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The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge is in full swing. If your business is in need of a jump start, check out this site for more information about the national business competition. The Challenge offers applicants free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors and the chance to compete for more than $600,000 in prizes. Winners of the Life Sciences, IT, Cybersecurity and General Industry categories will each win $100,000 awards. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes. Applications are due by Dec. 6.

Judges include a distinguished lineup of industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Meet a selection of judges below.

Meet The Judges:

IT-robDoub

ROBB DOUB

Robb Doub joined New Markets Venture Partners in 2003. Robb is the lead administrative partner and serves as a board director for eCoast Sales Solutions and Appfluent Technology, and is lead partner or board observer for K2 Global, Kroll Bond Ratings, Navtrak, Three Stage Media, CSA Medical and TidalTV. He also serves on the board of Egeen International and the Conflicts Advisory Board of the off-shore hedge funds.

IT-daphneDufresneDAPHNE DUFRESNE

Daphne Dufresne joined RLJ Equity Partners from Parish Capital Advisors, where she was a Venture Partner managing the direct investment and co-investment program. Formerly, Ms. Dufresne was a Principal at Weston Presidio Capital with $3.4 billion of assets under management. She also served as Associate Director in the Bank of Scotland’s Structured Finance Group. Ms. Dufresne received her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

LS_Christy_W_WyskielCHRISTY WILLIAMS WYSKIEL

Christy Williams Wyskiel is an entrepreneur and investor with 20 years of experience focused on the life sciences and healthcare industries. Previously, Christy was Managing Director at Maverick Capital, an equity hedge fund with $12 billion under management. She co-founded GrayBug, an ophthalmic drug-delivery company. In 2012, Christy joined the Johns Hopkins Alliance, a board charged with evaluating the commercial viability of research projects at JHU.

CS_Frederick_FerrerFREDERICK J. FERRER

Frederick J. Ferrer has over three decades of experience in the National Security, Intelligence Community (IC), Homeland Defense and Cyber. Mr. Ferrer holds a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and serves in a number of leadership capacities, including the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence; National STEM Consortium Advisory Committee; and Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.

GEN_Deb_TillettDEBORAH TILLETT

As the Executive Director and President of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, Ms. Tillett is responsible for management of budgetary, administrative, programmatic functions and strategic planning. Prior to joining ETC, Ms. Tillett served as president and co-founder of Immersive 3D, LLC, a technology start-up providing web-based 3D computer gaming solutions for K-20 education and offering contract-based technology services.

See the full list of judges and submit your application on InvestMarylandChallenge.org.

Maryland government agencies have a history of funding worker training projects, but never before has training been made so widely available across an entire industry.

Under the direction of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) Maryland Workforce Training Initiative is now offering an unprecedented opportunity for business leaders to form partnerships and offer the type of training needed to significantly increase worker productivity.

The first step is filling out an EARN Maryland Planning Grant application, which first became available on Oct. 15 and must be submitted by Nov. 12, 2013. Lead applicants will apply for $25,000 to fund the creation of a Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plan. There is no limit to the number of these grants the state will issue.

Between November 2013 and April 2014, the funding will assist the lead applicant in forming a partnership with fellow key players in their industry. Many will take advantage of professional membership organizations that already join business leaders together according to their shared interests. Through conferences, meetings and training sessions, they will determine the type of training needed most among workers in their industry and submit their requests for training programs.

By May 2014, DLLR will award implementation grants for approved Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plans.

The lead applicant for the initial $25,000 planning grant can fall into any of the following categories:

• Employer
• Nonprofit organization
• Two- and four-year institution of higher education
• Local Workforce Board
• Industry association
• Labor union
• Local government
• Local or regional economic development entity

While the initiative is the first of its kind in Maryland, similar programs have succeeded in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and have already assisted workers in industries including aerospace, healthcare and clean energy. More information on their best practices is available through DLLR.

Those seeking more information should consider watching webinars on the program through DLLR’s website or attending a statewide Pre-Proposal Conference at 1 p.m. on October 18 at the Anne Arundel Community College, Robert E. Kauffman Theater, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD 21012.

Fewer than half American workers have taken even basic steps to prepare for retirement. At the same time, confidence in the ability to comfortably retire has reached a new record low, a recent study found.

In an attempt to battle widespread retirement planning apathy, Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price launched on Thursday a new Social Security Benefits Evaluator. The free online calculator converts basic salary, age and marital information into a long term strategy for maximizing Social Security benefits.

“Many Social Security recipients may not realize that they could potentially receive more income or cater that stream of income to their needs by choosing one strategy over another. The calculator aims to help them better understand these choices and think about them in context of their retirement income needs,” the company announced in a statement.

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Lending rose among Maryland’s credit unions in last year’s fourth quarter, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

According to the article:

Credit union lending increased 3.8 percent year over year in the final four months of 2012, placing Maryland 36th among the 50 states, the National Credit Union Administration said.

Meanwhile, the delinquency rate for Maryland credit union loans remained at 1.2 percent in fourth quarter 2012. That placed Maryland 39th in the U.S. The rate was the same as in first quarter 2012.

Find the full article here.

Find a full list of Maryland’s state-charted credit unions, provided by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, here.

Frequently asked questions about banks and credit unions are also available through the department here.

Bethesda-based Management CV is a finalist in the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Bethesda-based Management CV is a finalist in the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Bethesda-based Management CV. To find out a little more about this up-and-coming company, founded in 2007, we spoke with president, CEO and Director of Research Renny Ponvert.

Q. What does Management CV do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. Basically we have a simple way to rank the quality of CEOs and management teams, so I think of our ranking as a FICO score, the same way you would rank the credit worthiness of an individual. We have something similar to rank management teams to tell you simply how skillful they are.

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by Karen Glenn Hood, DBED Marketing and Communications

Like many small business owners, Susan Aplin wanted to expand her business.

As the CEO of Bambeco, an eco-friendly home and housewares company based in Baltimore, Aplin saw opportunity in the ever-growing market for sustainable goods. She wanted to add employees, she wanted to increase her inventory and she wanted a bigger space.

So, last year, Aplin turned to the Maryland Venture Fund, a financing program of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), which has approved a $100,000 investment in the retailer, enabling the company to move forward on its goals for growth.

Bambeco is among the business success stories being highlighted in a series of ads that DBED began running this week on local radio and on WashingtonPost.com to connect Maryland small businesses that may not qualify for traditional bank financing with State resources. The 10-week Financing that Fits campaign promotes four of the State’s key financing programs that received the first round of $23 million of funding from the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

“The Financing that Fits campaign is part of a larger, ongoing effort by the State to address the needs of the many small businesses that are continuing to struggle to access credit,” said DBED Secretary Christian S. Johansson. “These four finance programs received additional federal funds targeted to help small businesses and we want to ensure that the businesses that need such assistance are aware that these programs exist and learn how they can benefit from them.”

 In addition to Bambeco, the ads feature stories about Environmental Engineering and Construction and John L. Williams Funeral Home, as well as lender Harbor Bank, which has worked with DBED on several loan guarantee deals.  The ads drive listeners and readers to the State’s economic development website ChooseMaryland.org, which has more information on the programs and provides a form that businesses can fill out which will be evaluated for potential financing by DBED staff.
 

The DBED programs promoted in the ads are the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA), which provides credit guarantees to small businesses that may not meet established credit criteria; the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority (MIDFA), which provides loan guarantees; and the Maryland Venture Fund (MVF), which invests in seed and early stage businesses to help with the cost of bringing a new product to market. Also included in the promotion is a program of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Neighborhood Business Works, which provides gap financing to new or expanding small business and nonprofits in sustainable communities. In May 2010, Governor Martin O’Malley and U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios announced as part of a national effort to strengthen existing State finance programs that support lending to small business that Maryland would receive a total of $23 million for these programs, $7 million of which became available in June. Once those funds are expended, the programs can jointly draw down the remaining $16 million.

 

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

DBED Secretary Christian Johansson listens as roundtable experts weigh in on building Maryland's innovation economy.

Like many states across the country, Maryland recognizes that in order to compete and succeed in the global economy, it has to attract global talent, grow organically, invest in high performing companies and provide the necessary infrastructure for growth.  But developing a strategy on how Maryland can accomplish those goals is a daunting task.  On Friday, May 20, DBED Secretary Christian Johansson convened a dozen area thought leaders over lunch at the Silver Spring Civic Building to discuss the best directions in which Maryland can approach the new innovation economy for prosperous economic development.

Getting Great Output

Rob Atkinson, President of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a non-partisan research and educational think tank, believes that Maryland – and the country as a whole – should invest in government-funded university research and business-funded university research.

“No matter how good Maryland is – and Maryland is good: it has all the right assets and all the right pieces in place – it will be very hard for the state to thrive unless we have a robust national policy that gets it right,” Atkinson said.

His organization, which issued a report on the topic, aims to help policy makers at the federal and state levels better understand the nature of the new innovation economy. The think tank has a book coming out in January 2012 called The Race for Global Innovation Advantage and Why the U.S. is Falling Behind.

“Increasingly, what we’ve seen around the country is that lots of states are getting this and putting money into innovation based investments – up to $5 billion dollars – up from maybe a billion a decade ago,” Atkinson said.  “But one of the challenges for states is translating this into real results.  This is a particular challenge for Maryland.  Maryland has great inputs — but not so great outputs.”

Maryland ranks third in the State New Economy Index but 33rd in Entrepreneurial Activity.  The State also ranked second overall in the Milken Institute State Technology and Science Index, but 42nd in business starts.

Atkinson cited Utah as a U.S. example of how their investments are creating technological output.

“Utah is able to take their inputs and crank them out into new businesses and new entrepreneurs, licenses and patents.  This tells me this isn’t some magical thing – that you don’t have to be an M.I.T. or a Caltech to make this happen,” Atkinson said.

Rob Atkinson, President of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, believes that Maryland - and the country as a whole - should invest in government-funded university research and business-funded university research.

Atkinson said that his think tank has also seen that states, like Michigan, are placing venture capitalists right in the universities.

“They are not somewhere in some office park, they are housed right in the university.  It’s too early to tell whether that model has worked, but it is an interesting new way of thinking,” he said.

Swedish-born Johansson was pleased to hear Atkinson cite Sweden as a model regarding incentives.  Sweden, Atkinson says, has begun tying a portion of their higher education funding to results. If a university doesn’t produce results, then the University gets less funding.  Canada, he said, has restructured their R&D tax credit to give a bonus credit of you’re doing collaborative research in a university or federal lab.  If you’re a small business in Canada, he said, and doing collaborative research in a university or federal lab, you’re eligible for a 55% tax credit.

Entrepreneurs Drive Economic Development Outcome

Erik Pages, President of EntreWorks Consulting, an Arlington, Virginia based economic development consulting and policy development firm, said that the way innovation and technology becomes economic development outcomes is through entrepreneurs and new companies.  He encourages states to provide resources to create more entrepreneurs, so that it also reaches out to the less populated areas.

“A lot of states have very sophisticated business help lines that help new businesses and entrepreneurs get through the process of a start-up,” he said.

Linking small businesses into corporate or government agency networks or supply chains has an almost immediate bang to the buck, Pages said.  He cited a survey done by an organization in New York that found that once a small firm gets linked in a corporate supply chain, after two years it gets a 250 percent growth rate on an annual basis.  Pages also said that most small businesses aren’t export ready – but if they get out to a trade show, or get involved in a national trade or regional network, they are much more likely to enter export markets.  “States that invest in their small businesses and entrepreneurs – and improve access to services – will drive their economic development further than those who don’t,” Pages added.

Kenneth Poole executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and President of the Council for Community and Economic Research takes notes during the discussion.

Changing the Mindset

“We are the number one public education system in the country and we have held that for the last three years.  We are number one per capita in research, and number two in total research dollars.  A lot of things are here in Maryland– but it’s been mentioned a number of times that culturally, as a country, we are programmed not to be entrepreneurs.  How do we de-program ourselves from that way of thinking?” Secretary Johansson asked the roundtable.

Much to the delight of Secretary Johansson, Sweden was again cited as a model for how to change mindsets on entrepreneurship.  Pages suggested that in order to change the mindset of what an entrepreneur is and how to create an entrepreneur driven economy, the state has to approach as it if it were a public service campaign.

“In Maryland, the image of entrepreneurship is very technology heavy – it’s largely associated with the high-tech and biotechnology industries,” Pages said.

“I think you almost have to democratize the message for lack of a better term, and treat it as a public service campaign – and get it out on bus kiosks if you have to. Sweden has done a good job of this, in terms of messaging and strategizing to the general populace, in showing that they can be an entrepreneur.”

Steve Dubin, President & CEO of Martek Biosciences (Nasdaq: MATK), a start-up biotechnology company in Columbia, said that the State should publicize entrepreneurial success stories.

“Celebrating the success of innovation and entrepreneurship will naturally incentivize people to start something on their own,” he said.

His organization received an innovation of the year award, which helped his company obtain sponsors and ultimately helped him launch new products.  His company, which started out as an incubator in 1985, was recently acquired by DSM for $1.1 billion.

Atkinson suggested that the State create an innovation award to be granted to the entrepreneurs and start-up companies across Maryland to help publicize entrepreneurship in Maryland.

Investing in the Future

Thought leaders from the roundtable take notes on the discussion.

Kenneth Poole, executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and President of the Council for Community and Economic Research, pointed out that the State should continue funding community colleges and offering courses for the biotechnology, information technology and healthcare industries.

Steve Silverman, Economic Development Director for Montgomery County agreed, also suggested state and local leaders shape higher education courses according to the needs of the key industries.

In the end, the group agreed that the State must learn to bolster its assets to create results.

“We all know that this can take a long time. The biggest charge for all States is not how successful you are at importing growth – even though that is important to everyone in economic development – it’s how successful how you are at providing an environment that grows the next big companies,” Johansson said.

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

The State’s Department of Economic Development saw a number of big wins in this year’s legislative session which closed on Monday.

Governor O'Malley and DBED Secretary Johansson testify before the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee in support of the InvestMaryland legislation.

The Department’s InvestMaryland legislation overwhelmingly passed with a 94-43 vote, helping to fuel venture capital investments in Maryland’s startup companies. Through the legislation, the Department’s Enterprise Fund and Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) will receive $70 million in total funding for fiscal years 2012 through 2014.  The funding is provided through a tax credit for insurance companies that make qualified contributions to the program through premium tax credits. The Department can award a maximum of $100 million in tax credits.  If qualified investments made under the program are successful, money will be returned to the State. The bill takes effect July 1, 2011.

The Social Network, an Academy Award winning film, was filmed in Maryland. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

The General Assembly also passed the Maryland Film Production Employment Act of 2011, which will help enhance the State’s reputation as the go-to state for film production.  The program replaces the existing Film Rebate Fund with a refundable film production tax credit and allows up to $7.5 million in tax credits to be issued annually for qualified productions.  Last month, HBO announced that it will be filming the movie, Game Change, in Maryland.  Many movies and TV shows have been filmed in Maryland, including most recently the Academy Award winning The Social Network, and He’s Just Not That Into You.

As Maryland becomes a major hub for the biotechnology sector, the General Assembly has passed the Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit which extends tax credits to biotechnology companies that have been in active business for 15 years. The bill aims to assist biotech companies who are having difficulty finding access to capital in the current economic climate, so that they can continue to bring innovative products to the market.  The bill sunsets in 2013 and will revert back to the original qualifications.  Under the original law, a qualified biotechnology company must have been in active in active business for no longer than 10 years, among other qualifications.

In addition to these bills, the General Assembly passed a bill that will create the Commission on Maryland Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence, which will help the State further its efforts to establish Maryland as the nation’s epicenter of cybersecurity.

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

DBED Secretary Christian Johansson and Dr. Miomir Mugosa, Mayor of Podgorica, Montenegro

Business leaders, government officials and dignitaries from Maryland, DC and the Western Balkan region convened today at the University of Baltimore for the U.S. Balkans Business Summit. The two-day event includes panels on energy, transportation, tourism, defense, manufacturing, and information and technology.  The first business summit of its kind, the event aims to promote bilateral trade and investment opportunities between American and Western Balkan governments and businesses, and exchange information and views relevant to strengthening economic relations.

“We are very pleased to be hosting the U.S. Balkans Business Summit here in Maryland, the first of what we hope will be many more to come,” said Christian Johansson, DBED Secretary.  “Maryland is home to more than 400 foreign-owned companies from 30 countries, with approximately 3.5 percent of our workforce employed by foreign owned-firms.  Even in these tough times, we have attracted 40 foreign-owned companies since 2007. We hope to continue our growth and expand on our partnerships with growing regions like the Western Balkans.”

Business and government leaders gather for the U.S. Balkan Business Summit at the University of Baltimore.

Representatives from the Western Balkans countries including Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, were present. The region is home to six of the pan-European transport corridors that have been specifically designated as such by the European Union, linking northern and Western Europe to the rest of the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine.  In December of last year, heads of state and government were invited personally by Governor O’Malley to attend this event, and to encourage dialogue on business opportunities.

Letter from Governor O'Malley to Western Balkan Leaders

“Two years ago our company went to Montenegro to talk about doing business there,” George G. Perdikakis, Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications, Marketing and Special Projects for KCI Technologies, said.  “We are an engineering business and we do transportation and environmental type of projects.  We went to Montenegro to explore what our opportunities in transportation and solid waste might be.”

In 2010, Maryland exports were up 10 percent, from $9.2 billion in 2009 to $10.2 billion.  Top exports from Maryland to the Western Balkans from 2008 to 2009 included electrical machinery, machinery, iron and steel products, and miscellaneous chemical products, totaling over $53 billion.

“I work for Jadroagent Bar, a shipping and freight agency and I am here seeking opportunities with American companies that have interest in investing in Montenegro or have an interest in developing business relationships with us,” Nikola Banovic’ of Montenegro’s Jadroagent International Shipping and Freight Agency, Ltd said.  “Our company is a shipping company so we act like a freight forwarder.  We do logistics and act as a port agent, so there are several aspects in which we are interested in doing business with American companies.”

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

Deborah Stallings, CEO & President of HR Anew

As a small business owner for 12 years, Deborah Stallings understands the challenges small business owners face.

“I joined some professional organizations like the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Women Business Owners,” she said. “I used those organizations to mentor me and teach me how to do business, how to network and how to build relationships with people who were successful.  And I grabbed on to their coat tails and asked them to guide me and give me advice.”

Since graduating high school, Stallings worked in various administrative positions in the healthcare industry, first in Chicago where she lived at the time, and eventually in Maryland, where she moved in 1986.  Recruited by a former boss who worked with her in Chicago, Stallings uprooted her life and relocated her and her 6-year-old daughter.   Her first job in Maryland was working at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

A few years later, she landed a job at Harbor Hospital as a nurse recruiter – her first taste of full-time human resource work.  She worked at Harbor Hospital for a few years and moved to a few different area hospitals, including Doctors Community Hospital and Prince George’s Hospital Center working her way up and learning more about the human resources industry.

In 1998, when her daughter graduated high school and went to college, Stallings directed her focus on her personal goals – to start her own business.  Using the contacts she had already made in the healthcare industry and her reputation of doing good work, Stallings built her client list.  She joined business organizations and took advice from as many as she could to get her business going.  In 1999, from an apartment in Columbia, Stallings established HR Anew.

“My grandparents had been entrepreneurs – they always taught us if you can be an entrepreneur and have your own business, you should,” Stallings said.  “My grandparents were farmers. My grandmother was a mid-wife and also a seamstress. She made soap and sold soap.  So entrepreneurship was in the blood.”

Today, HR Anew, located in a business complex in Columbia, has 27 full-time employees and contracts close to 100 part-time employees, and is a full service management consulting human resources and professional services firm.  Stallings’ client list has expanded to non-profits, government agencies, including NASA, and private sector companies.  HR Anew helps companies recruit top-notch candidates, provides training and professional development programs, and provides compensation and workforce studies, among other services. In 2010, the company reported $3.2 million annual revenue, up 14 percent since 2003.

Stallings’ small business experience helped to land her a role on the Governor’s Commission on Small Business, which she was named to earlier this year.  Chaired by Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow, the commission’s task is to provide a forum for small business to articulate and address barriers to business growth, recommend economic policy development measures to the Governor and General Assembly and identify permitting, licensing and regulatory areas for review.  The Commission meets quarterly and is expected to submit a report to Governor and General Assembly by the end of 2011.

“What I see as my role on the Commission is being able to participate in discussions about policy, legislation, programming and opportunities for small business,” she said.  “I believe my active role in the business community will help me provide feedback to the members of the Commission so that the State can look at opportunities to build capacity for small and medium-sized businesses.”

Stallings hopes that her experience as a small business owner will help the Commission develop recommendations for the State so that businesses can get the assistance they need to get from one level to the next.  She also hopes that the Commission can work to develop workforce programs for the underserved and underrepresented.

“As a commission member, I think one of my responsibilities is to help bring business to small businesses,” she said.  “Whether that’s through procurement opportunities or working with the State to have a more proactive approach in communicating opportunities to businesses — we can look at the systems and processes for how things are communicated so that we can make it better for small business owners.”

Jobs Added in Diverse Economic Sectors at Robust Pace Positive for Maryland

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

Employers across the nation added 192,000 jobs in February, an increase from 63,000 the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The nation’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.9 percent from 9 percent last month.

Major industry sectors that added jobs included manufacturing, construction, and several service-providing industries.  Manufacturing jobs rose by 33,000 – with gains concentrated in durable goods industries, including machinery, and fabricated metal products.  Construction jobs grew by 33,000 in February, and the service-providing industries included a gain of 47,000 jobs in professional and business services; a gain of 29,000 in employment services; and 7,000 jobs were gained in management and technical consulting.

The Bureau’s report stated that the severe winter weather reflects the poor job numbers in January.  There are currently 13.7 million unemployed Americans.

“February’s strong job growth appears consistent with last month’s observation that 2010’s historically strong worker productivity growth – the fastest in eight years – was not sustainable,” said Maryland State Economist, Alfred Goyburu.  “Private employers appear to have recognized that in order to continue expanded operations and output they need to hire new employees.  If that is true, then early 2011 could be the beginning of reliably good to strong private job growth nationwide. With so many diverse economic sectors adding jobs, each at such a robust pace, it would seem likely that Maryland would be positively affected.”

 

by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia

Maryland businesses announced plans to add more than 15,000 jobs in 2010, a 25 percent boost from 2009, according to a report released by the Department of Business and Economic Development.

A total of 364 projects were announced, 73 of them new and 291 expansions.  Montgomery County, with 61, reported the most projects, with Baltimore County (57) and Baltimore City (55) following closely behind.

Major job creators were several military commands, including the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), bringing 4,380 jobs to the state, and the U.S. Cyber Command, bringing 1,000 new jobs, as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure.

The industry sectors with the most activity were professional services (which includes IT, legal, accounting, biotechnology, engineering and management consulting); accommodation and food services; and manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Robby Hill, Lisa Barone and Hannah Karaszkiewicz review the output of telephone researchers at the Knowland Event Booking Center in Salisbury, Md. (Carolyn Watson/knowland Group)

The Knowland Group – a software technology hospitality services company in Salisbury announced plans to make 200 new hires this year.

“We have hired since we moved into our new building in December.  Of the 200, about 25 or 30 have been hired and we are beginning to make more hires,” Larry Sterling, General Manager of the Knowland Group said.

The company, which was formed in 2004, provides and sells a database of group meeting activity that occurs in hotels. Hotels can purchase the data to obtain competitors’ information, and can also outsource their sales.  The company is hiring for multiple positions, including sales, customer service and entry-level marketing and researchers.

Mushroom Harvester Alma Morales picks mushrooms at the Phillips Mushroom Farm in Warkwick. Photo by CECIL WHIG ADELMA GREGORY-BUNNELL

Warwick Mushroom Farms in Cecil County is also one of the businesses that announced an expansion, estimated to be a $9 million investment for the State. The farm announced the project last year bringing total employment of the facility to 144 people working two shifts. It includes two phases of expansion, with the first phase – construction of a second growing building that will add 17 new growing rooms and a new equipment room – is expected to be done this year.

Earlier this year, economist Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group predicted that Maryland was positioned to add 40,000 jobs and the U.S. GDP would grow by 3.5 percent in 2011.  Dr. Daraius Irani, economist and Associate President of the Division of Economic and Community Outreach at Towson University, predicted that Maryland would see a 3.6 percent growth in income and a job growth of 1.5 percent.