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Executive Director of the Regional Economic and Studies Institute Dr. Daraius Irani shared his economic outlook.

Executive Director of the Regional Economic and Studies Institute Dr. Daraius Irani shared his economic outlook.

With a projected increase in holiday shopping and a recovering housing market, Maryland’s economic outlook has multiple positive highlights, according to Regional Economic Studies Institute Executive Director Dr. Daraius Irani.

Irani presented RESI’s findings during the 2013 Economic Outlook Conference, the organization’s premier event, held at Towson University last week.

Maryland reached a milestone in August, regaining 100 percent of the jobs lost during the recession—one of only 16 states to do so. Over the last year, statewide employment expanded 1.7 percent, the largest year-over-year growth rate since the start of the economic downturn five years ago. The professional and business services industry added 16,300 jobs to the economy over the last year, making it the state’s largest employment contributor, according to RESI.

Irani praised recent developments, including the planned Amazon facility in Southeast Baltimore, expected to create more than 1,000 full-time jobs, with wages at up to 30 percent more than the average retail job. “Not all of the jobs we create in our economy should require a Ph.D. or a masters degree. This presents some opportunities across the economic spectrum, as well as an excellent tuition reimbursement program to help workers pursue higher education,” he said.

Irani described the state’s housing market as “generally upbeat,” with home prices increasing by about $16,000 since the last year. Maryland building permits, which represent new construction, rose 12.9 percent between July and August, up 9.3 percent from the previous year.

He emphasized that recovery is ongoing nationally and at the state level and that overall consumer confidence historically remains low. He attributes much of the “lurch” in consumer confidence to party gridlock in Congress and the recent shutdown of the federal government. Still, RESI projects an increase in national holiday retail sales by 4 percent this year, welcome news for Maryland businesses that depend on a boost between November and December.

Irani light-heartedly added, “I encourage you all to go out and shop.”

Find a video of the presentation with additional data below:

Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray presents a proclamation during MEDA's fall conference.

Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray presents a proclamation during MEDA’s fall conference.

Looking to boost your community’s economy? Consider sprucing up the town’s welcome sign, organizing an outdoor farmers market or printing T-shirts with the town name on them.

These actions and more, shared during Tuesday’s Maryland Economic Development Association fall conference in Frederick, may not directly translate into new jobs, but the sense of place they create will help deliver sustainable long-term growth. Experts—ranging from a innovative mixed-use land developer to a social branding consultant—spoke on the importance of improving place to attract higher skilled workers, foster entrepreneurship and increase an area’s overall quality of life.

“Why would anyone invest in a city that doesn’t want to invest in itself?” asked keynote speaker Ed McMahon, Senior Fellow for Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute.

McMahon discussed the importance of basic aesthetics. “Every single day in America, people make decisions about where to live, where to work, where to retire, based almost entirely on what communities look like,” he said.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement said he hoped the backdrop of his city would help inspire fellow community leaders to devote resources to place making.

Developing Frederick’s unique character has been a conscious ongoing effort for the city, which boasts a growing selection of restaurants, outdoor markets and festivals, following a sort of “Mayberry theme,” McClement said.

“You’ve got to find that niche, that thing people would want to come see, whether it’s that hometown charm we have here in Frederick, or maybe the excitement of more urban aspects. You need to find what’s good for you, but we can share the example of building on what you have,” he said.

Keasha Haythe, vice president of MEDA and Director of Economic Development of Dorchester City, said she hoped the conference would inspire fellow MEDA members to improve the perception of their own communities.

“Creating a sense of place is extremely important to economic development because that is what the residents and the business community draw on. That’s how they attract new investment,” Haythe said.

She praised MEDA for providing a platform to spread innovative ideas within the state’s business leadership community. “Events like this bring all the players together, the right policy makers and panelists and business leaders. Today was truly a great conference and we had a great turnout,” she said.

On behalf of Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray presented a proclamation to MEDA, recognizing its support of Maryland’s third annual Economic Development Week.

“It’s such a pleasure to work with all of you as a team—we’ve got a tremendous team. All of us are dedicated to doing things that make Maryland a better place to live and work, it’s my honor and privilege to work with all of you,” Murray said.

A panel of experts discuss creating a sense of place  to promote growth in communities.

A panel of experts discuss creating a sense of place to promote growth in communities.

The longtime mantra of realtors, “location, location, location,” applies just as much to a community’s overall economic development, experts agreed during the Maryland Economic Development Association’s fall conference.

The conference, held Tuesday in Frederick and sponsored by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, made the case for “place making” as a tool for improving the social perceptions of a region’s assets.

So, how does that elusive sense of place impact economic development? Here are 10 takeaways from the conference’s expert lineup.

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In recent years, Maryland families have consistently topped the nation in household income.

Stateline, a daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts, released an interactive map and chart on Thursday, which details median household income by state between 2008 and 2012. Despite a national decline, Maryland continued to rank first in the nation between 2009 and 2012. In 2008 only, it ranked second to New Jersey.

Click on the image below to track income changes over time and compare Maryland with other states.

Looking for more information on how Maryland has fared through the Great Recession? Check out Maryland StateStat, a performance-measurement and management tool implemented by Governor Martin O’Malley to make state government more accountable and efficient.

Tiffany Rogers is founder and creative director of Silver Spring-based knot by TIFFA.

Tiffany Rogers is founder and creative director of Silver Spring-based knot by TIFFA. Photo credit: Rebecca Hussey of Ampersander Studios

When Tiffany Rogers looks at a piece of clothing or accessory, she sees much more than fabric and thread. She thinks about the fiber farmer, the factory worker and the environment surrounding them. Rogers is a fashion designer-turned-entrepreneur with a conscience, and it’s shaping the way she builds her Maryland business.

Rogers—founder and creative director of Silver Spring-based knot by TIFFA—didn’t originally intend to become a men’s bow tie maker. After graduating from the University of Delaware in apparel design, she found success as an intern, design assistant and assistant designer at Tracy Reese in New York. She was thrilled when First Lady Michelle Obama wore one of the prints she designed.

But Rogers found herself increasingly concerned about the moral issues facing apparel production. She returned to the University of Delaware to begin graduate work in fashion studies, social responsibility and sustainability. She also began working with associations in Washington, D.C. that consult major clothing companies on labor policies and regulations.

Around Christmas of 2010, in the midst of a major career change, she searched for a gift for a friend.

“I was looking for a bow tie for my friend Cory Thompson, but they didn’t seem special enough to be worth buying, so I decided to just make one,” Rogers said. “It was then I realized I had the potential to take bow ties to market.”

She and Thompson, who became the director of finance and sales, developed marketing and branding strategies that involved patterning the bow ties off musical styles. The knot by TIFFA e-commerce website launched in March 2011. Rogers began personally sewing each order out of her Silver Spring apartment.

“The bow ties are a fresh and contemporary twist to the traditional bow tie and they’re each inspired by a song. It really sets the tone for the collections. So as I’m going through all of the prints and patterns, I’m thinking about the music. Loud upbeat songs I pair with bright colors, so it really shines through,” Rogers said.

This June, knot by TIFFA launched its Summer Medley Carnivale collection, inspired by up-and-coming bands performing at the summer’s bacchanalian outdoor music festivals. They included Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Haim, Alabama Shakes and the Avett Brothers.

On the website, colorful write-ups and excerpts of lyrics accompany each style. The “can’t hold us” bow tie is based on a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis song of the same name. “This technicolor tribal print dusts off the assumption of a conservative bow tie and brings forward a struttin’ generation,” the website reads.

knot by TIFFA creates designer bowties.

knot by TIFFA creates designer bow ties. Photo credit: Rebecca Hussey of Ampersander Studios

In the fall, Rogers plans to release the Appalachian collection, focused on flannels and plaids, patterned on the music of Bronze Radio Return, Wild Child and other bands that embrace the fiddle, banjo and harmonica.

Twitter has allowed Rogers to connect directly with bands and forge creative partnerships. It has also led to increased sales among fashion-conscious music fans. ”I definitely suggest that other Maryland companies try their best to network and develop a social media presence,” she said.

“I just did a collection and photo shoot with the Wheeler Brothers, an up-and-coming band from Austin. They looked great in our bow ties. Band loyalty factors into the popularity of some of our collections. Fans see band members wearing them and it inspires them. It’s a unique selling process,” she added.

knot by TIFFA’s business model recently attracted the attention of national business news website Business Insider, which recently named it one of “16 Small Businesses On The Verge Of A Breakthrough.” D.C.-area and fashion blogs have also spotlighted the company.

Despite the recent increase in interest and sales, Rogers still sews each bow tie out of her apartment. She has also maintained her day job working with a non-profit to promote improved labor and environmental conditions in the garment production industry.

“I’m starting to grow out of being able to make them all myself,” she said.

Rogers hopes customers will someday find knot by TIFFA bow ties in high-end boutiques and department stores. But finding an apparel manufacturer for mass production can be a cumbersome and sometimes mysterious process. The lack of transparency can make it even easier for workers and the environment to be abused, according to Rogers.

When the time comes for knot by TIFFA to expand, she said she’s committed to meeting the highest standards of production, the same standards that she works everyday to promote among global brands like Nike and Adidas.

“I want to make sure that we have a responsible business model and that all of the factories in our supply chain have features that most importantly protect factory workers’ rights,” she said.

That means Rogers plans to keep production in Maryland, where workers enjoy high labor standards and wages. She said she’s felt welcomed by a like-minded business community as she’s recently reached out to Baltimore-area factories.

“One of the great things about Maryland is that Under Armour has settled in Baltimore and now you have a few apparel factories in Baltimore. Right now, they’re mostly making apparel specifically for Under Armour, but they can branch out and make different apparel types,” she said.

“In general, it’s been difficult for small fashion designers to fill a collection or a brand outside of New York or some other fashion capital. But that’s in the past now. You have so many more platforms to find fabric and trim suppliers and factories to make your product closer to home,” Rogers said.

knot by TIFFA creates designer bowties.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hussey of Ampersander Studios

knot by TIFFA creates designer bowties.

Photo credit: Rebecca Hussey of Ampersander Studios

Baltimore, MD (July 3, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has made a $100,000 grant to support a mixed-use revitalization project by Seawall Development in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood, Governor Martin O’Malley announced today. Using the grant made through the Brownfield Revitalization Incentive Program, Seawall will outfit a 21,770-square-foot building at 2600 North Howard with commercial space, a performance venue and a butcher shop and restaurant by Spike Gjerde, the celebrated chef and restaurateur behind Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact Coffee. The $3.8 million project is expected to be completed in December and will create 75 jobs over the next two years.

“Investing in communities like Remington is a sustainable and effective way to revitalize Maryland’s historic neighborhoods and support the arts that enrich Maryland’s culture,” said Governor O’Malley. “The redevelopment of 2600 North Howard will create jobs, serve as an anchor for future revitalization and development in Remington, and expand the thriving Station North Arts & Entertainment District.”

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B'More OrganicAndrew Buerger sells bottled smoothies, but they’re a far cry from most mainstream brands. B’More Organic’s drinks are fat free, low lactose, gluten free, with no added sugar and blended with skyr, an Icelandic yogurt.

Beyond its products, the Baltimore-based company is unique in that it voluntarily adheres to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. It is legally set apart as a “benefit corporation,” and is part of a growing movement to prove that the drive for profit can work hand in hand with the public good.

Maryland became the first state in the nation, in April 2010, to pass legislation creating the new “benefit corporation” form for mission-driven social entrepreneurs. Fifteen states followed. Maryland remains the only state to also legally recognize “benefit” limited liability companies.

Nearly 60 Maryland businesses—ranging from an urban farming network to technology consulting services—adhere to “benefit” standards. Among them, 13  businesses are also third-party certified B Corporations by the national non-profit B Labs.

Find a full list of certified B Corporations in the chart below the article.

B'More Organics“Being a B Corporation changes our behavior on a daily basis.,” Buerger said. “I always ask myself, ‘Would I give my kids this?’  I wouldn’t give them something they shouldn’t be eating. I wouldn’t put Mickey Mouse on my product and stuff it full of sugar and preservatives.”

Buerger is passionate about using wholesome ingredients that don’t pose harm to customers or the environment. A portion of sales also helps fund breast cancer research through donations to Jodi’s Climb for Hope. “Benefit” status helped him formalize his core values directly into his business model, he said.

“It’s a journey. That’s why we’re ‘B’More’ organic. We can always do better. Our goal is to constantly improve on all of our core values to be more organic, be more green and be more healthy,” he said.

“I’ve had people taste our products and tell us, ‘You know, it’s good, but it needs more sugar in it.’ I tell them that we don’t put sugar in our products. We believe Americans have enough sugar in their diets and we don’t need to be contributing to that,” he added.

B’More Organic’s attention to community impact recently caught the attention of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, which featured the company in its “MaryLand of Opportunity” summer advertising campaign to support local businesses.

Clean CurrentThe campaign also features Silver Spring-based Clean Currents, another certified B Corporation. Since 2005, the energy supplier has connected 10,000 individuals and 3,000 businesses to wind power in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. It has also donated more than $20,000 to community greening projects through the Green Neighborhood Challenge program.

Clean Currents was one of the first Maryland companies to join the “benefit” movement, a natural fit for a company that was already participating in community greening programs to raise awareness of its wind energy products.

“Sustainability is one of our driving forces, it’s not just part of a marketing campaign, it’s actually integrated into the way we do business,” said marketing director Tanya Gulnik. ”Whenever we’re examining a new product, we always look at it through the lens of whether it’s going to have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate, our employees and the world in general.”

One of the major benefits of B Corporation designation is that it provides a reliable indicator for socially aware customers, according to Gulnik.

“It’s really helpful to put into writing and really codify a few of the things that mission-driven companies already know about themselves. It shows that to consumers and makes it easy to recognize the companies that are doing more than just making a profit,” she said.

The Clean Currents-sponsored Green Neighborhood Challenge does not focus exclusively on wind energy. Several neighborhoods have used it to fund and support community gardens, construct rain barrels and conduct educational programs on greener eating.

Gulnik said she expects more Maryland companies to join the “benefit” movement, through the legal designation and also through third-party B Corporation certification.

“I have seen this movement grow in the last four years tremendously, there are a lot of really big names that are B Corporations now. You even have huge companies like Ben and Jerry’s getting involved,” she said.

Erik Trojian, Director of Policy for B Labs, said he is aware that not every company can or should be a B Corporation.

“This might not be the style business for you. It’s a different way of operating, similar to how you might go into the service industry versus the goods industry. Different people have different types of style companies that excite them to go to work each day,” Trojian said.

He added, however, that business schools are increasingly producing a new breed of entrepreneur who is more socially aware than ever. The emergence of B Corporations is a consequence of that cultural shift, he said.

It’s also a consequence of the economy and government’s shrinking funding capabilities, according to Trojian.

“Government’s not getting any bigger. In fact, it’s being forced to get smaller. We need to find new ways to fill the gap left by what government used to do and what government maybe should never have been doing. The strongest engine we have out there is the private sector,” he said.

Companies like B’More Organics and Clean Currents said adjusting to the new “benefit” business model involved a sort of leap of faith that their social and environmental efforts would actually result in continued business growth.

Representatives of both said they make an effort to network and support fellow B Corporations who share their ideals.

“Certainly, it’s a challenge and it can be scary,” Buerger said. “But it’s all in how you look at it. It turns out that companies who are doing well for the world are also doing better.”

Certified B Corporations operating in Maryland
Savenia Labs LLC
BIS Global (DBA: CharityEngine)
B’more Organic
Emory Knoll Farms
Clean Currents
Lateral Line, Inc.
More Than Money LLC
Vera Solutions, Benefit LLC
RoundPeg
Big City Farms Holdings
The Cleaning Corps
Audacious Inquiry
Council Fire, LLC

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Cupcakes for Literacy

Krissa Hillman of Cupcakes for Literacy is a finalist in Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club’s Learn and Earn, Grow Your Own Business Challenge.

Does the Sage of Omaha have a sweet tooth? An 11-year-old Howard County student is on a mission to find out.

Krissa Hillman, the budding entrepreneur behind Cupcakes for Literacy, is a finalist in Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club’s Learn and Earn, Grow Your Own Business Challenge. She will travel to Omaha, Nebraska this weekend to present her business plan to Buffet and other investors for a chance to win $5,000 in seed funding.

Krissa, a fifth-grader at Bollman Bridge Elementary School, was chosen from among over 4,000 other children with business plans. Cupcakes for Literacy is a spin-off of the website her mother started six years ago that catalogs YouTube videos of Krissa reading books to children. Since February, Krissa and her board of classmates regularly bake and sell cupcakes to raise funds for schools, libraries and literacy, art and music programs.

Armed with a pan of red velvet cupcakes (topped with bright blue frosting and candies), she did a practice run-through of her presentation at Howard County’s Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, in conjunction with Startup Maryland, in Columbia on Friday.

“Everybody loves cupcakes, right? If you don’t love cupcakes, you must be crazy,” Krissa said, drawing laughs from the center’s panel of entrepreneurial advisors.

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Using funds from a portion of Maryland’s slot machine revenue, three investment and financial firms will distribute loans for small, minority and women-owned businesses, the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development announced Wednesday.

The Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Account receives 1.5 percent of video lottery terminal revenue from Maryland’s three casinos. The Board of Public Works recently approved the following investment and financial firms to distribute up to $7.86 million in loans from that account, beginning on May 1.

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3D Printed InvestMaryland Challenge Awards

Resting on pillars during the culmination of the InvestMaryland Challenge were three ivory-colored grand prize awards, swirling upward like the leaves of a springtime perennial and topped with the symbols of each winning company’s industry.

While the awards went to a trio of Maryland’s most innovative early-stage businesses, the awards’ creators, Jessica Searfino and Amanda Paunil, likewise felt honored to see their designs showcased at the event.

Both women are Towson University students studying interdisciplinary object design, and they created the awards out of plaster using the university’s 3D printing lab.

See additional photos of the printing process below. 

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Preakness Maryland

Preakness, a horse racing Maryland tradition, will return May 2013.

The Pimlico Race Course plans to expand its Preakness celebration this May with new food, drink and entertainment options. But organizers are also hoping to draw crowds throughout the remaining horse racing season, the Baltimore Sun reports.

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Behind the scenes of "Veep"

HBO’s “Veep” was filmed in Maryland and benefitted from an industry tax credit.

During an episode of the popular Netflix series “House of Cards,” a female character angrily throws a framed picture.

Watching that moment from their living room, Bill and Susan Decker couldn’t help but smile as the actress broke their custom-designed product. The husband and wife are co-owners of Furst Bros., a historic Baltimore framing company, and they are among thousands of Marylanders who have benefited from the state’s growing film industry, many in seemingly unanticipated ways.

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