Dorchester Tech Park and Innovation Center Hit Milestones

Eastern Shore Innovation Center nearly 100% leased. Dorchester Regional Technology Park lots for sale.

Eastern Shore Innovation Center (photo courtesy: Choose Dorchester)
Eastern Shore Innovation Center (photo courtesy: Choose Dorchester)

Small businesses and entrepreneurs on the Eastern Shore can be excited about progress made by the Eastern Shore Innovation Center and the Dorchester Regional Technology Park. The Innovation Center, which opened in March of 2016, has hit a milestone with 12 business taking residence in the incubator — a 92% occupation rate. Additionally, the Tech Park has completed an assessment that will allow for lots to be sold to businesses looking to expand.

As announced by Dorchester County Economic Development:

Dorchester County Economic Development announced the completion of a fair market value (FMV) assessment for 12 building lots at the Dorchester Regional Technology Park, a critical milestone allowing the county to sell land to expanding businesses. The market analysis was completed less than a year after the Eastern Shore Innovation Center (ESIC) opened and in conjunction with the County’s announcement that the 13,250-square-foot incubator is almost 100% leased.

“We identified the total market value of the property at $1.28 million based on land plus site improvements including utilities, sidewalks, signage, and high speed broadband fiber,” said Mrohs. “Public utilities enhance the range of uses and drainage easements are already in place.”

The 113-acre Technology Park consists of 56 improved acres and approximately 57 acres for storm water management, forest conservation, and a water tower site. Lots vary from 2.26 to 5.5 acres and average 4.7 acres.

Banks said there are a number of features and benefits that make the technology park valuable. All lots are turnkey and connected to public water and sewer. They contain high-speed broadband access. Zoned for light industrial use and two miles off of Route 50, the site is outside of a flood hazard area and contains no environmental issues.

The Park is located in Cambridge, just south of Route 50 – a major thoroughfare between the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Baltimore, and Washington, DC – and across from the Cambridge-Dorchester Regional Airport.

“Now that the Council has approved a sale price starting at $23,000 an acre, we will immediately implement an aggressive marketing plan to identify and reach out to prospective users,” said Banks.

HUBZone is a Small Business Administration program designed to attract investments, business development and employment in economically distressed areas. The program incentivizes federal contracting. Businesses that become HUBZone certified must place their principal office in a designated location; Dorchester has countywide HUBZone status.

For more information read the press release or visit choosedorchester.org.

Previous coverage on Conduit Street:

Dorchester County Welcomes New Incubator with Much Fanfare

Ground Breaks on Eastern Shore Innovation Center

County Council Approves New Microloan Program for Entrepreneurs

The Montgomery County Council has passed a bill creating a microloan program to help entrepreneurs start small businesses. A county council press release states:

“Our County has a growing number of individuals who possess both the skills and desire to start small business enterprises, but lack access to the small amount of necessary seed capital,” said Council President Berliner. “This legislation will help ensure that those individuals have every opportunity to succeed and prosper, and I look forward to seeing the positive real life impacts it will make.”

The amended legislation calls for the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to administer a “culturally proficient” program. Loans would be limited to no more than $15,000, with the expectation that most loans will initially be in the $500 to $5,000 range. Loans would be limited to County residents who headquarter their business in Montgomery County. Loan recipients would be required to participate in educational and technical assistance that would be part of the program.

“Bill 49-16 serves an important purpose for entrepreneurs in the County by providing critical access to funding and technical assistance, as well as opening the door to opportunity that leads to self-sufficiency and job creation,” said Councilmember Navarro. “I am proud to have been a lead co-sponsor of this bill. As I met with local entrepreneurs and non-profit micro-lending providers who are already carrying out this vision, I got the chance to hear their stories of success and resiliency. The drive to thrive, grow and participate in the local economy is palpable and inspiring.”

For more information read the press release release.

Baltimore City to Launch Mobile Job Center

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh has announced a mobile jobs center that will begin visiting high unemployment neighborhoods in May. The Mayor hopes to expand the fleet of vehicles before the end of the year.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun:

Paid for by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and administered by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the 38-foot recreational vehicle will travel to neighborhoods with the highest unemployment rates to help people, create resumes, connect to training programs and apply for work.

“We need to get people working in our city,” Pugh said Monday. “We need to get out into the communities and go where the unemployment is at its highest.”

Pugh said she expects to raise enough money to launch “one or two” more mobile jobs centers before the end of the year. Her goal is to have seven fan out across the city to combat Baltimore’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate. Officially, 19,500 people are out of work, but officials say the number is dramatically higher when discouraged workers who are no longer considered part of the workforce are included.

Each neighborhood stop is expected to last four hours. The vehicle will travel through the city four days a week and two Saturdays a month.

The mobile jobs center is believed to be the first in the Baltimore region. There are similar programs in Southern Maryland, and cities including Atlanta and Memphis, Tenn.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

St. Mary’s Issues RFP for Business Incubator Manager

St. Mary’s County has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an entity to manage the new county business incubator to be located at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport. The RFP is for $1,350,000. As announced in a county news release:

The Commissioners of St. Mary’s County recognize a stronger and more resilient economy is one which is less reliant on the defense spending attached to Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS PAX River). Therefore, the county is seeking to diversify the county’s economy away from defense spending and more towards an innovation-based economy. The successful operation of an incubator is a critical component in the growth of new technology firms in St. Mary’s County.

The business incubator will be a facility which nurtures start-up firms during their early months or years. It will be managed by professionals with expertise in entrepreneurship and growing small firms. The firms will receive affordable office space, management training, mentoring, marketing support and access to capital resources.

The services provided through the business incubator will primarily be for start-ups or early stage companies pursuing commercialization of technologies patented at NAS Pax River, or the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division, as well as businesses pursuing research and development of unmanned and autonomous systems (UAS).  The incubator will also be open to other technology entrepreneurs as space allows.

Proposals are due by Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. For more visit the bid solicitation website.

 

Fun Fact: Did You Know that Two Major Motion Pictures Were Filmed in the Town of Berlin in Worcester County?

Question: Did you know that two major motion pictures were filmed in the Town of Berlin in Worcester County?

It’s true! Berlin’s Main Street and some of the outlying areas were altered to become the fictitious town of Hale, Maryland in the 1999 film Runaway Bride starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Alteration of the streets and sidewalks transformed Berlin into the fictitious town of Treegap for the 2002 film Tuck Everlasting starring Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley and William Hurt. Berlin was also named America’s Coolest Small Town in 2014 by Budget Travel.

Source: Wikipedia & Budget Travel

Do you have a fun fact to share about your county? If so, please send it to Kaley Schultze to be featured in MACo’s weekly Fun Fact on Conduit Street.

Register Now: Maryland Governor’s Business Summit 17 on May 18

Join Governor Hogan for the first Maryland Governor’s Business Summit on May 18, 2017 from 8am until 4pm. Explore topics on human capital, global trends and business strategy. Connect with a wide array of Maryland’s business leaders. The Summit will be at the Hilton Baltimore – Key Ballroom: 401 W Pratt Street Baltimore, MD 21201.

Governor Larry Hogan said,

“Great things are happening in Maryland. Our economic climate has gone from 49th in the nation to number 11 – the largest jump among states. Our companies are adding thousands of new jobs to our communities, more than 73,000 since January 2015.  We are making meaningful progress for business.  Let’s capture this momentum!”

Breakout Topics Include:

  • Redefining urban centers across Maryland
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Future of manufacturing in Maryland
  • Next generation learning environments
  • Top education leaders discuss innovation through partnerships
  • Maryland on the front lines of global threats

Tickets are currently available for $150. Click here to register.

Stay up-to-date with the Maryland Department of Commerce by subscribing to the Maryland Business Pulse newsletter.

MACo Opposes Prevailing Wages on Public Construction TIF Bond Projects

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in opposition of legislation (SB 870) which would require payment of prevailing wages on construction contracts receiving any funds from tax increment financing (TIF) bond proceeds. Counties are concerned that this bill will drive up costs of public infrastructure projects, stifle use of a demonstrably successful economic development tool, and squeeze out small businesses from participating in infrastructure construction projects.

MACo’s testimony states that the bill,

unfairly applies prevailing wage requirements to certain projects receiving TIF bond proceeds when those projects would not otherwise have to comply even if financed with other public funds.

…this bill will significantly raise costs for development projects funded with TIF bonds. If costs are raised over and above what the development will return in future tax revenues, the county will not issue the TIF because it is not economically viable. This generally prevents the development from occurring, sacrificing blight elimination, job creation, targeted economic development, and growth to the taxable base.

Under existing law, prevailing wages are required on public works contracts valued at $500,000 or more. However, the only threshold in SB 870 is the amount of the TIF bond, applying the wage requirements to any contract funded with a TIF bond valued at $500,000 or higher. It is extremely unlikely that a local government would issue a TIF bond of less than this amount. Therefore, the bill would require payment of prevailing wages for virtually any construction project receiving TIF funds, regardless of the size of the contract or scope of the project. This extremely broad scope unfairly applies higher-than-market wage requirements to projects in TIF districts where these terms would not apply to public works contracts in any other situations.

At the hearing, Senator Stephen Hershey asked why the state would establish a mandate for how TIF money must be spent, if counties created the TIF districts, constructed the deals, issued the bonds and financed the projects with county property tax revenues. MACo further emphasized that counties already have the ability to require prevailing wages in TIF projects on a case by case basis  – and it should remain this way.

This bill was heard by the Senate Finance committee on March 16.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo: Allow Maryland-Based Breweries at OCCC Tasting Events

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in favor of legislation (SB 1102) that would authorize a limited-scope license for beer and wine tastings at the Ocean City Convention Center, for certain events that promote Maryland-based products.

MACo’s testimony states,

For the last four years, MACo has offered a “Taste of Maryland” reception as part of its annual summer conference in Ocean City. The event has grown to nearly 1,000 guests, and has gained popularity as a venue for our jurisdictions to showcase their many food and drink options. The event is a “sampling” event, where small portions of food, snacks, and wine have proven very popular with attendees who may not otherwise learn about the many offerings from across Maryland.

Current liquor laws apparently do not allow this event to feature Maryland-brewed beer in the same fashion as wine, and this has kept local breweries from participating in this once-a-year event. SB 1102 does not seek to upend the overall balance the General Assembly has struck regarding the two industries, but simply seeks to afford the same opportunity to showcase beer and wine at this limited type of event. SB 1102 only applies to events at the Ocean City Convention Center (itself a license holder), and only for events promoting Maryland products for “tasting” purposes.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Allegany Commissioners Appoint Barclay to Lead Economic Development Department

On March 9, 2017, the Allegany County Commissioners formally appointed Jeffrey S. Barclay to serve as the next Director of the county’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

Jeffrey Barclay, Courtesy of Allegany County Government

According to the press release,

Barclay has been serving as the Acting Director of the department since November of 2016 following a re-organization of the department. “We are very excited for our county and Jeff,” commented Jake Shade, County Commission President. “He is a talented individual who has a proven track record of achieving results. This attribute is critically important for our community going forward,” continued Shade.

“Jeff not only has proven himself in the area of project development, but also has honed his problem-solving skills which is essential for a small department such as ours,” commented County Administrator David A. Eberly.

Barclay has been employed by Allegany County since May of 2001 and has been part of the DECD since 2007. In 2014, Barclay was promoted to the position of Economic Development Specialist, where he has served as a project ombudsman and facilitator for various private development projects. During the last two years, Barclay has been responsible for supporting the investment of 20 million dollars in economic development activity ranging from hotel to commercial retail redevelopment, to large scale product distribution. Barclay was named WCBC Person of the Year 2015 for his leadership role in overseeing the recent boom in economic development activities.

MACo Supports Business Tax Incentives; Concerned With Restrictive Jurisdiction Participation

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, submitted written testimony to amend legislation (SB 796) which creates a tax incentive program to encourage businesses to locate and expand in several jurisdictions suffering economic stresses. MACo is concerned with restricting jurisdictions from participation, along with the possibility that the program could result in businesses relocating inside the state.

MACo’s testimony provides suggestions for the bill’s amendments:

Expand Program Participation to “Distressed Areas” In Any Jurisdiction
Economic growth, regardless of the region of the state, has statewide benefits. Instead of limiting participation, program criteria should enable all local jurisdictions to participate. However, counties appreciate that incentives should be targeted in areas experiencing distress or otherwise necessitating investment. As such, MACo supports efforts to ensure that benefits under the program are provided in areas targeted for economic investment, as identified by the Department of Commerce in consultation with county governments.

Limit the Tax Incentives to Businesses Newly Moving Into or Expanding Within the State
The special incentives provided by this program are potentially lucrative, and could result in businesses relocating from one part of the state to another. To prohibit this from occurring, the program should apply only to businesses newly locating into Maryland, or to those launching substantial expansions in the state – not to those who may relocate intrastate.

SB 796 was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 7, 2017.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session here.