GoWaiter.comSatisfying a craving for your favorite restaurant fare likely involves a drive, a parking spot, a table and a server.

But an innovative new franchise, GoWaiter of Waldorf, hopes to streamline that process, bringing food directly to customers’ homes from restaurants that do not ordinarily offer their own delivery service.

GoWaiter of Waldorf in Charles County is now slated for expansion thanks to a $100,000 State-sponsored loan to Bell Enterprises, LLC. The loan was made possible through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development‘s (DBED) Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) and Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program (MPVSBLP), DBED announced on Tuesday.

Kristen Bell founded GoWaiter of Waldorf in 2012 and is owner, president and CEO of Bell Enterprises, LLC. Her husband, Christopher Bell, is Bell Enterprises’ chief information officer.

The husband and wife team trace their work history back to the United States Air Force. Kristen Bell served 11 years of active duty and is now a service-disabled veteran who works as an intelligence analyst. Christopher Bell is also a veteran who works as an information systems security manager.

According to Kristen Bell, the $100,000 loan will open up new opportunities for their young Maryland business.

“These programs are very valuable assets to small businesses owners, especially veterans, and could mean the difference between a company expanding or not staying in business,” Bell said in a statement.

“Oftentimes as a veteran, you may not have the money to start up or expand a business. This money will help us reach a larger customer base, as well as potentially grow in Maryland,” she said.

DBED Secretary Dominick Murray praised the loan program and its potential to assist entrepreneurial veterans.

“DBED was pleased to assist this promising veteran-owned company with their expansion in Southern Maryland,” Secretary Murray said in a statement.

“Maryland has an outstanding climate for entrepreneurs, including programs and resources that help propel a company from early stage to high growth. We look forward to working with more companies like GoWaiter of Waldorf to ensure their success and continued growth in our State,” he said.

Maryland DBED and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs offer a variety of programs to assist Maryland military veterans. Find additional information on their websites and a link to DBED’s full loan announcement here.

Worcester County Economic Development

Worcester County asks, “Why not make your vacation address your business address?” Photo courtesy of Worcester County Economic Development.

MDBIZ News plans to feature every Maryland county in its weekly “Building your Maryland business” series. If you are a representative of a county economic development group, please contact the editor, Emily Pope, at epope@choosemaryland.org

Imagine your beachside vacation home is just a stone’s throw from the company office. This “best of both worlds” lifestyle is a reality for many business owners in Worcester County, and county officials say it’s one of many reasons to investigate living and working in the area.

Worcester County, Maryland’s easternmost county, includes the State’s entire Atlantic coast. While it is overwhelmingly rural, it contains Ocean City, which becomes the State’s second most populated urban area during summer months.

“Because so many Marylanders are already familiar with Ocean City and own real estate here, one of our goals is to help entrepreneurs and employers build or relocate their businesses throughout the county,” said Worcester County Economic Development Director William Badger, Jr.

According to Badger, Worcester County’s family-friendly living conditions, central location, enterprise zones and easy access to funding and assistance are major draws for economic activity.

From bustling Ocean City to picturesque Berlin (recently voted America’s coolest small town), Worcester County offers a variety of cultural attractions, affordable housing and the second lowest property tax rate in the State, Badger said. The county also features the highest concentration of Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence awards, with nine out of 12 eligible public schools honored.

The county provides a central location between three major economic centers. Within roughly two and a half hours, one can drive from Worcester County to Baltimore City, Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia.

Maryland Enterprise zones in Snow Hill, Pokomoke City and Berlin are working to foster economic activity through income tax credits. The entire county is also a Historically Underutilized Business Zones, which means businesses can gain preferential access to federal contracts. New startups are also welcome at the Worcester County Small Business Incubator, located in Pocomoke City, with low cost rent and mentoring from experts available.

Recently, Worcester County small businesses have also taken advantage of low interest VOLT Fund loans, the State-sponsored Video Lottery Terminal, Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Loan Fund. The loan program is funded through profits earned by Maryland casinos, with 50 percent of the funding allocated toward small, minority and women-owned businesses within 10 miles of a Maryland casino. The program includes Ocean Downs in Berlin.

Looking for more reasons to build your business in Maryland’s Worcester County? Visit Worcester County Economic Development here.

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The Maryland General Assembly concluded its 2014 legislative session this week, wrapping up with the passage of several bills in support of Maryland’s economy.

Central to those initiatives was an increase in the State’s minimum wage, which will incrementally rise from $7.25 to $10.10 by July 1, 2018. Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray praised Governor Martin O’Malley and other State leaders for championing the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014.

“This is going to help strengthen Maryland’s middle class. It will create about 1,600 jobs and provide nearly $500 million in economic activity,” Secretary Murray said.

Governor O’Malley’s approved budget also supported funding for multiple DBED-sponsored programs, including a $7.4 million infusion into the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund, DBED’s primary financial incentive program. MEDAAF offers direct aid to companies, county economic initiatives and redevelopment programs.

Legislators also approved $17.1 million for the Maryland State Arts Council and $14.4 million for the Maryland Office of Tourism.

State tax credit programs benefitted, as well.

Funding for the Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit increased by $2 million, funding for the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit increased by $1 million and funding for the Research and Development Tax Credit increased by $1 million.

Find Secretary Murray’s full address on the legislative session in the above video filmed in Annapolis, and visit DBED’s website for further information on programs that stimulate growth and innovation in Maryland.

Maryland businesses Maryland businesses registered their strongest optimism in seven years in the most recent survey of business expectations conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Some 42 percent of businesses surveyed anticipated better business conditions in March than in February. Only 7 percent expected business conditions to worsen.

R. Andrew Bauer, a senior regional economist with the Richmond Fed, said that March’s “optimistic” outlook was about one-third higher than the normal pattern and the “pessimistic” outlook was significantly lower.

According to Bauer, additional monthly data is needed to determine if this represents an ongoing trend.

Among other results the Fed reported:

  • Both the general business conditions and sales indexes improved in the past two months, reaching highs in March.
  • Expectations down the road rose as well: 59 percent of respondents anticipated greater business activity six months from now, while 5 percent expected activity to decline.
  • The percentage of firms anticipating hiring over the next six months rose to 46 percent from 33 percent, while the number of respondents planning on reducing their workforce decreased from 12 percent to 8 percent.

Find additional information from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond survey here.

Destination MarylandHigher temperatures and sunnier skies are beaconing visitors to Maryland attractions. If you’re looking to channel your inner explorer, a new resource is loaded with information and discounts.

The Maryland Office of Tourism recently released its 2014 edition of Destination Maryland: The Official Guide to Maryland State Travel.

The magazine features:

  • Listings for attractions, destinations, events, parks, places to stay and travel services,
  • Information on historical attractions with connections to the Underground Railroad, Civil War, National Road and the War of 1812,
  • Detailed information on the Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the writing of the National Anthem,
  • Calendar of events,
  • Free “Maryland Welcome! Passport” discount card and more.

The free discount card, enclosed in the magazine, offers up to $2,500 in savings at participating attractions, retailers, restaurants and accommodations throughout the state.

The magazine is available online, at Maryland welcome centers and may be ordered by phone at 1-800-719-5900.

Maryland tourism has proven itself to be a vital state industry. The Maryland Office of Tourism, within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, found that in 2012, visitors to the state spent more than $14.9 billion on travel-related expenses, generated close to $2 billion in state and local taxes and supported more than 135,000 jobs for Maryland residents.

The Caroline Industrial Park is one of five in Caroline County on the Eastern Shore.

The Caroline Industrial Park is one of five in Caroline County on the Eastern Shore.

MDBIZ News plans to feature every Maryland county in its weekly “Building your Maryland business” series. If you are a representative of a county economic development group, please contact the editor, Emily Kimball, at ekimball@choosemaryland.org.  

Caroline County, nestled between Talbot County and the Delaware border on the Eastern Shore, is known for its fresh air and farmland. But in recent years, manufacturers and tech companies are cropping up, joining Kraft Foods GlobalSolo CupChoptank Transport and other major brands throughout the county.

This is thanks in part to the county’s quality workforce, a variety of business resources and the availability of tax credits, according to Angela Visintainer, Director of Economic Development of the Caroline Economic Development Corporation.

With a county population of roughly 33,000 (the fifth lowest in the state) in a wholly rural area, employers find that workers and public officials are genuinely friendly, easily accessible and innovative problem solvers, Visintainer said.

“Our agricultural roots have led to a workforce that’s innovative and great at problem solving. We call it ‘farm boy ingenuity.’ Figuring out how to get the most out of a piece of equipment is in our blood, and our manufacturers and tech-based companies love that,” Visintainer said.

Workforce development is a priority for county officials, who are engaging public schools and manufacturers in an Advanced Manufacturing Professionals (AMP) program, where students get a firsthand look at what it takes to land a job in various industries.

Incoming businesses can find a soft landing at the county’s five industrial, business and technology parks, including Federalsburg Industrial ParkFrank M. Adams Industrial ParkCaroline Industrial ParkDenton Industrial Park and Mid-Shore Technology Park. The Caroline Economic Development Corporation also promotes county-sponsored small business loans and offers free marketing services to any business involved in tourism and hospitality.

Because Caroline County is a priority funding area, businesses may qualify for project tax credits of up to $5 million and start-up tax credits of up to $500,000 through the state’s One Maryland Tax Credit, with a job creation minimum of just 25 new, full-time positions. Additional state-sponsored tax credit programs can be found through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Looking for more reasons to build your business in Maryland’s Caroline County? Visit the Caroline Economic Development Corporation here.

Catch up on the latest Maryland business news:

 

RedOwl Analytics

RedOwl Analytics was named Most Innovative Company at RSA Conference 2014. Photo courtesy RSA

Thanks in part to the region’s abundant resources and business friendly environment, RedOwl Analytics has rapidly progressed from a modest startup to a Maryland success story, co-founder Renny McPherson recently explained in the Huffington Post.

The cybersecurity company—which analyzes complex data trails to increase digital situational awareness—has built a reputation as one of the state’s leading digital security businesses. RedOwl Analytics won the $100,000 grand prize in the inaugural 2013 InvestMaryland Challenge, sponsored by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and more recently, was named “Most Innovative Company” at RSA Conference 2014.

In his blog post, McPherson spotlights several reasons why his company is thriving in Baltimore, including access to talent, the emerging tech environment, access to bigger companies, proximity to investors and an entrepreneur-friendly government.

RedOwl Analytics’ founders have taken advantage of opportunities for state-sponsored funding. McPherson writes, “The state of Maryland announced $84 million in investment for the ‘innovation economy’ just a month after we settled on Baltimore in March 2012. After that good omen, we entered the inaugural InvestMD challenge in 2013 and won our IT software/hardware category. The competition itself forced us to better define our company strategy, and the $100,000 prize for first place went towards hiring more technical talent.”

The company also identifies with Baltimore’s supportive atmosphere. McPherson writes, “People and companies look out for one another here in Baltimore and celebrate each other’s accomplishments with (almost) as much enthusiasm as a Ravens playoff run. That’s right in line with our company’s core values.”

Find McPherson’s full blog post here on the Huffington Post.

Follow the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development on Facebook and Twitter, and share with us why you decided to build your business in Maryland.

 

From Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, an elite group of small businesses are setting new standards for excellence in their fields. Among them are 14 Maryland business leaders, winners of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2014 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Program.

The SBA’s Baltimore District Office recently announced the following winners:

Category Business leader Location
Accountant Advocate of the Year Donald Cunningham, Donald Cunningham, CPA LLC Millersville
Attorney Advocate of the Year Chad Malkus, Esq., Michael Hodes, LLC Cambridge
District Director’s Unsung Hero Award Rich Loeffler, Maryland Small Business & Technology Development Center Wye Mills
Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Danny Farrar & David Posin, Soldierfit Frederick
Family Owned Small Business of the Year Kim Lawson, Fishpaws Marketplace Arnold
Financial Services Champion of the Year Steve Primosch, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. Annapolis
Home-Based Business Champion of the Year Barbara Zimmer, B. Zimmer & Co. Pasadena
Insurance Advocate Nancy Ann Nicklow, Huff Insurance Pasadena
Maryland Small Business Person of the Year Stephanie Novak Hau, Chesapeake Environmental Management Bel Air
Minority Small Business Champion of the Year Charles Ramos, CR Dynamics Baltimore
Small Business Exporter of the Year John Doran, Centreville Trailers Centreville
Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year Joe Giordano, Project Opportunity Salisbury
Women in Business Champion of the Year Shabri Moore, Moore Wealth, Inc. Frederick
Young Entrepreneur of the Year Matt Wyble, Champion Realty Severna Park

The honorees will be recognized at the 30th Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 15 in Woodlawn, Maryland. Find additional details and ticket information on the SBA’s website.

Learn more about how the State of Maryland works with the SBA to support entrepreneurs through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

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The next great idea was easier to find than a necktie at TechBuzz2014, a semi-annual event put on by the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA) where entrepreneurs, given more to flannel shirts than business suits, pitched their fledgling companies to an auditorium full of venture capital and angel investors.

The event aimed to link investment firms with 20 promising startups seeking about $1 million to $3 million to expand their businesses, hire talent and begin building their products.

Dozens of startups have presented at six similar TechBuzz gatherings since 2010 and 40 percent received venture funding within a year as a result, said MAVA Executive Director Julia Spicer. The growth of TechBuzz over the past four years reflects growth of early and venture-stage investing in the mid-Atlantic. The Baltimore-Washington region is among the most active areas for venture investing in the country, along with California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Venture capital funding in Maryland increased to $663 million in 2013 from $408 million in 2012, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The state’s 63 percent growth far outpaced the national average of 7 percent. Maryland is also establishing itself as a major market for early investment, according to a report by the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) last month.

That was evident Tuesday at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club, a newly renovated Art Deco-era moviehouse, where startups, some of whom who just sold their first product weeks ago, came in search of early “angel” or “Series A” investment. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) was a co-sponsor of the event. James Keeratisakdawong, Principal with DBED’s Maryland Venture Fund (MVF), co-chaired the committee that reviewed the applicants and selected 20 companies to present.

The startups spanned a wide array of ideas and products, some targeting consumers, others geared to the enterprise market. Companies ranged from Basepair, developer of software to analyze DNA sequencing data, to Brain Sentry, a Bethesda company whose wearable helmet sensors can signal when a youngster in a contact sport needs to be checked for a possible concussion, to LoveThatFit, a “virtual fitting” technology that enables users to try on clothes “virtually” and that aims to improve online apparel shopping. Armed only with slide presentations and “elevator speeches,” the entrepreneurs had four minutes to make a pitch. A countdown clock ensured not a second more. A panel of judges then evaluated them in the venture capital equivalent of “American Idol.”

One judge, MVF Managing Director Thomas S. Dann, observed that many local startups are focused on the hot markets of cybersecurity and cloud computing. But whatever the venture, he said, “we want to see entrepreneurs focused on the problem that the customer is trying to solve and how the ROI [return on investment] they offer can attract that next customer.”

Passion was also important. The judges said they made special note of whether the entrepreneur was motivated by a “pain point” they had experienced while seeking a product or service. One example of that was Mark Olcott, who described his College Park-based company Vitus Vet as a cloud-based network of medical records for pets. He described an example of a dog named Bogey that was brought to an emergency clinic for treatment after being injured. The pet died later that night because it couldn’t tolerate the type of anesthesia administered.

Olcott revealed he was the vet.

“I felt like I got kicked in the stomach,” he said.

Startups also must not overlook the potential competition for what they’re trying to create, said Dayna Grayson, a Partner at New Enterprise Associates, which ranked sixth last year for investments in Maryland, according to a recent Baltimore Business Journal survey. “A lot of presenters today didn’t talk about competitors,” she said. “Many large public companies have few direct competitors. It’s not enough to say you’re going to be among the best of five or six.”

Ultimately, as one investor judge told the entrepreneurs, the proof is in the product: “You get enough customers,” he remarked, “then you don’t need our money.”