business owners funding for startup or relocation costs.

The current grant recipients are:

● Sankofa Yoga and Wellness Center, 302 Main Street: awarded $10,000 by the Main Street Business Relocation Grant Program.

● Yogi Smile, 417 Main Street: awarded $5,000 by the Main Street Storefront Façade Improvement Program.

● Footage Society, 697 Washington Boulevard: awarded a total of $13,298 by the Main Street Business Relocation Grant Program and the Main Street Storefront Façade Improvement Program. 

If you are thinking of starting a business on Main Street, call the Department of Economic and Community Development at 301-725-5300, ext. 2302.

Cardin introduces plan for ‘underserved innovators’

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U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation to invest in underserved innovators.

The Ushering Progress by Leveraging Innovation and Future Technology (UPLIFT) Act of 2019 will foster innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in underserved communities by providing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (or HBCUs), such as Bowie State University; minority serving institutions; and community colleges with the resources to establish and expand incubators and accelerators for underserved entrepreneurs.

The bill would create an Innovation Centers Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA) to award competitive cooperative agreements worth as much as $400,000 annually to institutions that support underserved and low-income communities.

“Students in our Entrepreneurship Academy, and others, will benefit from this legislation that recognizes the critical shortfall of venture capital and business network creation that must be addressed for our young students to leverage their energy and innovation into sustainable business models that can take root in our communities,” said Aminta Breaux, president of Bowie State University.

“The success of the Bowie Business Innovation Center is proof that accelerators and incubators empower underserved entrepreneurs and innovators to build and grow successful businesses,” Cardin said. “The UPLIFT Act builds on the demonstrated success of the Bowie BIC by creating a new program at SBA that will partner with HBCUs, MSIs and community colleges to spur innovation ecosystems in underserved communities.”

Historically, small business investment in this country has been uneven, more so for innovative businesses with high-growth potential. For example, less than 1 percent of all venture capital goes to rural businesses; around 2 percent goes to women-owned businesses; and only 1 percent goes to black- and Hispanic-owned businesses.

This year alone, companies in the Bowie BIC’s accelerator programs have created more than 500 jobs and have been awarded more than $41 million in new contracts.

The Innovation Centers Program would:

  • Prioritize inclusivity in innovation to ensure that groups currently underrepresented in high-growth industries get the support they need to be successful;
  • Establish new entrepreneurship ecosystems by using HBCUs, MSIs, and community colleges, which are critical to reaching minority, low-income, and rural populations, to foster entrepreneurship in their communities;
  • Expand SBA’s reach to the entrepreneurs who need its services the most; and
  • Enhance outcomes for underserved business owners by creating incubators, accelerators, and other small business innovation-focused models that have a demonstrated history of helping businesses become successful. The models will combine unique and intensive mentorship, networking, and sometimes funding opportunities to fill a gap in SBA’s current programming.

Kudchadkar joins MCIE

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Raj Kudchadkar, former CEO of the Central Maryland Chamber, will be joining the Elkridge-based Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education (MCIE) as its director on Nov. 15.

On its website, the MCIE describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the success of all children and youth in their school communities. Our mission is to be the catalyst for the meaningful and successful inclusion of all students in their neighborhood schools.”

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