Debate Continues Over Frederick Hotel & Conference Center

State funding for a hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick sparked a controversial floor debate in the Maryland Senate this past session.  The state approved granting $4 million for the Downtown Frederick Hotel and Conference Center, leading to Frederick County’s own Senator Michael Hough voting “nay,” alone, on the entire capital budget.

Michael Dresser reports in today’s Baltimore Sun that the public funding for the project – $31 million in total, including state, county and city sources – still requires a number of state and local approvals, including sign-off by the State Board of Public Works. It appears the debate over the project is far from over. From the article:

State Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Frederick County Democrat, said the project is a priority for the city’s growing high-tech and biotech business sector.

“They think they can do international conferences here. They need a first-class hotel,” he said. “It’ll definitely spark other businesses in the area.”

But to others, the project is a colossal boondoggle. These opponents say it’s a textbook example of crony capitalism — a subsidy for wealthy developers. They say it would be out of scale in the historic downtown and would require the demolition of at least one historic building.

State Sen. Michael J. Hough, Frederick County’s other senator, compares the project to the Rocky Gap resort in Western Maryland and the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge — two money-losing ventures in which the state invested two decades ago.

“I’m not exactly sure why the state is still investing in hotels, given our track record,” the Republican lawmaker said. Rocky Gap lost money for years before casino gambling was permitted there under new ownership. The Cambridge resort continues to lose money, according to the Department of Legislative Services, but the state was repaid in 2006 and local officials insist it has stimulated growth in that Eastern Shore city.

A majority of the Frederick County delegation to the General Assembly opposed spending state money on the hotel project, but Young persuaded his fellow Senate Democrats to insert the expenditure in the capital budget. The Senate prevailed in negotiations with the House, and Gov. Larry Hogan did not contest the decision.

Even without most of the delegation, the project has powerful local support. The city government, led by Republican Mayor Randy McClement, is on board. The county executive, Democrat Jan Gardner, backs it. The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and other local business groups have it on their wish lists.

“We believe it’s the next real game-changer for our community — not a boondoggle,” said John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County. He said accommodations downtown are limited; the few bed and breakfasts are always full.

The Maryland Public Policy Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research and education organization whose mission is “to formulate and promote public policies at all levels of government based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and civil society,” penned a not-too-positive report on the potential deal last September.

The Institute reports that the deal would distort the hospitality market in the Frederick area; raise hotel taxes on other hotels; “rewards political skill, not business acumen”; may violate the state law giving the county the authority to impose the hotel tax; provides full-service hotel benefits that jeopardize business opportunities for neighboring eating, drinking and other service establishments; and gives too much administrative authority to the county tourism council, which it reports is “a trade group comprising some 300 members engaged in visitor businesses.”

Additionally, it cites:

Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas, San Antonio who specializes in hotels and convention centers, says upscale, full-service conference center hotels almost never make financial sense in the downtown of small cities like Frederick. The extra costs involved, both in capital expenditure and operations, just aren’t justified by any extra revenue they generate. The many activities involved in a full-service hotel are also very difficult to manage, he says. However, the bigger problem for Frederick is that the hotel’s anticipated top customer, the federal government, limits “per diem” lodging rates to about $100 and mandates that they will only be paid if the lodging is at least 50 miles from employees’ workplaces. The proposed upscale hotel is aiming at $160 per night rooms, and Frederick is a scant 43 miles from the White House.

The Baltimore Sun refers to the City of Frederick’s economic development director:

Richard Griffin, economic development director for the city, said the opposition to the hotel, “although very expressive,” is small. He said the project is expected to bring 280 jobs and have $26 million in annual economic impact.

Griffin said public-private partnerships are typical for such projects. He pointed to a Marriott hotel-conference center built in North Bethesda with state help and regarded as a success.

“Everyone’s waiting for this project to get going so they can jump in and begin the process of the full realization of the east side of downtown,” he said.

TopGolf Plan for South Baltimore Is Ready for Possible Tee-Off

A proposal to open TopGolf at the site of Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter site near M&T Bank Stadium in South Baltimore has been sent to city economic development officials by Towson developer Caves Valley Partners, City Councilman Ed Resiginer said this week. Reisinger represents the 10th District, which includes the area.

Baltimore Business Journal reports,

In the meantime, the city has signed a contract to acquire a 40,000-square-foot facility at 2800 Wegworth Lane near Westport and Cherry Hill for a new BARCS shelter, said Scott Douglas, a principal at Douglas Commercial LLC, which listed the building for sale. Douglas declined to reveal the sales price.

Caves Valley in early April submitted the lone bid for a 2.5-acre parcel of city-owned land at 301 Stockholm St. in response to a request for proposals issued earlier this year by the Baltimore Development Corp., Resiginer said. Another 7 acres located adjacent to the BARCS site would make the development property total 10 acres.

Arsh Mirmiran, a partner in Caves Valley, did not respond to a request for comment.

Adding TopGolf, a national chain with locations in cities that include Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., will boost the area’s vibe as am emerging entertainment zone. TopGolf’s feature a 240-yard high-tech driving range, a sports bar and restaurant and party rental hall. The area is currently highlighted by the home turf of the Baltimore Ravens and the Horseshoe Baltimore casino.

The Dallas-based company has been searching to move into Baltimore for about a year. TopGolf is planning its first Maryland location off Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg.

Reisinger said this week the bid to build a TopGolf location there by Caves Valley was moving through city development channels. The site was identified in a 2015 South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan by the city Department of Planning as part of a new “entertainment hub.”

Read the full article for more information.

City Program Trains Youth for Water Industry Jobs

An article in The Baltimore Sun highlights the Baltimore City Water Industry Career Mentoring Program which provides career training to city youth and helps clean polluted waterways in the process.

The idea is to solve two of Baltimore’s biggest problems — joblessness and polluted waterways.

Officials said the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development developed the program to address the retirement of seasoned workers in the water industry and a shortage of trained workers to replace them.

Jobs to be filled range from working on pipes to fixing erroneous water bills. Youths receive six months of mentoring and a chance to earn a career in the industry.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said the program lets Baltimore “take the lead in training the next generation of workers in the water profession.”

The mentoring program includes job-readiness training, introduction to different jobs in the water industry, job shadowing, work with a career coach, and a placement in the city’s summer jobs program, called YouthWorks. Participants then interview for full-time jobs that typically start at around $30,000 a year. The new employees are put on a path that often leads to salary increases, a department spokesman said.

“It’s a way for people who aren’t college-savvy to get a trade that you can do with your hands and still help out and contribute,” Dorsey said. “If this opportunity hadn’t presented itself, I would have been doing a lot of job-hopping.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

County workforce development and support services will be discussed at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session “Second Chance for Workplace Success – A Good Program is Good for Your County“.

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

MD Technology Development Corp. Names New CEO

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) has a new chief executive officer, starting June 26.

George Davis’ wealth of business experience includes serving as partner of GM3/Gamma 3 LLC, a Baltimore-based investment initiative that provides early-stage funding to advanced technology companies; CEO of Gemstone Biotherapeutics LLC, a Baltimore-based research and development company founded in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University; director of Perthera Inc, a new venture that is at the forefront of the evolving bio-informatics industry; board of directors/CEO of Avatech Solutions/Rand Worldwide Inc, a publicly traded CAD software and engineering support company; president and vice chairman of Aether Systems, a pioneering wireless data company; and contracts, operations and program manager at Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

From TEDCO’s statement:

“After a thorough search, the Board of Directors is excited to have George Davis take the helm of TEDCO as our new CEO. George brings to TEDCO a wealth of demonstrated leadership skills, diverse C-Level experience acumen and a history of successful investment and operational engagements within the Maryland Innovation Ecosystem,” said TEDCO Chairman Newt Fowler. “He’s an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. And he will execute on Governor Hogan’s strong priority of supporting small businesses, including tech startups, as the foundation for improving Maryland’s economy.”

TEDCO has been carrying the “innovation to market” banner for almost two decades and has added tremendous value to the evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Recognized as one of the most active seed/early-stage investors in the nation, TEDCO has a portfolio of more than 400 seed investments. TEDCO’s $22 million awarded to startups led to more than $1 billion in follow-on funding; 4,358 jobs created at an average salary of $74,700; and more than $36 million in annual government revenues attributed to TEDCO activities.

TEDCO is an independent organization created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State. TEDCO indicates on its website that it “strives to be Maryland’s lead source for entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.”

Queen Anne’s Names New Economic Development Director

The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners recently announced the appointment of Paige Tilghman as the director of the Office of Economic Development. Tilghman’s primary responsibilities will be to manage the business retention, expansion and attraction activities for the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners under the direction of County Administrator Gregg Todd.

MyEasternShoreMD reports,

Tilghman will join the county in supporting business growth and opportunity, working toward better infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life in Queen Anne’s County. Tilghman said she and the commissioners have some goals they hope to accomplish before year end, including reviewing the work plan and Economic Development Strategy Plan. Once a work plan is fully developed, said Tilghman, they will then develop a marketing plan.

As director, Tilghman will continue to work with Jean Fabi as the Queen Anne’s County business development coordinator. Fabi served as interim director when Jamie Gilbert stepped down.

Tighlman said one aspect of EDC’s plan looks at the retention of the existing business base and helping them expand. The plan also looks at bringing in new business and what those businesses can add to the county. There is significant interest in high tech manufacturing and also marine technology, as well as agriculture and agriculture production.

Agriculture is a predominant business in the northern part of the county, said Tilghman, and the commissioners are interested in exploring growth [of those agriculture businesses] and supporting development. The need for infrastructure will be a consideration also when looking at the northern part of the county, said Tilghman.

The Economic Development Commission meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 8:30 a.m. at the Chesapeake Heritage Visitor Center, 425 Piney Narrow Road in Chester, and meetings are open to the public. There will be no meeting in July.

Tilghman and Fabi are available to call on businesses to discuss retention and expansion strategies. For more information, call 410-604-2013.

UMBC Tech Park Awarded RISE Zone Designation

The Maryland Department of Commerce has approved a RISE Zone designation for the University of Maryland, Baltimore  County Research and Tech Park. The zone designation will stand for five years. RISE Zones were created to help boost economic development and job creation around the state’s higher education institutions.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone, or RISE Zone, at bwtech@UMBC will help the research park support established companies, offer incubator and accelerator services to emerging companies and help university researchers commercialize their work. Businesses that move to a RISE Zone and existing businesses that expand could qualify for property and income tax credits tied to investments and job creation.

UMBC plans to build 100,000 square feet of space to lease to technology related businesses, creating about 250 high-tech and cybersecurity jobs. The new development, an investment of up to $20 million, will take two to five years to complete.

“This new enterprise zone will help further UMBC’s goal of spurring research, supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, and helping to grow our region’s high-tech companies,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in an announcement Monday.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Allegany County Chamber of Commerce Launches Startup Allegany

The Allegany County Chamber of Commerce is creating a new membership category to help entrepreneurs launching small startup businesses within the county.

The Cumberland Times-News reports:

Startup businesses have unique challenges especially in the early years of their business cycle. Recognizing these needs, the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce has introduced Startup Allegany, a new membership category designed specifically for small startups with under 50 employees. With a reduced simplified dues structure for the first two years, Startup Allegany also provides startups with free advertising in Chamber newsletters, a feature in a Startup Spotlight and discounted advertising in the Chamber of Commerce Community Profile and Membership Directory in addition to the number of other benefits enjoyed by all Chamber members.

In 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were 5.73 million employer firms in the United States. Businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6 percent. Add in the number of non-employer businesses — there were 23.0 million in 2013 — then the share of businesses with less than 20 workers increases to 97.9 percent. Among employer C Corporations in 2012, 86.2 percent had fewer than 20 employees.

Read The Cumberland Times-News article to learn more.

Might “Asset Recycling” Be Key To Infrastructure Investment?

The Trump administration’s proposed federal budget calls for spending $200 billion over 10 years to “incentivize” infrastructure investment by state and local governments. One key to the strategy is reportedly “asset recycling” — selling or leasing infrastructure assets to the private sector and using the proceeds to pay for upgrades, maintenance, and new infrastructure.

Like the forms of recycling that we are all familiar with, infrastructure recycling is about making something new out of what already exists. In the infrastructure context, the starting point is the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of public investment that has already been made in roads, bridges, airports, utilities, waterways, and other infrastructure assets. Infrastructure recycling uses public-private partnerships (“P3s”) to tap this existing capital investment to fund new priorities.

This process unfolds in three interrelated steps:

1. Public sector infrastructure owners unlock the capital investment that is “trapped” in existing infrastructure assets by selling or leasing them to private investors through P3s. The terms of the concession arrangement typically provide for the long-term maintenance and/or improvement of the asset.

2. The public sector “recycles” the proceeds realized from these P3 transactions to pay for new infrastructure — enabling significant investment in public infrastructure at little additional cost to taxpayers.

3. As assets mature and become good candidates for P3s, the cycle repeats to enable continuous investment and renewal.

As reported in Governing,

Could what worked in Australia — essentially a garage sale of government-owned infrastructure — work in the United States? Maybe, but we’ve got some big challenges. In addition to the reluctance of local officials to give up control of infrastructure, current tax law provides powerful disincentives to the selling or leasing of assets. Assets that are sold or leased must not only repay associated tax-exempt debt, but state and local governments would also have to finance any new debt that is incurred on a more expensive, taxable basis.

Those challenges aren’t insurmountable, as Indiana has shown. In 2006, the state leased the Indiana Toll Road, netting $3.5 billion after repaying $300 million of tax-exempt debt. The state put the proceeds into its infrastructure fund, which has since financed other transportation assets without taking on any additional debt or imposing tax increases.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Counties Provide the “Local Lens” for Infrastructure Package

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Will Favor States, Localities with Money Lined Up, Chao Says

Read the Full Article from Governing

Hundreds Of New Jobs Come To Carroll County

If you are looking for work, you might consider checking out Carroll County. At least 350 new jobs will come to the county in the not-too-distant future, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. 

The latest in a series of business expansions includes Knorr Brake Co., a Carroll County rail transit systems manufacturer, which is adding 30,000 square feet to its corporate headquarters in Westminster and 200 new jobs over the next six years. It is investing $2.2 million in the expansion. Company President Rich Bowie said the company has nearly doubled in size since it moved to its current location four years ago, and he hopes to see it double again in the next five years. 

The expansion will receive a $700,000 conditional loan through the Maryland Department of Commerce Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund to assist with project costs.

The Business Journal reports that Knorr is just the latest of a number of expansions. CoastTec LLC, a power supplies remanufacturing firm, recently started new production in a 62,500-square-foot office, warehouse and plant operations space in Eldersburg. Strouse Corp., a manufacturer that has contracts with U.S. military and defense agencies, is expanding to a new 60,000-square-foot plant in Westminster and adding 25 new jobs, with the help of a $100,000 conditional loan from the state. Evapco Inc., a designer and producer of industrial cooling and refrigeration products, will expand its Taneytown headquarters with new $15 million, 160,000-square-foot building and 125 new jobs over the next five years. The state provided Evapco a $625,000 conditional loan and a $75,000 job training grant.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Pilot Program Provides Training to Baltimore City Job-Seekers




In a recent press release (2017-05-18) the Center for Watershed Protection announced the start of a new Clean Water Training Certificate Program that will provide qualifying job-seeking individuals with green stormwater infrastructure installation, maintenance, and inspection skills. The initial pilot for the Certificate Program, which runs from May 19 through June 16, will provide the training to ten Baltimore City residents who have been struggling to find a job. The program was funded by the Campbell Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation and Prince Charitable Trusts. From the press release:

“Not only will this program benefit the environment and the Baltimore City economy, it also will change the futures of these 10 individuals,” said Neely Law, Director of Education and Training, Center for Watershed Protection. “What’s more, they are satisfying a critical need in this industry: stormwater employers have significant hiring needs for skilled individuals, which they expect to be met by this training program.” …

The new training certificate program, developed by the Center for Watershed Protection, includes classroom learning, hands-on activities and field-based assessments to allow program participants to acquire core skills and knowledge in the construction, maintenance and inspection of green stormwater infrastructure. …

“This curriculum is equivalent to a few years of job training,” said Michael Peny, a stormwater industry professional of Angler Environmental, a Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) company. “The training provides the basic skills and knowledge an entry-level employee needs to have on the job site, and covers additional areas that will provide opportunities for advancement.”

Participants were selected through a rigorous application process. They were unemployed or underemployed at the time of enrollment and were selected for their drive, motivation and commitment to pursuing a career in stormwater management. Participants will acquire core skills and learn about construction, maintenance and inspection of green infrastructure stormwater best management practices that are relevant on any site, not just Maryland.

The three-week technical stormwater training is part of a comprehensive three-month workforce development program provided by Civic Works, which began May 2, to include essential skills training, workplace safety and on-the-job training. …

“Our goal is to expand the program across the U.S. and build a network of workforce development and training programs,” added Law. “The Clean Water Certificate training model has great potential to translate to other areas of stormwater management.”

Useful Links

Center for Watershed Protection Website