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US Army In Afghanistan Uses Columbia Tech Company's Radio System

US Army soldiers in Afghanistan are using specialized radio equipment made by a Columbia defense technology company. Syntonics LLC recently signed the $10.5 million contract with the military to provide equipment and servicing that enables and enhances radio communications.
The current contract follows an earlier deal with the US Army for the same equipment, its Radio over Fiber system that relays radio frequency signals over optical fiber. In 2010, Syntonics signed a $7-million contract with the US Army for the system to be deployed in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The US Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, is the contractor, under a Small Business Innovation Research contract. The US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare System Command funded development of key technologies for the system.
In Afghanistan, tethered aerostats, aka blimps, are connected to command posts. The tethers have power and optical fibers. Cameras are attached to the aerostats for wide-area observation. The Syntonics system is attached to the aerostats via special equipment, enabling it to become an antenna site and allowing for secure radio communication with the command post and multiple radios on the ground.
Besides the military, Bruce G. Montgomery, Syntonics president, says the system is used by civilian agencies that have tactical communications, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This year, too, Syntonics expanded its market for another product, a distributed antenna system, from the military to a commercial customer. Its distributed antenna system allows you to put antennas in places that radio signals could not otherwise penetrate.
The system is already being used by US Marines and Army Special Op troops. In November, Syntonics signed a contract for the system with the operator of nuclear power plants, whom Montgomery declined to identify.
The antenna system uses MEMS technology that the company is developing with the University Of Maryland, College Park's A. James Clark School Of Engineering. In August, the Maryland Industrial Partnerships awarded Syntonics more than $140,000 for further research on the technology.
Founded in 2000, Syntonics was originally located in the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
In 2002, it moved to a commercial building in Columbia, where it has since quadrupled the size of its office, from 3,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet. It began commercializing its products in 2005.
The company has 30 employees, with the founding employees owning the company in a closely held arrangement.
Source: Bruce G. Montgomery, Syntonics LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Furbish Co. Sells Green Wall to Costco

Baltimore's Furbish Company unveiled its first product, SmartSlope, an eco-friendly green wall. The wall has been in development for two years and is now commercially available. It is being used by the first Costco in Washington, D.C., and constructionl was completed last week.  

Jimmy Dick, director of business development, says the "living" wall is intended to satisfy locally mandated storm water management regulations as well as for aesthetic considerations. The walls at Costco were installed as a vertical rain garden, with a circulating system that captures and recirculates storm water to water the plants that grow on the walls.
"The [DC] district told [Costco] it had to handle its storm water on site and this is how they are doing it," says Dick. Another green wall is scheduled to open next year at Phase 2 of The Shops at Dakota Crossing, in the DC area, as a component of its storm water management system.

Furbish was formed in 2003 to install and service green roofs. While it will continue that aspect of the business, Dick says it is developing products as well. SmartSlope, the living wall system, is its first product. Modern Foundations, in Woodbine, manufactures the system.
The living retaining wall system consists of individual concrete modules, each 20 inches wide by 15 inches deep by 8 inches tall. The modules link together.
After the modules are installed, SmartSlope provides native grasses, herbs and plants to grow over and cover the wall. The company’s system costs about $5 more per square foot than the typical concrete wall installation of $25 per square foot.
However, the majority of SmartSlope's business remains green roofs. This consists of installing a roof-top drainage system, layer of soil and plants that can withstand weather and wind.
Dick says that 99 percent of its green roof business is with commercial customers. “There’s no return on investment for residential customers,” he says. “Also, home roofs are not built for the weight” of a green roof.
Federal and municipal regulations and tax rebates for installation of storm water management systems have spurred growth of the green roof industry. Dicks says that SmartSlope already has $3 million worth of green roof contracts for 2013.
It has installed green roofs on behalf of Princeton, Rutgers and George Washington universities; a US Department of the Interior building; and the Baltimore Hilton, connected to the Convention Center.
In 2009, Furbish received an investment of $81,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, a partnership of the state Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland. The funding was used to develop SmartSlope. The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute is a minority investor.  In August, SmartSlope received about $200,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships for development of alternative blends of green roof material.
Michael Furbish is the founder of the company. In 2008, it moved into an 18,000-square foot former warehouse in the Brooklyn area of the city that was renovated for office use and retrofitted with solar panels to provide radiant heating and hot water. The company has 15 employees.
Source: Jimmy Dick, SmartSlope
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia IT Services Company Expects to Triple Sales This Year

A $12 billion federal program is having a big impact on a small company. Howard County IT services provider 7Delta Inc. has more than doubled its staff, expects to triple sales and is hiring another dozen workers, thanks to work it is getting from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA is spending $12 billion over the next five years on a variety of tech projects. 7Delta is one of 15 companies that the Department of Veteran Affairs chose in summer of 2011 to participate in its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Program.  The 15 companies compete on contracts as they come up.
The Columbia firm has already won $100 million in contracts that it will fullfill over the next three years and is bidding on others,  says Mike Sawyers, president and CEO who founded 7Delta in 2005.
While 7Delta primarily provides IT services for the federal government, the company also services products for storage solution company EMC Corp. 
It has federal certification as a service disabled veteran-owned small business, meaning that 51 percent of the company is owned by a disabled veteran, according to Sawyers, a former chief information officer for the US Army Medical Service Corps.
The federal government has contract goals for certified companies. Specifically, 50 percent or more of the work must be done by a certified company or a combination of certified companies to reach the 50 percent mark.
7Delta originally began as a home office, then in 2008 moved to a 3,700-square foot office in a building in Fulton. This summer, it relocated to a 15,000-square foot office in Columbia thanks to the VA contracts' growth spurt.
In 2011, the company pulled in $15 million in sales, compared to a projected $48 million in 2012. The staff grew from 80 employees in 2011 to its current 183 employees. Sawyers expects to hire another 10 to 20 employees before the end of 2012, primarily IT professionals like project managers, software developers, code writers, and business developers.
The privately held 7Delta won the 2012 Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the technology entrepreneurship category, from the Maryland Center of Entrepreneurship and the Howard Technology Council, initiatives of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
Source: Mike Sawyers, 7Delta Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Engineering Firm Expands Headquarters, Markets, Staff

TAI Engineering is expanding its office this month as the consulting engineering and technical services firm plans to enter new markets and add employees.

The firm has built a 5,000-square foot addition to its 30,000-square foot headquarters in Owings Mills and is expanding into automation and control, plumbing and electrical and mechanical engineering. Alan Miller, TAI Engineering owner and principal director, says the company will also beef up its existing presence in geographical instrumentation and control. The company will hire up to six people in those fields.

Adam Soutar, TAI Engineering’s division manager for onsite services, says the company takes a "proactive" approach to hiring. It recruits experts in the markets to which it plans to expand and then uses the employees' expertise and contacts to help it grow.
Besides hiring for its own staff, the 175-person company places workers on behalf of clients, placing between 10 to 12 per year.
Some staff placements are for specific projects.  A client like CocaCola, for example, might need 30 people as they ramp up for a new project, says Laurie Giner, chief marketing officer.
Founded in 1989, TAI Engineering has several different in-house groups that design new industrial plants and commercial buildings; retrofit existing facilities; and support facilities with management and services.
“We can build an office building, to serve as the company’s headquarters, and a manufacturing plant for the company. We are capable of working in both areas,” says Miller, who notes that TAI Engineering has grown 10 to 12 percent per year in revenue over the last decade.

Recent client projects include engineering design for a 75,000-square foot LEED-certified “green” building for Raytheon Company, located in the technology and research park at Aberdeen Proving Ground; mechanical and electrical consulting for a LEED-award winning 125,000-square foot office building; and a 125,000-square foot COPT Cornerstone Offices building in Columbia, for which TAI Engineering won a best LEED commercial interior award.

TAI Engineering is privately funded, and has two satellite locations, in Linthicum and Newark, Del.
Sources: Alan Miller, Adam Soutar, Laurie Giner, TAI Engineering
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

Columbia Startup Introduces Smart-Phone Enabled Winter Gloves

Blue Infusion Technologies has introduced its first product this month — a glove outfitted with Bluetooth technology that lets  the wearer operate a smart phone while keeping his hands warm. The Columbia startup is selling its BEARTek Gloves online before placing them in retail stores by fall/winter of 2013.

Blue Infusion Technologies' second product, a motorsports glove with Bluetooth technology, is being launched at the same time, also online first and later in retail stores.

“This is the first time the products are available for purchase,” says CEO Willie Blount, who founded the company two years ago. Blount is referring to the launches on Kickstarter.com, a competitive process that required sending a proposal, product descriptions and video demonstrating that it has a viable product.
BEARTek Gloves are priced at $150/pair and is outfitted with Bluetooth technology. A Bluetooth module contains a battery and custom hardware that enable a connection to a smart phone. Touching the thumb activates touchpoints on the fingertips, says Blount.
“You touch the thumb to a designated fingertip to make calls,” says Blount. “Skiers can call for emergency help if they aren’t carrying a phone or without reaching for a phone inside a jacket.” The motorsports glove is in the same price range and uses the same technology.
Blue Infusion Technologies is a virtual company that collaborates with the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. It is a Maryland-certified minority-owned business.
Last spring, the company received help on glove technology and product development from the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program, which is funded by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. In August, it received a $148,500 award from the Maryland Industrial Partnership to collaborate with Dr. Marc Cohen, a research scientist at the University of Maryland College Park, on the technology.
Blount says the idea for BEARTek and motorsports gloves came from his experiences and those of his business partner and COO Tarik Rodgers’ experiences. Blount is a former US Marine who has also worked for the US government as a specialist in electronics and aviation. Rodges, an engineer, is an experienced skier.
The company has arranged manufacturing of the gloves in a US factory, says Blount, who, with Rodgers, are the company’s two employees.  The company is a state-certified minority-owned business.
Source: Willie Blount, Blue Infusion Technologies
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Startup Hopes to Raise $1.5M for Health Inspection Data Website

Baltimore startup HD Scores has launched its first round of financing this month in hopes of raising $1.5 million to support its main product, a website that it bills as the most comprehensive health department inspection data from jurisdictions in the US and Canada. HD Scores launched the site in May and plans put the data on the website in early 2013 and sell the data to clients.
Operating out of a virtual office, the company is currently hiring two key personnel, a chief technology officer and national vice president of business development.
The idea for HD Scores came to Matthew Eierman, a trained chef, when he sought health inspection information about a restaurant in Annapolis that friends were considering opening. It took Eierman, founder and CEO of HD Scores, almost three hours to track down the data, “and I knew where to look,” he says. “I thought, there’s an issue here."
HD Scores is collecting data from 3,200 counties around the US and Canada. The publicly available health department inspection data comes from local and state governments.
HD Scores will publish the data in its raw form, directly from the database, which will be available for viewing free. The company will also standardize it, meaning that, based on proprietary algorithms, the raw data will be put into an easy-to-read format searchable by multiple platforms.
Eierman says HD Scores expects the standardized data to be used for marketing and/or research. Potential clients include advertising applications and web platforms; government and media groups; academics; and commercial entities and restaurants. He declined to provide pricing information.
In January, HD Scores will launch a consumer feedback column on its website in which 30-second videos taken on smart phones will be posted. It also is putting together a panel of experts in food service and health inspection to devise its own independent rating system for restaurants, school and hospital cafeterias, and any commercial kitchen.
Source: Matthew Eierman, HD Scores
Writer: Barbara Pash

Romney Campaign Benefits Canton Tech Firm

Mitt Romney lost the presidential election but the Canton company that created the Romney shop on the Republican Party candidate’s website says it emerged a winner.

Digital agency Groove Commerce implemented and ran Romney’s e-commerce site, which they say attracted thousands of orders per day and is still operational.The campaign job has given the company a boost in the e-commerce world. "It's helped our visibility and reputation," says Groove Commerce CEO Ethan Giffin.

The company has 22 employees and is currently hiring four to six additional staffers, in particular skilled PHP developers, front-end developers, online marketers and an executive assistant.

Giffin emphasizes that Groove Commerce is not a politically focused organization. Rather, the company saw the offer to build a scalable website for a presidential candidate, a first for them, as a challenge.The Romney campaign set the prices for items in the store, from T-shirts for $30 to bumper stickers for $5. Also for sale are hats, posters, lawn signs, iPhone cases, water bottles and lapel pins.
Giffin does not know when the campaign website will be shut down. He can’t disclose sales information, which were donations to the campaign. He can say that at certain points in the campaign – such as when Congressman Paul Ryan was announced as the vice presidential candidate and during the Republican National Convention – the shop got thousands of orders per day.

The Romney campaign approached the Emerging Technology Center company because of its partnership with Magento, an e-commerce software firm headquartered in California. The campaign was interested in using Magento, an open source platform that has lots of services and add-ons that can be integrated and is highly scalable.

"It's very popular in e-commerce circles," he says of Magento. "It was a perfect fit in scale"  for the campaign shop. “It was a very cool project,” he says.
Groove Commerce began working on the website shop last spring. It officially launched a few days before July 4th weekend with an offer on Facebook for a discounted Romney T-shirt. More than 20,000 T-shirts were sold.
Giffin says the company brought a new approach to the campaign online store. “Most political online stores are very basic and bland. Their focus is the political space but they don’t know the tactics the average retailer uses to sell more products,” he says. “We wanted it to be more of a retailer-shopping experience.”
The privately funded Groove Commerce was founded in 2007. It moved to a 2,000-square foot space in the Emerging Technology Center in 2010; it now occupies 4,500 square feet.
The company focuses on web design and development and on inbound marketing. Giffin describes the latter as using aspects of search engine optimization, content creation and blogging, email marketing and paperclick advertising – “getting people to take action once they come to the website,” he says.
Groove Commerce has 50 clients, ranging from Lax World, lacrosse retailers, to Corsair Memory, a builder of computer memory, and the state’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.
Source: Ethan Giffin, Groove Commerce
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith To Pitch Energy Startup

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith makes his debut this month as a spokesman for PointClickSwitch.com, a website that offers one-stop comparison shopping for residential and commercial electricity consumers.  

The Baltimore startup, a division of state licensed electricity broker Maryland Energy Advisors, is using the football player to promote its Nov. 13 launch in Maryland and four other states.
Phil Croskey, founder and CEO of PointClickSwitch.com, says the company approached the National Football League winning-team member because it was looking for someone with name recognition in the Maryland market.
“He’s a class act, a high-character individual and we appreciate that,” Croskey says.
PointClickSwitch.com operates in two states, Maryland and Illinois. It is currently going through the licensing process in three additional jurisdictions – New York State, Ohio and Washington, D.C. Croskey expects it to be operational in all three jurisdictions by mid-2013.
PointClickSwitch.com provides a listing of energy suppliers and their current rates per kilowatt hour, the standard measure of electricity. There is no fee for consumers to use the website or to change suppliers. The suppliers pay the company a marketing fee per customer but the rate to consumers is the same whether through PointClickSwitch.com or directly from them.
Suppliers on the website include familiar names like Constellation Energy, Con Edison, Castle Bridge Energy and Pepco, along with a lesser known company like Cool Currents, which offers electricity from renewable energy sources. Maryland residents can sign up for any supplier on the list, depending on the supplier’s regional arrangements.
“We serve everything from studio apartments to heavy industrial users, although large commercial projects need a more customized approach, which we also do,” says Croskey, who notes that customers can save up to 20 percent on their electricity bill by comparison shopping.

“We have suppliers charging 9.1 cents versus 7.69 cents per kilowatt hour,” he says.

Croskey, former director of economic development for the Baltimore Development Corp., founded PointClickSwitch.com in 2010. It is a portfolio company of Wasabi Ventures Accelerator at Loyola University of Maryland, and operates out of an office in downtown Baltimore.

As the company expands into new markets, Croskey expects to hire three to five employees to add to its current staff of three. He is looking for employees to focus on the new markets, although they can work from Baltimore to do so. He is also looking for an IT person to manage the company’s social media.
The company is privately funded although Croskey does not rule out a financing round as it expands.
Source: Phil Croskey, PointClickSwitch.com
Writer: Barbara Pash

ETC Firm Launches New Web Content Management Product

EasyWebContent wants to make life easy for its customers by taking the complexity out of putting interactive content like presentations and infographics on websites and mobile devices.

The Presenter, its newest service, is a one-stop shop to do all that. Now in the testing stage, the web developer expects to launch it in early 2013.

President Payman Taei founded EasyWebContent in 2008, a spinoff of his Frederick web development and marketing firm HindSite Interactive. EasyWebContent has offices in both Frederick and at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton. Taei says EasyWebContent will still offer its basic product but the Presenter allows clients to do multiple applications with one tool. Applications include presentations, infographics, banners and product demonstrations, all in a downloadable format.

"The Presenter completes our service as a whole. It allows everyone to create everything online," says Taei, who expects the product to be popular with current clients and to attract other clients.

EasyWebContent is a web content creator and manager whose clients are mostly small businesses and nonprofits like churches but also individuals like writers and audio developers. Often, they have little technical knowledge and the company tries to make the process as simple and easy as possible. Taei says more than 1,000 clients have used its service to create new websites or improve existing ones. It has about 100 clients whose websites it actively manages.

"There really isn't one tool that allows you to do all these things effectively," says Taei. "Traditionally, people have used Adobe Flash to create animation and so on, but it is not mobile-friendly. Our service is an evolution" of that.

EasyWebContent has a free trial period, followed by a monthly or yearly fee to edit, manage and create a brand for the website. Fees range from $8 to $22 per month, depending on services. The Presenter will also begin with a free trial period, with fees of $8 per month to under $100 per year to create and manage. 

The company is privately funded but Taei says he is likely to launch his first round of funding in 2013 as the new service hits the marketplace. It employs four, including Taei, who says he is currently looking to add two people to the staff, a marketing/communications manager and a web developer.
Source: Payman Taei, EasyWebContent
Writer: Barbara Pash

Security Firm Targets Small Biz

RBtec Perimeter Security Systems is known for providing protection at US military bases, US borders, federal prisons and industries' oil and gas pipelines and refineries. Now, the electronic detection and security company, the American counterpart to an Israeli company, is entering a new market. It is targeting small- and medium-sized businesses with an electronic protection product for fences.
Business Development Manager Dori Ribak says the yet-to-be named product is intended for businesses like car dealerships and other commercial operations that need to protect valuable assets left outside. RBtec's product consists of sensor cables that are attached to an existing fence and can detect vibrations of anyone trying to climb, lift or damage the fence. The cables are connected to an existing alarm system.
The kit has 1,000 feet of sensor cable, analyzer, power supply and instructions for self-installation for $3,800. “In essence, you are turning a fence into a ‘smart’ fence,” says Ribak.
RBtec is a sister company of the Israeli company of the same name whose clients include Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. The American company entered the US market in 2000 but did not open its Derwood office until 2008. The office serves the North American and Latin American markets. It installs security systems around perimeters, both on the ground and underground.
In the US, Ribak says the company works on the federal level with military bases, border protection and power plants. It secures airports for the Transportation Security Administration and federal prisons for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. On the state level, it protects a reservoir for the state of New York and a gas utility for Virginia. It also works with private clients, such as Rancho Mirage Condominiums in California.
Although RBtec has clients in states around the US, it does not have any contracts with Maryland. Ribak says he is negotiating with the Maryland Department of Corrections for perimeter security around correctional facilities.

RBtec is privately funded and has five employees. However, with the new product, Ribak is looking for local installers and integrators if the property-owners choose not to install it themselves.

Source: Dori Ribak, RBtec Perimeter Security Systems
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

Maryland Alternative Energy Company Expanding to Pennsylvania

Clean Currents, an alternative energy company in Maryland, is moving into a new market and adding more employees. It launched operations last month in eastern and central Pennsylvania, and plans to expand to Philadelphia in early 2013.
Clean Currents provides electricity provided through sustainable methods, including wind and solar, for residential and commercial buildings. It also sells and installs hot-water tanks powered by solar-thermal for residences.
Founded in 2005, Clean Currents houses its operations in Silver Spring but opened a sales office in February in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood.  “It’s a great city for green activities and it was time for us to be here,” Clean Currents spokeswoman Megan Barrett says. 
As a result of its expansion, Clean Currents is in the process of adding to its current staff of 25. The company plans to hire up to five people for sales positions in Maryland. It is also hiring one person to serve as a community organizer in Pennsylvania.
Barrett says that part of Clean Currents’ mission involves encouraging and supporting green activities in local communities. It partners with neighborhood groups, nonprofits and schools to do so. The company's Green Neighborhood Challenge gives communities and nonprofits the opportunity to raise funds for green projects such as building community gardens, starting recycling programs and preserving green space.

On the energy side, the company contracts with wind farms nationally and in the mid-Atlantic region that are connected to the electricity distribution grid. Clean Current sells wind-generated electrical power to customers in the form of renewable energy certificates that are applied to their electricity bills.
Barrett says the cost varies by utility area. Clean Current offers fixed-rate contracts of one and two years, in which customers pay the same rate regardless of price fluctuation in the market.
Currently, a Clean Currents one-year residential contract to receive 100 percent of your electricity from wind power costs 9 cents per kilowatt hour, the standard measure used for electrical power. By comparison, BGE’s electricity rate for standard offer service is 8.964 cents per kilowatt hour effective through May 31, 2013.
Clean Currents uses Solar City, a national company with a Maryland office in Beltsville, for rental of solar panels. This arrangement allows customers to rent rather than buy the solar panels after installation.  Starting in 2013, Clean Currents will have its own solar panel installation program, says Barrett.
Federal and state tax credits may apply to solar panels and to solar-thermal hot water tanks.
Source: Megan Barrett, Clean Currents
Writer: Barbara Pash

Meridian Helps Baltimore Biotech Firm Meet FDA Standards

Frederick biotech firm Meridian Biogroup has completed a four-year project for Baltimore contract research and manufacturing firm Paragon Bioservices so its laboratory equipment and programs meet US Food and Drug Administration regulations.

“Our projects are not like construction projects with a definite end. Some are long-term,” says Thomas Blake, Meridian’s Principal and Co-Founder with Alison Demarest.
Meridian offers validation and compliance services for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. These include testing facilities’ utility systems, developing higher-quality programs and providing extra staff for specific tasks.
Meridian’s 37 clients range from large companies like Human Genome Sciences and Osiris Therapeutic to small- and mid-range companies like Paragon Bioservices and startups that want to launch a product and need to comply with FDA regulations. Paragon moved to the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark in 2008.
Blake says that for MedImmune, another client, Meridian is engaged in more than 30 new and ongoing projects at the company’s sites in Frederick and Gaithersburg in Maryland, and in Pennsylvania and Liverpool, England. Projects for MedImmune include quality assurance, regulatory affairs and FDA inspection.
Meridian, a privately held company, has been located at the Frederick Innovation Technology Center since its founding in 2007. It has grown from the two co-founders to a staff of 26.
The company was the recipient of the 2012 Incubator of the Year Award in the technology services company category. The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development sponsor the annual award.
Last spring, the Board of County Commissioners of Frederick County officially recognized the company for its contributions to a variety of charitable and community causes, among them Believe in Tomorrow, Frederick Head Start, Smile Train, Hope Alive and the Frederick Community Action Agency.
“We feel it’s important to give back,” says Blake. “Frederick county and city have supported our efforts since we started. We’re pleased to be recognized.”
Source: Thomas Blake, Meridian Biogroup
Writer: Barbara Pash

Annapolis Medical Device Maker Partners With Boston Hospital On Patient Monitoring

Annapolis medical device company Zephyr Technology Corp. is collaborating with Massachusetts General Hospital on its OmniSense system for monitoring patients' vital signs. 

Paul Costello,  Zephyr's vice president of mHealth Sales, says the OmniSense system is used to monitor patients in the hospital and after they are discharged. The system allows staff and physicians at the Boston hospital to track and measure their health while they are recuperating at home.
Costello says the OmniSense device is about the size of a silver dollar and weighs an ounce. It is attached to the skin with two “smart” electrodes. The system works within the confines of a hospital without interfering in the facility’s electronic and internet equipment.
Zephyr makes sensors that measure vital signs such as electrocardiogram, heart rate, breathing rate and skin temperature. The real-time physiological status monitoring is transmitted via high-level wireless such as mobile phones, PDAs and the web.
The company has a variety of product lines, for use by professional sports teams, fire and rescue, law enforcement and Special Forces groups. It also sells consumer products. For example, its heart rate monitor went on sale this month, at a cost of $79.
Zephyr was founded in 2003 as an engineering services firm. In 2005, it received a contract from the US Department of Defense to develop a physiological monitoring system that US Navy Seals could use in combat. From there, the company branched out to monitoring the medical aspects of First Responders. The company is growing and recently hired four people for a total of 36 employees. 
Zephy is privately-owned and venture capital-backed. Backers include 3M New Ventures, Motorola and iGlobe Partners.
Source: Paul Costello, Zephyr Technology Corp.
Writer:  Barbara Pash
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