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COLA releases eBook for laboratories 

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Columbia-based COLA, a national laboratory accreditor, has released its new and updated eBook series. These eBooks are designed specifically to assist clinical laboratories in adhering to all federal, state and local requirements.

In addition to regulatory compliance, COLA’s eBook series, called COLA Primers, assist with developing the standardized practices that minimize the impact of turnover. Topics for the COLA Primers include personnel training, quality control, split specimen analysis and more.

“As a leading laboratory accreditor in the United States, we offer our customers a unique, standardized program and staff dedicated to satisfaction and laboratory quality. We are excited to announce the release of our new COLA Primers. They offer clear, uncomplicated resources that assist laboratories with developing quality systems, producing accurate test results, and meeting CLIA regulatory requirements,” said Nancy Stratton, CEO of COLA.

“Laboratories enrolled in COLA’s Accreditation Program have free access to the entire library,” said Stratton. “Because of our commitment to the field of laboratory medicine and quality patient care, we will make a select number of COLA Primers accessible for free to laboratories not enrolled. We are also making subject matter experts available for questions via chat during weekday afternoons.

To view the free selection of COLA Primers, go to www.cola.org/education-resources/cola-primers-ebooks. 

Laurel to host market on Small Business Saturday

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Small Business Saturday will be held by the City of Laurel’s Department of Economic and Community Development on Saturday, Nov. 28 – the day after Black Friday. Local businesses are the cornerstone of a strong community and Mayor Craig A. Moe encourages all residents and visitors to support all of Laurel’s local entrepreneurs.

One way Laurel’s Department of Economic and Community Development will celebrate is hosting a Holiday Market on Main Street. The location will be just off of Main Street, at 41 B Street, from 12-5 p.m. The Holiday market will take place in a heated tent, with all the necessary safety precautions in place to shop safely. Social distancing, hand sanitizing, and temperature checks will be required of all attendees. Face masks are also required.

Arrow Funds announces fund closure 

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Arrow Funds, of Laurel, announced that the Arrow QVM Equity Factor ETF will close following a review of market demand. The Arrow Investments Trust Board of Trustees approved the closing and subsequent liquidation of QVM.

The Fund’s last day of trading will be Nov. 9, 2020, which will also be the final day for creations or redemptions by authorized participants. The Fund will cease operations, withdraw its assets, and distribute the remaining proceeds to shareholders on Nov. 16, 2020.

Howard records increase in COVID-19 

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Howard County has announced the second highest daily case increase of COVID-19 cases, 82, since beginning of the pandemic, according to the most recent data from the Maryland Department of Health.

The highest number of daily cases was last recorded on May 23, with 83, many of which were associated with a nursing home outbreak. These new cases differ in that the infected are younger patients who have fewer associated deaths, with fewer associated with nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

The Howard County case rate per 100,000 is currently at 10.4, it previously peaked at 12 per 100,000 on May 30 and was at its lowest on June 27 at 4.9 per 100,000. New confirmed cases and other metrics are reported daily on https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/COVID-19-Coronavirus-Countywide-Updates.

“As was largely anticipated, with impending cooler weather we have seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 spread throughout our community,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “I understand the pandemic fatigue we all are feeling, but this is a wake-up call. We need to resume the personal practices our residents embraced this spring to slow the spread of this virus and keep one another safe. Wear a face covering when you are in public, or with anyone outside of your household. Continue to wash your hands frequently, especially after touching common public surfaces. Businesses should continue to telework. We must work together to combat the spread of this virus.”

In addition, Gov. Larry Hogan has reissued a travel advisory for Maryland residents visiting states that have a positivity rate of over 10%. Residents are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test if they have possible exposure to the virus or have participated in a higher risk activity, such as travel out-of-state or gatherings outside your household.

Howard County currently has 10 locations where residents may be tested. To view testing locations, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Health/MM-Alerts-and-Recalls/Coronavirus-Testing.

Howard County issued guidance for residents ahead of the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. The Howard County Health Department recommended:

● Avoid large indoor gatherings, dinners and parties, especially with people outside your immediate family.

● Avoid large crowds even when outside, wear a mask and practice physical distancing.

● Staying home is the best way to protect yourself. Avoid travel to attend holiday gatherings.

● Shop online and avoid crowded stores.

● Get a flu shot and wash hands frequently.

Lower risk options for celebrating:

● Have a small dinner with only people who live in your household.

● Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.

● Enjoy apple-picking or pumpkin picking outdoors.

Searching for answers in child care

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Since the pandemic shutdown in mid-May, the loss of jobs, furloughs, tightened household budgets and the closings of child care centers and capacity decreases upon reopening means that parents, already mired in the expensive child care web, suddenly had even fewer options.

With the reopening of some child care centers at full capacity, the industry trying to move forward while building a more sustainable model.

For now, local efforts are being supported by lifelines like grants programs in Howard and Anne Arundel counties as the industry tries to tackle problems that will still be present post-pandemic.

Christina Peusch, executive director of the Annapolis-based Maryland State Child Care Association (MSCCA), said the industry is taking a varied approach to solving its issues.

“[The MSCCA] has been involved with Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Child Care and continued to request state assistance for the almost 8,000 child care businesses and 150,000 children that need its help,” Peusch said.

By state law, child care can take place in a licensed home business for up to eight children (including the business owner’s own) or at a center, which have varying capacities. The centers were generally limited to 50 percent until late September, though not all counties have decided to offer the opportunity to open at 100 percent at this point.

“Statewide, about 82 percent of child care businesses are open, but often at limited capacity,” Peusch said, “so grants are needed to fill in missing revenue while providers adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.”

Maryland has more child care programs than many larger states and they need to return to their regular revenue streams, as meager as those streams can be, she said, adding, “We’re working with the legislature on getting more grants, as well as conducting advocacy efforts with other groups to learn how we can stabilize services.”

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball knows the importance of the child care industry, calling its availability “an urgent necessity,” especially for essential workers with jobs who can’t telework. “It was imperative to me that we allocate our CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act money toward child care facilities to assist them in staying open and providing this essential service.”

Ball said the county “has funded 247 child care facilities with $2,500 grants each and we hope to provide another round. These monies assist the child care centers in covering costs for business expenses such as rent and utilities, as well as increased needs for Personal Protective Equipment, cleaning and supplies to ensure the safety” of all concerned.

Ball “got in front of the child care issue early,” with the first round of assistance issued in August and September, said Larry Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA). “We’re working on getting more money shortly via the CARES Act.”

Twele said the HCEDA streamlined the application process, which resulted in “faster turnaround of the funds to the businesses. Those that were impacted most were those that had to close and/or had limited capacity.

“While $2,500 might not solve everyone’s problems, it helps,” he said. “When we saw that the first-come, first-served approach was causing issues in other [relief programs], such as unemployment, we took the targeted approach. Any business could apply for the grants and we tried to decipher which businesses needed assistance the most.”

Child care was in a crisis before COVID-19, “for many reasons,” said Erin Bonzon, administrator for Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services’ Office of Children and Families, with “low pay and the lack of qualified workforce” not the least among them.

“For instance, workers can get a job at Target that pays more at $15 per hour and have less responsibility,” she said. “That’s a huge problem.”

To illustrate the issue from the consumer’s side, Bonzon said “the average annual cost of child care for an infant and a preschooler in Howard County is twice the cost of in-state tuition at the University of Maryland College Park: the cost of having two children cared for is about $23,000 per year.”  

In Anne Arundel, the county is about a month into its recently announced Childcare Providers Support Grant program. At press time, the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. (AAEDC) had approved 169 applications and have committed about two-thirds of its $3 million that was channeled from the CARES Act.

The overall average grant amount is $11,346, with the average grant for at-home providers at about $3,500, with about $24,000 for child care centers. “We have funds available for all child care centers that apply,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman who, like Twele, knows these grants are more about keeping businesses going than solving long-term issues.

“We’re just using our grants to keep the businesses afloat,” Pittman said. “Many parents are working from home, but when we get though the pandemic, many will be back in the office and the demand for child care will return to pre-pandemic levels. We don’t like seeing any businesses fail, but understand that if child care concerns do, that has big repercussions throughout the economy.”

Bozman also stressed in importance of child care to the economic recovery. “My long-term hope is that this situation is shining a light on how essential child care is,” she said. “If we don’t do something to elevate the profession, there could be dire conquests for future generations.”

Peusch continued. “Child care is a public good, but there’s no public money for the industry and it’s hard to get funding,” she said. “Just a few years ago Maryland was at the bottom of the barrel for child care subsidies, which is really sad. But we’ve risen from the ninth percentile in 2017 to the 45th percentile; we’re looking to get to the 60th percentile.”

While pivoting has served some industries well during the pandemic to the point that they may meld some new approaches into the post-pandemic marketing approach, it doesn’t work that way in the child care industry.

“We don’t have the ability to work remotely or offer carry-out service. Our workers have to be on site,” said Peusch, “and we’re losing a great deal of money.”

By Mark Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | November 2020 Issue

4,000 Free Meals

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The nonprofit Feed Howard County, born during the COVID-19 pandemic, has delivered more than 4,000 meals and has worked with more than a dozen local restaurants.

And the need for food among our neighbors persists.

Photo courtesy Feed Howard County.

Founded by Pat Curran, Kevin Powell, and Debra Reese – all members of First Presbyterian Church of Howard County – the effort has grown larger than any of its creators predicted.

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation now serves as a fiscal sponsor, and Feed Howard County works with Community Organizations Active in Disaster to help determine which families are most food insecure.

Curran, who sold his business in 2015, was looking for ways to get more involved in the community.

“The idea is simple,” he said. “We pay restaurants across Howard County to prepare meals and we keep people fed and keep restaurant employees working.”

Curran also wants more involvement from local businesspeople, who can serve as sponsors for one or more nights of meals or as volunteers handing out food.

Typically, Feed Howard County purchases 150 meals, then delivers them to a preset location. Individuals and families pick up the meals without having to fill out any kind of form, Curran said, which shows respect for their privacy and dignity.

“We don’t ask questions when people come for the meals,” he said.

Now, as the pandemic wears on, Feed Howard County faces growing needs with wintertime approaching.

“It’s time for businesses to step up and help people who need meals – and help keep our beloved local restaurants open, too,” said Curran.

Powell, owner of Total Impressions Marketing, said, “We think businesses will like the idea of helping those most in need while, at the same time, helping local restaurants keep afloat.”

Lance Cook, owner of Tino’s Italian Bistro & Wine Bar and majority owner of The Periodic Table, is a Feed Howard County partner.

“Tino’s Italian Bistro has had the privilege of partnering with Feed Howard County multiple times over the past several months,” said Cook. “The Feed Howard County team has been professional and organized and a great organization to work with.”

Cook said, “It has truly been a win-win-win, feeding and giving back to the community while supporting an independently owned restaurant and its employees during these challenging times. We could not ask for better partners!”

Joshua Lennon, president of Absolutely Perfect Catering, became a partner with Feed Howard County in May.

“Working with Feed Howard County has been a great opportunity both for the people it serves and the businesses that it supports, said Lennon. “Like many restaurants and food service providers, we have seen over a 50 percent decrease in our business due to the coronavirus. Every dollar helps keep the lights on and our staff employed.”

Reese handles many behind-the-scenes logistics, balancing her volunteer efforts for Feed Howard County with a full-time job as a project director for Magellan Health.

She said that the number of meals delivered each week depends on how many donations come in.

“We have a policy that, as fast as we have the money, we spend it on meals,” she said. “If we get a large donation, we’ll deliver meals for three or four nights in one week. Otherwise, we can’t schedule that week – and that breaks my heart.”

Reese estimates that, currently, Feed Howard County is able to deliver meals one night per week. “We can hand out 150 meals in nine minutes,” she said. “It demonstrates the need when the meals go that quickly.”

She suggested businesses donate funds and work as volunteers to hand out meals – a meaningful team-building activity.

“It’s an hour of your time,” she said. “That includes setting up the tables and handing out the meals.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | November 2020 Issue

New service for BWI Marshall  

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Southwest Airlines announced will start nonstop service between BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Chicago-O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 14, 2021.  Southwest will offer four daily roundtrip flights between BWI and Chicago-O’Hare.

This is the second new Southwest route for BWI Marshall has announced in recent weeks. The airline will start nonstop service between BWI Marshall and Miami on Nov. 15, 2020.  Southwest will also offer four daily roundtrip flights between BWI and Miami International Airport. Miami and Chicago O’Hare are two new markets for Southwest Airlines.

JACS Solutions leases in BWI Tech Park

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Technology company JACS Solutions has signed a lease with St. John Properties for 15,000 square feet at 809 Pinnacle Drive, Linthicum. The company expects to relocate approximately 30 employees from Howard County to Anne Arundel County by Nov. 1.

JACS Solutions designs and manufactures custom-built, commercial-grade smart devices and touch displays. More than one million JACS products have been deployed in more than 55 countries by health care, transportation, manufacturing, finance and retail companies, as well as educational institutions and entities in the public sector. The company has a subsidiary company in China that handles the majority of manufacturing but plans to retrofit a portion of the new space in Linthicum for such use in the future.

Imperfect Foods leases big space in Hanover

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Columbia-based Lee & Associates Maryland has brokered an 110,000-square-foot lease on behalf of Imperfect Foods at 7481 Coca Cola Drive, in the Anne Arundel County section of Hanover. Two years ago, Lee & Associates brokered a 76,000-square-foot lease with the company at 8024 Telegraph Road, in Severn, and the new deal represents an expansion.

Founded by Ben Simon and Ben Chesler to combat daily food waste, San Francisco-based Imperfect Foods ships fruits and vegetables that are considered not suitable for sale in grocery stores directly to consumers’ homes. According to the company, approximately 20 percent of all produce grown in the United States never leave the farm and are either left in the field to rot or taken to a local landfill. The result is billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables discarded on an annual basis.

Imperfect Foods is configured as a subscriber service in which weekly orders, ranging from seven to nine pounds to 23 to 25 pounds, are shipped to families. The new location will continue to function as an East Coast distribution center.

This spring, the company announced plans to hire more than 120 additional full-time workers to assemble and deliver its food boxes based on strong demand. Imperfect Foods indicates the company has recycled more than 116 million pounds of food since its founding five years ago.

MD MEP offers free cyber programs for small businesses

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The Columbia-based Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP) is offering a new series of free, weekly, virtual programs designed to help Maryland small businesses advance their cybersecurity knowledge and capabilities. Each session of the Defense Cybersecurity Assistance Program (DCAP) Cyber Series will feature local cybersecurity providers presenting essential information to protect against cyber threats.

This series is free to any Maryland business concerned about cybersecurity but will be especially beneficial to local manufacturers holding contracts with the DoD who are required to address cybersecurity. Attendees will receive guidance on the current requirements dictated by the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012 and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Publication 800-171. Sessions will also provide regular updates on the rollout of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a new unified standard in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB).

In addition to the DCAP Cyber Series, the Maryland Defense Cybersecurity Assistance Program (DCAP) provides funding and assistance to help Maryland defense contractors comply with these new standards. Since 2018, DCAP has educated more than 150 local businesses on cybersecurity and is estimated to provide more than $750,000 of direct funding and technical assistance to small businesses by the end of 2020.

Register for the DCAP Cyber Series:
The DCAP Cyber Series began on Oct. 29 and will be offered weekly through February 2021. Dates, topics, and registration for each session are available online at www.mdmep.org/dcap-cyber-series/. Questions and topic requests may be sent to Sara Keith at skeith@mdmep.org.

DCAP is a Maryland Department of Commerce initiative, coordinated by MD MEP and funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), to assist Maryland defense contractors with meeting new federal regulations for cybersecurity.

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