From Here to There–Increasing K-12 Technical Training Opportunities

Career and Technical Training was the focus of the education general session at the Maryland Association of Counties Conference. The discussion included the challenges and suggestions for how to increase the number and type of career and technical training programs available to student, and boost student enrollment in those programs.


From the conversation:

James Rosapepe, Maryland State Senate (Moderator):

Today, on average in Maryland about 23% of students graduate with career and technology education. When you look more closely, the smaller counties are ahead of the larger counties, with a larger percentage of students graduating with these certificates.

Dr. Lynne Gilli, Maryland State Department of Education:

We have returned to 1999 levels of funding for career and technical education. It is a challenge to increase programs with level funding – and there is a proposal now to cut federal funding.

Michael Thomas, Director Career and Technology Education at Baltimore City Public Schools:

The professional development of teachers and retention of teachers in career and tech pathways, and increasing industry buy-in to these programs are key to growing and maintaining these programs.

Dr. Kristine Pearl, ‎Supervisor of Career and Technology Education at Frederick County Public Schools:

Marketing is key. Changing the mindset of children towards these opportunities requires a cultural shift. . . We should look upon these credentials with the respect we give to AP scores–parents need to realize they have value, too.

Steve Cox, Harford County Cadet Program Coordinator:

The first step for our outreach is educating the counselors at the schools about this program. We need to show that when they graduate from this certificate program they can work with any of the career fire fighting forces, earning $40k, $50k, $60k a year.

For more information about these programs, see this power point provided by the speakers.


Big Data, Big Ideas Making Better Government

Use of data to improve government services is a topic of perennial interest to county elected officials seeking ways to improve programs and better serve their residents.

dataAt this year’s MACo Conference, representatives from the Governor’s Offices of Performance Improvement, the US Census, Prince George’s County spoke to the ways that data can be used to inform government operations, while Greg Derwart of the Governor’s Customer Service Initiative shared the progress they have made in gathering feedback on state-level services.

From the discussion:

The opportunity project transforms government data into usable tools, including digital tools like Redfin, Fitbit, Zillow and others. –Nesreen Khashan, U.S. Census Bureau

Projections created by the State Data Center include population, school enrollment, and job growth projections on a county-by-county basis. –Mike Morello, Governor’s Office of Performance Improvement

Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) translates data into tools that residents can use.–Ben Birge, Prince George’s CountyStat

Constituents rank ‘a positive experience’ as the most important outcome of an interaction with a business or organization. Those who are leaders in the service industry know something in common: the customer is #2; the team is #1. Your team needs to be prepared to respond to the public. –Greg Derwart, Governor’s Customer Service Initiative


BIOTECH BAIT: Can Maryland Net a Boom in Biotechnology?

Biotech industry leaders and experts share insights at MACo’s Summer Conference.

At a special panel featured in the MACo Summer Conference Tech Expo, co-hosted by the Maryland Tech Council, industry leaders share how Maryland counties can get in the chase for biotech, and starting taking advantage of Maryland’s assets to catalyze additional growth in the biotech industry.


Notes from the discussion:


Business executives want to make sure that the government is not going to get in the way and stop them from making a return. The government has to think about their response to community concerns, and its global effect. –Tim Lyden, Eli Lilly


The biotech industry needs a marketing campaign. How many people here can tell us what happens at Johns Hopkins? At the University of Maryland? At Eli Lilly? Some of the great work happening right down the street from us. The folks living in those communities do not know what is going on. Getting STEM teachers into classrooms is one way to do that.–Brian Gaines, MDBio Foundation

If you are seeking to answer the question for potential employees/talent: “Where do I plug in to the bio tech community?”, one answer is the biohive that BioBuzz is building. Check it out at –Chris Frew,  BioBuzz

Maryland has assets that are unreplicatable anywhere across the country:  federal institutions; universities…the list goes on. As a state we need to do a better job of how we represent ourselves, are we in the chase?–Henry Bernstein, Scheer Partners

Tom Sadowski, Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, University System of Maryland moderated the panel.


Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Tech Ready To IGNITE At #MACoCon

Tomorrow’s Tech Expo will kick off with a fast-paced session where vendors make their pitch to attendees – in under 60 seconds each.

Screenshot 2017-08-15 21.29.23
A slide from the IGNITE pitch for one of MACo’s Tech Expo vendors describe the cyber threat landscape of the modern workplace.

Join the excitement at MACo’s IGNITE Switch-Pitch, where you will also hear from the leadership of the Maryland Association of County Information Technology Officers with their asks of the private sector.

Here’s a sneak preview.

My Top 5 Picks for #MACoCon After 5 Years at MACo

This year I am celebrating my five year anniversary as a member of the Maryland Association of Counties staff. This year’s MACo Conference (#MACoCon) will be my sixth, and I have never been more excited about a MACo Conference.

MACo’s Research Director shares her picks from this year’s MACo Conference.

Here are my Top Five Picks from the MACo Conference Schedule:

  1. Wednesday’s Virtual Reality Panel

One of the reasons that I like going to conferences myself is to learn about new areas. The speakers in this panel were tapped by the Maryland Tech Council – MACo’s partner in the Tech Expo this year and they are true innovators. This session is an opportunity to meet people who make a living turning ideas into reality. I think you will come away surprised at how much sci-fi they have actualized into on-the-street solutions.

2. Wednesday’s Biotech Panel

On the Biotech panel at the Tech Expo, MACo and the MD Tech Council are bringing you the best-of-the best. Biotech is a big economic driver for Maryland, and something every Marylander should know a bit about. Meet the leaders who have made Maryland a biotech titan, and hear how you, as a local elected official, can support statewide growth of this high-earning industry.

3. Thursday’s Taste of Maryland

This new tradition is one of my favorite events at the conference (I confess I am a bit of a foodie). Sample treats from every county, and hear some tunes from a home-grown fiddle and guitar duo (Calvert county’s finest). Just don’t make this your only trip to the county- booth hall. There are many things to learn in these exhibits (and stop by the MACo Booth while you’re at it!).

4. Friday’s Pitch Competition

It’s on this Friday morning when entrepreneurs from 5 industry sectors battle for bragging rights as the best bet for Maryland’s economy — and a feature slot at the next MACo Conference. I have never been more impressed or inspired by what is happening right here in our state than while planning this session. These will not be off-the-cuff presentations by small start-ups; these are seasoned entrepreneurs who have already seen major success, and brought big dollars and many jobs to Maryland. Competitive by nature, they are taking this event seriously and despite the background I have I truly cannot predict who you — the audience, or our expert judges are going to select for top honors.

4. Saturday’s Education Session

2018 promises to be a big year for education in Maryland politics. We will see the wrap-up of the Knott Commission on school construction and the Kirwan Commission on education adequacy — two major statewide task forces that will make recommendations to the General Assembly for the coming Session. While there are many viewpoints in education policy, there is one perspective that many share — we have to make sure that we are preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce. One of the hot topics in this area is career and tech training in high schools, an area that has grown significantly in past years and is poised for another renovation. Hear more in this session.

I look forward to seeing you in Ocean City this week!

9 Counties Could See a Decrease in State’s School Construction Funding Share in 2019

The Interagency Committee on School Construction has recommended revised state cost share percentages to the Board of Public Works.

As described in the IAC meeting agenda, the state contributions on a percentage basis to four local education agencies (LEAs, or school boards), will increase, while the state contribution to nine others will decrease.

The Percentage of four (4) LEAs will increase, 11 LEAs and the Maryland School for the Blind Percentage’s will remain unchanged, and the Percentage of nine (9) LEAs is decreased. By regulation a decrease in Percentage cannot exceed 5% in any fiscal year. Therefore, for Baltimore City the decrease will occur over two (2) fiscal years.


The state’s school construction funding share only applies to eligible costs in school construction, so architectural and engineering fees, furnishings and other costs remain the whole responsibility of local governments, in addition to the percentage of project costs not covered by the State’s share.

The Board of Public Works will vote on the revised state share recommendation at its August 16 meeting.

From the agenda:

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3 Questions for 4 Players in Maryland’s Biotech Industry

MACo’s Tech Expo gathers leaders in the biotech industry to share their insight into how Maryland – already a biotech powerhouse – can build on its success and continue to grow the industry statewide.

Maryland counties have a big stake in a potential boom of the biotechnology industry – if Maryland can continue to reel it in.  In BIOTECH BAIT: Can Maryland Net a Boom in Biotechnology?, Tom Sadowski Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, University System of Maryland will ask three questions for his expert panel:

  1. What are the top three gotta-haves in making Maryland a bigger player in biotech industry?
  2. What obstacles stand in the way of growing the biotech industry in Maryland? (Laws? Regulations? Economics? Employment?)
  3. What does your organization bring the the table for the growth of Maryland’s biotech industry?

Panelists include: Julie Garner, Senior Director, Government Affairs, AstraZeneca; Henry Bernstein, Senior Vice President, Scheer Partners; Brian Gaines, CEO, MDBio Foundation; and Chris Frew, Executive Director, BioBuzz.


To hear more, join the buzz at the Tech Expo, Wednesday, August 16, 2017; 12:45 pm – 1:45 pm at the Ocean City Convention Center. One-day registration for the Expo is available: 

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Think Like a Congressman at #MACoCon

Hear the federal perspective on Maryland’s economy as Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger serves as a judge in MACo’s first ever pitch competition for Maryland entrepreneurs.

Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland’s 2nd District will serve as a judge at MACo’s Summer Conference Pitch Competition. 

In a special general session at MACo’s Summer Conference, three expert judges, including Congressman Ruppersberger, will hear pitches from five different industry sectors vying to be named the best bet for Maryland’s economy. The Voice of Entrepreneurship: Who Has the Perfect Pitch for Maryland? attendees at MACo’s Summer Conference will vote for a winning pitch, and then see if their assessment aligns with three expert judges.

Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1994 and 1998, and, under his leadership, the county was named one of the nation’s four best-managed counties by Governing Magazine. The county achieved three AAA bond ratings and staggering job growth during his administration.

On the Hill, creating jobs and improving Maryland’s economy is one of Congressman Ruppersberger’s top priorities. He is working hard to help middle-class Marylanders achieve more than just making ends meet.

Maryland’s 2nd District includes parts of Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties. It is a vital center of trade and commerce for the state and national economy and includes Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ft. Meade, the National Security Agency, and the Port of Baltimore.

Startup Maryland and the SRT1UP Roadshow tour Maryland to celebrate, coach, curate, and capitalize high-potential entrepreneurs. Over the course of the year, the Roadshow has focused on five high-growth trajectories: cyber/IT; manufacturing 4.0; health, wellness, and life sciences; rural innovations; and social innovations.

In The Voice of Entrepreneurship: Who Has the Perfect Pitch for Maryland?, attendees tune in to these economic drivers, hear actual pitches from the best-of-the best of the Roadshow tour, and learn how to assess investment opportunities. Judges on stage, including a Congressman, an active institutional venture capitalist, and a recognizable serial entrepreneur, will grill the pitchers as the audience responds. Do you know what your county should listen for as startups like these join the chorus of Maryland industries? See if your vote for perfect pitch is in harmony with the experts.

Join this session on Friday, August 18, 2017 from 9-10:45 am.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Central Maryland Counties Connect on State’s Public Safety Radio Network

Since the tragedy of 9-1-1, the nation’s public safety forces have been focused on connecting fire, police, and other public safety partners through interoperable radio systems. Maryland FiRST is this state’s answer to that issue, allowing public safety officers across the state to communicate and coordinate during a regional catastrophe.

MACo has advocated for a strong interoperable communications system to support local responders. And, several years ago, in coordination with the Maryland Governor’s Office on Homeland Security, MACo pushed for a MD FiRST governance structure that included representation of county partners. The Radio Control Board, the result of that advocacy, continues to guide MD FiRST’s progress.

Governor Hogan announces the first call on the extended radio system. Image courtesy of Maryland State Police (@MDSP)

Today was a day to celebrate the progress of Maryland’s interoperable radio system. As announced by the Maryland State Police:

Today, Governor Larry Hogan joined Superintendent of the Maryland State Police Colonel William Pallozzi, Deputy Secretary Lance Shine of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, Maryland FiRST Team and other state and local officials to make the ceremonial call marking the completion of the third phase of the Maryland First Responders Interoperable Radio System Team or “Maryland FiRST” while demonstrating the system’s capabilities.

As described, the third phase will extend MD FiRST’s coverage throughout central Maryland. From the State Police,

This third phase of Maryland FiRST is fully operational and completes the coverage of Central Maryland. The connection will covers Cecil, Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll and Frederick Counties. The first phase of the project began in 2012 and connected portions of Central Maryland and Kent County, and key infrastructure patrolled by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police to include: the I-95 corridor, BWI Airport, Port of Baltimore, the Inter County Connector (ICC), the Key Bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Harry Nice Bridge and both tunnels under the Baltimore harbor.


For more information, see the News Release from the Maryland State Police.

Pension System Reports Annual Returns of 10%

Almost half of Maryland counties are members of the Maryland State Pensions System, with county employees participating in the Pension System and counties contributing to it. The financial health of the System is particularly relevant for those counties, but all counties have a stake in the System as a cost driver in the State’s budget that can affect funding for other local priorities.

Andrew Palmer, the CIO of the State Pension System, will “work with staff to maintain the excess returns while achieving full participation in the positive markets”

According to the Maryland Reporter, the investment performance of the Maryland Pension System reflected the overall market’s strength with a return of more than 10%.

As described by the Reporter, however, 10- and 20-year average investment returns have been lower than the targeted rate,

The year’s performance exceeded the system’s 7.55% target for annual return, and raised the five-year average to 7.64%.

But the 10-year average of investment returns is only 4.15% and the 20-year-average is 5.65%, far below the target. When the pension system consistently doesn’t meet its investment goals, it eventually requires higher contributions from the state budget or a reduction in pension benefits for employees and teachers.

For more, see Pension system investments earned 10% in FY ’17, but long term returns still lag from the Maryland Reporter.