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Light Point Security launches first malware-defense product

Light Point Security LLC this year expects to launch its first product, Light Point Web Enterprise, a secure web browsing solution for company networks. The startup is collaborating on commercializing the product with Northrop Grumman Corp. through a program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County incubator in Catonsville.
 
“Northrop Grumman is helping us to develop and polish our product,” says Chief Operating Officer Zuly Gonzalez, who cofounded the startup with CEO Beau Adkins. Both are former National Security Agency employees.
 
Light Point takes a non-traditional approach to cybersecurity. Unlike the standard detection-based approach to determine if a website is safe or infected, Light Point uses an isolation-based approach to protect company networks from web-based malware.
 
“We assume all websites are malicious and we treat them exactly the same way – virus or safe – so there is no way for a malware site to get into a computer and infect the corporate network,” says Gonzalez.
 
Light Point’s proprietary software uses virtualization and cloud technologies to isolate and enclose each employee’s browsing sessions. “We prevent the network from getting infected by preventing websites and web content from even getting on the computer,” she says.
 
Founded in 2010, Light Point Security moved into the Cyber Incubator at [email protected] Research and Technology Park last year. The company has tested different versions of its product, including an earlier version that rented space for customers through a cloud service provider. The current version allows the customer to run the product on its own network or its own cloud space.
 
“The idea is to give them control,” says Gonzalez.
 
Light Point is planning to sell the product through a yearly subscription fee of $40 to $50 per employee. It will market the product to commercial enterprises, primarily medium- to large-sized companies, and expand to government agencies in 2014.
 
Gonzalez says that Northrop Grumman is helping the company commercialize its product with technical and business advice.
 
Light Point Security is a finalist in the InvestMaryland Challenge in the IT category, and will hear by mid-April if it has won the $100,000 prize. The startup is privately funded. The cofounders, who are the startup's two employees, are considering an angel financing round of, perhaps, $500,000, in the future.
 
Source: Zuly Gonzalez, Light Point Security LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

UMd. researcher makes breakthrough discovery about life on Mars

A University of Maryland research team led by Shiladitya DasSarma last month revealed a type of organism that may survive on Mars and other extreme environments. The discovery is a breakthrough in methods of survival under the cold and dry conditions found in Antarctica -- and Mars.

DasSarma’s research for NASA focuses on Halorubrum lacusprofundi, a microbe that was discovered in Deep Lake, a very salty lake in Antarctica.

“It’s a good model for surviving in conditions like Mars,” he says of the microbe whose adaptations allow it to live in a cold, salty environment that is considered similar to some environments on Mars.

The National Space and Atmospheric Administration is funding the research, which was published in a professional journal, with an ongoing multi-year grant for nearly $500,000.                     

DasSarma says there is so much interest in the question of life on Mars because Mars and Earth are sister planets. Both are within the “habitable zone,” close enough to the Sun to sustain life if liquid water is present.

“Mars is much drier and colder than Earth,” he says, but photographs show seasonal flows of brine, or salty water, down the sides of a crater on Mars. “There are probably pools of brine under the surface of Mars.”

DasSarma says the NASA grant is intended to answer basic biotechnology questions.

“NASA is asking, could any organism survive under Mars’ conditions? What molecular adaptations are necessary for survival? Our research determined that certain organisms can survive,” says DasSarma, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in downtown Baltimore. DasSarma is also a research scientist with the university’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the Inner Harbor.

DasSarma and his team have long studied organisms that grow in unusual environments. “Our specialty is understanding how they are able to survive in very dry and salty conditions,” says DasSarma, the key finding being that they have adaptations that allow them to hold onto water.

DasSarma says the microbe he is studying for NASA won't  be found on Mars necessarily. But if life is one day discovered on Mars, “they will be a salt-loving type of organism,” he says, “possibly something like it.”

DasSarma says his research may lead to the development of novel biotechnological applications for use on Earth.

Source: Shiladitya DasSamra, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oculis Labs uses face recognition for cybersecurity program

Oculis Labs Inc this month is releasing the new version of PrivateEye Enterprise for businesses. To kick off the release, the Hunt Valley cybersecurity company is offering a free 30-day trial package available through its website.
 
“We wanted a product for enterprises like health care firms and banks that have records with financial and personnel information they want to keep private,” says founder and CEO Bill Anderson.
 
In 2011, the nine-person firm released PrivateEye, a cybersecurity program for individual users. A standard web cam in computers and tablets is set to recognize the authorized user’s face. The user can instantly blur the screen by turning his/her head. Alternatively, the program can be set so that the face of anyone who enters the user’s area pops up on the screen.
 
“We are using motion sensor and face recognition technologies to protect company information,” says Anderson. “A person who comes into my office, who comes up behind me cannot read the data.”
 
All versions of PrivateEye and PrivateEye Enterprise have racked up more than 10,000 users in 30 countries, according to Anderson. PrivateEye Enterprise uses the same technology as PrivateEye but, based on users' comments, focuses on companies. The new version lets their IT departments manage and control security measures.
 
PrivateEye costs $20 per user. For PrivateEye Enterprise, a small company of, for example, 50 users, pays $60 per user; a large company of about 1,000 to 2,000 pays $30 per user. These are one-time fees; there is no annual charge.
 
Anderson founded Oculis Labs in 2007 to solve a problem that anti-virus and encryption technology did not address. “You need to secure the last two feet of the Internet  — the distance from the computer screen to the user’s eye,” he says. “Security spending is wasted if anyone —  insiders and strangers — can look at what’s on a person’s screen.”
 
In 2009, Oculis Labs issued its first product, Chameleon, a software program that allows the user to read a classified document privately, even in a crowded room. The program tracks the authorized user’s eye movement. To the user, the words appear in their normal format. To anyone else looking at the screen, the letters are garbled and the words unrecognizable.
 
Developed for the intelligence community, Chameleon’s users are government agencies in that community and the US Department of Defense. Chameleon costs thousands of dollars per program.
 
Oculis Labs is privately financed. Two angel funding rounds raised $3 million. It has received $100,000 from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and $75,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. It has also received funding from In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm whose purpose is to invest in technology to keep the Central Intelligence Agency current.
 

 
Source: Bill Anderson, Oculis Labs Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

New Hampden marketing company seeking education industry clients

Recently formed marketing company Kalix Communications LLC is going after independent schools, education and corporate clients.
 
The company has already landed two clients in the educational field. One is Notre Dame Preparatory School, a Catholic middle-high school in Towson, for which Kalix created a social media marketing campaign. It also bought radio ads and conducted market research on behalf of the school.
 
Kalix is also working with two divisions at Towson University. It conducted social media training for Towson’s Center for Professional Study’s clients, and formulated a social media strategy for Towson’s Division of Innovation and Applied Research.
 
Kalix partner and president Jonathan Oleisky formerly headed Media 924, a social media consulting firm. Ruth Eve, Kalix partner and executive vice president, was formerly vice president at Green and Associates, a media buying agency.
 
“Baltimore has many strong marketing agencies. Our challenge is how we differentiate ourselves,” says Oleisky.
 
He says Kalix has chosen to do so by subcontracting with 12 “strategic partners,” senior-level executives who are assigned to teams depending on clients’ requests, and by having a flexible fee structure, from retainer to project-based.
 
Oleisky says Kalix focuses on brand development, creative direction, social media strategy and implementation, media buying and planning and public relations. Besides the two educational institutions, Kalix’s clients include Consolidated Insurance Center, Prezmed and My Directive.
 
The privately financed Kalix launched its website this week. Oleisky projects first year sales of $500,000 to $750,000 and, based on that projection, expects to hire two to three staffers in project management and account services later this year.
 
Source: Jonathan Oleisky, Kalix Communications LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company more than halfway to reaching $6M capital campaign goal

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is more than halfway to reaching its capital campaign goal of raising $6 million to fund its move to a new home in downtown Baltimore's Mercantile Trust and Deposit Co. building.

To date, the company has raised about $3.5 million from board members, individuals and foundations to support its move. The nonprofit is on track to begin renovations of its new home within six months and debut productions at the historic property at 200 East Redwood St. in 2014.
 
The money raised will pay for the purchase and renovation of the building and initial operating expenses. Lesley Malin, managing director, says the campaign is in its “quiet phase.” When it reaches 80 percent of the goal, the company will reach out to the public for contributions although she does not have a timeframe for doing that.
 
“We’ve already had a couple of open houses for the public to see the building. We’ve also had wine-and-cheese events” for donors, Malin says. “We like quiet events, like open houses. We will not have a gala to raise money.”

The new home is two blocks from the Inner Harbor and has been the home of several nightclubs. Baltimore architectural firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates Inc. will convert the 14,000-square-foot, circa 1885 building into a 250-seat theater.
 
The Helm Foundation, whose director Scott Helm is a Chesapeake Shakespeare trustee, bought the building for the company. Other foundation donors are The Abell Foundation, which recently gave $250,000, The France-Merrick Foundation, which gave $200,000 and The William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund, which gave $25,000 for operating expenses.

It could also get some state money. In the current Maryland General Assembly session, companion House and Senate bond bills would provide $500,000 in matching grant money to the company. The bills have yet to be approved.

Until now, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has presented shows in the summer at an outdoor venue in Howard County's Ellicott City. The acquisition of the Baltimore theater allows the company to expand its season and its audience. In its new home, Chesapeake will present four to five productions as well as an annual Charles Dickens-inspired Christmas show while continuing its summer shows in Ellicott City.
 
Malin says she is in talks with the Baltimore City Public School system to offer every student the opportunity to see live theater, including an annual spring production of “Romeo and Juliet” especially for students.
 
Malin is also talking with the Baltimore School for the Arts, a public high school within walking distance of the theater, about “some kind of partnership,” she says. “Different things are on the table.”
 
“We are not just opening a theater but saving a beloved architectural landmark and an anchor in a troubled venue,” she says of the company’s new home. “We will serve as a cultural center for the neighborhood. It’s another reason to move and live downtown.”
 
 
Source: Lesley Malin, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 






Federal grant targets violence against women in Orthodox Jewish community

A grant from a federal agency is funding a three-year long effort to combat violence against women and girls in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community. The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women this month gave $350,000 via Jewish Women International to Baltimore's Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women (CHANA), to develop an awareness and education campaign.
 
Of Greater Baltimore metro’s 93,400 residents in Jewish community, 21 percent, or 19,614 are Orthodox Jews, according to the latest demographic survey. Baltimore’s Orthodox Jews, the most traditional branch of Judaism, live primarily in the Park Heights-Cheswolde and Smith-Greenspring neighborhoods.
 
CHANA Executive Director Nancy Aiken is developing the campaign in partnership with Jewish Women International (JWI), a Washington, D.C., advocacy nonprofit that applied for and received the federal grant.
 
Located in the Park Heights neighborhood, CHANA is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. It provides counseling, crisis intervention, legal advocacy and a safe house.
 
Aiken says the campaign will be based on JWI’s “Good Guys” curriculum that JWI developed in 2008 as the first positive masculinity program for Jewish boys. Aiken intends to reach adolescent boys through male leaders in the Jewish community.
 
“Previously, this was considered a women’s issue but the thinking has changed to engaging men and boys as allies,” says JWI Director of Programs Deborah Rosenbloom. She says she sees the CHANA campaign as a national model for faith-based communities.
 
Aiken says the rate of domestic violence in the local Orthodox community is the same as in the general community. But the community met the requirements of the grant for culturally-specific communities and enables CHANA to create a campaign geared to its members.
 
“To religious communities, it is important to target the remedies to them, to make it relevant to their religious values,” she says.
 
The justice department’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded a total of $12.6 million to 20 social service agencies around the country.
 
Sources: Nancy Aiken, Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women: Deborah Rosenbloom, Jewish Women International
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

City tourism group offering 3-D map app on Android devices

Baltimore's tourism bureau is expanding its free app for tourists and convention planners to new platforms and neighborhoods.

The 3-D app of the city, known as BaltimoreInSite, will be available free for Android devices and downloadable from Visit Baltimore's website by mid-2013. The app is currently available on the iPhone. Since it was launched last year, 60 people have downloaded the app. 

The app's map will cover about half the city by this summer and the rest by next year, says Brian Russell, integrated practice manager at Ayers Saint Gross Inc. The Baltimore architectural firm developed the app, which currently covers about one-fourth of the city. 

“We are applying video game technology to telling about the city in a unique way,” Russell says. 

Baltimore InSite now covers the Inner Harbor to Amtrak’s Penn Station, including Canton, Fort McHenry and Locust Point. Future coverage will extend to Station North Arts & Entertainment District and the Charles Street corridor along with major institutions and attractions like Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore Zoo and M&T Bank Stadium. The app links to hotels, restaurants, retail and attractions that are Visit Baltimore members.
 
Visit Baltimore  CEO Tom Noonan says the app has several uses. Convention and hotel sales teams use it to show potential convention customers the layout of the city and its attractions. It is a media planning guide to find restaurants, caterers and venues. Tourists use the app to find attractions and walking tours.
 
Noonan says the app is an ongoing project.  The web version will link to other websites, and new buildings and attractions like Horseshoe Casino will be added as they open.
 
The app cost about $40,000 to develop, paid by Visit Baltimore and Ayers Saint Gross, which also contributed pro bono work to the project. 
 
Sources: Brian Russell, Ayers Saint Gross; Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore
Writer: Barbara Pash

Entertainment startup Kithly marketing to event promoters

Kithly LLC, a startup entertainment website, is kicking off a new business strategy to make money. 

The free website asks users to input their preferences for entertainment and then Kithly culls through its own list of activities and events that fit users' lifestyle. Kithly is now opening up its website to even promoters for a fee, giving them access to the people most likely to attend their events, says Co-founder Devin Partlow.
 
During the month of April, event promoters can sign up on its website to have information about their events sent to Kithly users for free. After the free offer ends, event promoters will hopefully stick around and continue to use the website, at a fee of $5 per event. 
 
“Everyone knows about the big shows and concerts in Baltimore. We are interested in the small and local events,” says Partlow of promoters and organizers who usually don’t have the budget to do much advertising.
 
“Instead of going onto a campus and hanging up posters or passing out flyers to whomever walks by, we are helping them reach their target market,” he says. “We used to recommend only things we could find for the site. Now, promoters and organizers will pay us to market to our users."
 
The change in business strategy is another evolution of Kithly since Partlow founded it in 2010. Originally called Hooopla, the idea was to let users of its website share information about events. It then broadened its reach to include information obtained from Facebook and Meetup groups. The company is one of four that graduated from Baltimore City's startup bootcamp Accelerate Baltimore.  
 
Partlow says he now has 6,000 recommendations on the website of places to go and things to do. The recommendations are constantly updated, and include events around the country. Most, though, are in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Kithly’s home base.
 
“We analyze our users, what kinds of events they like and run it through our algorithm. We recommend things they wouldn’t necessarily hear about,” he says of local comedy clubs and band appearances.
 
In the last two months, Partlow says that the number of website users and clicks to the website have grown by 70 percent each. He says there are now about 300 users.
 
Last year, Kithly moved into the Emerging Technology Center in Canton. Kithly received a $25,000 Accelerate Baltimore award from the Canton incubator. Partlow met his cofounder Stacy Weng and advisor Ben Lieblich through CoFoundersLab.com. 
Partlow is focusing Kithly on entertainment but may add other areas like sports events in the future. “We are starting with that niche and we’ll see how it works before expanding,” he says.
 
Source: Devin Partlow, Kithly LLC
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

Life sciences company developing device to prevent blindness caused by diabetes

Early-stage medical device company Vasoptic Medical Inc. is conducting tests on a device to detect and prevent a progressively worsening eye condition that leads to blindness.

The tests, being held at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, are required for federal Food and Drug Administration approval. When done in 2014, the Columbia company will seek FDA clearance to market and sell the device.

CEO and general counsel M. Jason Brooke estimates it will cost $7.5 million to bring the device to market. The federal National Institute of Health last year awarded the team a $225,000 development grant. The company next month will apply for a $1 million to $1.5 million NIH Small Business Innovation grant, which is intended to help speed commercialization of promising technology.
 
Johns Hopkins has a $180,000 multi-year grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, part of which goes to Vasoptic for commercialization. Vasoptic has received a $75,000 grant from Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, for commercialization. It is also one of 33 finalists in the state’s InvestMaryland Challenge, the winners and cash prizes to be announced next month.
 
Brooke says the company is considering an angel financing round this year for $500,000.

“We are starting to get recognition of the value of technology among investors,” he says.
 
Brooke and Chief Technology Officer Abhishek Rege are Vasoptic’s current staff. Depending on grants, the company will hire two to four research engineers this year. The company is located in Howard County incubator, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
 
The so-far unnamed device is intended for the early detection of diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by both Type I and Type II diabetes. One in nearly three diabetics, or six-to-eight million people, has some form of diabetic retinopathy. Another eye implant invented by Hopkins scientists and manufactured by a California company recently received FDA approval. 
 
In the US, 25 million people have diabetes, seven million people are undiagnosed diabetics and another 80 million people are pre-diabetic. The condition causes reduced blood flow to the tissue of the retina that leads to severe visual impairment and eventually blindness.
 
Brooke says the recommended treatment is regular eye exams to detect the condition and better management of one’s diabetes to slow its progression.
 
Vasoptic is not the only technology to screen for the condition. But other technologies require an ophthalmologist to analyze the images, says Brooke. Vasoptic’s technology is designed to be used by the primary care physician.
 
Vasoptic’s hand-held device captures anatomical images and physiological information like blood vessel flow that its accompanying software analyzes. The device not only detects the existence of the condition but predicts the risk of the diabetic developing it as well.
 
“It’s not hard for an ophthalmologist to detect the condition in its early stage but half of diabetics don’t receive the recommended eye exams” because of the expense and inconvenience, Brooke says . “Our focus is the primary care facility and keeping the device low cost,” likely under $10,000 each.
 
Rege developed the technology while working at the Johns Hopkins department of biomedical engineering. Hopkins filed patent papers and entered into a licensing agreement with Vasoptic to commercialize the device.
 

Source: M. Jason Brooke, Vasoptic Medical, Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

Federal Hill cybersecurity firm Riskive hiring up to 27

Two-month old cybersecurity company Riskive Inc. is adding to its current staff of seven. Launched Jan.1 and based in the new Federal Hill incubator Betamore, Riskive is hiring between 18 to 27 this year.
 
Riskive is seeking developers, development leaders, director of engineering, vice president of business development, social media manager, marketing manager and salespeople, according to COO Evan Blair, who co-founded the company with CEO James C. Foster.

The company is hiring junior, intermediate and senior level developers and engineers with leadership experience in order to build a technology that is scalable and to run the company more efficiently, Blair says.

Blair says that cyberdefense tends to be reactive. "People wait until an attack, then go into motion to clean, quarantine and block" the threat, he says.
 
Riskive says it takes a different approach. It is a predictive cybersecurity company for government agencies and private companies. Instead of waiting for a cyber attack that shuts down a computer system or a virus that infects a network, Riskive identifies potential attackers and how they can be addressed.
  
Riskive was the first and, at 500-square feet, the largest tenant in Betamore. The privately financed facility opened in December in a renovated 8,000-square foot building in Federal Hill. The facility is a combination incubator, co-working space and classroom. Members can access Betamore's mentor network and attend events and weekly happy hours.

Blair says the company has enough space at Betamore for the new hires. If it grows too big and has to relocate from Betamore, the company is committed to staying in Baltimore.

"It's not an accident that we’re in Baltimore versus Silicon Valley,” says Blair of the proximity to Fort Meade and the US Army Cyber Command.  
 
Using patented technology, Riskive assembles data from a variety of sources and profiles for a client the types of attackers and the types of attack it faces. The client can use the information to install appropriate defenses, whether on its own or by hiring another company to do so.
 
“We think of ourselves as radar, to determine what’s coming at you before it comes," says Blair.
 
Blair says the three most common kinds of attackers are: countries, in particular the Republic of China, North Korea, Iran and Russia; organized crime syndicates, many in former Soviet Union republics (and now independent countries) or former Soviet-bloc countries; and individual hackers or hacker groups.
 
The motives of the three differ, says Blair. Countries are looking for classified information and intellectual property. Crime syndicates are looking for information with monetary value, like credit card numbers and identify theft. Hacker groups are supporting a cause or carrying out personal vendettas.
 
“All the attacks start out similarly but they range in scale, scope and end goals,” says Blair.
 
Riskive is privately funded. Before its official launch, Blair says it held angel financing rounds. 
 
Source: Evan Blair, Riskive Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino going for LEED certification

Two of Baltimore's most prominent construction projects, M&T Bank Stadium's $35 million renovation and the Horseshoe Casino, are both aiming for the green building standard known as LEED certification.

Lorax Partnerships LLC
, a Columbia-based sustainability consulting and certification company, is providing green services to the renovated stadium and the new casino. In order to get LEED certification, a LEED-qualified professional has to be involved from start tofinish, from the planning to selection of material and the construction.
 
The two-year renovation of the M&T Bank Stadium will begin this spring, with the National Football League Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens primarily footing the bill. The design phase of the $400 million casino will be completed this summer and construction by July 2014. It will feature three full-service restaurants and six local eateries

Lorax Managing Partner Neal Fiorelli says part of the renovation at M&T involves installing energy-saving measures at a so-far undetermined cost. Fiorelli says the Ravens are aiming for a minimum LEED Silver operational standard for an existing building. Green changes at the stadium will involve lighting and refrigeration, waste recycling, cleaning products and products for the concessions.
 
The US Green Building Council’s LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary certification for structures with different rating levels of Silver, Gold and Platinum. A so-called green building meets certain sustainability markers for material, construction process and exterior environmental work.
 
Lorax is involved in the design and construction of Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.’s new Horseshoe Casino, located near M&T Stadium.  Fiorelli says the goal is at least a LEED Silver certification for new buildings. He says it is too early to know what green measures will be involved.
 
Founded in 2003, the privately financed Lorax provides green and LEED services directly to commercial building developers and owners, corporate real estate agencies, design teams and property managers in the private sector. In the public sector, the company works directly or as subcontractors on local, state and federal buildings.
 
Fiorelli says the company’s typical breakdown is 60 percent private and 40 percent public buildings but in the past few years, the breakdown has tended to be half private and half public.

Since 2006, when LEED certification became the widely recognized  standard in the construction industry, Fiorelli estimates Lorax has done 120 LEED projects with another 30 to 40 in progress, They range from public libraries and school buildings to private health clubs and office buildings.
 
He says the company works with all the major commercial real estate developers in the area, including Manekin, St. John Properties and Merritt Properties. “It has become a selling point” to attract tenants, he says. 
 
At the same time, the building industry underwent a dramatic change. Sustainable materials that were once expensive special-order items are now widely available at competitive prices, says Fiorelli of items like heating/air conditioning systems, windows and lumber.
 
Lorax currently does $1 million in sales per year but Fiorelli is hoping to double that this year by emphasizing the company’s corporate environmental consulting service. The company also oversees new construction and the retrofitting of existing buildings, to a LEED rating or whatever sustainability level the client wants.
 
Lorax’s staff of eight have all qualified to give LEED approval. Fiorelli says the company is hiring up to two staffers this year as researcher and assistant project manager.
 
Source: Neal Fiorelli, Lorax Partnerships LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Transportation center opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Two transportation projects are wrapping up in Harford county this month.

A new transportation center is opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground this month. And the MTA will wrap up its $5 million federal-and-state project to build a new MARC Station at Edgewood, next to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in April. The Edgewood station is intended to improve transportation to Aberdeen Proving Ground, a critical component in the US military and department of defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.

A joint venture of the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor and the US Army Garrison at APG, the transportation center will promote alternative transportation, including carpools, vanpools and rail and transit to workers there. Center staffers will also encourage participation in the federal commuter program Guaranteed Ride Home Program.

The Maryland Transit Administration began work on the Edgewood MARC Station project in 2011 and opened the new station in December while continuing the installation of two ramps for people with disabilities. The project involved demolishing a post office on the site, reusing the existing platform and constructing the new station. The new station has platform shelter, bathroom facilities and ticket vending machines. Also improved were parking, signs and landscaping.

Karen Holt, of Harford County’s department of economic development, calls the MARC Edgewood station project “a long time coming. The upgrades reflect the expanding transit needs of our growing defense community.”
 
Aberdeen Proving Ground is Maryland’s third largest workforce employer with about 22,000 people. That figure includes new 8,200 new jobs that were relocated, mainly from northern Virginia and New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground thanks to BRAC.
 
The Edgewood station is at a key location on the MARC Train Penn Line, on a site next  to the Maryland Route #755 Gate to Aberdeen Proving Ground. The MARC train runs from Washington, D.C., though Baltimore and after Edgewood, continues to Perryville. The station is also located near Martin State Airport.
 
“Public transportation will play a vital role in the Aberdeen BRAC zone, and this new MARC Train station will help ensure that BRAC growth is smart growth,” says MTA spokesman Terry Owens, who notes that MARC service to Edgewood did not stop during the construction of the new station.
 
The Edgewood station averages 265 boardings per day, Owens says.  
 
Federal funding paid for $3.5 million, or 60 percent, of the $5 million project; the rest came from local and state funding.
  
Sources: Terry Owens, Maryland Transit Administration; Karen Holt, Harford County department of economic development and regional BRAC manager for Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor
Writer: Barbara Pash

Hiring to begin in the spring for construction jobs at Sparrows Point

Baltimore County closed reservations for an information session last week about upcoming jobs and contracting opportunities at Sparrows Point Shipyard and Industrial Park when demand overwhelmed the room’s capacity.

Due to high interest in the 100 jobs and an unspecified number of subcontractors for which SKW Constructors will begin hiring this spring, county officials are holding additional information sessions for job seekers in March and April. Reservations must be made in advance through the Maryland Workforce Exchange.
 
Based in Virginia Beach, Va., SKW Constructors has a contract with the state of Virginia for the $2.1 billion Elizabeth River Tunnels project. SKW Constructors is a consortium of Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc., Kiewit Infrastructure Co. and Weeks Marine Inc.
 
SKW Constructors’ spokeswoman Jessica Murray says hiring will begin this spring and continue as the project progresses.
Murray says SKW Contractors is hiring the following positions: carpenters, concrete finishers, electricians, laborers, mechanics, reinforcing ironworkers, structural ironworkers, surveyors and truck drivers. The company will provide on-the-job training for carpenters, concrete finishers, reinforcing and structural ironworkers, and surveying.

The project is expected to take five years total, about half of that time in Sparrows Point and the other half in Virginia. 
 
“It’s a huge project,” says Murray of the construction of a tunnel and other transportation-related construction in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She says Sparrows Point was chosen for the first half of the project because “the old factory works great for us.”

According to Leila Rice, public affairs manager of Elizabeth River Crossing, Sparrows Point was chosen because "it was the closest proximity on the East Coast [that had the capability] of making tunnel sections the size we needed."

Elizabeth River Crossing is overseeing the Elizabeth River Tunnels project and other transportation-related work such as a highway extension and repair of another tunnel. Rice expects the project to be completed by 2018, after which her company will operate and maintain the tunnels.
 
At Sparrows Point, workers will pour and manufacture concrete tunnel sections. When finished, they will be floated to Norfolk, Va., and installed next to the existing but congested almost one-mile-long tunnel that runs under the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. The two tunnels will each become one way.
 
SKW Constructors has already spent $5 million on 57 Baltimore area subcontractors to prepare Sparrows Point for making the tunnel sections. 
 
Helga Weschke, chief of the division of business development in the Baltimore County department of economic development, says SKW Constructors will have an on-the-job training program for apprentices. For subcontractors, she says it is seeking in particular minority- and women-owned companies and small businesses in order to reach goals to qualify for federal funding.
 
“If they fall into one of the three categories, they have to go through the Virginia certification process even if they have Maryland certification,” says Weschke.
 
Sources: Jessica Murray, SKW Contractors; Helga Weschke, Baltimore County department of economic development; Leila Rice, Elizabeth River Crossing
Writer: Barbara Pash



Entrepreneur matchmaking service closing angel funding round

CoFoundersLab, a startup that matches business partners with one another, says it will close an angel investing round of about $500,000 next month and is expanding its reach in the U.S. and abroad.

Headquartered in Rockville and with extensive ties to Baltimore, CoFoundersLab connects entrepreneurs with one another and hosts targeted networking sessions to introduce founders to investors and partners. It is now adding 10 more US cities to the 20 in which it already has a presence. Internationally, it is launching in London, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Sao Paulo. CoFoundersLab is recruiting volunteer partners in its new domestic markets of Houston, Dallas, Detroit and Nashville, among others, as well as abroad.

CoFoundersLab already operates in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles. In New York City, for example, CoFoundersLab partners with a team at New York University’s Stern School of Business. In Baltimore, it regularly hosts events at Betamore and the Emerging Technology Center @ Canton and the University of Baltimore.
 
“We are looking for partners whose access to the community we can tap into,” says CEO Shahab Kaviani, co-founder with Culin Tate of a company that calls itself “matchmaking for entrepreneurs” in search of business partners.
 
Kaviani says the company’s partners are generally an accelerator or the coworking space of a university, where it hosts events that bring together entrepreneurs and investors/business partners. Its website also serves that purpose.
 
“The first challenge an entrepreneur has to overcome is finding the right business partner," Kaviani says. "In the past, you went to friends or networked. We are creating a large pool online."
 
CoFoundersLab began in 2010 as a part-time service to host events for start-up companies. In 2011, it launched its initial version of the online match-up website. In 2012, financed by The Fort Accelerator in Washington, D.C. and angel investors, it became a full-time service.
 
Kaviani isn’t sure of the number of match-ups for which CoFoundersLab can take credit.  He believes it is in the low hundreds. “Some we hear about, others we don’t,” he says, pointing to Kithly, an application company that was formerly housed in a Baltimore incubator and whose founder met his business partner through CoFoundersLab.
 
 It is also in the process of reorganizing its website. Currently, the website is accessible for free but Kaviani says a paid membership, with advanced features, will be introduced this year. Membership prices haven’t been finalized.
 
Next month, too, CoFoundersLab will find out if it has been chosen to advance to the final round of the state-sponsored InvestMaryland Challenge that culminates in April. It is currently one of 61 finalists in three categories for the $100,000 prize.
 
CoFoundersLab has a staff of five. It is hiring two staffers this summer, in marketing and technology development.
 
Source: Shahab Kaviani, CoFoundersLab
Writer: Barbara Pash
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