Archives For September 2011

Miracle on 33rd

MDbizMedia —  September 29, 2011 — Leave a comment

by Christine Hansen

The Mount Vernon United Methodist Church in Hampden, as it sits today.

When Mark Dent drove by the remains of fire damaged Mount Vernon United Methodist Church in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, he knew it was meant to be.  Dent, President of Chesapeake Systems, the region’s leading provider of Mac based support and service, was looking for new space to accommodate the company’s expansion.

“We had wanted to own a building for quite some time and I drove by the building and saw the for sale sign,” Dent said.

The church was a City fixture, opening in 1879 serving workers in nearby mills, and remaining home to an active congregation until the church fell victim to lightning and fire damage in 2008.  Stained glass windows, once a prominent centerpiece of the churches structure, were blown out, and walls and floors were dismantled, due to fire extinguishing efforts.  The damaged church remained there untouched for two years – until Dent came along.

The fire damaged church remained untouched for years, open to the elements until a temporary roof was constructed.

Chesapeake Systems was housed at Hampden’s Mill Centre, but needed more space to accommodate its rapidly growing business.  The church, up for sale at a nominal price, was a perfect fit for the company.  The 9,000 square foot building could house Chesapeake Systems’ retail floor, training rooms, office spaces, and technical center.  In January of 2010, the company presented its first contract to purchase the property.  After months of meetings with the neighboring community, state and city officials, the company finally completed the purchase of the property on November 5, 2010.

The church's most prominent stained glass window was blown out during fire extinguishing efforts.

With the old office location just a few blocks away, Dent was able to juggle the renovation project while working full-time.  The renovations began in March of 2011, and the company officially moved into its new headquarters the weekend of July 4th.

“It was a very hairy time.  We had to be out of our old space by June 30 but didn’t have our official use and occupancy permit until July 12,” Dent said.

But working together with a 20 man crew, the company was able to move in quickly.  The damaged church was transformed.  The company restored many of the architectural features, including stone walls, chestnut beams, an organ, and stained glass windows.  Hickory floors were installed to replace the floors that had been damaged in the fire.  Stained glass windows that were blown out were replicated to match its original.

The stained glass window bears a new design, created by George Brecht's daughter, Courtney.

“We were pretty much able to keep a lot of the original structure of the building.  Some of the stained glass windows were completely destroyed, but we were able to find a company that duplicated the design of the windows that were destroyed,” Dent said.

And, Brecht’s daughter, a figurative painter, was commissioned to design the large stained glass window facing the Chestnut Avenue side of the building.  The design features the company’s logo, while also reflecting the tale of the building’s ultimate fate.

Chesapeake Systems was founded in 1990 by George Brecht, current Chairman of the Board, in the basement of his home.  In 1995, Brecht got involved with another company that was interested in opening a North American sales and service operation center.  At the same time, Mark Dent was hired to fix Brecht’s computer, and after some conversation, Dent joined Brecht at Chesapeake Systems.  Dent brought along his loyal customers, and Chesapeake Systems began to grow, offering sales and support services for Mac based platforms.

A company in Pennsylvania duplicated the original design of the church's stained glass windows. The window shown here is half the original (top) and half duplication (bottom).

Since then, the company has grown to 23 employees, and offers service, support and training.  The company’s Professional Services division offers training and work flow support for the video and broadcast, defense and education industries, and their Home and Office division offers support services for professional and corporate clients.  Clients include the Baltimore Orioles, Disney affiliates and the BBC.

“The single biggest thing we do now is video work flow solutions for the government and corporate broadcasters and post-production houses,” Dent said.  “We go in and analyze an existing work flow and we will suggest hardware and software solutions to increase productivity and pricing to help them make their operations more efficient.”

With the renovation and a new office space, the company is expanding its retail center and hopes to hire more employees.

“With this new space, we are looking to add more employees for our retail section. We also hope to become an incubator for those folks that are starting at the ground level,” Dent said.  “This building has a lot of history and ties to the Baltimore community. We hope that our repurposing of this iconic structure will help revitalize the community. We are a small business – we aren’t just guys who can fix your computer – we are hoping to become technology partners to our fellow small businesses.”

Chesapeake Systems was able to keep many of the original parts of the church's architecture, including the chestnut beams.

The church's organ is also a major fixture in the company's new layout.

by Jill Feinberg, Communications Director, Star Spangled 200, Inc.

Nearly 300 people joined Gov. Martin O’Malley, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and State Sen. President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller Jr. at the Landmark Theatres’ Harbor East Cinema in Baltimore, Monday evening, Sept. 26, for a highlighted version of The War of 1812, a new two-hour PBS documentary that airs nationwide Oct. 10.

The film includes re-enactments, animation and commentary from 26 American, British, Canadian and Native-American historians. Viewers at the screening also saw a preview of Anthem, a made-in-Maryland production that traces the origins of the National Anthem, and a short film about the upcoming bicentennial period – 2012 through 2014 – produced by Maryland Public Television.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, Raymond ‘Chip’ Mason and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (partially hidden) follow the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps and several re-enactors in 1812-era costume to a screening of The War of 1812, a new PBS documentary, Sept. 26 at the Landmark Theatres Harbor East Cinema in Baltimore. Mason is chair of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

Following the PBS documentary, filmmaker Lawrence Hott, Florentine Films, presented a Q&A session. “I spent about seven years making this film – traveling all across the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “We filmed here because Baltimore and Maryland are extremely important to (the story of) the War of 1812.” Hott and his crew filmed in the state two years ago at a variety of locations, including two days at Fort McHenry and one day aboard the Pride of Baltimore II.

“By screening this PBS film, we continue to ramp up our activity in anticipation of the launch of the bicentennial next June,” said Bill Pencek, executive director of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. “We plan to showcase Maryland on an international stage during the bicentennial period and this documentary certainly adds traction to our efforts.”

The War of 1812 is a production of WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., in association with WETA Washington, D.C. The National Endowment for the Humanities provided a major grant.

A Second-Chance

MDbizMedia —  September 26, 2011 — Leave a comment

by Christine Hansen

Everyone, at some point, has delivered donations to their local Goodwill or Salvation Army.  After a move or a spring cleaning, it’s common to have extra items – whether it’s clothes or household goods – that can be donated for someone else in need.  But what happens when donation centers get too many donations?

That’s where Fab-Tech, a second-hand textile company based in Owings Mills, Md., comes in.  The company was founded in 1983 by Harry Meier, who saw an opportunity to assist donation centers.

“In 1983, Harry started the company and felt there was a need to be able to buy and sell second-hand clothing. He used to be in the second-hand clothing business,” Robert J. Goode, President & CEO of Fab-Tech, said.  “He also felt a need to represent the donation centers and the charities so they could concentrate on whatever their mission statement was.”

Bales of clothing, ready for shipment, are stored in Fab-Tech's warehouse. Each bale weighs approximately 900 pounds.

Meier would take the extra recycled textiles and clothing and ship it across the U.S. and all over the world.  In 1985, Goode joined Meier permanently and the two built the company from the ground up.

“When we started, we just had the two of us working. Since then, we have built our markets domestic and internationally,” Goode said.

According to Goode, 65 to 70 percent of everything that is donated is clothing which can be used as second-hand clothing.  Twenty-five percent of the clothing can be used as industrial rags or wipes for industrial purposes, he said.  Another three to four percent is used for shredding, recycled for use in other materials.  The mats that are found in the trunks of cars, for example, are made from recycled clothing.  The remaining percent is not usable, Goode said.

“Everything that goes into a Goodwill or a Salvation Army, they first try to sell it in their stores – which is obviously the greatest benefit to them.  And anything they can’t sell or wasn’t good enough to go into the store, they sell to companies like us and we buy it from them in bales.  We ship those bales directly overseas to other companies that could sell them as second-hand clothing, or could use the materials as industrial rags,” Goode said.

Today, the company employs 35 people and 65 to 70 percent of the company’s business is through exports.  The company has developed markets in Central and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Pakistan and India, and has offices in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida and Canada.

“We concentrated in the United States in the beginning, and then went on to Canada, and eventually expanded into other markets,” Goode said. “We are constantly looking into other new markets.”

Bags of clothes are collected by Fab-Tech from donation centers and clothing drop boxes from across the State.

In the last year, the company moved 65 million pounds, approximately 1,200 containers, of second-hand clothing, industrial rags and new shoes throughout the world.

“With the Port of Baltimore being one of the largest, especially on the East Coast, it gives us the ability to ship throughout the world,” Goode said.  “As the world is continuing to grow, the need for clothing in a lot of these third world countries has continued to increase. Maryland has a great workforce and the Port really allows us to ship anywhere.”

by Jill Feinberg, Communications Director for Star-Spangled 200, Inc.

Video Courtesy of WNEDTV

“The War of 1812,” a new PBS documentary that airs nationwide on October 10, will be shown at the Landmark Theatres’ Harbor East Cinema on September 26 at 7:00 p.m.  The screening (a highlighted version) benefits Star-Spangled 200, Inc., the fundraising affiliate of the Maryland War of 1812 Commission.  A Q&A session with filmmaker Lawrence Hott of Florentine Films/Hott Productions follows the film.  Tickets are available on-line and at the box office for $15 ($20 at the door). Proceeds will support grants, programs, and events tied to the upcoming War of 1812 bicentennial observance.

In addition to the PBS documentary, the evening includes previews from other 1812-related films: Anthem, a made-in-Maryland production (Make Your Mark Media) that traces the origins of the National Anthem; and other pieces produced by Maryland Public Television for the bicentennial period.

A special screening of the PBS documentary "The War of 1812" will be showing at Landmark Theatres on September 26. Tickets are on sale now.

The film, shot in Maryland as well as in Canada and the Great Lakes region, includes interviews with twenty-six leading authorities on the war.  American, Canadian and Native historians present important accounts and research, including two Marylanders.  Vince Leggett, founder and president of Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation and Scott Sheads, ranger and historian at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, speak to their expertise in African-American participation in privateering and historic weaponry respectively.

“The War of 1812” includes stunning reenactments and evocative animation, telling the story of a conflict that forged the destiny of a continent.  To buy tickets, please visit www.starspangled200.com.

by Christine Hansen

Alberto Lacaze and business partner, Karl Murphy, believe in artificial intelligence.  Instrumental in the research that went into unmanned vehicles for the military during the 1990s and 2000s, Lacaze and Murphy never gave up on the idea of autonomous vehicles and machinery.

After leaving their posts at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the pair formed Robotic Research, LLC in 2002, and continued their research and development of unmanned and autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.  Today, the Gaithersburg-based minority-owned business employs approximately 20 people and has developed the software for a number of products for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“We saw a resurgence in the early 2000s when the whole robotics market was becoming more of a commercial product, so it was becoming harder to continue doing research inside the government,” Alberto Lacaze, President and Co-founder of Robotic Research, said.  So Lacaze and NIST co-worker, Murphy, started their business, enabling them to partner with large contractors.

Owners Karl Murphy (L) and Alberto Lacaze (R) in front of an unmanned Stryker vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Robotic Research, LLC).

The company develops the software for autonomous mobility systems. Robotic Research software can be found in the majority of the autonomous ground robotic systems currently in use by the U.S. Army.

“A lot of the work we do is defense-related although there are some applications that can be commercialized, especially for search and rescue,” Lacaze said.

Robotic Research's software capabilities can also apply to mining. Robotics can assist in surveying, mapping, positioning and rescue operations. (Image courtesy of Robotic Research, LLC).

Last year, the company received an ExportMD grant in conjunction with the Multi Autonomous Ground-Robotic International Challenge, or MAGIC-2010, held in Australia and the Land Warfare conference that followed. The competition judged the ability of a team of robots to operate autonomously on the battlefield in dangerous situations.  Each robotic team was judged on its ability to draw maps of the interior of buildings it surveyed, and its ability to search and identify differently dressed people, Lacaze said.   The competition was  jointly sponsored by the U.S. Army Research, Engineering and Development Command and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization.

“These robotics have the capabilities to assist in search and rescue functions, not only for first responders, but also for the U.S. military.  For example, in the instance of a terrorist attack, or in a natural disaster where a building may have collapsed, these autonomous vehicles can move inside and around the buildings, creating a CAD model of what the building looks like inside after the collapse. And this can be helpful to find people,” Lacaze said.

Robotic Research went up against other companies and academic teams from across the world, including several from the U.S. including the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania.  Out of the 40 competitors, Robotic Research was selected to compete in the final 10, and then the final 5.  They won third place.

Robotic Research also conducts research and development services involving unmanned boats and other water vessels. The Essayons, pictured here, is located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor and is being used for testing for U.S. Navy contracts involving unmanned system development. (Photo courtesy Robotic Research, LLC).

Although Robotic Research’s main client is the U.S. Department of Defense, they are working on other products that could be used commercially.  Currently, the company is working on a hihgly accurate human tracking pedometer-like positioning system for GPS-denied areas such as underground, in tunnels and inside collapsed buildings.  The device can be attached to rescue workers, Lacaze said, and can help them in their rescue efforts.

“Some of the devices, like the human tracking capability, will have a lot of applications,” Lacaze said.

For now though, the company continues to develop software that can save the lives of America’s soldiers by taking on the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs.

by Christine Hansen

Hundreds, including descendants of Harriet Tubman, gathered in Capitol Hill yesterday to rally in support of legislation that would create historic national parks in Maryland and New York in honor of Harriet Tubman, one of the most recognized leaders behind the Underground Railroad.  If the legislation passes, Maryland officials expect a long-term economic impact of $20 million annually to the State and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Supporters chanted, “We want a park! We want a park!” as a Harriet Tubman historian and re-enactor led the charge up to Capitol Hill.

Harriet Tubman National Historic park supporters rallied in front of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.

“No is not an option! Jobs, jobs, jobs!  We want a park!” the crowd chanted.  Many supporters rose before sunrise to take a bus from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the nation’s capital. After the rally, the crowd dispersed to lobby members of Congress on the bill.

The federal legislation, co-authored by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, would create national historic parks along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Tubman was born, and Auburn, New York, where Tubman was an activist for the women’s suffrage movement and the welfare of aged African-Americans.  In Maryland, the legislation would dub the Eastern Shore area where Tubman was born, lived and traveled during her work to free slaves, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.  Under the legislation, Maryland’s Harriet Tubman State Park would open in 2013 with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor’s Center, in time to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s passing.

“Harriet on the Hill day shows that there is strong support for the creation of two national historic parks to honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman, a true American patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just concepts,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.

The Senator sponsored a luncheon for the Harriet Tubman supporters at the Capitol Visitors Center, where he and other representatives, including Maryland Representative Andy Harris and New York Representative Richard Hanna, spoke to constituents and supporters.

A constituent speaks with a staff member of Ohio U.S. Representative Betty Sutton about S247, federal legislation that would create a national historic park in honor of Harriet Tubman along Maryland's Eastern Shore and Auburn, NY.

“Harriet Tubman lived the principles of freedom and liberty and she shared that freedom with hundreds of others. These two parks will make it possible for Marylanders and the entire nation to trace her life’s work and remember all that she was able to accomplish,” Senator Cardin said.

Throughout the day, the groups met with members of Congress to advocate for the bill and the economic benefits of establishing the parks in honor of Tubman’s legacy. One such group was scheduled to meet with Ohio U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, a member of the Congressional National Parks Caucus.

The Congresswoman’s staff met with the group in the halls of the Longworth House building to hear their case on why the bill should be passed.  After a ten minute discussion, the staff member said he would pass the information along, suggested they speak with the ranking members of the Natural Resources Committee and said they believed Representative Sutton would be supportive of the bill.

The proposed national park would include 5,700 acres of land in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Dorchester county officials, where the tourism center will be located, hope to attract tourists and bring jobs to their area, one of the counties hardest hit by the economic downturn.  According to state officials, once the visitor’s center opens, the Maryland park visitation could grow to more than 200,000 annually, with a long-term economic impact of $20 million each year.

Capitol Hill.

by Kathy Snyder, President & CEO, Maryland Chamber of Commerce

Governor O

Tom Friedman wisely noted that the “World Is Flat,” an apt title for his renowned book that called for a change in our country’s thinking about our rightful place in a global economy. Widespread use of the internet, emergence of social media, development of a rapidly rising middle class and advancement of their own colleges and universities have placed China, India and many other emerging economies at a rapid pace of expansion.

For some, the prospect of such large success in these formerly developing countries seems daunting. Where will our children and grandchildren find jobs if some are outsourced overseas where labor and regulations are less expensive? How will we maintain, if not further improve, our quality of life? Will our country lose its economic power within our lifetime?

Fortunately, for Maryland, there is opportunity. As we salute the entrepreneurial spirit of our state, we should also be looking at ways to increase our businesses’ ability to easily and efficiently export their products and services.

Some of the world’s most experienced and successful brands are Maryland based, from McCormick & Co. to Marriott, from Perdue to Phillips Seafood. Some federal contractors and professional service firms have also become very effective at marketing their products and skills abroad.

International trade, though, is not just a large business enterprise. Small businesses can also expand their reach beyond our borders as demonstrated by many companies that utilize the internet to buy or sell their goods and services. Learning how to effectively and, perhaps equally important, efficiently trade in the international market is easy in Maryland, thanks to the efforts of some of our partners, including the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) in Baltimore.

WTCI is sponsoring its annual Embassy Night on September 20 for the first time in Washington, DC. Twenty-five countries and dozens of Maryland firms will participate in the high level networking that will precede the dinner. The Maryland Chamber is proud to partner with WTCI to help connect business owners with countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, United Kingdom, South Africa, Uruguay and Switzerland. This is a great opportunity to explore the possibilities of exporting your product/service overseas. Registration is required https://www.wtci.org/embassy_night_2011/

McCormick & Co. has been working with countries across the globe to source their flavors and spices. (Photo courtesy of McCormick).

Similarly, the Maryland Chamber is partnering with British Airways to get the word out that travel to London via BWI has been made easier by a recent approval related to the Fly America Act. BA has received approval to place American Airlines code (AA) on all transatlantic service. Federal employees and contractors, including those with the Department of Defense, can now utilize the daily flight out of BWI instead of trekking to Dulles, a real time if not money saver.

Lastly, the Maryland Chamber is looking forward to working closely with the U.S. Department of Commerce to help educate small business owners about how to do business abroad. Details to come later this Fall.

Stay connected to the Maryland Chamber, its business-to-business connections and programs through www.mdchamber.org or contact me at ksnyder@mdchamber.org.

by Carla Dunlap, Liz Fitzsimmons and Christine Hansen

This Sunday, September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Maryland officials gathered to unveil and dedicate the State’s 9/11 Memorial of Maryland.  Over 1,000 guests, including the victims’ families, first responders, supporters and the public gathered at Baltimore’s World Trade Center, where the memorial rests, to honor the 68 Marylanders who lost their lives at the Pentagon, New York’s World Trade Center and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Two-hundred family members, guests and the public joined the Morgan State University Choir in the singing of the National Anthem as the program began. (Photo by Carla Dunlap)

Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Memorial Committee Chair Randall (Rand) Griffin looked out on a sea of umbrellas as they spoke about the tragedy of 9/11 and the spirit of the country.

“The story of resilience is the story of September 11th and the courage, the remembrance, the renewal and what we choose to do with that, is the story of America,” said Governor O’Malley.

Situated in front of Baltimore’s World Trade Center – in solidarity and homage to the twin towers at New York’s World Trade Center – the Memorial will be viewed by the thousands of pedestrians who pass by or visit each day.

The Maryland Color Guard stands at attention before the 9/11 Memorial which is situated in the plaza of Baltimore's World Trade Center. (Photo by Mark L. Dennis)

Created by Ziger/Snead Architects, the Memorial not only honors the sacrifice, heroism and commitment of Maryland’s 9/11 victims, rescuers, first responders and their families, but also honors the passing of time and represents the milestone moments affiliated with the day.

A visitor touches the steel beams from the New York Twin Towers that are the central focus of the memorial. (Photo by Bill McAllen).

Using the shadows created by the World Trade Center and the artifacts obtained, the memorial will incorporate a sundial reflecting the times of the events that morning ten years ago.  The shadows of the World Trade Center will cross inscriptions, with the names of the victims of those tragedies, at the time the events occurred.

The Morgan State University choir hummed My Country ‘Tis of Thee as the name of each Maryland victim was read, as the drape was removed from the east side of the memorial.

Many of the families remained after the end of the service. Some of them spent the time talking with one another and some took the opportunity to rub charcoal on tracing paper over their loved one’s name to have a memento of the memorial ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. (Photo by Bill McAllen).

The 9/11 Memorial of Maryland is a permanent exhibit, and will also include an exhibit within the Top of the World observation level on the 27th floor of the Trade Center and feature artifacts from all three sites.

To date, corporations, local governments, foundations and individuals have contributed nearly $1 million to the memorial fund and more than $200,000 in in-kind services. Donations are still being accepted to meet the memorials financial obligation of $2 million.

by Mindie Burgoyne, Department of Business and Economic Development

Governor Martin O’Malley visited Cambridge International on Thursday, September 8, to express his regards on the company’s 100th anniversary.  Cambridge International is the world’s largest and oldest manufacturer of metal belting and wire cloth.  The Dorchester County company has recently expanded adding 30 new employees to its current base of over 200 full-time workers.

At a time when many traditional manufacturers are feeling challenged, Cambridge International has invested in developing a new environmental technology division that produces products that save energy and protect the environment.
Cambridge International was the first manufacturing companies in Maryland to enroll in the Maryland Save Energy Now program, and several areas of their manufacturing operation have been streamlined through Lean Sigma manufacturing practices.  As part of their recent expansion, Cambridge International improved its facility by investing over $5 million in building and equipment upgrades.
Tracy Tyler, President and CEO of Cambridge International is the highest ranking minority CEO on the Eastern Shore in private industry.  She also serves on the Maryland Economic Development Commission and was named Business Woman of the Year by the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce.
In a ten minute presentation to Cambridge International staff and local elected officials, Governor O’Malley spoke about manufacturing in the state of Maryland and the role of innovation and green technology.  At the end of his speech he awarded a Governor’s Citation to Company, presenting the citation to CEO, Tracy Tyler.

Weekend Commemoration of Defenders’ Day to Take Place at Ft. McHenry

by Jill Feinberg, Communications Director, Star Spangled Banner 200, Inc.

Starting tomorrow, the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine will host a patriotic weekend September 9-11, 2011.  This three-day event will feature parades, fireworks, a military encampment of over 100 War of 1812 re-enactors, a symbolic ship-to-shore bombardment, noted authors, and a patriotic band concert.

The Star-Spangled Banner Weekend commemorates Defenders’ Day, Maryland’s oldest holiday, which honors the successful defense of the city from British attack, the iconic flag, and the writing of the National Anthem in 1814.

Defenders of Ft. McHenry participate in a flag ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor).

Raymond “Chip” Mason, founder of Legg Mason, Inc., will be honored with the Francis Scott Key Award for his exceptional leadership of Star-Spangled 200: a National Bicentennial in Maryland.  Mr. Mason is chair of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, established by Governor Martin O’Malley under Executive Order.  The Commission, along with its nonprofit fundraising affiliate, Star-Spangled 200, Inc., is planning a multi-year cultural tourism and educational initiative to commemorate Maryland’s unique contributions to the defense and heritage of the nation.

The Star-Spangled Banner weekend is family oriented, starting on Friday morning when 1,500 Baltimore City School children will participate in “Young Defenders Day,” a curriculum-based program highlighting Baltimore’s role in the War of 1812 and the Defense of Fort McHenry.  Later in the afternoon, “soldiers” from the War of 1812 will parade from the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House to the Inner Harbor and then board historic sailing vessels to Locust Point.

War of 1812 re-enactors take a break and eat a feast of crabs over candlelight at Ft. McHenry. (Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor).

On Saturday and Sunday, the Fort comes alive with events including a large military encampment, cooking demonstrations, musket firing, and other activities including the raising of the large  30 x 42 foot star-spangled flag.

The Saturday evening program includes a patriotic concert by the United States Naval Academy Band, the Society for the Preservation of African-American Arts and Culture, reenactments, singing of the National Anthem, and a 30-minute fireworks display.

War of 1812 soldiers revel in the light of fireworks bursting in air. (Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor).

For more information about the Star-Spangled Banner weekend, please visit www.nps.gov/fortmchenry.  For more information about Star-Spangled 200: a National Bicentennial in Maryland, please visit www.starspangled200.com.

by Christine Hansen

When Drew Greenblatt purchased Marlin Steel Wire in 1998, the company manufactured custom steel wire baskets, shelves and hooks for bagel companies.  But when the Atkins diet became popular and bagels were no longer a hot commodity, Greenblatt had to change his target market.

“We first started off selling commodity bagel baskets but that was a very challenging market because the Atkins diet came in – which was devastating to the bagel business,” Greenblatt said.  “China also began importing baskets into America for cheaper than I could buy steel. So we had to transform.”

Greenblatt thought global, and focused on items that factories would be willing to pay for: high quality, fast-delivered, engineered products.  Today, Marlin Steel Wire makes custom steel baskets and high-end industrial applications for medical plants, pharmaceutical plants, and automotive plants, to name a few.  Since its transformation, Greenblatt said, the company has grown six times bigger since the day he bought the company.

Marlin Steel Wire produces high quality steel products for automotive, pharmaceutical, and medical plants across the world.

What started out as a bagel basket company making $800,000 in annual revenue has grown to an international manufacturing company, boasting $5 million in annual revenue. Based in Baltimore, Md., the company employs 34.  Employees range in education level and skill, but all are offered training opportunities, competitive salaries, and benefits.

“We have six mechanical engineers, we have college graduates and we have skilled trades – people that can set up $150,000 to $400,000 robots by reading blue prints,” Greenblatt said.

In the last few years, Greenblatt has invested in a number of robotics machines to aid in the production of the steel products, which has enabled his small business to produce high quality products quickly and efficiently.

“Robotics are critical because it empowers your employee to be more productive. They do a higher quality job, they go faster, and make many more parts per hour,” he said.

Robotics helps the company and its employees produce faster and more efficient.

Greenblatt is also proud that his small company doesn’t leave a large carbon footprint.  Every coil of steel they purchase, he explained, used to be an old dishwasher or an old car that was melted down to a steel coil they could use to repurpose.

“When we make a basket, sometimes we have scrap – it’s a fact of business. But we recycle everything.  So we are 100 percent landfill free when it comes to the steel we use and we are very proud of that,” he said.

Marlin Wire exports to over 35 countries, including Canada (their biggest client), Singapore, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South America. Greenblatt accompanied Governor O’Malley earlier this year on the economic trade mission to Asia and spent 15 days there talking with potential new clients, and has plans to travel to Germany later this year.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are not American – they are outside our borders. It’s a huge market. We would be foolish to focus on just our domestic market. The domestic market is a strong good market – but there are a lot more clients over there than there are here,” Greenblatt said.

After Greenblatt invested in robotics and expanded the company's product range, employees jumped from an hourly wage of $6 per hour to $24 per hour.

And Greenblatt believes that his investments in robotics have enabled his once fledgling business to soar above his international competitors, like China.  His employees, he said, who were once making $6 to $8 an hour are now making $24 to $30 an hour.

“Our clients are very demanding with quality and they are demanding with speed, so these robotics make our employees like Super Man where they can do their jobs very quickly and efficiently.  And because of that, we can compete against China, we can compete against Mexico and we can compete against Europe,” Greenblatt said.

by Heather Gramm, CEcD, Chair of MEDA Professional Development Committee

In the last few years, the number of adults taking continuing education and professional development courses has grown significantly. Continuing education and professional development courses increase employability, increase workforce productivity, and increase competitiveness, not only for employees but also for employers.

Chesapeake Basic Economic Development Class members listen to a lecture at the Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse Day in Annapolis Towne Center. (Photo courtesy of MEDA)

At the Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) we also believe in the importance of continuing education, and that is why we hold numerous professional development courses throughout the year that are focused on enabling our members to increase their employability and to become certified economic developers (CEcD). The CEcD is a designation granted by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) who monitors the criteria, testing, and evaluation on an international scale. It shows those in the industry and around the world that individuals with this designation have achieved excellence in the field of economic development.

The MEDA Professional Development Committee oversees a number of opportunities for MEDA members and non-members to assist them in pursuit of their educational goals. Our most recent professional development opportunity, which is held annually, is The Chesapeake Basic Economic Development Course which took place this summer in Baltimore. This course provides the fundamentals of economic development and is accredited by the International Economic Development Council as a preliminary requirement for attaining CEcD certification. MEDA also partnered with the University of Maryland School of Architecture and Planning for an Economic Development Short Course Training Series in early August. Taught by the University of Maryland’s Scott Dempwolf, courses in this training series included “Regional Innovation Clusters and Cluster Analysis” and “Introduction to Social Network Analysis for Planners”. MEDA worked with IEDC to have these courses accredited by IEDC as CEcD re-certification credits.

Bob Hannon, CEO of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, addresses Chesapeake Basic Economic Development Class members. (Photo courtesy of MEDA)

MEDA works year-round to bring courses such as these to the area and assist those wanting to become the best in the field of economic development, and we are already scheduling courses for 2012. Three courses have been planned in partnership with the IEDC. The first course, “Managing Economic Development Organizations,” will be held May 10 – 11, 2012. An “Economic Development Credit Analysis” class will be held from August 22-24, and a “Workforce Development” course is scheduled for October 4 -5, 2012. All three IEDC courses will be held in Baltimore, MD. In addition, MEDA will hold the annual Chesapeake Basic Economic Development Course from July 30 – August 3, 2012. You can find additional opportunities by visiting the “Professional Development” section of our website, www.medamd.com.

One final note: MEDA members are eligible to take advantage of The Lofton Scholarship Fund for courses of study.  The Fund is available to MEDA members only and is designed to pay tuition fees (travel and books, not included).  The process is simple:  Prepare three documents for submission to MEDA:  1. a letter of interest, 2. a letter of support from your superior and, 3. your resume.

These items should only be sent electronically to:  info@medamd.com. Contact MEDA at 410-575-6027 for more details.