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Arundel state’s attorney denounces violence against Asian Americans

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In a statement, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess has denounced racist incidents and targeted assaults of Asian Americans within the community and beyond. Her office will aggressively prosecute all hate crimes against Asian Americans and other members of our community.

Anne Arundel County has not seen an uptick in offenses against Asian-Americans; recent statistics show that since 2018 there have been three reported cases of anti-Asian American hate crimes or hate bias incidents in the county. Her statement follows.

“While the number of offenses in our county is low compared to neighboring jurisdictions our citizens must know that we will not tolerate hate crimes and hate bias incidents. It is important for citizens to report these incidents to police. I applaud the Anne Arundel County Police policy of responding to all reported hate incidents, even those that may not be chargeable criminal offenses.

“Asian Americans have become victims of senseless acts of harassment and violence fueled by bigotry and hatred even as we are gripped by a global pandemic in which hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the US alone, and hundreds of millions are impacted worldwide by COVID-19. Individuals and groups who commit unprovoked acts of violence in Anne Arundel County, whether racially-driven or otherwise, will be held fully accountable for their crimes.

“State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess thanks Gov. Larry Hogan for calling out these despicable and cowardly acts. She stands with our elected officials and community leaders against hate. We must not tolerate members of our community living in fear for their lives or livelihoods.

“The only way to fight hate is to shine a light on it. We must know about hate incidents for us to take action. If you or someone you know is a victim of hate bias or a hate crime incident, we encourage you to contact the Anne Arundel County Police Department at 911 or complete a crime report at www.aacounty.org/departments/police-department/forms-publications/crime-report.”

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Maryland Energy Administration awards $3.3M for energy efficiency, resiliency projects

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The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) has announced $3.3 million in grant funding for fiscal 2021 Combined Heat and Power (CHP) grants, enabling a Howard County firm and seven other Maryland organizations to maximize energy efficiency, decrease carbon emissions and maintain services during a power outage.

Redmed, of Jessup, was awarded $317,300. Redmed, a subsidiary of Verano Brands, operates a state-of-the-art medicinal cannabis facility in Howard County. With sustainability in mind, and a product that requires substantial energy for optimal output and quality, Redmed has pursued multiple energy projects to enhance operational efficiency and source energy from clean, resilient sources to keep its costs and carbon footprint low.

The company will use the award to install a 2,000 kW CHP system that will provide electricity for virtually all of the lighting and cooling loads at the facility, as well as the ability to continue operation in the event of a grid outage. Redmed was also the recipient of a fiscal 2017 Commercial, Industrial & Agricultural Energy Efficiency award from MEA for the installation of multiple, highly-efficient energy conservation measures.

“Powering Maryland’s clean energy future is an essential collaboration between the public and private sectors,” said Mary Beth Tung, MEA director. “This round of new CHP awards builds on our previous successes and ensures that Maryland businesses and critical infrastructure are able to run more efficiently and provide services, even during a blackout.”

CHP systems combine technologies to efficiently reduce energy waste and offer cleaner, more resilient energy. The CHP grant is funded by the Strategic Energy Investment Fund. The funding was divided between two cycles. A full list of fiscal 2021 awardees can be found at FY21 MEA CHP Award List (maryland.gov).

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The Charmery opens in Downtown Columbia

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A new ice cream shop, The Charmery, has opened in Downtown Columbia. After securing financing through Howard County Economic Development Authority’s Catalyst Loan Fund (which was established with funding from the state of Maryland’s Video Lottery Terminal Fund), the business received a loan to assist with the opening of its fifth location.

Owned and operated by David and (Columbia native) Laura Alima, The Charmery was founded in 2013 in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. With a background in restaurant management and ice cream making, the couple jump started their ice cream shop plans.

The Charmery also operates locations in Union Collective, Towson and Federal Hill, all in the Baltimore area. All of their ice cream is manufactured and distributed from its Hampden location.

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MIC residents unveil contact tracing notification system

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Three resident companies at the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC), an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), have collaborated to launch a new product, NOTIFY ― a contact-tracing notification system that anonymously monitors users movements throughout a facility to identify potential COVID-19 exposures.

The system operates within facilities recording possible worker transmissions and provides alerts to those who may have been exposed to infectious disease.

“NOTIFY gives companies an easy to set-up and operate system for alerting workers of the time, location and duration of interactions with coworkers who are subsequently identified as being potentially contagious,” said rfidCollect Executive Vice President Tim Buckley. “NOTIFY fills a need for practical workplace safety by providing real-time, actionable data directly to workers so they can assess their own level of exposure risk.”

NOFITY can be used in almost any facility where regular employee interaction occurs, including industries and organizations such as healthcare, government, defense, pharmaceutical, food processing, manufacturing, data center operations and corporate offices. The competitively-priced system consists of three main components: badges or wristbands that will be carried or worn by workers, Notify Locators placed inside the facility that track where workers meet or interact, and a real-time dashboard for alerts and notifications.

The system can often be installed in one day, with costs starting as low as 50 cents per-day, per-worker.

In development of NOTIFY, rfidCollect utilized the technology of one of their peer MIC companies, Joget, which offers an open source no-code/low-code platform for developing applications; and Mokxa Technologies, which implemented the Joget platform as part of the NOTIFY system.

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Anne Arundel County Public Library to reopen for walk-ins April 12      

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The Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) officials announced that the system will reopen for walk-in service starting Monday, April 12.

Starting April 12, library hours will increase to 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Mondays – Thursdays; from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 1-5 pm on Sundays at eight locations. Sunday hours run from September – May at the Busch Annapolis, Crofton, Discoveries: The Library at the Mall, Glen Burnie, Maryland City at Russett, Odenton, Severn and Severna Park locations. Curbside pickup service will run throughout library operating hours.

AACPL staff have provided online, curbside and appointment service since the pandemic began last March. Safety protocols remain in place at the library. They include;

  • A mask is required for all customers over the age of two regardless of vaccine status; free masks are available while supplies last
  • Capacity limits are in place for each library location
  • A reduced number of public computers will be available
  • The Odenton Library Creation Station and Computer Lab remain closed
  • Printing of 10 free black and white pages per day remains available.
  • No print newspapers are available;
  • The book drop is preferred for returning materials;

Assistance continues to be available by calling the library, using Email a Librarian and website chat. The library also continues to increase its offering of virtual programs through Zoom and will be adding some outdoor programs. Stay updated on changes to library services through FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and via www.aacpl.net.

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Q&A with the MBA’s Ramon Looby

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Ramon Looby, president & CEO of the MBA.

Fulton resident Ramon Looby recently took the reins as the new president and CEO of the Maryland Bankers Association (MBA). Looby comes on board at the MBA after serving as senior vice president and public policy lead at Bank of America (BofA), which gave him access to legislators and associations in a number of states, including Maryland. 

He was hired after an extensive national search and, as it happened, comes on board when COVID-19 vaccine was being distributed and an end to the pandemic can finally be seen on the horizon.

What were your duties at your previous position?

As BofA’s senior vice president and public policy lead for a number of states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana and Ohio, I was based in D.C. but often travelled and worked with state banking associations. That makes my new position particularly interesting because I’ve seen first-hand how various state banking associations operate, which has given me a solid perspective for introducing new ideas and innovations.

What are your thoughts on the performance of bancorps?

Maryland banks are continuing to serve their customers, especially in the era of COVID-19. Banks have also played a critical role in providing support to our communities during this period.

When you think about what happened in March 2020 with the pandemic, the economic crisis and 20 million people losing their jobs, then what the banks have accomplished, I’m proud. They stepped up to help those people, notably by helping to distribute Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

Maryland banks deployed close to 90 percent of the PPP money in Maryland, which supported about 950,000 – or three in four – small business jobs. The owners of those businesses comprehend that banks are particularly tied to how well the surrounding communities are doing.

We’ve obviously seen a dip in the state’s economic output. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s unemployment rate in January was 6.3 percent but Maryland’s has been significantly lower. How soon the economy recovers is predicated by the vaccine rollout, decline in new case counts, hospitalizations and other safety issues but I’m quite optimistic about the economy moving forward.

How much PPP money did state banks loan last year?

According to the SBA, 86,000 PPP loans were processed by state banks for a total of $10 billion. So, banks are staying connected with their small business customers even though certain events, like the recent COVID-19 spike, have hampered progress.

So far in round two of the program, Maryland banks have helped to deploy more than 16,000 PPP loans totaling more than $1.5 billion. The program is in effect through the end of March, so I’d anticipate that total to grow.

Did it take too long to get the money?

There were definitely some hiccups in the rollout, often concerning who qualified and who didn’t, as well as technical glitches with the agencies. Most applicants got their money – 30 years’ worth of SBA loans, all told – processed and disbursed in less than 30 days. Compared to other government rollouts, I can’t think of one that has had a stronger impact.

What stands out to you about the Howard and Anne Arundel markets?

It’s notable that when the state was at 6.3 unemployment in December 2020, it was less than half of that number in those two counties. That speaks to the opportunity for growth as we move forward out of the pandemic. Also, there are many people who are moving out of New York City, for example, and are considering Maryland’s Corridor counties as possible relocation destinations.

How much banking is done today online and/or mobile?

If it’s not 40-50 percent, it’s trending that way. Our members are taking cues from their customers and adapting to how they want to do business, so we’ve seen that great migration as a part of normal interaction. We look to stay out front regarding how we use technology to serve our customers; this was one way banks stayed available and connected to our customers during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

What are your thoughts about online banks? 

We want to make sure that our members compete on a level playing field and we want to ensure that the online banks work within the rules that promote safety and soundness in the marketplace.

Additionally, there are questions related to how they would operate within the framework of the Community Reinvestment Act. Those questions need to be addressed before online institutions move forward.

Is technology reducing employees who work in branches?

No, actually the opposite is happening. Technology is allowing our members to do more in other areas of banking, adding value to the relationship. What it really does is allow us to offer more robust services to our clients and often leads to additional opportunities for professionals in the industry.

Banks are still closing branches. What will happen in that part of the industry?

Banks are just responding to their customers. They take a thoughtful and sophisticated approach to interpreting data regarding branch usage and that extends to the reach within communities that may not have sufficient demand to support a physical location. It’s not a zero-sum scenario; it’s more about meeting our clients’ evolving needs.

What frustrates you the most about the banking industry?

One challenge we’ve had is ensuring that we have open lines of communication when issues arise, such as when regulators have concerns about how to reconcile the forbearance, we have provided in the face of COVID-19 against rules and regulations. It’s our priority to bring such issues to the forefront.

And what are you happiest about?

I’m thrilled to come into my new role because banks have really stepped up and shown how much they can deliver for their communities.

What’s your forecast for the next six months?

As the public health crisis recedes and the weather turns warmer, we’ll see employers call employees back to the office and likely see a turn towards increased economic activity. That would be a welcome set of circumstances for our members but most importantly it will be an even better outcome for our state. I’ve no doubt that better days are ahead.

By Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | April 2021 Issue

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Columbia Association announces Lakey Boyd as president/CEO

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Columbia Association (CA) has selected Lakey Boyd as the organization’s next President/CEO. Boyd has officially accepted the position and will start on Monday, May 3.

Lakey Boyd (hi res)
Lakey Boyd. Photo courtesy CA.

Boyd comes to the Columbia community with decades of experience in economic and community development.

Currently, Boyd serves as the principal consultant with Re:Posit Strategies, a company she founded to help clients analyze, strategize and transform to reach their full potential. Prior to that, Boyd worked as the deputy director of Strategy and Innovation for the City of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation and the director of operations for Innovate Birmingham.

Boyd’s top priority upon arriving in Columbia will be connecting with village leaders, residents, businesses, partner organizations and all CA stakeholders, and she looks forward to becoming a leader in our community.

“I have a lot of energy for building and transforming community and am always eager to find innovative ways to ensure equitable progress happens,” Boyd said. “I will be focused on transparent and inclusive leadership with an implementable vision co-created with the Columbia community. I am also honored to become part of the esteemed legacy of Jim Rouse’s work by serving in this critical role and will strive to embody the culture that we are always growing towards better.”

“Lakey Boyd brings a wealth of skills to her new position as the President/CEO of Columbia Association,” CA Board of Directors Chair Andy Stack said. “She is a dynamic and forward-looking individual. Her career has spanned public, private and non-profit organizations. She has a focus on transparent and inclusive leadership. Her master’s degree work in city planning exposed her to Jim Rouse’s work, and she is excited to continue Rouse’s goals for Columbia and build a better sense of community. The Columbia Association is pleased to have Lakey as our next President/CEO.”

The selection of CA’s new president/CEO comes after a nationwide recruitment effort that took place over several months. With the assistance of search firm Baker Tilly US, approximately 80 applicants expressed interest in the position. The firm presented the Board of Directors with 15 of the top candidates. Board members carefully narrowed that field down to five finalists who were invited to undergo a formal interview process. A comprehensive stakeholder survey also identified the community’s priorities for a new leader.

Current CA President/CEO Milton Matthews will end his tenure on April 30. He has led the organization for more than seven years.

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Howard Community College expands workforce training and development

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With a new name and a strengthened relationship with the Maryland Innovation Center, Training & Development Solutions by Howard Community College (HCC) is envisioned to become an integral part of building the workforce in Howard County and beyond.

While HCC has offered workforce training for more than two decades, the new name conveys training that is not only offered through offices within the Maryland Innovation Center at Columbia Gateway but also onsite and online for businesses and entrepreneurs.

Minah Woo, associate vice president at HCC.

Small businesses are an important focus for Training & Development Solutions, said Minah Woo, associate vice president of continuing education and workforce development at HCC. Woo noted that more than 75 percent of the businesses in Howard County have 20 or fewer employees.

“I really want to expand our services to reach out to small businesses,” said Woo, “especially because the current younger workforce demands professional growth –if they don’t feel like they’re growing and achieving, they don’t tend to stay very long.”

Woo believes Training & Development Solutions can be the “go-to” for programs related to anything from English language skills to how to nurture a respectful workplace culture.

“For example, some of our training programs help new managers learn to read situations and respond in meaningful ways,” said Woo. “Just because you’re excellent at your job doesn’t mean you have the leadership skills to manage people doing the work.”

Businesses are also seeking training in diversity and cultural awareness, executive leadership, and succession planning, added Woo.

“Human resources leaders and company management seeking a training partner can find high-quality solutions here,” she said. “The enrichment opportunities we offer can change lives by helping people gain the skills they need to become effective and impactful leaders of our community.”

Learn more about the program at www.howardcc.edu/programs-courses/continuing-education/training-development.

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Howard County to extend North Tunnel in Ellicott City flood mitigation plan  

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced changes to the  Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan  that would extend the North Tunnel, eliminating the need for the previously planned flood mitigation projects for the West End of Ellicott City.  

The extended North Tunnel would start around 8800 Frederick Road and run approximately 5,000 feet to the Patapsco River. The current design begins in Lot F of Ellicott City. 
In a 2016 Ellicott City flood scenario, the extended tunnel is anticipated to reduce water on the street from approximately three-and-a-half feet to less than half a foot. The extended North Tunnel also negates the need for any building removal on the West End, saving at least nine buildings previously slated for demolition.  

“Our goal for the Safe and Sound plan continues to focus on solutions that will keep Ellicott City safe and thriving for generations to come. The extension of the North Tunnel has four major benefits – it is anticipated to reduce water levels, eliminate other projects, save homes and historical properties, and is anticipated to be cost neutral,” said Ball. “This is a significant change to our plan but one that achieves the goals we have always set out to achieve – less water on the street, fewer buildings that need to be removed, and a safer town for all.”  
The extended North Tunnel should be cost neutral with the elimination of the West End projects. The cost of the North Tunnel is anticipated to be funded by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Howard County was  invited to apply to the program earlier this year.   

Approximately 10 easements will be needed to complete the extended North Tunnel project, with only three of those easements a result of the extension. The extended tunnel will be primarily constructed well below the ground surface, outside of utility clearances, and away from existing buildings.  

Water will enter the tunnel in at least two locations – at the primary intake structure located on the north side of the 8800 Block of Frederick Road and one in Parking Lot F. These entry points will capture storm flows and direct them into the tunnel where the water will then be conveyed below ground by gravity to the Patapsco River.  

The county’s goal is to begin construction in 2022, pending the availability of funding, the receipt of applicable permits, and authorization from CSX.   

Watch County Executive Ball’s press conference HERE.

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Howard Hughes Corp. tabs Transwestern Real Estate Services Downtown Columbia leasing

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The Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) announced that Transwestern Real Estate Services has been named its new leasing partner in Downtown Columbia, where it will represent the company’s commercial leasing portfolio in the growing urban and commercial hub. 

6100 Merriweather Dr. Photo courtesy Merriweather District Facebook.

In addition to the commercial buildings within the Merriweather District, Transwestern will be responsible for leasing the full complement of HHC’s office portfolio in Downtown Columbia, which includes Corporate Row’s office buildings near The Mall in Columbia and the Lakefront District’s current and future commercial office properties. 

Demand for office space in Downtown Columbia continues to grow, both within Merriweather District’s brand-new trophy office building 6100 Merriweather and in its new retail and residential developments.  

As of Dec. 31, 2020, 6100 Merriweather was more than 63 percent leased, and Juniper, the new apartment building delivered just 12 months ago, was 62 percent leased. Both buildings continue to show exceptionally strong leasing momentum in 2021. 

The announcement of Transwestern follows close on the heels of two major milestones for Downtown Columbia: news that five new businesses will be relocating their offices to Downtown Columbia in the first quarter of 2021, and the unveiling of Marlow, a new 7-story, 510,000-square-foot, 472-unit residential apartment building.  

With 1.7 million square feet of new, mixed-use development in the Merriweather District now complete or under construction, the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia will include 14 million square feet of new development on 391 acres of land at full buildout. Merriweather District will make up 4.9 million square feet of the total mixed-use development and will be concentrated on 35 acres of developable land set within 100 acres of forests, streams and restored wetlands. 

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