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Howard graduation rate exceeds state norm


Graduation data released by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) show Howard County public school students continuing to graduate at higher rates than their peers across Maryland.

The 91.95 percent graduation rate for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Class of 2018 exceeds the state average of 87.12 percent by 4.83 percentage points, and while slightly below than the 92.28 percent rate for the previous year, remains the highest among the six Maryland school systems having enrollment of more than 50,000 students. HCPSS has maintained graduation rates above 90 percent for several years. The statistics reflect data for the cohort of students graduating within four years after entering high school.

HCPSS dropout patterns echo the graduation rate trends. At 4.76 percent, the dropout rate for the Class of 2018, while up slightly from the 4.56 percent rate for 2017, remains well below the state average of 8.38 percent and compares favorably to other large Maryland school systems.

The school system’s Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity includes multiple strategies and performance measures aimed at improving student achievement and engagement, with individualized instruction, equitable access to learning experiences, and special supports for at-risk and struggling students. MSDE posts details on graduation and dropout rates for HCPSS and other systems and individual schools on http://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov.

Welldoc to study diabetes patients


Columbia-based Welldoc, and Healthagen, an Aetna business unit within CVS Health based in Hartford, Conn., in collaboration with LifeScan Inc., have announced details of a study to evaluate the use and potential health benefits of OneTouch Reveal Plus. The mobile and web coaching tool is for adults with type 2 diabetes.

The study will evaluate changes in specific health outcomes among individuals who participate in the tool’s tailored virtual coaching and engagement. In 2018, Welldoc and LifeScan Inc., introduced OneTouch Reveal Plus as a benefit offering for health insurers and plan sponsors.

The product integrates WellDoc’s BlueStar digital therapeutic technology with LifeScan’s OneTouch Verio Flex blood glucose monitoring system. OneTouch Reveal Plus offers real-time coaching based on an individual’s unique profile and treatment plan. The app gets to know each user and optimizes the coaching experience; the coaching guides users on ways to treat high and/or low blood sugar in the moment, as well as how to resolve patterns over time.

Healthagen offers analytical capabilities to test the practical application of health care products and services among Aetna members. Between November 2018 and January 2019, more than 10,000 Aetna commercial members with type 2 diabetes were invited to participate in the study.

Participants agreed to use the OneTouch Reveal Plus technology for six months. During this time, Healthagen tracked how well and how long members take their medicines (if prescribed), average blood sugar levels (HbA1c lab values), incidence of significantly high or low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia), doctor visits, hospital stays and emergency room visits. These findings can be correlated to overall health care costs, medical resource utilization and outcomes associated with type 2 diabetes management among participants.

DOC gets $750K to expand Defense Tech Center


The Maryland Department of Commerce (DOC) has received a $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand the Maryland Defense Technology Commercialization (DefTech) Center, a pilot program established in 2018 to fund tech transfer activities in U.S. Department of Defense labs at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Due to the success of the pilot program, which was initially funded by the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment, DOC applied for funding under a competitive grant program from the Economic Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce. The new grant expands the services of the DefTech Center program to Fort Meade and Fort Detrick, in Frederick.

“Howard County is home to talented companies and entrepreneurs who will benefit from the DefTech program through their commercialization of defense-IP revolving around Fort Meade,” said HCEDA CEO Larry Twele. “This is another example of how the Howard County Innovation Center will be a nexus to bring together targeted programs and stakeholders which fosters business development and technology innovation. HCEDA and the Howard Tech Council look forward to participating in the expansion of DefTech into a statewide network.”

Like the original DefTech Center, the new centers at Fort Meade and Fort Detrick will offer an intellectual property matchmaking, mentoring and coaching, resource connections, startup support and other services to help clients explore technology transfer opportunities. The centers will also host networking, educational and skill-building events for entrepreneurs, covering topics such as customer discovery, market identification, intellectual property & patent law and market-oriented product development.

Federal government partners in the project include the NSA Technology Transfer Program, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) Tech Transfer Office at Fort Detrick, and Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Technology Transfer Offices at APG. Other partners, each of which contributed matching funds to support the expansion of the DefTech program, include the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), the Fort Meade Alliance and TEDCO, among others.

The funding will also support enhancements to the program’s website, including incorporating the Maryland Defense Patent Database, an aggregated repository for Maryland’s defense intellectual property that is available for licensing. The database currently includes approximately 1,800 patents for licensing from DoD labs in Maryland.

Roads ranked #1 for volume; Traffic costs business $$ billions


Maryland’s quality of life and economic development are being hampered by high levels of traffic congestion and reduced accessibility.

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a comprehensive set of transportation improvements designed to improve mobility, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C., based national transportation research nonprofit.

According to the report, “Keeping Maryland Mobile: Accomplishments and Challenges in Improving Accessibility in Maryland to Support Quality of Life and a Strong Economy,” the state’s roads carry the highest traffic volume in the nation and commute lengths are the second longest in the U.S. Traffic congestion costs the state’s residents and businesses billions of dollars each year and severely constrains the number of jobs accessible to residents.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration is implementing a plan to relieve congestion and enhance reliability, and Hogan has recommended a $17.8 billion multimodal congestion relief plan designed to accommodate growth and improve economic development.

Maryland’s major urban highways and roads carried the highest average daily traffic per lane mile in the nation in 2017. The average daily commute for the state’s residents was 32.7 minutes, the second longest average commute in the nation, behind only New York at 33 minutes. The average driver in the Baltimore area loses 50 hours to congestion, wasting time and fuel; congestion on the state’s highways, freeways and major arteries costs the public $3.4 billion annually in the value of lost time and wasted fuel.

Traffic congestion also impacts the number of jobs available to residents. While approximately 1.9 million jobs are accessible within a one-hour drive to residents of the Baltimore metro area, only 30 percent are accessible within a 30-minute drive. And, the number of jobs in the Baltimore metro area that are accessible within a 40-minute drive was reduced 38 percent as a result of traffic congestion.


Thursday’s Rain Triggers EC Safe and Sound Enhanced Stream Debris Removal Action


Thursday’s heavy rainfall triggered the second enhanced stream debris removal action since the unveiling Phase One of the EC Safe and Sound plan in December 2018. Howard County Executive Calvin Ball ordered inspections and debris removal of nine streams any time the county has a rainfall of two inches or greater in a 24-hour period or after an hour of sustained winds more than 30 mph.

At the Alpha Ridge Landfill, a Howard County rain gauge reported 2.93 inches during a 24-hour period. Gauges at other locations reported the following amounts:

* Columbia Gateway: 2.54 inches

* Little Patuxent River at Centennial Park: 2.12 inches

* Patuxent River and 9th Street in Laurel: 2.36 inches

“Keeping our waterways in and around Ellicott City clear of debris is a critical element to ensure the safety of our residents, business owners and visitors during severe weather events,” said Ball. “Within three business days, we will begin inspecting 55 sites along these nine waterways and start a proactive clean-up of any identified debris.”

Under the enhanced inspection program, once the sites have been inspected by crews from Howard EcoWorks, its staff and Howard County Public Works crews will remove all identified debris within 14 business days.

Residents can follow the clean-up progress on an interactive map and see the quantity and types of debris removed, and view pictures from each of the 55 sites.

Q&A with Larry Richardson–Maryland Chamber Vice President for Government Affairs


Larry Richardson joined the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in late 2016 after spending more than three decades as a government affairs representative, most recently as a claim attorney/jurisdictional specialist for State Farm Insurance. He spends his days advocating for job creation and working to reduce Maryland’s well documented (and excessive, to hear some tell it) regulations to make the state’s business climate more competitive.

What issues are key for the Chamber during the session?

There will be many, given our varied membership. One concerns the increase in the minimum wage. A business like WalMart or Amazon can afford it, and that’s great, but that would be very hard on your average small business, like a pizza restaurant and coffee shop, to handle.

There was a study conducted in Seattle in 2017 that indicated its $13-an-hour wage resulted in less hours for employees, which is often the case in such circumstances, as are fewer jobs.

What are your goals to reduce business regulations?

The Maryland Chamber has always been a supporter of reducing what is seen in various quarters as excessive state regulation on business; Gov. Hogan has been progressive in reducing unnecessary regulations.

On that note, two new bills (Senate Bill 173 and House Bill 157) that would help small businesses (less than 50 employees) and trade associations would require state agencies to offer earlier notifications of proposed state regulations. That would allow businesses time to act on them in a more expedient manner, as well as avoid fines and penalties if a violation is corrected in 30 days.

What’s the Chamber’s take on Second Chance legislation?

Employment supports Maryland’s ex-offender population and helps ensure new opportunity for these individuals. However, for some employers, it is challenging to hire an ex-offender. That’s because, under current law, an employer could be held civilly liable for a negligent act committed by an employee, solely because of that employee’s criminal past – irrespective of whether the prior criminal offense bears any relation to the current act.

The business community can provide an ex-offender a second chance, but in order to ease the aforementioned concerns, legal safeguards for the employer must be enacted.

What are your thoughts on sports betting?

Part of our argument has always been that Maryland needs to be competitive to attract business. Part of the issue we face again is that, if every state around us has sports betting and we don’t, we’ll be behind in the game.

To the point of competing with neighboring states, we’re also concerned about the Maryland corporate tax rate, which was raised in 2008 by the former governor, Martin O’Malley, to 8.25 percent. Virginia is currently at 6 percent and it just submitted legislation that would bring the rate down to 5 percent; if that passes, the straw that breaks the camel’s back would be the minimum wage bill passing, especially if most of its exemptions go away.

However, we are also closely monitoring a bill in for this session to take Maryland’s rate down to 7 percent.

What tweaks are being made in the medical cannabis industry?

One topic we’re keeping an eye on is developments to workplace rights. If someone who is taking medical cannabis works for an employer that has a drug policy, that can present an issue. There is already a U.S. District Court case in Delaware concerning this topic.
Also, rumor has it that, during the 2020 session, there will be a more concerted effort to address the legalization of recreational marijuana.

What do you think will happen concerning the affordability of prescription drugs?

A bill has been submitted to address that issue, too. From our member’s perspective, obviously the less expensive they are, the less expensive health care coverage will be; but from a state level, there is a question of constitutionality. Prescription drugs are regulated on a federal level to ensure they are cost effective, while also promoting research and development.

However, if the overall effort to address this problem is approached piecemeal in a state, a manufacturer may not sell a certain product in that state. That’s why we feel this topic needs to be more comprehensively approached on a federal level.

What are your thoughts concerning the Clean Energy Jobs Act?

Maryland is at 25 percent clean energy generation and we have to be at 50 percent by 2030. We understand the importance of creating a clean environment. Part of the issue is that you will see an influx of farmland taken over by solar panels and wind turbines; and know that the powers that be in Ocean City, for instance, are worried about how offshore turbines would impact tourism.

On a related topic, there is a paper mill in Western Maryland that employs 200 people that creates black liquor, a tar by-product that is burnable and can be sold. They need to continue operating to keep jobs – but they may not be able to.

What are your thoughts on the Kirwan Commission?

The Chamber is a strong supporter of education but our main issue concerns whether the state can afford $4 billion to fund all of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations. Its goals are laudable, but there are concerns about the state providing the funding without raising taxes.

Will there be more opportunity zones in Maryland?

There is legislation in this year to hopefully make that happen.

What stood out to you the most about last year’s session?

The increased animosity. When I got involved in this field, I could get into spirited debates with whoever; but at the end of the day, we’d go grab a beer. Now, some of the activists and legislators want to fight. Now it’s, “If you don’t agree with me, not only are you wrong, you’re evil.” So, there’s no middle ground.

What’s your biggest personal challenge during the session?

The intensity. It’s a 90-day period and I’m charged with delivering the message of my employer in a way that’s informative and truthful. That demanding research and delivery involves using plenty of shoe leather. There is no eight-hour day. But when we get to Sine Die, my word is my bond.

Howard County to host veterans resource fair


The Office of Veterans and Military Families (OVMF) and the Commission for Veterans and Military Families will host a Veterans Resource Fair on Monday, April 8 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Howard Community College, in the Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Building, 4th floor.

All veterans and their families (active, guard, reserve and dependents) are invited to attend. Admission is free.

“More than 20,000 veterans reside in Howard County and this is an opportunity to provide them with a convenient, one-stop shop where they can talk face-to-face with the organizations and nonprofits that provide services, support and jobs,” said Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive. “We appreciate their selfless service and sacrifice for our country and we value them as members of our community.”

Ball is leading an initiative to collect donations of suits and professional attire, and distribute them free of charge, to assist those engaged in the job search process. Donations of new or gently used professional clothing may be dropped off through April 3 at the Department of Community Resources and Services, 9830 Patuxent Woods Drive in Columbia, at the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City or to Success in Style/Phil’s Closet, 8600 Foundry Street #4 New Weave Building in Savage, MD.

Also new this year, the fair will offer attendees access to free medical screening by Premier Health Express Urgent Care, a Warrior Centric Health Clinic, including blood pressure and biometrics; glucose check; dental screening; and medical and physical therapy consultations.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will offer on the spot eBenefits registration and claim status. Other participating government agencies, non-profit and veterans service organizations, include:

  • Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) Veteran Benefits Specialist
  • Fort Meade Transition Assistance
  • Blue Star DC Chapter
  • Fort Meade ACS Employment Readiness
  • Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center
  • Maryland Legal Aid
  • VA Maryland Health Care System
  • Vet Artists Connect
  • Melwood/Operation Tohidu/Ready4Work
  • Howard Community College
  • Baltimore Veteran Center
  • Howard County Library System
  • HoCo Workforce Development
  • Military Corps Career Connect
  • Hero Dogs
  • Serving Our Willing Warriors (SOWW)
  • Veteran Curation Program
  • Project Opportunity
  • Team Rubicon
  • Office of Human Rights
  • Travis Manion Foundation
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans
  • American Legion Post 156, VFW 7472 and Marine Corps League
  • Howard County Commission on Veterans and Military Families
  • Success in Style/Phil’s Closet

Entertainment will be provided by Voices of Vets, a non-profit organization which brings live music to veterans residing in veteran homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.

Governor Larry Hogan has declared 2019 as the Year of the Veteran in Maryland to raise awareness of the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families. More than 380,000 veterans live in Maryland.

A sign language interpreter for people who are deaf or hard of hearing will be available if requested seven working days prior to the fair. Please call the Department of Community Resources and Services at 410-313-6400 (voice/relay), between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about the Resource Fair or the Office of Veterans and Military Families, contact Lisa Terry at 410-313-0821 (voice/relay).

Federal contracting business update


There is good news and there is bad news in recently passed and proposed laws affecting all federal contractors. For small businesses, the good news is that now, as signed into law on Dec. 17, 2018, the period for measuring the size of a business by annual revenues or number of employees has increased to five years from the previous three years.

This helps small businesses that have seen recent dramatic growth by taking the average of the last five years to determine if they stay small or transition to a large business, resulting in a longer period of time before growing into a large business status.

Other business changes resulting from the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include increasing the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000 (from $3,500) and the simplified acquisition threshold to $250,000 (from $150,000). Current HUBZone maps are also frozen to Jan. 1, 2020, allowing those businesses located in a geographic area designated as a HUBZone to remain as such instead of being affected by an earlier change.

The rest of this article considers proposed changes, those in the decision-making process before becoming a regulation or law.

The House’s proposed VA-SBA Act intends that all service-disabled and veteran-owned small businesses would no longer be verified as veteran-owned by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) but move responsibility to the Small Business Administration (SBA) thus eliminating the self-certification process for those companies.

The Small Business Administration has itself proposed significant rule changes affecting small business issues. These are proposed changes, not yet a law or regulation and include the following considerations:

Disaster areas: Federal agencies would take a double credit towards their small business goals when they award contracts for services or products to a small business with a primary office located in the affected area and performing work in that same area.

Set-aside within a set-aside: For the type of very large contracts called Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts awarded as total small business set-asides, the SBA has made a complete about face in policy by proposing to allow agencies to conduct a further task-order set-asides designated for veteran, 8a certified, HUBZone or women-owned companies.

This creates the possibility of a small business that has no additional certifications as mentioned above to be ineligible to compete on task orders issues under that IDIQ in which they invested considerable time and effort to pursue and win.

Limits on subcontracting: Additional prime contractor reporting requirements are proposed to improve compliance monitoring; independent contractor vs. employee status is clarified; rules affecting travel, media buys, cloud computing and environmental remediation issues are all recommended.

As these current and proposed rules and regulations affect most federal contractors whether considered large or small businesses, it is important to engage appropriate legal counsel to fully understand the business ramifications.


Gloria Larkin is president and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets.

New Art Education Collection to Launch at HCLS Central Branch


Howard County Library System (HCLS) will launch a new Art Education Collection on Saturday, March 23 as a signature component of HCLS Central Branch. The new initiative is integral to HCLS’ mission to promote art and cultural education for all, and create greater access and exposure to art within the community.

Designed to foster a learning environment that both inspires and supports aspirant, amateur and professional artists, the new collection includes framed artwork (prints and photographs) available for borrowing. Each artwork is accompanied by information about the artist, the piece, and tools to inspire conversation.

The nearly 300 item collection contains diverse visual styles and themes, and features artists such as Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Ernie Barnes, Charles Bibbs, Paul Cezanne, Mark Rothko, and Pablo Picasso. Featured within the collection is the Images of Howard County Collection by the late Columbia resident and photographer Donald Reichle. An avid photographer of historic buildings and structures around Maryland, Reichle documented historic buildings throughout Howard County including a number of buildings along Main Street Ellicott City. Reichle generously donated his Images of Howard County to Howard County Library System in 2012.

The framed artwork is packaged in protective, easy to transport bags. The collection is only available at HCLS Central Branch, and customers must be 18 years of age or older to borrow artwork. Customers may only borrow two items from the collection at any given time for a four-week period. The artwork cannot be reserved or renewed.

Special activities are planned on Saturday, March 23 from 10 am to 2 pm at HCLS Central Branch to celebrate the Library’s reinvigorated focus on the importance of art and the premier of the new educational collection.

The selection of available art can be viewed in the catalog at hclibrary.org.

2019 Session – CMC Legislative Tracker


We are working hard on your behalf! The Central Maryland Chamber (CMC) and its Legislative Committee are very active this legislative session. Below is a tracker of the bills we are actively working to support or oppose. As you will see, we have already done a lot of your behalf, but there is still more to be done. The CMC will continue to fight to make sure we have a business-friendly environment that allows your business to prosper and grow without overly burdensome regulations!

Visit this site to see status updates.

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