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Gula Tech Adventures joins $6M financing for INKY


INKY Technology Corp., a next-gen anti-phishing startup, has raised an additional $6 million in funding led by ClearSky Security, as well as participation from Ellicott City-based Gula Tech Adventures to close out the start-up’s series A round of funding. Ron Gula, Founder of Gula Tech Adventures, will join INKY’s Board of Advisors as a result of the funding close.

“As an early investor in INKY and team, I’ve seen the real benefits of the company’s computer vision technology in preventing and catching phishing attacks before they are able to execute ahead of legacy anti-phishing technologies on the market today,” said Gula, founder, Gula Tech Adventures.

College Park-based INKY was designed to use the power of cutting-edge computer vision technology to sift through the deceptive ways in which criminals are putting together phishing attacks. INKY can detect and block phishing attacks that use even the most sophisticated tactics, such as hidden text and altered logos, before they reach end users.

The company’s flagship anti-phishing solution, INKY Phish Fence, is equipped with anomaly detection algorithms and computer vision technology to identify and block brand forgery emails, spear phishing attempts and extortion attacks, while also alerting employees with helpful warning banners to unusual or suspicious emails, giving users specific guidance on potentially problematic messages.

In addition, Cybrary, the world’s largest online cybersecurity career development platform, has secured $15 million in Series B funding. The round is led by Austin, Texas-based BuildGroup, with participation from existing investors including Arthur Ventures and Gula Tech Adventures. Gula will also be joining Cybrary’s board of directors.

HCEDA hires Bubeck to direct Innovation Center


Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) has hired Chuck Bubeck as executive director of the Innovation Center. Bubeck will bring a new strategic approach to the activities and programs within the center and further accelerate innovation in the region.

With more than 40 years in the technology industry, including a decade at Apple, Bubeck’s experience as a serial entrepreneur resulted in several successful startups and subsidiaries. During his time with Apple, he helped launch the original 1984 Macintosh and later was one the companies first Regional Systems Engineering Managers.

In 1993, Bubeck founded Ease Technologies, Inc. a regionally recognized Managed Services Provider. EaseTech spinoffs included one of the first commercially available FIX digital trading systems on the market, as well as a legal document management system.  Since its inception, Ease has successfully marketed and sold its spinoff products to over 100 investment banks, as well as top legal firms nationally. The company has been regularly recognized among the fastest-growing Managed Services Providers in the U.S. EaseTech was recently acquired by Thrive Networks, a leading NexGen MSP headquartered in Boston.

“Chuck was selected because he possesses the industry experience that is required to lead the Center – he has seen ventures both succeed and fail, and he brings those lessons-learned to our startup community. But more importantly, he has deep roots in the region and brings with him the dedication to build the Innovation Center into an asset that will benefit all in the community,” said Lawrence Twele, CEO of HCEDA.

Bubeck is a Wilde Lake High School alumnus and later studied Computer Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, College Park. He has received several awards throughout his career in technology and entrepreneurship, including being recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist (1997), a Fast 50 Winner (1997) and a National Fast 500 Winner (1998).

Deal offered for Pimlico, Laurel


A new plan to keep the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore aims to make Maryland the nation’s horse racing epicenter, modernize Laurel Park and Pimlico race courses and revitalize the Park Heights neighborhood.

Proponents of the new strategy say it can be done without breaking the bank or spending a cent of taxpayer money, but it does require legislation extending the period of time that casinos provide Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) funding to the racing industry, which could still be a hard sell.

In contrast to the acrimony that defined the General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session, representatives from Baltimore, The Stronach Group (TSG), which owns both racetracks, and the industry’s breeders, trainers and workers put aside their differences to develop a plan that would benefit all of the stakeholders.

“We began with the proposition that we have to live within our means,” said Alan Rifkin, attorney for TSG and the Preakness Stakes. “It never would have worked and never will work if we have to reach into the General Fund.”

The Plan

The plan’s architects vowed to keep the Preakness at Pimlico even during construction, meaning the event could operate at temporary facilities for a year.
As currently envisioned, Laurel Park would be redeveloped first, with new barns and stable areas housing nearly 1,600 permanent stalls on land adjoining MD 198 and Brock Bridge Road.

Also, the plan includes a new dorm for up to 380 track workers built through a non-profit housing developer and repurposing the existing paddock as a public venue.

“That building is an iconic and important element of the redevelopment,” acknowledged Bill Cole, a partner in Columbia-based Margrave Strategies that represents Baltimore. In all, nearly 16 acres west of the track is earmarked for private commercial, retail and restaurant development.

A new synthetic Tapeta track, installed between the existing turf and dirt tracks, would double as a training track and an alternative surface when weather conditions make racing on turf or dirt unsafe. A smaller, more intimate clubhouse and grandstand would replace existing facilities, incorporating a central paddock area to afford better views of horses being prepared for races.

During construction, horses and training would shift to Pimlico, the Timonium Fairgrounds and possibly the Bowie Training Center.

Following work at Laurel, Pimlico’s track would be rotated 30 degrees and shortened slightly to optimize surrounding land parcels for redevelopment and a new, considerably smaller clubhouse would be built. Overlays for moveable seating and suite components would allow reconfiguration of seating each year based on demand and could be increased or decreased as needed.

According to Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA), a new racing museum is included in the designs and the stall that housed every Kentucky Derby winner would be preserved.

Who Pays?

Financing the project, which could take three to four years, requires each of the stakeholders to refrain from using their VLT funding for other projects, Rifkin said.
Contributions of $8.5 million from TSG’s dedicated Racetrack Facility Renewal Account (RFRA) funds, $3.5 million from Baltimore’s community impact funds and $5 million from the horsemen’s Purse Dedication Account funds would amount to $17 million in annual debt service funds, he explained.

The combination of a 30-year bond and the accumulated cash value before the bond debt is issued in 2021 would generate a total of $375 million for the project.
With a projected cost of $199.5 million for Pimlico’s redevelopment and $173 million for Laurel, “total project plans are about $373 million, leaving [more than] $1.5 million for issuance costs and the like,” Rifkin said. “The Maryland Stadium Authority has vetted that number and it’s a solid number.”

The Kansas City-based Populous architecture firm that designed Camden Yards was hired to create the initial designs.

Great Potential

Belinda Stronach, president of TSG, agreed to donate the 110-acre Pimlico site – valued at around $50 million – to the City of Baltimore, which would create a separate entity to manage the property and lease it back to TSG during the Preakness and any other racing events held there. For the rest of the year it would remain a community asset, giving Park Heights residents access to six athletic fields in the infield and other amenities.

Laurel Park would be kept by TSG but held in trust by the development entities and leased back for the 30-year period.

Moreover, TSG would pay the $8 to $10 million annual cost to build out Preakness Stakes seating overlays.

Speaking to constituents in early October on WYPR Radio’s Midday program, state Del. Sandy Rosenberg, whose district includes Pimlico, said TSG’s change of heart on bringing the Preakness to Laurel was likely influenced by last year’s legislative session.
“I think it became apparent that the legislature would not support a change in the law that would allow the race to be moved,” he said.

With so many details already accounted for, the biggest hurdle will be legislation to extend the expiration date of RFRA and community impact funds to coincide with the 30-year bonds, create the entity that will manage and oversee Pimlico and ensure community input in the redevelopment of Park Heights.

“I’m very encouraged that the two presiding officers (Maryland Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones) issued a very positive statement calling this a win/win situation,” Rosenberg said. “The devil is in the details, but overwhelmingly what I’ve heard is that people recognize there’s great potential here.”

Turkey farm ready for holidays


It’s about a month before Thanksgiving and at Fulton’s Sho Nuf Turkey Farm, Chris Bohrer and company are getting ready to roll.

After a rocky continuation of tradition last Thanksgiving while negotiating with his wife to buy the family farm equipment from long-time owners Gene Iager (his father-in-law) and Gene’s brother, Charlie Iager – the brothers could not agree as to how to continue operations – Bohrer is still bringing area residents the popular turkeys Sho Nuf’s predecessor, Maple Lawn Farm, was known for.

For Bohrer, what sounds like a new name really represents a return to basics from 80 years ago as seen through the eyes of the farm’s founder.

“My wife’s grandfather, Ellsworth Iager, used to brand the turkeys as ’Sho Nuf Broad Breasted,’ ” Bohrer said. “So the change is to honor him. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be doing what we do.”

Pecking Order

With Bohrer and wife Tanya (Gene’s daughter and granddaughter of Ellsworth and Mary Elizabeth), the name is a key difference from the farm’s new era.

Still, “The same people are doing the same jobs with the same turkeys,” said Bohrer of the operation, which grosses about $550,000 annually. “The main difference is that Gene answers to me and not the other way around. And all Sho Nuf is doing is turkeys. We’ve nothing to do with Maple Lawn Farms. That’s run by the other part of the family.”

Today, Bohrer and the farmhands are checking “more than 30,000 turkeys daily and they’re eating about three trucks worth of food per week,” he said. “That’s 70 tons per week. When we get near Thanksgiving, it gets to 90 tons per week. My feed bill for three trucks a week is about $20,000, depending on amount and the price of feed. For five trucks, the price reaches $30,000.”

The farm has four full-time employees and 50-60 workers (contractors) during the peak weeks of processing about two weeks before Thanksgiving is when the operation kicks into high gear. “Preparations start between the 12th up until the 26th of November, then people come to the farm to start buying the weekend before Thanksgiving until about the day before.”

Bohrer said the retail price is $2.45 per pound, with the average weight about 18 pounds per turkey, but the wholesale price “is somewhat cheaper for the stores, since selling them one-at-a-time takes considerable manpower.”

Sales Boost

Distribution of turkeys on the retail side has changed. “One thing we’ve done is cut out some markets in order to satisfy the demand for our customers,” he said, which has meant “cutting out supplying larger stores, like Whole Foods and Harris Teeter because those places are not where we built our business.”

So, Sho Nuf still supplies local operations like David’s Natural Market and Boarman’s Meat Market as well as supplying limited inventory to My Organic Market (or MOM’s), “which are relationships we’re looking to extend in the future,” Bohrer said.

David London, owner of David’s, which has area locations in Columbia and Gambrills, has worked with the Iager family for more than 25 years. Since the turkey farm is no longer doing business with the larger stores, David’s will have “about 20 percent more turkeys to sell at our neighborhood stores,” he said.

“That [means] more customers and it’s all about keeping the customers happy,” said London. “The costs range from $25 for 10 pounds up to $100 for 40 pounds,” which are sold in two-pound increments.

“They have great turkeys and are great people, and I really appreciate that,” he said.

“Picking up a bird there a few days before Thanksgiving is crazy, given the crowd, but it’s tradition and people enjoy that. Still, many others buy the turkeys at the store and it helps the bottom line, because we can make up for being closed on the holiday.”

Boarman’s Meat Market, of Highland, is one of the farm’s oldest customers. “We’ve been here since 1955,” said General Manager Georgie Boarman, “and I’m pretty sure we’ve been buying from them since they’ve been selling to stores.”

Boarman’s sells “about 1,000 turkeys every Thanksgiving and a few hundred for Christmas, too. It always brings lots of people in who also buy other products,” said Boarman, “and it’s a lot easier to pick up the turkeys here than it is at the farm.”
While Sho Nuf isn’t “the cheapest farm to buy from, they’re the best,” he said. “Sho Nuf isn’t just the farm name, it’s an actual strain (or breed) of turkey. The best thing to stuff it with is our country sausage.”

Coming Years

Back at the farm, after the annual late fall whirl, it’s time to prepare for the next year. “We clean the barns of the manure in the winter and they’re dormant for six months,” said Bohrer. “Then the baby turkeys come in June.”

Given that the community of Maple Lawn arose from farmland, the future of land use is always top of mind in that part of Fulton.

Kathy Johnson, director of agricultural business development with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said Sho Nuf “has a good operation to keep growing turkeys in the future, too. Chris is a good manager of the farm, has a great deal of knowledge as well as a passion for the industry,” noting the farm was officially sold as of Oct. 1 and “will continue to be a turkey farm – at least for the time being.”

Tipton Airport flying high after 20 years


Twenty years of flight was celebrated at Tipton Airport, where runways parallel Route 32 in Anne Arundel County.

Two decades ago, the general aviation airport was brought back from dormancy, rejuvenated and integrated into the community.
After significant upgrades, the airport is completing a study, due in 2020, for the future of the $1.6 million operation and looking to usher in a new era of flying high with a runway extension.

Years Ago

This story begins when the U.S. Army closed the airport as part of a Base Realignment and Closure on Sept. 30, 1995.

After a brief hiatus, the Tipton Airport Authority (TAA) hired the airport manager, Mike Wassel, on Sept. 1, 1999, and the runway was reopened Nov. 1.

“When I was hired the county did some renovations on the terminal building, yet my first office was in Annapolis at the Arundel Center, down the hall from then-County Executive Janet Owen’s office, for the first two months,” said Wassel. “The only thing at Tipton was the old fire department, which the army was using.”

That first year, Tipton hosted just three planes and was a daytime-only operation with no lighting.

“The hangers weren’t usable, so we couldn’t get certifications of occupancy from the county for almost a year,” he said. “The county gave us some capital funds during that time to start minor improvements and offered a small operating subsidy that the facility was weaned from in five years.”

As it happened, many of the improvements over the years have been completed mostly with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) money. “We’ve resurfaced the runways and taxiways, installed fueling systems for turbine and piston engines (that use regular fuel), added a pilot-controlled lighting system and 22 T-hangers. We’re now home to 113 small aircraft.”

The tenants now include the Anne Arundel County Police Department, Medstar, three news gathering organizations, two fixed and one rotary wing flight schools and an aircraft maintenance provider.

That sounds impressive when compared to Tipton’s humble beginnings. “That first year,” said Wassel, “was just me and lots of open space.”

Economic Driver

While operating Tipton could be lonely during those first years, Wassel said there was ample demand for the airport.

“We needed to get our services in place,” he said. “Since that time, we’ve had a stream of people wanting to use our facility. We are in the dead center of the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis triangle and we feed of off our prime location. There are clients who drive from as far as Frederick, Rockville and Washington, D.C. to fly out of Tipton.”

Tipton has been a good economic development success story and can be an even better generator with an extended runway, said Eric Flamino, chairman of the TAA.

“We have almost 50,000 takeoffs and landings a year,” he said. “We’re trying to promote aviation as a business by connecting with the schools as well as fostering small businesses regarding mechanics, flight schools and avionics shops that provide maintenance services.”

Going forward, the TAA wants to position the airport to better serve the market.
“One way to do that would be to finish the runway project, so we can expand our offerings to more business as well government employees on and around Fort Meade,” Flamino said. “When you see what else is going on around the post, with Arundel Mills, Live! Casino & Hotel, Laurel Park and others, Tipton should be a beneficiary.”

Rising Star

Given the focuses of the BWI Business Partnership on transportation and economic development in the region, “there is a real synergy between this organization and Tipton Airport,” said Executive Director Gina Stewart, noting the organization just awarded Tipton its Rising Star Award at its annual meeting.

Stewart also praised the community involvement that Flamino alluded to. That’s “a priority for Tipton,” she said. “In addition to participating with our Young Professionals Group and sponsoring our Transportation Think Tank (or T3) program, it also hosts events for the Partnership and the Central Maryland Chamber and serves as a stakeholder in the region.”

Furthermore, Tipton also hosts the Young Eagles on occasion, affording young, future aviators (ages 8 and 17) their first free ride in an airplane and the airport continues positive relations with Fort Meade leadership and serves as an FAA-designated reliever airport for BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Project Runway

Before the reopening of Tipton, there were some environmental issues with potential unexploded ordnance “that weren’t so much about immediate danger but making sure that any issues in and around the airfield were identified and mitigated,” said Bill Badger, who was then CEO of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. “The airport went through a full environmental assessment before it was turned over to public use.”
That concern resulted in Howard County stepping away from the deal to reopen the airport. Today, Wassel said the ordnance “may still be there.” So Tipton works with Army Corps of Engineers “any time we dig.”

The main focus at Tipton remains on finishing the environmental assessment for the runway extension, which will be done in early 2020. The runway length stands at 3,000 feet and needs to be 4,200 feet, which would enable aircraft to operate more efficiently.
The expansion, with mitigation, design and construction, would cost $7 million. The FAA would pay 90 percent of the cost, the state of Maryland would pay 5 percent and Tipton would pay 5 percent that has been raised via revenues.

“Our share is ready,” Wassel said. “We get some small business aircraft here now but the shorter runway limits what they can carry in terms of people as well as products, especially in the summer when it’s hot.”

But for today, the facility is capped at 300 aircraft, but only hosts 113 clients.

Still, Wassel and company are hopeful of more progress finally being made soon. “The expansion would result in more hanger buildout,” he said, “because it would drive general expansion of the facility.”

BWI Marshall welcomes Sun Country Airlines


Sun Country Airlines has added BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to its growing network. Sun Country plans to start seasonal nonstop service between BWI Marshall and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on May 8, 2020.

Sun Country will initially offer two weekly roundtrip flights between BWI Marshall and Minneapolis-St. Paul, then increase the number of flights to four weekly roundtrips on June 4. The airline is a privately-held company based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul and is a leader in leisure travel flying to more than 50 destinations across the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

“We are excited to welcome BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to our growing network and to provide service to Minneapolis-St. Paul,” said Sun Country Chief Revenue Officer Grant Whitney. “We’re committed to affordably connecting guests to their favorite people, places and memories, and we look forward to bringing that commitment to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We think guests will enjoy our low fares, great customer service, and comfortable onboard experience.”

A recent economic impact report revealed that BWI Marshall Airport produces a total economic impact of $9.3 billion. The airport and visitors generate and support more than 106,000 jobs throughout the region and remains the busiest airport in the region.

Wegmans pulls out of Annapolis plan


Here is a statement from Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning Officer Steve Kaii-Ziegler:

“On Nov. 5, 2019, Wegmans informed county planners that it was withdrawing its application to build a 91,057-square-foot store that would occupy the former US Internetworking property on Riva Road, directly across the Annapolis Towne Center in the Parole Growth Management Area (PGMA).

“The Office of Planning and Zoning has been in discussions with Wegmans for approximately a year, working with Wegmans to help it achieve its business plan while maintaining the integrity of the goals and standards of the PGMA. Unfortunately, Wegmans business plan called for a one story, big box design with a huge parking lot that was more suitable for a rural or suburban setting. The parking plan proposed a sea of surface parking (650 spaces) in the front of their building, which is approximately 200 spaces more than the county requires.

“[The] Office of Planning and Zoning provided Wegmans with several alternative design options that would have better connected the store to the Riva Road corridor and been compatible with the adjacent town center. Wegmans was unwilling to adequately address those issues and, unfortunately, we were not able to reach a consensus on the design.

“The Office of Planning and Zoning is disappointed that Wegmans has apparently made a decision to withdraw their application. Despite their decision, we remain committed to assisting Wegmans should they reconsider their current position.”

Wegmans operates stores in Maryland in Columbia and at the Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, in Gambrills, plus six others.

Statement from Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman regarding Wegmans:

“I’ve heard from many constituents that they are disappointed that Wegmans is apparently pulling out of plans for an Annapolis store. I’m disappointed, too. But planning decisions we make now will affect communities for years to come, and so we can’t settle for a design that isn’t right.”

Thrive expands into the Mid-Atlantic with EaseTech


Foxborough, Mass.-based Thrive, a provider of NextGen Managed Services, has acquired EaseTech, a well-established, leading managed services provider based in Columbia. The addition of EaseTech will provide a new region for Thrive to offer their advanced suite of cybersecurity, hybrid Cloud, global network management, disaster recovery and compliance-driven NextGen services.

Founded in 1993 by Chuck Bubeck, the EaseTech roster of employees reached 40 and provides Cloud-focused managed services for businesses in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to maximize their technology return on investment and concentrate on their own business core competencies.

“Partnering with EaseTech is a highly attractive proposition for Thrive as they’re one of the most widely respected technology firms in the mid-Atlantic region. EaseTech’s ‘customer-first’ philosophy is a perfect match for our core values,” said Rob Stephenson, Thrive CEO. “The EaseTech clients will benefit greatly from Thrive’s vast engineering expertise and our NextGen platform of advanced cybersecurity, hybrid Cloud and compliance-driven services.”

Bubeck will now begin serving as a consultant to Thrive while beginning his new position as executive director for the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s new Maryland Innovation Center. Jason Shirdon, formerly the president of EaseTech, will continue to lead the day-to-day efforts of the division as Thrive’s executive vice president and general manager.

Howard County will host 2020 National Women’s Cricket Tournament


The 2020 National Women’s Cricket Tournament will be held in Howard County from July 12 to July 15, 2020, by the Howard County Cricket League, in partnership with Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks and the United States Youth Cricket Association (USYCA).

The 4-day event is offering seven 20/20 matches per team and a minimum two teams are expected to be Junior girls (age 15 and under). The tournament will also feature some of the top women players in the United States. Matches will be held at Schooley Mill Park, in Highland, and Murray Hill Middle School, in Laurel.

“This is a huge win for Howard County and a testament Howard County Department of Recreation & Park’s ability to construct and maintain world-class facilities and to seek out quality events,” said Amanda Hof, executive director of Visit Howard County. “With 70 teams, their coaches, and respective friends and family this event has the potential to generate well over $1.5 million dollars in booked hotel rooms and visitor spending in Howard County in just four days.”

Maryland Casinos generate $143.9M in October


Maryland Lottery and Gaming announced that October 2019 gaming revenues for the state’s six casinos were $143,895,409. The total represents a $14,065,258 (-8.9%) decrease compared to the October 2018 total of $157,960,668.

Contributions to the state of Maryland from October 2019 casino gaming revenue totaled $59,267,140, including $44,456,366 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 three in central Maryland. They include the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill; Live! Casino & Hotel, in Hanover; and the Horseshoe Casino, in Baltimore City. Three of the six casinos saw year-over-year increases compared to their October 2018 gaming revenue totals:

MGM National Harbor (3,139 slot machines, 207 table games)
$59,865,449 in October 2019, a decrease of $13,577,649 (-18.5%) from October 2018

Live! Casino & Hotel (3,781 slot machines, 195 table games)
$47,609,584 in October 2019, an increase of $606,560 (1.3%) from October 2018

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (2,184 slot machines, 145 table games)
$19,147,504 in October 2019, a decrease of $1,915,040 (-9.1%) from October 2018

Details on each casino’s gaming revenues and contributions to the State of Maryland are included in the attached charts, and both fiscal and calendar year-to-date totals are available at www.mdgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/October-2019-Casino-Revenue-Data.pdf .

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