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UMd. Launches New Econ Degree For Working Professionals

The University of Maryland has begun a new master’s degree program in applied economics for working professionals looking to advance their careers. The program is designed to train people in the economic analysis of policy issues.
After completing core courses, students choose a specialty in environment economics, health economics, law economics, marketing design and game theory, and program analysis and evaluation, says Marianne Ley Hayek, executive director of professional masters programs at the University of Maryland College Park’s department of economics.
“Any government agency increasingly has to justify and measure results,” says Hayek.
The program is designed to be convenient for working professionals. Classes are held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., near a metro stop. Classes are offered in the evenings and are taught by people with “real-life experience,” she says.
The first class in the program enrolled 25 students. Hayek expects the program to grow but class size will be kept small.  
Candidates for the program must have a bachelor of arts degree, taken two economic courses during their undergraduate years and meet other requirements. The 15-month-long program consists of 10 courses, at a fee of $2,750 per course. There is no difference in the fee for in-state and out-of-state students. The University of Maryland issues the diploma.
The fall 2012 program is accepting online registration by June 1.

Source: Mariane Ley Hayek, executive director of professional masters programs, University of Maryland, College Park department of economics
Writer: Barbara Pash

Tax Credits Spur Thousands of Film Jobs

Film production in Maryland has increased thanks to $7.5 million in tax credits. Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, part of the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, credits legislation that went into effect this year with attracting new productions.

Gerbes listed productions that were or will be filmed in the state this year. They are Season 1 and 2 of the HBO series, “Veep;” the Netflix series, “House of Cards;”  the HBO original movie, "Game Change;" and two independent films, one of which is "Jamesy Boy,” which was scheduled to begin filming in Baltimore last month.

He calculated the economic impact to the state of these productions to be nearly $200 million, and to result in approximately 5,500 jobs. For example, the economic impact of "Jamesy Boy" is estimated at $5 million and 400 new jobs for crew, actors and extras.

In 2010, the film office had funding of $1 million in tax credits. In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation that, beginning in 2012, increased funding to up to $7.5 million in tax credits for each of the next three years. “This is the most funds we’ve ever had to attract productions,” he says.

The law stipulates that the production company must spend at least $500,000 in direct production costs in the state to be eligible for 25 to 27 percent tax credit.

With 45 states offering incentives, Gerbes says the funding enables Maryland to compete effectively for production companies. “Producers used to ask me, ‘Do you have the location and crew?’ Now they ask, ‘What’s the incentive program?’” he says.

“Producers still want you to have the right locations,” says Gerbes. “We actively market that we are near Washington, D.C.”

Source: Jack Gerbes, director, Maryland Film Office
Writer: Barbara Pash

Solar Tracking Devices Installed at Port of Baltimore Company

Follow the sun could be the motto of Advanced Technology & Research, a firm that a few years ago developed a product to do just that.

Instead of stationary solar panels, an increasingly familiar sight on rooftops, the Columbia-based company makes a solar tracking device that rotates as the sun moves. The rotation of the device allows for maximum performance, capturing 30 to 45 percent more energy than stationary solar panels aligned at an optimal angle to the sun, says Robert Lundahl, Advanced Technology's vice president for energy systems and automation.
Lundahl says the device has residential and commercial use as an energy-saving measure. But it is being bought and installed for other uses as well. Mid-Atlantic Terminal at the Port of Baltimore recently installed three devices to power electric vehicles operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. Wallenius Wilhelmsen is powering two electric vehicles to move personnel and material around the port, and has indicated it may order more devices in the future.
Another recent installation was a row house residence in Federal Hill, where the company's distributor NEXUS Energy Homes installed one on the rooftop. It was the first sun-tracking device installed on a Federal Hill residence.
Advanced Technology's device can be ordered with one standard-size, 235-Watt solar panel (known as a single tracker) or with two 235-Watt solar panels (dual tracker). The tracker is connected to a mounting. The mounting can be placed on a rooftop or on the ground. A GPS-controlled drive unit rotates the panels to follow the sun.
Like solar panels, the device is then connected to an electric grid; accumulated energy reduces the electric bill.
The basic cost of the ATR device is $2,895 before installation. The number of devices is determined by roof size and budget. The devices are eligible for state and federal renewable energy tax credits. 
Advanced Technology & Research is a 38-year old engineering company that traditionally works with military and coastal agencies. It began making the solar device four years as a response to the increased demand for energy-efficient products, Lundahl says.
Landahl says the company is focusing on the mid-Atlantic region now but may go nationwide as the market increases. 
Source: Robert Lundahl, vice president for energy systems and automation at Advanced Technology & Research
Writer: Barbara Pash

The Next Ice Age Seeks the Next Kimmie Meissner

They thrilled you at the Olympics. You loved them at the World Figure Skating Championships. Now, ice skating is coming closer to home.

Young ice skaters can take their talent to the Next Ice Age, a Baltimore-based ice skating company that last month formed an apprentice company.
Tim Murphy, co-founder with Nathan Birch of The Next Ice Age, says the apprentice company, for ages 8 to 12 years old, will train and work with aspiring young skaters in the region.
The apprentice company will give its debut performance Sat. April 7 at 6 p.m. at Gardens Ice House, at 13800 Old Gunpowder Rd. in Laurel. The performance is free and open to the public.
Murphy and Birch, both former members of the John Curry Skating Co. who have worked with Dorothy Hamill, founded the Next Ice Age in 1988. It is a five-member professional company that performs for 10 weeks per year at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City and venues like at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Columbia Festival for the Arts, in Howard County.
Murphy says that two years ago, The Next Ice Age decided to open an educational arm by founding the student company, for high school age skaters. The apprentice company followed in 2012.
“We can train the students the way we’d like, with the music and choreography, in the hopes of their moving on to the professional company,” says Murphy.
Entry into the 12-member student company and 10-member apprentice company is by invitation only. “We teach ice skating so we know the students in the area,” says Murphy.
The companies practice at the Gardens Ice House, in Laurel, although members come from throughout the area, including Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
“The Next Ice Age is the resident company at the ice house,” says Murphy. “It’s their first residency. We have to go where the ice rinks are.”
Source: Tim Murphy, The Next Ice Age
Writer: Barbara Pash

Biotech Event Features Nobel Prize Winner

The man who won a Nobel Prize for developing a break-through in how scientists study cells will be the featured speaker at a Baltimore event that looks at the future of biomedical research.
Dr. Martin Chalfie will speak at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s 15th annual Life Science Symposium , which is free and open to the public. Dr. Chalfie will talk about the work that won him Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.
The event will be held Wed. April 18, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the UMBC Ballroom, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore.
Over the years, the symposium has had a wide range of topics and speakers, but the theme is always cutting-edge research, says Caroline Baker, UMBC director of corporate relations and acting director of the career services center.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bring world-class scientists to this region,” Baker says of an event that generally attracts 200 people, among them science educators, healthcare professionals, biotechnology business leaders and members of the state’s bioscience community.
Besides Chalfie, who is a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, the other featured speaker is Dr. Charles Bieberich, UMBC professor of biological sciences, who will talk about understanding the mechanisms and developing therapeutics for prostate disease.
Before the talks, there will be a faculty session in which UMBC faculty members doing life science research will talk about their work and recent discoveries.
“The goal is to create an opportunity for life science educators, biotech executives and scientists to come together and learn about exciting research, and to network and talk about their ideas,” says Baker.
Source: Caroline Baker, University of Maryland, Baltimore County director of corporate relations and acting director of the career services center
Writer: Barbara Pash

Tech Salaries in Baltimore/D.C. Second Highest in Nation

Technology professionals saw their biggest pay raises last year and those living the Baltimore/Washington area saw the second highest wages in the nation.
The data comes from Dice’s 2012 salary survey, which culled information from more than 18,000 IT professionals throughout the U.S. After two straight years of flat wages, tech workers’ salaries grew, on average, more than 2 percent, to $81,327 last year.
Average salaries in the Baltimore/Washington market were considerably higher, at $94,317, and salaries grew 6 percent. IT professionals in Silicon Valley pulled in top pay, at $104,195. Austin saw the biggest wage growth, with a 13 percent jump in pay.
Wages are higher in the Baltimore/Washington area, in part, because the high education levels, says Jason Hayman, market research manager for Hanover IT staffing firm TEKsystems Inc. Nearly half of all Washingtonians hold a bachelor’s degree or higher while more than one-third of Baltimore residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. That puts Baltimore No. 8 in terms of education and Washington No. 1 in the nation.
Jobs in the federal government, which is adding IT positions, also is a factor in the region’s salary standing, Hayman says.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Dice; Jason Hayman and Brendan Foerster, TEKsystems

Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Performing Face Transplant Surgeries

Only six face transplant surgeries have been performed in the entire U.S., one of them earlier this month on a 37-year-old male at the University of Maryland Medical Center. It was the first such procedure in the state and took place over 72 hours. 

Now Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions is following suit and expects to get approval within the next few months to perform the rare and complicated surgery. 

The request from Hopkins Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery  is being considered by a Johns Hopkins University board, which has already approved its hand transplant surgery. Such boards are fairly standard among facilities that perform research on humans, the goal being to ensure the safety of the subjects.

Face transplant surgery is a medical procedure that replaces all or part of a person's face with facial tissue from a deceased human donor. Although at this point Hopkins does not have a specific candidate for the surgery, "many patients have expressed interests, and we plan to screen patients for face transplantation" as soon as approval is given, says W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, who has formed a face transplant team.

Besides Lee, key faculty members on the team are Dr. Chad Gordon, assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, who was involved in the country's first face transplant at Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Gerald Brandacher, visiting associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery; and Dr. Patrick Byrne, associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery. 

"There are many patients with significant facial disfigurement that cannot be adequately reconstructed with conventional means.  Face transplant offers the best reconstructive option for them," says Lee. "In addition, we have an immune modulation protocol that allows us to perform such transplants with much reduced anti-rejection medication, thus minimizing their side effects. 

Source: Dr. Andrew Lee, director, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Writer: Barbara Pash

Hagerstown Community College Opening $25M Science and Tech Center

Hagerstown Community College, in Washington County, is turning itself in the high tech center of Western Maryland. Next month, the college will open a $25 million complex that includes the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Building, laboratories and a classroom building.
The new STEM building will house the college’s biotechnology, alternative energy technology, cybersecurity, math and engineering degree programs. In the fall the college will begin offering its science classes online, and is in the process of getting approval for online degree programs.
The college campus is also the site of the Technical Innovation Center, a self-sustaining entity that promotes technology development and the creation of technology jobs in the area.
Toxpath Specialists, a toxicological pathology firm, is the latest graduate of the Technical Innovation Center. It left the business incubator this year for commercial space, creating 10 new jobs in the county’s biotechnology community.
P. Chris Marschner, manager of the Technical Innovation Center, says the center currently houses 15 companies, among them medical software, wireless technology, biotechnology and cybersecurity. Since the center began in 1994, 50 to 60 startups have graduated, creating a total of over 400 jobs in the Western Maryland region.
Sources: Elizabeth Stull, Hagerstown Community College; P. Chris Marschner, Technical Innovation Center
Writer: Barbara Pash

Entrepreneurs Start New Wine-in-a-Box Biz

Wine lovers can now taste a new local label on the market.

Open Door Cellars is offering three varietals -- chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. And the wines come in a box, not a bottle. The wines are being made at a winery in California under the supervision of Michael Fishman, a wine connoisseur and company co-founder with Greg Rochlin.
“We are starting distribution in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. We intend to make it a national brand. As we grow, we will take office space,” says Fishman who, with Rochlin, also co-owns Quarry Wine & Spirits.
Prestige Beverage Group is distributing the wines in liquor stores, wine shops and restaurants. They come in bag-the-box packaging that, Fishman says, preserves freshness longer after opening than a bottle. It's also more eco-friendly, the business owners say, yielding 85 percent less packaging compared with bottled wines. 
The boxes are available in two sizes: 3-liter (equivalent to 4 bottles), priced in the mid-$30s, and 1.5-liter (two bottles), in the low $20. The price is the same for all the varietals.
Fishman says they started Open Door Cellars in response to a need they saw in the market for such wines in the convenience and affordability of bag-in-the-box packaging.
“There are other bag-in-the-box competitors but not as this price point,” he says. “Our goal is to provide broadly distributed, high-quality wines.”
Fishman declined to provide financial figures for Open Door Cellars. The privately-held company has hired one full-time employee, a sales representative, and two part-time employees, to conduct in-store wine tastings. He expects to hire more employees as the company grows.
Source: Michael Fishman, Open Door Cellars
Writer: Barbara Pash

Political Software Company Prepares for Election Season

The Republican Party primaries kicked off the 2012 election season. State and local campaigns will soon follow and when they do, CampaignOn is ready. Officially launching next month, the campaign management company offers a software package and professional services to candidates who are running for office and incumbents who are seeking re-election.
Company President Herbert Sweren says four candidates – in state, county and legislative races – have already committed to CampaignOn, although he declines to name them until they formally declare for office.
CampaignOn is a joint venture with Weiss PR Associates. In addition to Sweren, the company’s team includes Barry Silverman, Weiss PR managing partner; Dennis Rasmussen, former Maryland State Senator and Delegate and former Baltimore County Executive; and Robert Infussi, Jr. All have extensive experience in political campaigns.
The company’s software package is tailored to the candidate and his or her voting district. Professional services range from marketing and public relations to brand creation and donor/volunteer letters. The company works with candidates of all parties.
“Campaigns find it challenging to know where to go to get these services and then pay for each separately. We have it all in one package,” says Sweren.
CampaignOn’s pricing varies. “A gubernatorial race will be more expensive than a county council race. There’s more work state-wide versus local,” says Sweren, adding, though, that the aim is to make the pricing within the means of the campaigns’ fund-raising.
CampaignOn currently has two interns from Towson University. More may be added as the election season progresses.
Source: Herbert Sweren, CampaignOn
Writer: Barbara Pash

Local Filmmakers Create Documentary on Chesapeake Bay

Local filmmakers have made a documentary about efforts to preserve the Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
The film airs on Maryland Public Television (MPT) April 17 and will be on permanent view at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Executive Producer Tim Junkin says he plans to send the documentary to churches and other organizations after the airing.
Originally budgeted at $100,000, the documentary was produced for “almost nothing,” says Junkin, thanks to “donated time and pro bono” work.
Junkin, executive director of the nonprofit Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, served as executive producer and writer of “Let Our Rivers Flow,” a 25-minute-long, color film about the Midshore rivers, which include the Choptank, Miles and Wye rivers and Eastern Bay.
Junkin says the documentary describes the rivers, their history and current ecological status, and what people in the communities are doing to preserve them.
Last year, a shorter, 18-minute-long version of the documentary was shown at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, in Easton. For the current documentary, which was professionally filmed, edited and scored, several scenes were reshot.
Tom Horton, a former Baltimore Sun environmental reporter and the author of several articles and books, narrates the documentary. Bird Dog Wheeler provides music production; Sandy Cannon-Brown is editorial director and producer; and Patrick Anderson is principal photographer.
“Let Our Rivers Flow” airs during MPT’s Chesapeake Bay Week.
Source: Tim Junkin, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy
Writer: Barbara Pash

Ad Group Opposes Proposed Tax on Digital Goods

The American Advertising Federation of Baltimore has succeeded in its opposition to a provision in Governor Martin O’Malley’s budget bill that, for the first time, would have taxed digital products and services.

The provision would have imposed a 6 percent tax on digital goods like web videos, software services, sound recordings and apps for newspapers and magazines. Currently, Maryland’s 6 percent sales tax does not cover such products and services.
 Cynthia Blake Sanders, chair of the AAF Baltimore. Sanders, along with Ronald Weinholt of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and Stephen Kranz, on behalf of the regional Digital Goods and Services Coalition, testified against the provision at legislative committees’ hearings.
According to Raquel Guillory, the governor’s spokesperson, “there was never an intention to affect advertising agencies.” After lobbying efforts against the provision, it was being rewritten to clarify the language when the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted to reject it.

The governor’s original budget bill, Senate Bill 152/House Bill 87, has been split into a four-bill package. The provision ended up in and was removed from Senate Bill 523. The Senate is expected to debate the resulting bill March 21.
Sanders detailed her objections to the provision in a letter to the governor, writing that “the broad language of [the provision] captures sales of advertising, design and production services provided by AAF Baltimore members.”
There appears to be a movement across the country to tax digital downloads. Guillory says that 30 states tax computer software and 24 states tax digital downloads.
The state estimated the provision would have brought in $5 million in taxes. Sanders disputes that claim, based on numbers provided by the national American Advertising Federation.
Taxes on digital goods “are new and controversial, and there are conflicting laws,” says Sanders, adding that the tax would put Maryland businesses at a disadvantage to their out-of-state competitors.
Sources: Cynthia Blake Sanders, American Advertising Federation of Baltimore; Ronald Weinholt, Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Barbara Pash

Startup Maryland Seeks to Create a Community of Entrepreneurs

Calling all entrepreneurs.  A national organization, Startup America Partnership, is launching a regional initiative called Startup Maryland at a March 30 event.
Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and a co-chair of the launch of Startup Maryland, says the goal of the nonprofit advocacy group is “to bring together the entrepreneurial system in the state” and to create a community of entrepreneurs.
Startup Maryland aims to provide entrepreneurs access to capital, mentoring, clients and a celebration and awareness of entrepreneurship through success stories.
While the state has “incredible resources,” Kirk says, “they’re in pockets, independent of each other and entrepreneurs are not working together.”
Startup Maryland aims to change that. “We want to leverage the best projects and promote them across the entire state,” says Kirk, noting that at the event, attendees will decide on specific projects for the future. Possibilities include a regional conference in which potential customers talk about their needs or a meeting about state and local resources.
Startup America Partnership began a year ago and the brainchild of two foundations: the Steven Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. The alliance of universities, foundations and entrepreneurs are forming local chapters around the country. The White House has launched a similar initiative
Startup America does not offer funding, but it does provide access to the large corporations that are backing it. They include American Express, American Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange, Dell Computers and Microsoft.
In preparation for the March 30 launch at the University of Maryland College Park, two “town hall” meetings were held – in Howard County on February 10 and Baltimore City on March 1.
“We had 90 people at each. We had to cut off registration because we ran out of space,” says Kirk. “That told us there is interest” in Startup Maryland.
Membership in Startup Maryland is free. Register on the website. So far, even before the official launch on March, Kirk says some 200 companies have registered.
Source: Julie Lenzer Kirk, Startup Maryland
Writer: Barbara Pash

Education Company Adding More than 100 Jobs

Learn It Systems, an educational systems developer based in Owings Mills, is planning to hire more than 100 educational professionals to staff its services in the Baltimore area.

The employment growth stems from new contracts with public and private schools to provide educational services. The company currently serves 30,000 children in around 1500 schools and online, in more than 200 school districts, and across 37 states, with 160 full-time employees and 6000 part-time teachers, paraprofessionals, and aides.
Learn It wants to hire individuals with certification in teaching, speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, counseling services, and speech-language evaluation to fill part-time and full-time slots.

“Baltimore is becoming a sort of Silicon Valley for the for-profit education sector,” says Learn It Systems CEO Michael Maloney.
“You can flex up and down based on the case load you desire. If you’re a certified therapist, we may assign you in the state you currently reside in, or to work from home with a student that lives in another state. We’ll work through and support that certification process,” Maloney says.
Many hired individuals will work in summer school, and others will help Learn It pilot an online speech therapy platform.
Interested education professionals should contact Learn It Systems via their website: Learn It Systems Join Our Team.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Michael Maloney, Learn It Systems

Israeli Companies Coming to Baltimore

Thirteen companies from Israel will convene in Baltimore at the end of the month to gain familiarity with the nuances of doing business and living in one of the country’s top markets for high-tech and medical innovations.
The Maryland-Israel Development Center’s MarketReach symposium is a yearly event that brings together companies that have already received funding from private investors but are looking to test their business and fundraising mettle in Maryland.
In the past, medical innovation companies have dominated MarketReach events, but the 2012 crop of participants includes Organis, developer of an environmentally friendly insect repellent platform, Sol Chip, a company that makes clean energy systems for low-power applications, and Novospeech, which produces speech recognition software.
The event is meant to increase the Israeli companies’ awareness of the US and Maryland markets and create excitement among Maryland-based investors, researchers, and entrepreneurs. Maryland's research base includes Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland professional schools, and the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, among others.
The impact of MarketReach companies' arrival to explore their options is intended to result in local US bases for the Israeli enterprises. Barry Bogage, Executive Director of the Maryland-Israel Develoment Center, says, "As companies grow, we'll bring them here to open offices in Baltimore and Maryland in general."

More information on participating companies and attending MarketReach America 2012 on March 29 is available at the MIDC website:

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Nancy Boguslaw, Maryland-Israel Development Center
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