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Baltimore IT healthcare company broadens product offerings

Healthcare IT company Analytical Informatics Inc last month signed a partnership with SchedFull LLC, a Detroit patient scheduling company, to broaden its product offerings. The SchedFull partnership is the first of several agreements the downtown Baltimore company expects to announce this year.
CEO Chris Meenan says the downtown Baltimore company is looking to improve efficiency and quality via deals with small companies like SchedFull and with hospitals in the “hot areas” of healthcare, such as staffing efficiency and patient experiences. He hopes to announce a hospital partnership next month.
The company offers a suite of tools that improve hospitals' efficiencies. For example, the company has a staffing model that shows which hours are busiest and how many rooms need to available for operations and radiology, both expensive-to-run facilities.
SchedFull works with hospitals and physician offices to electronically notify patients about appointments and cancellations. The partnership allows Analytical Informatics to offer an application that addresses the patient experience. 
“In the healthcare field, hospitals are trying to understand patients. Hospitals can save a lot of money if they can reduce their no-show rates,” says Meenan.
Analytical Informatics was spun out of the University of Maryland, Baltimore technology transfer office in 2011. Data from hospitals, physicians and other providers is aggregated into a central platform to which applications can be added.
The company invented some of the applications itself or, like SchedFull, has acquired them through partnerships. Others are licensed from University of Maryland School of Medicine. Analytical Informatics charges about $4,500 per month for the basic model plus several applications of a client’s choice. Other applications can be added for extra fees.
The company already has partnerships with hospitals that include Johns Hopkins, University of Utah Health Care and Indiana University Health.
Besides Meenan, company staffers are the other three cofounders: Mark Daly, Max Warnock and Christopher Toland. In June, it is hiring at least two staffers, in software development and sales and marketing.
Source: Chris Meenan, Analytical Informatics Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Canton's EntreQuest reaches out to universities to promote entrepreneurship

Canton business consulting firm EntreQuest is in talks to partner with three universities and foundations around the country this fall to promote entrepreneurship as it expands its reach in the higher education market.
“We want to leverage our assets and use their platforms to add value to their members, clients and students,” says CEO Joe Mechlinski, who is also a best-selling author. He declined to name the universities and foundations until deals are finalized, which  he anticipates this fall.

EntreQuest first entered the university space last December, when it launched the Growth University, an online training and certification courses downloadable from its website. Courses range from sales to leadership at a fee of $297 to $497 per individual course, or a corporate fee of $30 per month per person.
Mechlinksi says more than 200 people have downloaded Growth University courses since its launch. He also says that entreQuest this year plans to introduce the Growth Factor, video webinars that feature interviews with business leaders.
Mechlinksi’s first book, “Grow Regardless,” was published last February. That same month, it hit No. 3 on The New York Times list of best-selling business books, No. 1 on Barnes & Noble.com and No. 5 on Amazon.com.

EntreQuest offers help in sales, staffing and strategy to businesses. The entreQuest team spends 30 days at the client-company interviewing stakeholders and surveying employees, according to Mechlinksi, who says entreQuest has consulted with about 400 companies around the country since its founding in 2000. The fee depends on services and size of the client.
The client receives a detailed action plan for the next year. For an extra fee, entreQuest will stay on site to recruit staff, provide training and fill any other client requests.
EntreQuest has offices at the incubator, the Emerging Technology Center at Canton. Its staff also mentor other incubator tenants. The company has 11 employees and is currently hiring three, including a director of products, recruiting director and senior business consultant.
Source: Joe Mechlinski, entreQuest
Writer: Barbara Pash

State hiring 70 to manage new health exchange as it preps for Obamacare

The state is hiring 70 staffers to work on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, a marketplace that lets consumers choose health insurers and is a key provision of new federal health rules known as Obamacare. 

The exchange is an independent state agency located in downtown Baltimore and requires a variety of functions, from IT to marketing and management.
In addition, the state is hiring companies that will create and/or manage parts of the exchange. When their contracts are finalized, the companies will do their own hiring for a so-far undetermined number of jobs.
“A lot of our resources will be through vendors,” says Leslie Lyles Smith, the exchange’s director of operations, of the companies to which the exchange will subcontract various responsibilities.
Smith says that most of the future employees, both those hired by the exchange and by vendor/subcontractors, will be in operations and IT. She divided the job areas into the following categories:
  • IT;
  • marketing and communications outreach;
  • planning and partner management, specifically liaison with brokers, third-party administrators and insurance companies;
  • operations and consumer assistance, specifically the call center and navigator program;
  • internal operations;
  • budget and finance;
  • human resources;
  • general services;
  • policy and government relations; and,
  • appeals/grievances.
The Maryland General Assembly created the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange in 2011, following the 2010 passage of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Maryland is one of the first six states in the country to create an exchange, a key provision in the federal law to set up a marketplace for the public and health insurers. In turn, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange opened the Maryland Health Connection as the online portal for the public and small businesses to get health insurance and tax credit information and to enroll.
The state began hiring to staff the exchange  last year and is continuing to hire. Smith expects to have most, if not all, the positions filled by the exchange’s opening day. All jobs are posted on the exchange’s website under the “careers” heading. Two recent job listings, for deputy director budget and management and for manager of the call center listed salaries of about $61,000 to $98,000 and of about $50,000 to $81,000 respectively.
Vendor hiring is also ongoing and requests for proposals can be found on the exchange’s website under the “procurement” heading. Once a vendor is selected, job-seekers will go directly to the company for information about employment. The number and type of jobs each vendor requires varies.
Source: Leslie Lyles Smith, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
Writer: Barbara Pash

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid hiring 450 in Baltimore County to prep for Obamacare

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is hiring 450 people in Baltimore County's Woodlawn as the federal agency preps for Obamacare.

CMS is hiring health insurance specialists, actuaries, medical officers, nurse consultants, management analysts, office support, social science research analysts, IT specialists, human resources specialists and auditors. Applicants must apply through the federal job website for the positions. CMS employs nearly 4,000 in its Woodlawn office. 
Helga Weschke, chief of the division of business development in the county department of economic development, says the hiring is spurred by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will start taking effect next year and be fully operational by 2020.
CMS administers the federal Medicare program and partners with state governments to administer Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and health insurance portability standards.
Weschke says that the county is hiring people on an ongoing basis until 450 positions are filled. Some are new positions and others are existing but vacant positions.
“CMS is authorized to hire 450 in Maryland because the Central Office is in Woodlawn,” an area in Baltimore County, says Weschke. “CMS has regional offices around the country,” for which an additional 750 jobs are being filled.
CMS has a special category for US military veterans. If released from active duty during within the last three years, they can find job descriptions and information about CMS career opportunities at the CMS website.

Weschke says job-seekers should be aware that the way the federal jobs website works, one posting may represent 10 or 20 job openings. New jobs are posted frequently.
Source: Helga Weschke, Baltimore County department of economic development
Writer:  Barbara Pash

Baltimore Staffing Firm Technisource Gets New Name

Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies is the new name for Technisource, a long-time IT staffing company in Baltimore that is expanding its services and hiring new employees early this year.
Randstad, an international staffing company, acquired Technisource in 2011. However, because of the change in systems and processes, Technisource wasn’t renamed until this week. The newly rebranded company will continue to occupy its office in downtown Baltimore.
Technisource had specialized in providing IT staffing, on either a permanent, contractual or temporary basis, for data centers and project management. Anthony Petrelli, managing director of Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies, says the Randstad acquistion allows Technisource to expand its services to the integration of talent and application development.
Petrelli says there will be no layoffs because of the rebranding. The newly named company is hiring an additional three to four staffers, including account executives, IT recruiters and sales people. The company recently moved into expanded office space that accommodates 22, for existing employees and future hires. Last year, Technisource added three people to its staff of 10. 
Randstad is publicly traded on the European stock exchange and is headquartered in The Netherlands. Founded in 1960, it is a market leader in offering human resources services in administration-clerical, accounting and finance, IT, pharma, life sciences, industrial and engineering industries.
Randstad has offices throughout the US. Its US headquarters is in Atlanta, Ga. The company’s Baltimore region covers Delaware and the Baltimore metropolitan area. There is also a Randstad Washington, D.C., office that covers the Bethesda and Rockville area.
Source: Anthony Petrelli, Baltimore Region for Randstad Technologies
Writer: Barbara Pash

Survey: Women Earn 14 Percent Less Than Men in Maryland

A National Partnership For Women & Families survey has found that Maryland women earn anywhere from 1 percent to 24 percent less than their male counterparts in every congressional district.

Around the state, full-time working women are paid on average 14 percent less than men. In District 7 and District 3, Baltimore City's two major districts, the numbers are 15 percent and 14 percent respectively, according to the Washington, D.C., nonprofit.
Nationally, there is a 23 percent gender wage gap, with congressional districts in Louisiana, Utah and Illinois showing the greatest disparity.

The Partnership called its analysis of latest US Census wage data by congressional district  “unprecedented” and “the first such study,” says Beccah Golubock Watson, the Partnership's policy counsel, noting that of the country's 435 districts, 423, or 97 percent, have wage gender gaps.
The survey did not compare gender wage differences by industry. However, numerous other studies have compared women and men in the same industries and came up with gender wage gaps as well, says Watson. She cited a nationwide study of the financial industry that found women are paid 68 cents for every $1 paid to men.
Maryland's Congressional District 3 covers parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties and part of Baltimore City on the northern and southern edges. Maryland's 7th District encompasess most of Baltimore City's neighborhoods, including downtown, midtown cultural district, Mt.Vernon, Charles Village, Belair-Edison, Coldspring, Pimlico, Sandtown, Montebello and Remington, as well as parts of Baltimore and Howard counties. In the 7th District, the wage gender gap means that women are paid $8,102 less per year than men. Given the city's 40 percent poverty rate and the fact that over 40 percent of households are headed by women, that represents a significant loss in earnings, Watson says.
Maureen O'Connor, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, says that the department conducts employer surveys for wage data by occupation, but not for wage demographics.
Likewise, Janine DiPaula Stevens, president of the Baltimore Regional Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, says its organization does not have gender wage data. Stevens is also CEO of Baltimore back-office resource center Vircity.
The survey's release is timed to coincide with Congress' possible consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill would  protect against retaliation for discussing salaries with colleagues and removing obstacles for employees to participate in class action lawsuits.  
“The wage gap is taking a toll on women in nearly every corner of the country,” says Watson. “Unfortunately, Baltimore is not immune to this devastating issue.”

District 4, which includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, showed the least diparity with women earning 1 percent less than men. District 1, which includes Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset and parts of Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties, showed the greatest gap, with women earning  24 percent less. 
Sources: Beccah Golubock Watson, National Partnership for Women & Families; Maureen O'Connor, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; Janine DiPaula Stevens, Baltimore Regional Chapter, National Association of Women Business Owners
Writer: Barbara Pash

Towson Economist Says Maryland Lost $1B in Economic Activity From Sandy

Hurricane Sandy has cost Maryland an estimated $1.6 billion in its total economic activity, according to a Towson University economics professor. 

That's everything from lost wages and productivity as businesses closed during the storm to lost sales at hotels, restaurants and stores, says Daraius Irani, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson. That figure doesn't include damages, which is estimated to be as high as $50 billion across all the impacted states. Irani says he doesn't have a damage figure for Maryland. 

Irani says the figure is based on the loss of commerce from people not going out to eat or buying cars and not going to work. It's also based on comparisons with Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and Hurricane Irene in 2011. While Isabel had a greater impact on Baltimore City, Sandy's impact is more wide spreading, walloping parts of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Still, Maryland didn't suffer the same devastation as Manhattan's flooded subway system, Staten Island or New Jersey.

At this point, Irani appears to be the only researcher with a dollar estimate of the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Karen Glenn Hood, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, replied to an inquiry that the department is working on an economic impact report.
Likewise, Tom Sadowski, President and CEO of Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, says the nonprofit may have figures later but at the moment, it only has anecdotal evidence.
Sadowski says he has heard of lost time in the office, missed business opportunities and shuttered stores. On the other hand, there was enough warning of the impending hurricane that people were able to make arrangements to work from home. 
Says Sadowski, “Mainly, people were happy it wasn’t worse.”
Patrick Donoho, President of the Maryland Retailers Association, says that in the Baltimore metro area, many grocery stores stayed open on Monday and Tuesday during the height of the hurricane albeit with limited staff and limited hours. He says he personally heard from Giant, Safeway, Mars and Santoni’s supermarkets that they were open, as were two large hardware stores in the area.
By Wednesday, Oct. 31, almost all grocery stores in the area had reopened, Donoho says.
Statewide, Donoho says that the Eastern Shore was hardest hit as far as roads being closed and people being able to get to the stores that were open. “Baltimore metro saw less damage than farther north, in Harford, Cecil and some of Carroll counties,” he says.
“I don’t know what the day’s losses [per store] were but I do know that they’re gone. You never regain them,” says Donoho.
Mike Niemira, Chief Economist and Director of Research of the International Council of Shopping Centers, says the New York-headquartered members’ association, will be assessing the economic impact on malls and retailers over the next month.
So far, all he could say was that “a lot” of members had been affected, with the biggest impact in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia because of the storm’s path.
The Restaurant Association of Maryland says it had no data yet to report.

Sources: Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Maryland Retailers Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development
Writer: Barbara Pash

Hopkins Dementia Study Reveals Effects of Home Health Care

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and a Jewish charity revealed that people with dementia could live in their homes with help 10 months longer than those without help.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore partnered on the $1.8-million study, called MIND at Home. The study was designed by Hopkins and funded by Associated. The study was designed to provide a model that could be used by community service agencies throughout the country.
“This is the first study coming out of the geriatric psychiatry division that looked at dementia service delivery,” says Quincy Samus, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor in the division and project director.

Dementia care coordinators provided help for a range of needs, including general medical care, interactions of their medications, behavioral problems, social involvement like adult day care, home safety modifications, financial issues and safe driving.
The average age of the study participants, chosen at random from Baltimore neighborhoods, was 84 and many of them still drove their cars.
The help the participants received not only kept them in their homes longer but improved their quality of life as well, says Samus, who notes that the study was designed to provide a model that could be used by community service agencies throughout the country.
LeRoy Hoffberger, past chairman of Associated, is credited for being the catalyst for the study and leading its fundraising efforts. The 18-month study was staffed by Jewish Community Services, an Associated agency, with Hopkins developing the protocols for the dementia care coordinators. Hopkins experts from its Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center also participated.
According to Barbara Levy Gradet, Jewish Community Services’ executive director, the coordinators specialized in dementia care and the impact of dementia on family care-givers. 
Gradet says the Associated agency is now planning how to bring the study to scale, in other words, how to translate what worked for a small setting to the Jewish community as a whole. Still to be determined is a funding source to broaden the  scope, whether a federal agency or insurance companies.
In 2012, an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. Over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, at an estimated cost of $200 billion.
Although results from the Mind At Home study have not yet been published in professional journals, preliminary findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last month.
Calling the dementia service delivery system a “crucial concept,” Samus says the “ultimate hope is that other states adopt this approach.”
Sources: Quincy Samus, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry; Barbara Levy Gradet, Jewish Community Services
Writer: Barbara Pash; [email protected]

Johns Hopkins Gets $108M Public Health Grant

India, Pakistan, Zambia and Honduras could get life-saving projects that boost maternal health, improve HIV treatment and reduce the incidence of malaria thanks to a $108-million federal grant to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communications Programs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the Center the five-year grant for health communication projects in developing countries. The Center, which manages programs in more than 30 countries and in the US, will evaluate, design and implement projects in partnership with the countries' ministries of health and other local agencies, including advertising agencies.

Center Director Susan Krenn says the goal is to have a "population-level impact" by working across all levels, from government ministries to the health providers and community leaders. The center also wants to increase good health behaviors and to influence the social norms that impact those behaviors. The communications message is built into the campaign using various media, from the internet to radio.

In Uganda, for example, the Center coordinated a campaign about pediatric HIV that set up an online "toolkit" of resources and a National Health Hotline as well as instructions to local health providers via the radio. In the Union of South Africa, for another example, soccer's World Cup finale concert promoted the fight against malaria.

For this grant, Krenn says the projects will be chosen by the U.S. Agency, which has missions in 80 countries worldwide. Each mission can apply for projects. Project approval will determine in what countries the Center works, what it does and how much is spent on each project.

The $108-million Agency grant is one of the largest in the field of health communications. This is not the first time that the Center has won a grant of this size. In 2002, it won a five-year Agency grant for about the same amount of money for similar projects. That grant ended in 2007.

For the previous Agency grant, Krenn says funding went to an array of projects. The Center scripted an award-winning program on HIV prevention in the Union of South Africa; sponsored a game show in Ghana; and developed short films about family planning that were aired on Indian TV. 

For this award, the Center is collaborating with Management Sciences for Health and NetHope as well as specialized communication partners InterNews, Ogilvy Public Relations and Population Services International.

Krenn says that advances in communications technology open up new possibilities for projects. The South African show, for example, had a social media element in the form of a Facebook page and Twitter account. In India, the Center will try a pilot program that downloads the short films onto smart phones for distribution to local educators and community leaders.

“We want to understand what are best practices and how we can use them in our work,” says Krenn.

Source: Susan Krenn, Center for Communications Programs, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Writer: Barbara Pash

Randallstown Walmart to Open Oct. 17

The Walmart Super Center in northwest Baltimore County is hiring 350 full- and part-time employees, Baltimore County and Walmart officials said at a press conference today. The store, located in the Liberty Plaza shopping center, at Liberty and Brenbrook roads in Randallstown, is tentatively expected to open Oct.17. 
Walmart is hiring for permanent, hourly jobs, with full- and part-time positions available. Jobs include sales and inventory associates, cashiers, overnight stockers, lawn and garden specialists and deli, bakery and grocery workers. A row of vacant stores was demolished to make way for the $9 million, 160,000-square-foot Walmart, which will also have groceries and a pharmacy. 

Kenneth Oliver, 4th District County Councilman in whose district the Walmart is located, called it a big plus for Randallstown as it eliminates a vacant shopping center. He said it was a seven-year-long community effort to attract the Walmart.

Nina Albert, Walmart's director of community affairs for the DC Metro Region, which includes Maryland, said the company does extensive market research before choosing store sites, and Randallstown seemed  "a logical place for us."  She said there has been a "good hiring push." Some of the people who've already been hired are now working in the store stocking shelves. She expects to have all positions filled by the time the store opens. 
Baltimore County Department of Economic Development, the Maryland Workforce Exchange and Walmart’s human resources staff are working together to streamline the application process and to schedule interviews.
The county has set up an informational Randallstown Walmart Jobs Hotline at 410-887-4666. Walmart is accepting job applications online and Maryland Workforce Exchange is scheduling in-person job interviews in advance.
Source: Kenneth Oliver, Baltimore County Council; Fronda Cohen, Baltimore County Department of Economic Development; Nina Albert, Walmart
Writer: Barbara Pash

Weinberg Foundation Doubles Baltimore City School Library Project

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is more than doubling its Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project from the original $2 million commitment to $5 million over the next four years to renovate and/or build libraries at 12 Baltimore City public schools.
The international foundation, headquartered in Baltimore County, announced the library project in December 2011. Less than a year later, it is unveiling its expanded initiative at a Sept.12 celebration at Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School, one of three schools to receive funding in the project’s first round. The other two schools are Moravia Park Elementary and Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
Amy Gross, Weinberg Foundation’s program director for education, children, youth and families, says the library project was expanded because of its early success. It is already partnering with 30 businesses, nonprofits and government entities on the project.
Says Gross, “We wanted to extend our commitment now for planning and to get others involved.”
At the September celebration, the second round of schools is being announced. This round also involves three schools, one of which is the East Baltimore Community School, due to open in the 2013-2014 academic year, for which a new library is being built. Gross declined to name the other two schools before the event.
Gross says that as part of a federal funding process, Baltimore City picks about six schools per year with library needs. The Weinberg Foundation uses that list as a basis for choosing project recipients although it also has its own criteria.
“We look for a school with a full-time librarian and strong principal support as to how the library can be utilized through the school, not only for instruction but for community involvement,” she says.
In the schools in the first round, Gross says that the existing libraries were gutted and a new design installed. Work included a new layout, new furniture, and additional books, computers and e-readers, aka nooks.

“We pretty much stayed in the footprint of the [existing] libraries but they look nothing like their previous spaces,” says Gross, adding that in new schools, the library space may be expanded. “Basically, it’s what makes sense for the school.”

The cost and size of the library project varies with the school. The spaces average about 2,000 square feet. The total cost of all construction and programmatic activities runs about $980,000 per library.  The foundation contributes, on average, $335,000 per library for capital and operating costs, with a U.S. Department of Education program contributing $360,000 and the city school system $145,000 per library. Partners provide the rest in additional financial and in-kind contributions.

The library project goes beyond the physical.  The foundation’s funding provides for professional development and to hire an additional staffer at each library to assist the librarian. Partners are providing other services, among them:
• Barnes and Noble, nooks and instructions to teachers on using them in an educational setting;
• Dyslexia Tutoring, teacher training for early identification;
• Enoch Pratt Free Library, management of the Parenting Corner that is being set up in each library, with books on parenting  and job search, and access to the Pratt system; and
• Wells Fargo, financial literacy training.
Source: Amy Gross, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore BioWorks to Apply For Minority Business Certification

Baltimore BioWorks is in the process of applying for state certification as a Minority Business Enterprise that would allow the life sciences manufacturing and training firm to bid on state contracts that set aside a slice of business for minority- and women-owned companies.

John Powers, president, says the company will bid on contracts for manufacturing and distribution at health-related agencies and systems like the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the University of Maryland Medical System.

The company expects to sign a lease for a 14,000-square foot manufacturing and distribution facility at 1100 Wicomico St., Baltimore City next month, after which it will begin to make, sell and ship biomedical products and to offer toxicology testing services. Earlier this month, the life sciences company opened its headquarters in the University of Maryland BioPark, on its downtown campus, and located a few blocks from the distribution facility.

In addition to toxicology testing, BioWorks will manufacture its own line of common biomedical products and buy and sell other lines of supplies like latex gloves, says Powers, who co-founded the privately-owned company this year with Louise Dalton, at a cost of about $1 million, split between the founders and the Abell Foundation.

Besides state agencies, Powers expects BioWorks customers’ in the private sector to range from institutions like Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to biotechnology companies.

In addition to its own business ventures, BioWorks is providing training for workers in the biotech field. The company has a core staff of eight. Powers intends to add one full-time employee per month, or 12 employees per year, for ongoing, year-long vocational training. Trainees will be paid as they progress through a regimented program that covers all aspects of the field.

“It’s a paid position with benefits. It’s your first real job” in biotechnology, says Powers. “You can put it on your resume.”

Training positions are open to all qualified applicants although Powers is working in particular with the Baltimore City Community College Life Science Institute, which has an office at the UM BioPark. There will be an applicant review process, and graduates of the program will be given help finding a job.

However, the minority-focused training program is intended to be self-sustaining and depends on BioWorks’ sales. The company currently has $350,000 in annual sales but Powers says it is on track to reach the $1 million goal by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

The state Department of Transportation qualifies MBEs applicants; the Governor's Office of Minority Affairs administers the MBE requirements. The current goal is for about 25 percent of contracts in qualifying state agencies go to MBE companies.
Source: John Powers, Baltimore BioWorks
Writer: Barbara Pash

State Hears Proposals For $113.5 M Consumer Energy Fund

The Maryland Public Service Commission will hear proposals Aug. 7 on where to spend the $113.5 million fund created to benefit Baltimore Gas and Electric customers following its parent company's sale to a Chicago energy company.

By the June 15 deadline, 19 organizations had submitted 100 proposals, among them Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., as well as nonprofit organizations like Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, Fuel Fund of Maryland and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The proposals for the Customer Investment Fund include energy efficiency projects and support for low-income residents. Maryland's Public Service Commission approved Constellation Energy Group Inc.'s $7.9 billion sale to Exelon Corp. on the condition that it pass on some of the cost savings to customers.

PSC spokeswoman Regina Davis said in an e-mail reply to inquiries about the hearing that it doesn't offer comment on the record for matters that are before the PSC. Davis also says that the PSC has not given a deadline for its final decision. 
Fuel Fund Executive Director Mary Ellen Vanni calls the PSC initiative “unprecedented.” Says Vanni, “This is the first time within Maryland that the PSC has put out a request on how to spend settlement money.” The Fuel Fund has requested almost $20 million for low-income aid.
However, there are several unknowns regarding the PSC hearing. Vanni says the organizations that submitted proposals have not been told if the hearing will go on for more than one day or if the PSC has a timetable to make a decision. Vanni says she does not expect a PSC decision before December 2012, given the number of proposals submitted.
The PSC has not indicated how the money will be allocated, she says. “The PSC can do whatever they want,” says Vanni. “They can decide to give all the money to one or two organizations or divide it among several groups. They can also say to us [the Fuel Fund], ‘You asked for $20 million and we’ll give you $10 million.’”

Paula Carmody, People's Counsel of the Maryland Office of People's Counsel, agrees with Vanni. The PSC set up the fund, asked for proposals from the community "and they can do what they like." She expects the PSC to pick a certain nimber of proposals that they like, then ask that further work be done on them to "firm them up." The Office of People's Counsel has requested $36.3 million for multiple programs, including establishing a model for greater rate affordability for low-income customers that can be used throughout the state.
Aleeza Oshry, manager of the sustainability initiative of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, says that most of the proposals are intended to enhance and/or expand existing programs. 
That is the case with the two separate proposals Associated submitted. One proposal is from Associated itself for $2.7 million to extend its existing Green Loans Fund Program to northwest Baltimore nonprofits for interest-free financing for energy upgrades. The second is from CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an Associated agency, for $2 million for its existing residential weatherization program in northwest Baltimore.
“We are the only faith-based organization that has submitted proposals” to the PSC, Oshry says.
Other organizations that submitted proposals, some for multiple-year funding, include:
Abundant Power Solutions, $5 million;
American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy, $111 million, multi-programs;
Baltimore City, $55 million for its Green & Healthy Housing Initiative;
Baltimore Community Lending;
Baltimore County, $20 million to $50 million, multi-programs;
BGE, $54.7 million, multi-programs including small businesses and schools;
Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, $10 million for an e-vehicle workforce;
Community Assistance Network, $1.7 million;
Energy Associates;
Green Renewable Earth Energy Corp;
Maryland Alliance for Fair Competiion;
Maryland Clean Energy Center, $5 million, seniors and veterans;
Maryland Energy Administration/State of Maryland, $113.5 million, multi-programs;
National Housing Trust; and
Public Technology Institute, $3.8 million, nonprofits and counties.
Sources: Regina Davis, Maryland Public Service Commission; Aleeza Oshry, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Mary Ellen Vanni, Fuel Fund of Maryland, Paula Carmody, Maryland Office of People's Counsel

Writer: Barbara Pash

Program Takes Aim At Unemployment In Park Heights

A new program aims to address the soaring unemployment in the Park Heights area of Baltimore City. The New Park Heights Community Development Corp. Inc. is partnering with Sojourner-Douglass College to offer a workforce training program in the fall.
Workforce training will help the transitional neighborhood progress. The area has seen a number of new services and  investments in new buildings and a new affordable housing program

Will J. Hanna II, president and CEO of the nonprofit, says a fundraising campaign is underway to raise $1.9 million over the three-year period of the agreement with the Baltimore college to train a total of 835 people in the Park Heights community.
That financial figure breaks down to $635,000 per year of the agreement. To date, Hanna has raised $95,000 through private donors and grants for 2012. But he says that more grants are coming online soon and that he expects to meet that goal. He also expects to make a "major announcement" in August and for the program to kick off as scheduled in October. Some details of the program have yet to be decided.
Hanna says that a nonprofit-commissioned study found that while the national unemployment rate averages 8.2 percent, unemployment in Park Heights is close to 30 percent. Residents were undereducated and/or underskilled, or the skills they had didn’t fit today’s marketplace.
The program is geared toward practical skills like construction, electrical, EMT technician, EKG technician and patient care, among others. There will also be classes for people to obtain a high school equivalency certificate, or GED. Entrepreneurship training will be offered as well, with the possibility of opening an incubator to encourage commercialization of products.
Hanna says Sojourner-Douglass College was chosen because it has a training program in those fields and it has worked in Park Heights before.
“We felt it was important to reach out to an African-American college [for the program]. It was a natural fit for what we wanted to do,” Hanna says. "The idea is, once people complete the training, they can be gainfully employed."
Source: Will J. Hanna, The New Park Heights Community Development Corp.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Number of Female Board Members Rose Last Year

The number of women serving on corporate boards in Maryland-headquartered companies is on the rise.

The number of female board directors increased a full percentage point in 2011 from the previous year, according to a study by nonprofit membership organization Network 2000. The Baltimore organization promotes the advancement of women in exective positions.
Women accounted for 10.2 percent of corporate board members in 84 companies last year. To qualify, a company must be headquartered in Maryland and be publicly traded on one of the three major exchanges.
The 2011 figure was the highest since Network 2000 began its annual census in 2005. It is the only such tally in the state.
Network 2000 is a private, membership-based organization whose mission is to encourage the advancement of women in professional and executive positions.
The census is not broken down by industries. But Ellen Fish, president of Network 2000 and executive vice president of CFG Community Bank, says that in prior censuses, professional science-oriented companies tended not to have many female members. “That had a negative effect” on the figures, she says.
The census found that of Maryland’s five Fortune 500 companies, all had at least one female board member, for a figure of 18.4 percent. In a national census of 1,400 Fortune 500 companies, 16.7 percent had female board directors.
The report also found that 42 percent of the qualifying companies had no women on their boards. The number of women of color holding board seats remained the same from the previous census, at less that two percent.
“The census helps us accomplish our mission,” says Fish.  “It allows us to raise the awareness issue in talks and programs.”
Source: Ellen Fish, Network 2000
Writer: Barbara Pash
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