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Offit Kurman affiliates with Horack Talley, expanding

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Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing law firms in the mid-Atlantic, is strategically expanding into the Southeast by affiliating with one of Charlotte’s oldest law firms.

Starting Sept. 1, the attorneys and staff of Horack Talley will be joining Offit Kurman.
The affiliation extends Offit Kurman’s geographic footprint to encompass roughly half of the East Coast and lays the foundation for further expansion for the firm.

Fifty-one employees of Horack Talley, including 27 lawyers, will become Offit Kurman’s Charlotte office through the affiliation. The team will remain in their current office location at 301 South College Street. The group’s move to become part of Offit Kurman will create a number of new jobs for the local community.

Horack Talley is yet another regional group that has affiliated with Offit Kurman over the past several years. In 2009, when many law firms were reducing staff, Offit Kurman announced a corporate strategy for regional expansion from Baltimore to other cities and states on the East Coast. That initiative resulted in the firm’s significant growth and the opening of offices in the metropolitan and suburban areas of Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Wilmington, DE; New York; and now Charlotte.

By strategically expanding in key markets, Offit Kurman has grown at a rapid pace: from 55 attorneys in 2009 to more than 200 attorneys by mid-2019. Earlier this year, Law360 recognized the firm as one of the top 400 largest legal providers in the U.S., with a growth rate of nearly double the average for the top 100 on the list.

Founded in 1932, Horack Talley boasts a long history of legal service to its community in Charlotte. Its practice groups include community associations, business and corporate, family law, litigation, real estate, and personal wealth services.

Horack Talley’s practice groups complement Offit Kurman’s core practice areas and clients in real estate, business law and transactions, mergers and acquisitions, labor and employment, estates and trusts, and family law. The affiliation allows Horack Talley to provide a full range of legal services to clients, and to fuel growth opportunities for engaging new clients – by tapping into the Offit Kurman’s expanded practice area platform and network of 200-plus attorneys – without an increase in hourly rates.

Ted Offit, Offit Kurman chairman, CEO, and co-founder, commented on how Charlotte is the perfect city to launch the firm’s Southeast expansion, in part because of the city’s tremendous growth. Charlotte is now the fifth-fastest growing city in the nation, according to Census data. Its strong banking and financial industries also fit with Offit Kurman’s presence in New York and Wilmington.

For more information about Offit Kurman’s legal services, the new attorneys joining the firm in Charlotte, and current career opportunities, visit offitkurman.com.

The veggie fix– CSAs bring key revenue to farms

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Local farms and residents are collaborating in arrangements called “community-supported agriculture.”

The arrangement brings early-season revenue to local farms and consumers benefit from healthy diet options while getting a taste of agri-tourism.

At Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, farmer Nora Crist grows vegetables for her summer community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, which is fully subscribed with about 40 families.

Though the petting zoo at the farm is currently the biggest source of its income, CSA revenue, which is paid in advance, greatly helps with cash flow. Since CSA members pay in late winter or early spring, Crist can buy seeds, plants and equipment and hire labor before the farm starts producing food.

The cost of a CSA full share is $375 and a medium share is $250.

“Farmers are now more aware than ever that they need to diversify their income sources,” said Crist.

She has offered a vegetable CSA since 2013, at one point expanding to about 60 families but settling into the current 40, which for Crist brings the right balance of sales versus labor.

In addition, Clark’s Farm also hosts a beef and pork CSA. During each 3-month season, consumers pick up meat once a month, with a large share selling for $600 and a small share for $250 for the season.

The vegetable CSA is always filled, said Crist, who offers it to returning members first, then to new families. As far as competition from meal kit delivery companies such as Blue Apron, Crist believes for there is room enough for both.

“The CSA  model lets me focus on growing food,” said Crist. “I don’t want to be a delivery person.”

She also wants people to know the unique advantages of buying directly from the farm. At Clark’s Farm, with its bucolic beauty and baby goats cavorting around, a CSA pickup gives consumers a break from the rush of daily suburbia. It’s a little dose of agri-tourism that keeps people in touch with their food.

“And as far as value,” said Crist, “compare the prices to the grocery store.” She never wants her CSA to come across as an aloof operation only for kale-centric, wealthy people.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people who say they can’t join my CSA because they don’t like kale,” Crist says with a smile. “No, no, no! We can work this out.” (Although for kale-lovers, Crist’s is top-of-the-line.)

The dish on CSAs

There are about a dozen CSAs operating in Howard County each season, with some fading in and out depending on a particular farm’s focus, expenses or ability to cope with the weather. CSAs peaked in Howard County about three years ago and then decreased, said James Zoller, agricultural coordinator for the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability.

“If you talk to any farm running a CSA currently that had one five years ago, they would tell you that the number of participants in their CSA has decreased,” said Zoller. “Initially, this decrease was due to new CSAs being created, then later more consumers opting for meal kit programs and buying clubs.”

Yet CSAs have steadily remained an important source of farm revenue. “CSAs allow farms to have income to help with planting costs and also allows them to better plan, having a committed customer base,” he said.

And the resident-to-farm connection is also very important, Zoller reflected. “When someone joins a CSA, they have direct contact with that farm for several weeks. They see the different crops coming in depending on the season, and see the farmer each week when they receive their share.”

CSAs continue to evolve in other ways as well. Some offer volunteering options and work-share programs which let people experience life on a farm firsthand. “Now farms are offering choices of what you get in your share and also offering home delivery. CSAs are a great example of the ingenuity of our local farms to meet the communities’ needs and generate income. This ability to adapt to current markets is necessary for our local farms to survive.”

If you grow it they will come

David Liker has so much faith in the CSA model that the entire income of Gorman Farms depends on its 600 CSA participants.

Liker’s 2019 summer CSA offers 20 weeks of vegetables for $830 for a full share and $635 for a medium share.

Over the decade since he started the farm, Liker has added an early winter option as well as special strawberry picking and local honey to CSA members.

The amount of rainfall in 2018 – nearly 72 inches as opposed to the average 40 – was by far the biggest challenge Liker has ever seen. “I’m proud of the fact that we survived 2018, that we pulled that off,” he said.

Though Gorman Farms has, from its beginning, identified as a CSA-based operation, for a few years Liker operated a farm stand. “The farm stand was really popular, but we had to make some difficult business decisions. We asked, what’s going to produce the best results for us? Bottom line is, we exist because of the community.”

Hunting still a tourism driver in Maryland

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Hunting may not rank high on everyone’s list of tourist activities that attract people to Howard and Anne Arundel Counties, it is an important option.

Hunting does bring revenue to the state and counties and provides a local economic impact.

Last November, business leaders from across the state who support hunting gathered in Annapolis to announce the formation of Hunting Works For Maryland, a non-profit local grassroots partnership organization focused on explaining the role that hunting and shooting sports play in Maryland’s heritage and economic health.

“Hunting generates $32 million in state and local taxes, which obviously benefits everyone who lives in Maryland,” said former Maryland State Sen. John Astle, one of the organization’s co-chairs, who represented Anne Arundel County’s District 30 for four terms before retiring last fall.

“Hunters also pay an 11 percent excise tax on equipment, under the Pittman-Robertson Act, and those funds are reallocated for the express purpose of conserving wildlife habitat,” he added. “That benefits non-game animal species too, and it benefits everyone who enjoys the outdoors. These are the kinds of facts we want to make common knowledge.”

Last year, Maryland received $8 million in Pittman-Robinson funds for state conservation efforts.

Big Impact

More than 88,000 people hunt in Maryland each year, including 19,000 from out-of-state, said Deb Carter, executive director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds and also a co-chair of Hunting Works For Maryland.

“Each of these hunters spends, on average, $3,000 a year,” she said, noting that hunters contribute significantly to the thriving recreational vehicle business and campground industry.

Ruth Toomey, executive director of the Maryland Tourism Coalition, said hunters spend $128 million for equipment each year in Maryland, and more than $50 million on trip related expenses, including food, lodging, transportation, and other trip costs.

“That statistic is important to those who own hotels, campgrounds, lodges and restaurants,” she said.

Hunter spending supports 4,500 Maryland jobs paying $128 million in salaries and wages, she added, with jobs, taxes and sales resulting in a $401 million ripple effect on the state economy.

Conservation Efforts

The Hunting Works for America program launched as a pilot program in 2010 in Arizona, Minnesota and North Dakota, and has now expanded to 19 states with the addition of Maryland.

According to Tony Reiss, a spokesman for the national program, the goal of Hunting Works is to help policy makers, the media and the general public understand hunting’s benefits, which aren’t limited to the economy.

“You see it a lot with game or wildlife populations that are on the decline,” he said.

“Hunters will step up and take it upon everybody’s best interest to do a lot of the conservation [work] to help these species come back. It’s hunters who are out in the field observing wildlife, who know what to look for and are participating in testing programs to help keep things like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) under control and manage it to stop the spread.”

CWD, a neurological disease, affects deer, elk and moose, causing brain deterioration resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. It is widespread in Pennsylvania, and has been detected in 27 Maryland deer since 2010, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website.
Maryland’s canvasback duck population has also benefitted from hunter intervention, said Carter.

Influenced by unregulated market hunting in the early years of the 1900s, waves of drought that resulted in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, and drainage of small wetlands in the Midwest during the 1960s and 1970s, their population collapsed.

“My dad told me I’d never see one alive and free,” Carter said, but efforts by hunters to preserve and re-estabish habitat made a difference.

“Today you can see canvasbacks everywhere again, and there are even special permits for hunting them in Maryland,” she said. “That wouldn’t have happened if hunters didn’t care.”

Managed Hunts

Opportunities for waterfowl, large and small game hunting in Howard County are limited, confined mainly to private property and DNR Wildlife Management Areas within Patuxent Valley State Park and Patuxent River State Park.

Since 1998, Howard County has also used managed hunts to help maintain a stable, balanced white-tailed deer population in its parks, where heavy deer browsing has been shown to reduce biodiversity. Anne Arundel County operates a similar program in its parks.

Howard County’s Deer Management Task Force Report from 1998 found that increases in residential and commercial development coupled with better land use and development practices contributed to rising deer populations by creating more of the grazing borders they need. With a decrease in the number of hunters over the years, the unchecked deer population has become problematic, causing crop and vegetation damage and increased highway accidents.

According to the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks website, there has been an observable improvement in habitat quality and vegetation abundance in parks where managed deer hunts takes place.

“We perform an extensive background check on applicants, who also interview before a panel to answer ethics-based questions,” said Howard County Deer Management Program Manager Sam Richardson.

“We’ve had a good response, but are getting some turnover now as hunters get older and fewer young people are getting into the sport,” he said.

Over the past five years, a total of 727 deer have been harvested through Howard County’s managed hunts.

The Maryland Office of Tourism and Development’s www.fishandhuntmaryland.com website, created by a steering committee Astel served on in 2013, is a helpful resource for anyone looking for information about where to hunt in the state.

“It tells you what’s available in the way of species in each county, where to go, license requirements, season dates, lodging, everything you need to know, particularly if you’re coming from outside the state,” Astel said. “It’s going to help us promote Maryland and its hunting industry.”

Howard Names New Rec and Parks Director

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced Raul Delerme will serve as the new Howard County Recreation & Parks director, taking over for John Byrd. Delerme has been with Recreation & Parks since 1990, most recently serving as bureau chief of capital projects, park planning and construction. He has served as acting department director since June 8.

In 1990, Delerme joined the department as a park planner and engineer specialist. In 2008, he became the planning manager of capital projects and the park planning division. In 2010, he became the acting parks bureau chief before taking over permanently in 2011. Delerme has worked on a wide range of projects, serving as project manager for the master plan, design and construction on numerous parks, playgrounds and community centers.

AAMC, Doctors sign agreement

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After announcing the intent to partner in May, Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) and Doctors Community Health System (DCHS) have signed a definitive agreement. The transaction will allow them to move forward with plans to form a new health system to serve the region.

“The new health system will reimagine community care, improving access and population health while expanding services throughout Maryland,” said Victoria Bayless, president and CEO of AAMC. “We will continue our community focus and provide the personalized and localized care that our patients need. We want to ensure that the care our patients receive is from those who know the region and have a longstanding commitment to meeting the needs of our communities.”

Bayless will also serve as chief executive officer of the new system. Paul Grenaldo, who served as chief operating officer at DCHS since 2010, will succeed Philip Down as president of DCHS. Down will serve as strategic advisor to the new health system.

AAMC and DCHS will initially maintain their own governing boards with both organizations having representation on the board of the new health system. A name for the new health system will be announced later this summer. The full integration is expected to take up to two years.

APL to host AI Challenge

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The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, is chairing a reconnaissance blind chess (RBC) competition as part of the 33rd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2019), one of the top machine learning conferences in the world.

All are welcome to participate in the artificial intelligence (AI) competition, which starts Oct. 21. Participants do not need to attend the NeurIPS conference and there is no cost to participate. The winner receives a $1,000 prize and participants can play the game now.

To participate or experiment, obtain the RBC game and simple example bots by following APL’s Python package documentation, which is available at https://reconchess.readthedocs.io/en/latest). Participants interested in writing a bot in a language other than Python, or who prefer a lower level of control, can obtain HTTP RESTful API to interact with the competition server, and the Python implementation of a client can be used as a reference.

Participants need to register by Aug. 6 at https://rbc.jhuapl.edu/register. Two test tournaments will be held on Aug. 13 and Sept. 19 to check the infrastructure to ensure a smooth competition. The final tournament begins Oct. 21 with the outcome presented during the competition workshop at NeurIPS 2019.

Vohra Wound Physicians names a Center of Excellence

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The Mt. Airy location of Lorien Health Services, a family-owned nursing home, rehabilitation and assisted living company, has been certified by Vohra Wound Physicians as a Center of Excellence for Wound Management. Only 10% of Vohra’s skilled nursing facility partners have qualified for this annual certification.

Lorien Health Services partnered with Vohra, of Columbia, to bring physician-led bedside wound care to the facility. A Vohra wound physician visits the facility weekly to treat residents with wound and skin issues, thus reducing the need to send residents out to wound care centers or hospitals.

In addition, Vohra has been awarded a Health Care Quality Account grant by the Maryland Department of Health Office of Health Care Quality. The funding will provide support for 150 nurses to become certified in wound care through the Vohra Wound Care Nurse certification program.

The $85,700 award is made possible through the use of civil money penalties that were issued to Maryland nursing homes. The program offers 20 hours of Continuing Nursing Education in 11 topic areas in an interactive online format. To register for this free education and certification under the award, visit https://vohrawoundcare.com/cmp/maryland.

ADU reorganizes, acquires The Appliance Source

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Zarren Law Group (ZLG), a boutique business transactional law firm, has represented Appliance Distributors Unlimited (ADU), of Linthicum, in its corporate reorganization, as well as ADU’s acquisition of The Appliance Source. ADU is a dealer of high-end kitchen appliances in the mid-Atlantic and now operates eight locations.

Since 1982, AUD has served home builders, kitchen designers, contractors, property managers and homeowners remodeling their kitchens. Rosen, Sapperstein & Friedlander served as tax and accounting advisers to ADU.

HTC to host ‘End of Summer Bash’

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The Howard Tech Council (HTC) will host the 7th annual End of Summer Bash on Aug. 27 from 5–8 p.m. backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This premier networking event will feature an evening of networking and live music, with a crowd greater than 300 attendees expected.

The event will be held in the backstage VIP area of the pavilion. Guests will experience the area where some of the nation’s biggest musical acts prepare to entertain, including the private backstage pool, dressing rooms, assembly space and the rotating stage.

Tickets are on sale at early bird pricing through July 31 and available online at regular pricing through Aug. 26. Early bird pricing is $45 for members and $50 for nonmembers, with rates increasing $5 after July 30. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased at www.htc-eosb2019.eventbrite.com. Contact Tracy Turner at tlturner@hceda.org with questions.

Amendment to protect energy grids passes House

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The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment authored by Congressmen C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) to protect critical infrastructure, such as electric grids, from cyberattacks. The bipartisan measure was included in H.R. 3494, the bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020.

Ruppersberger’s amendment was inspired, in part, by a 2015 attack on the Ukrainian grid orchestrated by the Russians that affected more than 225,000 citizens. Since, according to a Ruppersberger press release U.S. “enemies have doubled down on their efforts to target cybersecurity weaknesses in our nation’s energy infrastructure, especially within industrial control systems.

“A sophisticated cyberattack could have disastrous consequences on the public health, safety and economic security of all Americans,” Ruppersberger said. “We can’t wait any longer to address the vulnerabilities we inherently create when we rely on complicated digital software systems for everyday basics like electricity and running water. This measure will help us both discover security gaps in our energy grid and keep an eye on emerging threats that could disrupt electricity generation or even cost lives.”

The bipartisan amendment was co-sponsored by Congressman John Carter, a Republican from Texas. It mirrors language already passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Authorization Act and …

● Sets up a 2-year pilot program to identify new classes of security vulnerabilities in the energy grid and test technologies that could be used to isolate critical systems from cyberattacks.

● Establishes a working group including government agencies, the energy industry and other experts to evaluate the technology solutions proposed by the pilot program.

● Requires the Department of Energy to report the results of the program to Congress.

The Intelligence Authorization bill ensures that the 16 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI and NSA, have the resources, authorities and proper oversight they need to keep our nation safe.

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