Still Waters Run Deep… with Dark Data at #MACoCon

“Big data” receives a lot of attention among policy wonks and elected officials for its power to make government operations more efficient. While big data and analytics play an increasingly important role in developing strategies and informing decision making in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, local governments face barriers in acquiring and using such data.

That’s where “dark data” comes in.ball-63527_1280

Dark data is big data that is collected but not fully utilized.  During the MACo Summer Conference special session, “Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential,” attendees will learn about data resources available from various state and federal agencies – and how to make use of that data to inform economic development and government operations decisions.

The effort has been done in collaboration between the Maryland Department of Transportation and the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth.

Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential

Dark data – underutilized big data sources – can help counties tremendously in their planning, engineering, and social project development. In this session, attendees will learn how to put available data resources to work at the local government level. The Maryland Department of Transportation will provide an overview of growth trends in population, labor force, and employment, and apply them to current commuting patterns within Maryland. Attendees will also be shown the types of data available to learn about their workforce and how that information can be incorporated into economic development strategies.


  • Cory Stottlemyer, Senior Policy Analyst, Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning & Capital Programming
  • Benjamin Birge, CountyStat Manager, Office of the County Executive, Prince George’s County

Moderator: The Honorable Jeff Ghrist, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2018; 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

The Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Maryland Is Our Oyster, Oysters Are Our Maryland

Oysters have played a pivotal role in Maryland’s economy for centuries. Not only to they generate economic activity for counties because they are delicious, but shellfish aquaculture and restoration give counties an innovative and affordable option for nutrient reduction practices. oyster-989182_1280

It’s no surprise that these Bay gems would spark conflict over how to take advantage of all they have to offer without depleting them for future generations. Fortunately, Bay Journal reports that oyster aficionados from opposite ends have recently had a “meeting of the minds” in terms of how to reach this balance:

…[A]fter two years of meeting behind closed doors, some of the people who’ve been lobbing verbal grenades at each other — watermen and environmentalists — have buried enough of their differences to agree on a wide-ranging set of recommendations for restoring oysters in a pair of Eastern Shore rivers while also aiding the industry that depends on harvesting them.

That’s the outcome of OysterFutures, a $2 million research project aimed at forging consensus on how to achieve both a thriving oyster fishery and ecosystem in the Choptank and Little Choptank rivers.

Read the article here.

Learn about how oysters play a pivotal role in driving Maryland’s economy from experts at the Oyster Recovery Partnership during the MACo Summer Conference general session, “The Wealth in Our Water.” 

The Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Growth Commission Presents 2018 Sustainable Growth Awards

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission presented its 2018 Sustainable Growth Awards in Annapolis on June 4, 2018. The awards highlight individuals, groups, programs, or projects that further the principles of smart and sustainable growth. From a Commission press release (2018-06-04):

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission today presented awards for leadership, community planning, and conservation at its sixth annual awards ceremony at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. The awards recognize individuals, organizations, and programs that exemplify well-planned economic and community development initiatives throughout the state. “These award recipients from across Maryland represent creativity, innovation, and passion – traits that we see in leaders across our great state,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “My administration is proud to celebrate their contributions and their commitment to helping change Maryland for the better.” The six winners are individuals and organizations that demonstrate their commitment to sustainable growth – development or redevelopment that is compact, walkable, and takes advantage of existing infrastructure while preserving the rural landscape – in Maryland. “The commission and I are thrilled to recognize these outstanding Maryland projects,” said Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission Chair Susan Summers. “These awards are the highest level of recognition for well-planned economic and community development and sustainability in the state.” “Today’s recipients characterize the resourcefulness, imagination, and originality that makes Maryland a leader in cultural preservation, community and economic development, and environmental stewardship,” said Wendi Peters, Special Secretary of Smart Growth. “I join the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission in celebrating today’s award winners who demonstrate what can happen when great ideas and local vision come together in the spirit of creating economic opportunities, robust communities, and a superior quality of life for Marylanders.”

From Left to Right: Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters, SGC Chair Susan Summers, Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones, Maryland Delegate Jay Jacobs, Maryland Delegate Steven Arentz, Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, and Maryland Senator Stephen Hershey

This year’s award winners included the following (award category is in parentheses):

  1. Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones (Leadership & Service)
  2. Anacostia River Trail, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment (Sustainable Communities)
  3. Havre de Grace Opera House (Sustainable Communities)
  4. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre Baltimore City (Sustainable Communities)
  5. R House in Baltimore City (Sustainable Communities)
  6. ECO City Farms (Preservation and Conservation)

Useful Links

2018 Sustainable Growth Award Winners Web Page (includes videos for each award winner)

SGC Web Page

Economic Development Progress in Garrett

Garrett County has released an update on its economic development efforts.

Garrett is home to 910 businesses and a workforce of 15,566. The County has averaged 68 new businesses a year from 2014-2017. Interestingly, most jobs are in the trade, transportation & utilities sector (22.1 percent). Leisure and hospitality jobs make up 15.1 percent of the workforce, education and health services make up 14.96 percent, and local government, 10.7 percent.

One of the County’s greatest challenges to growth is lack of broadband access. In 2017, broadband expansion efforts reached nearly 3,000 customers, 93 percent of whom were previously unserved.

See the County’s presentation for more information, including a wealth of demographic data.


Ground Broken on Major Merriweather Revitalization Project

A Maryland Department of Commerce press release (2018-04-30) announced groundbreaking of a major revitalization project in the Merriweather District in Downtown Columbia. A variety of state and local officials attended the ceremony. The mixed-use project will include a 12-story office building that will become the headquarters of cybersecurity firm Tenable. From the press release:

Governor Larry Hogan today joined Howard Hughes Corporation CEO David R. Weinreb, Tenable Chairman and CEO Amit Yoran, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman for the Merriweather District’s official groundbreaking ceremony in Downtown Columbia. The groundbreaking highlighted the construction of a new 12-story, 350,000-square-foot signature office building that will house the headquarters of Tenable, one of the nation’s fastest-growing cybersecurity companies.
“The Merriweather District represents the future of Maryland’s tech evolution, and as the future home of Tenable’s new headquarters, it also means hundreds of new jobs right here in Columbia,” said Governor Hogan. “Congratulations once again to Tenable, to the Howard Hughes Corporation, and to everyone involved in this exciting project. Thank you for ensuring that when it comes to cybersecurity, Maryland will continue to lead here at home and on a global scale.”
“We are thrilled to be able to continue the work started by visionary developer James Rouse in creating a planned city founded on the values of respect for people and for land,” said David R. Weinreb, CEO, The Howard Hughes Corporation. “As a company, we are committed to developing cities and neighborhoods in a way that allows people to live better lives while simultaneously building for the future. It is a testament to this commitment that Merriweather District has already attracted leading companies such as Tenable, MedStar Health, and Pearson Online.”
The Merriweather District is the first high-density, mixed-use neighborhood in the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia by Howard Hughes Corporation. In addition to the Merriweather District, the project will include two other neighborhoods, Lakefront District and Central District. At full buildout, Downtown Columbia will feature more than 14 million square feet of mixed-use development, including commercial office space, street-level retail, residential units, and hotel rooms, as well as cultural and recreational amenities such as public parks and trails. In addition to the new building, the Merriweather District will include One and Two Merriweather, a collection of Class-A, mixed-use office buildings.
“This project represents another step forward in fulfilling the vision to redevelop Downtown Columbia,” said Howard County Executive Kittleman. “We’re happy that Tenable is joining this vibrant business community and being a catalyst for the Hughes Corporation to add more residential and other amenities to truly make this a premier destination to live, work and enjoy Columbia.”
The Downtown Columbia Plan, passed by the Howard County government in 2010, facilitated the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia into a vibrant community where residents can live, shop, work, entertain, exercise, and enjoy cultural opportunities in an enriched natural setting. The project is expected to further the growth of Howard County’s vibrant cybersecurity corridor.
“The Merriweather District offers an outstanding location for Tenable’s new headquarters, as well as exceptional amenities for employees,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “We’re very pleased that the company decided to expand here in Maryland. Howard County is fast becoming a hotbed of cybersecurity.”

Baltimore Sun article (2018-04-30) provided some additional details:

The groundbreaking marked the next step in the development of a 391-acre area over the next 20 years, spearheaded by Columbia’s master developer the Howard Hughes Corp. and approved by the county after months of debate. …

The Merriweather District project, to be built in two phases with the first phase scheduled to open in late 2019 and the second phase planned for shortly after, is a high density, mixed-use development with 1.5 million square feet of office space and more than 2,000 residences, anchored by a 12-story, 350,000-square-foot office building that will house the headquarters for cybersecurity firm Tenable. …

Hogan and Kittleman were joined at the ceremony by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, state delegates Frank Turner, Robert Flanagan, Eric Ebersole, Vanessa Atterbeary and Clarence Lam and a state senator, Guy Guzzone. No Howard County Council members were in attendance. The council, which was invited, was at a previously scheduled budget work session that, according to chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, could not be rescheduled.

The article also noted that the Downtown Columbia plan has been a key priority for the Kittleman administration and has received $90 million in public financing.


Baltimore Mayor Plans to Launch Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh has announced plans to launch a Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund to help spur investment in the City’s distressed neighborhoods. The mayor intends to raise $55 million by leasing several city-owned parking garages to help jump-start the fund and encourage more investment in it.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The fund will be designed to focus on the city’s historically-neglected neighborhoods that the federal government defines as “severely distressed” — a swath of the city that includes much of East and West Baltimore. She said the city’s contribution would help kick-start private investment through the fund, a strategy used in similar programs in Cincinnati, Detroit, New York City and San Francisco.

The fund would be managed by a new nonprofit entity that would be governed by a board of “business and civic leaders” along with city government officials, the mayor said.

The article notes that the fund proposal will first have to be approved by the City Council and Board of Estimates.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Garrett Seeks Public Input On Comprehensive Plan

A Community Visioning Workshop will be held on Friday, May 18  at the Garrett College Special Events Center (also known as the old gymnasium), 687 Mosser Rd, McHenry MD, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

According to a press release:

This strategic visioning exercise is the first of a number of public engagement opportunities that will be presented by the consultants hired to assist the County with the update of the Garrett County Comprehensive Plan. The purpose of this activity is to gather input from citizens to create an image of a desired future for the county in 20 years. Future meetings will use that vision to shape specific recommendations for how to bring that vision to reality.

The public is also encouraged to visit the county’s Comprehensive Plan website at At that site access is given to the 2008 Comprehensive Plan as well as other useful information. There is also a public comment form that can be used to submit comments. In addition, the public is invited to follow and comment on the Facebook page created and managed by the consultants, AECOM. It can be found by searching for Garrett County Comprehensive Plan in your Facebook search bar.

Read the full press release for more information.

Skills to Pay the Bills: Chamber Partners With Schools to Address Workforce Shortage

As part of a joint effort with Garrett County Schools, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce today announced the creation of a Work Ethic Diploma program. The purpose of the program is to ensure that the State is graduating skilled workers ready to take on the jobs offered by employers and industry.

According to Cumberland Times-News:

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a work ethic diploma upon graduating that will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

“The concept for a regional Garrett County work ethic initiative was brought to the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce by employers that felt students were not completing high school with the soft skills needed to be successful employees,” said Nicole Christian, chamber president and CEO. “With the input of area educators, business leaders and post-secondary representatives, standards were developed to measure work ethic in students.

To qualify for the diploma, students must earn a minimum of points in discipline standard, attendance standard, absence standard, work experience, community service/internship project standard, overall GPA standard, team work standard, drug free (optional) and exit interview (seniors only).

By meeting established criteria, local students will earn a Work Ethic Diploma upon graduating which will guarantee them job interviews and better wages.

Read the full article for more information.

Click here to learn more about the Work Ethic Diploma program.

Round-up of the 2018 Session for Counties

MACo’s legislative efforts earned an 80% success rate – and as usual, the counties’ voice makes a difference in Annapolis. Bills we support are more likely to pass, and bills we oppose are more likely to fail.

2018 Legislative Results Infographic

MACo’s legislative initiatives, priorities, and positions are directed by its Legislative Committee. This body comprises elected representatives from all of MACo’s members – the 24 county jurisdictions (including Baltimore City).

The “one county, one vote” system of deciding the Association’s legislative strategies, ensures that all counties have an equal voice. All 24 jurisdictions participated regularly in the weekly meetings throughout the session – where they also engaged with policy leaders and advocates who joined the meeting to address county leadership.

Our policy staff have compiled updates and results on all of the bills the Legislative Committee decided to take action on this year.

For the 2018 End of Session Wrap-up for each subject MACo covers, click below:

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Assessments and Taxation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Business Affairs

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Disparity Grants

2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Economic Development Tax Credits

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Education

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Elections

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Employee Benefits & Relations

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Environmental Legislation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Finance and Procurement

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Government Liability & Courts

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Health & Human Services

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Housing & Community Development

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Intergovernmental Relations *MACo Initiative Area*

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Parks & Recreation

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Pensions

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Planning & Zoning

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Property Taxes

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Information & Ethics * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Safety and Corrections

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Road Funding * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: School Construction * MACo Initiative Area *

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: State Budget & Fiscal Affairs

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Tax Sale Bills

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Transportation and Public Works

2018 End of Session Wrap-up: Wynne Tax Bills

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: County Tax Revenues

2018 End of Session Wrap-Up: Other Tax Bills

Conduit Street Podcast: Sine Die Is Quickly Approaching… What’s Locked Up? What’s Still Lingering?

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss a number of issues that have been resolved by the General Assembly as well as a number of issues that still require attention. MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Show Notes:

What’s Locked Up?

  • Amazon Incentive Package
  • Tax Cut Package
  • School Construction Saga
  • Same-Day Voter Registration

What’s Left?

  • School Safety Legislation
  • Crime Bill Blowup
  • Education Lockbox… Limbo?
  • Cannabis (and Quirky Zoning Sideshow)

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.