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O say can you see Fort McHenry's new boat tour?

As the summer tourist season gets underway, Fort McHenry last week added another attraction. For the first time, visitors to the national landmark located in South Baltimore will get the same view of the fort —from the water —  that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem during the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore.
The Fort McHenry Boat Tour: A Star-Spangled Experience runs every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, through Sept. 15 and is expected to return next summer. Seven tours depart daily, on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours leave from the Fort McHenry Pier at 2400 East Fort Ave.
The 45-minute narrated tour recounts Key’s experience during September 1814. There are “special audio effects. We’ve got all the bells and whistles, bombs and music,” says Lisa Lynn Hansen, director of Friends of Fort McHenry, a nonprofit that works with the National Park Service to provide educational programs and living history activities.
The Friends of Fort McHenry, Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, Living Classrooms Foundation and Baltimore Water Taxi partnered to create the tour, which is expected to be an annual summertime offering.

A $33,000 grant from the the state's Maryland War of 1812 Commission funded the effort. Students from the Baltimore School for the Arts narrate the tour while El-J Productions produced the script and sound effects. Baltimore Water Taxi is providing the 49-passenger boats under a charter arrangement with Friends of Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry drew 850,000 visitors last year. Hansen says the main challenge in arranging the boat tour was setting the length of the tour.  “We didn’t want to take them out on the water too long. They’ve come to tour the fort and this is an add-on,” she says.
Friends also wanted to make the boat tour affordable. Visitors can walk around the grounds of the fort for free. A tour of the fort costs $7 per adult, children under age 16 are free. The boat tour costs $10 per adult (age 11 and up) and $5 per child (ages 3 to 10). Tickets are sold at dockside on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Source: Lisa Lynn Hansen, Friends of Fort McHenry
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

Educational tech company raising $5M and hiring

Educational technology startup 1sqbox LLC says it expects to wrap up its second round of angel financing of $5 million by the middle of this year and is tripling its staff of five. The downtown Baltimore company is hiring seven salespeople, three support staff and a chief financial officer.

In its first round of angel financing last year, 1sqbox raised $330,000, to get the company off the ground, CEO Granville Templeton III says. After its second round of angel financing, 1sqbox will seek venture capital.

The company sells Android-based tablets to school systems for kindergarten through 12th grades. The tablets have proprietary software geared for administrators and for teachers and students. Templeton bills the company as a “one-stop shop” for educators. 

“We use the school system’s and/or other companies’ educational content. We are the platform” for the content,  says Templeton, who cofounded the company with chairman and CTO Alexis Coates in 2011.
The same tablet is used for all grades. Every student in a class gets a tablet. Via his or her tablet, the teacher inputs lesson plans and other material like textbooks, quizzes, homework assignments and comments.
“It’s an intuitive management system that allows teachers to use technology for their classrooms,” says Templeton.
School principals can monitor teachers via the tablet. A software platform allows them to view teachers’ lesson plans, assignments and other information.

Templeton says 1sqbox is in the process of refining its software for easier use. It is also adapting its platform  for district-wide use. “Now, each school can monitor itself. We are adapting it so each school in a district can be monitored,” he says.
Last year, 1sqbox launched a pilot program in City Springs Middle School, a charter school in East Baltimore. The Abell Foundation funded the purchase of 100 tablets. Templeton says the tablets average $349 each, depending on amount ordered.
Dr. Walter Amprey, former superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools, this year became associated with 1sqbox, “to introduce the company to school systems around the country,” says Templeton.
The company sells directly to school districts, which then distribute the tablets to users. The marketing focus so far has been Baltimore City and Maryland along with nearby states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. 
Templeton says 1sqbox has contracts with six schools, among them four in Baltimore City and two in Tennessee. The Baltimore schools are City Springs Middle School, Heritage High School, Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and Rosemont Elementary and Middle School. The tablets stay at the school, and do not go home with the students.
Source: Granville Templeton, III, 1sqbox LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Mindgrub Makes Big Play in Mobile Games Market

Mindgrub Games next week expects to release its third mobile game, “Escape! From Detention,” developed under its own brand and in conjunction with the Howard County Library System. Mindgrub Games, a division of Catonsville mobile application developer Mindgrub, plans to release more mobile games by the middle of this year. 
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services gave the public library a $100,000 grant to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratory for middle and high school students in the Savage Branch. Howard County then approached Mindgrub about the project.

“We created a basic game scenario and the kids were active participants in developing the game,” says Alex Hachey, lead Mindgrub Games designer. The game is downloadable for free from links on the Howard County Library System’s website.
The division is currently working on three new mobile games. One is a game for a client that may be announced later this month and two games under its own brand for a mid-2013 release.

Since Mindgrub Games was launched last summer, it has released two games. One, “Rescue Jump,” is its own brand. The second, “Scuba Adventures,” was done for a client, Discovery Kids, part of cable TV channel Discovery Network, and Zap Toys, a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
Mindgrub considered starting a games division two years ago, after an interactive festival showcased a mobile game that incorporated location technology, Hachey says.
“It was a spin on what Mindgrub had been doing. It got us thinking about games,” he says.
For “Scuba Adventures,” the division analyzed the market for competing games and worked with the client to develop a game to its specifications. The result is an educational game that sells for $1.99. Like all of Mindgrub Games’ products, it is available through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace’s Google Play.
“Rescue Jump,” Mindgrub Games’ first product under its own brand, is a free download. It received over 1,300 downloads in its first two months.
Asked how the division makes money if the game is free, Hachey says, “Right now, it’s more of a learning objective. We are getting our feet wet in the game market. We are getting our name out. We can always add to or refine it [later] and then charge money.”
Since inception, Mindgrub Games has grown from three to seven full-time staffers. It is looking to hire Corona mobile applicaiton developers, illustrators and designers, depending on client contracts.
Source: Alex Hachey, Mindgrub Games
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

City Schools Save Money On Electricity Bills

Three Baltimore City public schools saved more than $1,500 on electricity in two months in February and March as the result of a program of the city Office of Sustainability and the U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Chapter.

The chapter received a $24,750 grant from the office to demonstrate to students and school personnel how simple, no-cost conservation measures can reduce the schools’ electricity bills, says Geoff Stack, of Stack Coordination, an independent sustainability consultant and co-chair of the chapter’s Green Schools Committee.

The measures include turning off lights and air conditioners when not in use, shutting down computers and being aware of so-called “vampire” devices that still pull electricity even when they are “off.”

The sustainability office chose three sites for the program:  Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle; Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a middle school housed in a building on Franklin Street; and W. E. B. DuBois High School and Reginald F. Lewis High School, both of which are housed in the former Northern High School building.

The program will continue through June. Stack worked with volunteers to teach students energy-saving tips and held a workshop for teachers and administrators on doing an energy audit. He says the chapter hopes the lessons learned in the schools will be used at home, too.

Stack says that in a preliminary evaluation, overall energy usage decreased 3.5 percent in all three buildings for the months of February and March. Put another way, that represented a saving of $1,535 on their electricity bills.

According to Chris Parts, the Maryland Chapter board’s secretary and the board liaison to schools, the program is a partnership between the the U.S. Green Building Council and the Alliance to Save Energy, with the former using the Alliance's process, tools and curriculum. The chapter has been demonstrating the model to multiple school districts since 2008 and to the Baltimore City school system since 2010.

Parts, an architect who is a LEED-certified professional, says the chapter's goal is to develop a program that can be used across school systems in the state.

Sources: Geoff Stark, Chris Parts, U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Chapter
Writer: Barbara Pash

Green Street Academy Plots Expansion

Green Street Academy, a Baltimore City public school, will more than double enrollment and relocate to a new home to accommodate the expanded student population.

That's according to Green Street Co-founder and Chairman David Warnock who calls the academy a "transformation" school. Warnock says that means it operates within the public school system and is funded by the Baltimore City school system, along with $500,000 from corporate sponsors and private donors. The city school system also provides administrative and janitorial services, unlike a charter school that operates totally independent of the school system.

Besides the standard academic studies, the academy focuses on the environment and sustainability. “We use the green economy to inspire kids. We work with our corporate and private partners to create real world skills,” says Warnock.
The academy opened in fall of 2011 with 270 middle school students in grades 6, 7 and 8. In fall 2013, it will add a 9th grade and a 6th grade class, turning it into a combined middle/high school. When fully built out, Warnock expects the school to have about 700 students. Acceptance is by lottery.

“We will follow the students through high school,” Warnock says.

The academy is currently housed in a public school building, the former West Baltimore Middle School, on North Bend Road. To accommodate the increased enrollment, Warnock is searching for a new, larger home, preferably on the city's west side. He expects to move within the next two years. Warnock is raising money for the new home but declined to give a figure.
To showcase their skills, academy students are hosting an expo June 6-8 for parents, sponsors and community members. Energy and environmentally focused businesses will give demonstrations, sponsored by Accenture. Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen will give a cooking demonstration from the academy’s own tilapia farm (in the school basement). Students will race the electric vehicles they’ve built, sponsored by Constellation Energy.
Source: David Warnock, Green Street Academy
Writer: Barbara Pash

Gates Foundation Grant Goes To Hopkins Researcher

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to improve the health of mothers and children in rural, hard-to-reach areas by increasing vaccine coverage.
Dr. Alain Labrique, director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, received a Grand Challenges Exploration Grant from the Gates foundation. This is the first time that Labrique and Hopkins’s public health school have received this particular grant although members of Labrique’s team have received other Gates’ grants.
“Grand Challenges pioneered funding for innovative research, for researchers to receive seed funding to take their ideas to the next level,” Labrique says. He is working with a team to develop a virtual vaccine registry, called mTikka. Part of the study will look at the impact of mobile phones on rural health delivery. 
Labrique says the registry builds on 12 years of public health work in rural Bangladesh, particularly on behalf of maternal, neonatal and child nutrition and survival. His team works in partnership with the Bangladesh ministry of health and family welfare and social enterprise partners mPower Health. mTikka will be test-piloted in rural, remote areas of Bangladesh for future use in other developing countries.
The Grand Challenges grant covers a 12- to 18-month long period. Researchers can reapply for another Grand Challenges grant after that but “you cannot hold more than one seed grant at a time,” Labrique says.
Grand Challenges grants have two levels, each with its own requirements. The Phase 1 grants are for $100,000 each. The Phase 2 grants start at $1 million. Will Labrique be applying for a Phase 2 grant in the future? “Oh, certainly,” he says.
Source: Dr. Alain Labrique, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Writer: Barbara Pash

Education Software Firm To Double Staff

K12 Enterprise, a business software firm for public school systems, intends to double the number of employees from its current 40 within the next two to three years. The Towson firm's expansion is the result of its acquisition last month of Sartox, a Virginia-based firm that also specialized in business software for public school systems.

The company will hire developers, IT consultants, sales and marketing staff and help desk workers, K12 CEO Andrew Fass says. 

Of K12 Enterprise's employees, 11 came from Sartox. K12 Enterprise employees are being trained in the Sartox system in order to retain Sartox's customers and attract new ones. 
K12 Enterprise is Microsoft's leading enterprise-grade financial and human resource management software for school systems used from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

“Sartox occupied the same space but different geography,” Fass says.
K12 Enterprise operates primarily in Pennsylvania, with a presence in New York State, Connecticut, Virginia and Texas, according to Fass. Sartox’s customers were mainly in Virginia and North Carolina, where it served more than 50 percent of the latter state’s 110 school systems. K12 Enterprises intends to attract customers in those and other southern states, Fass says.
K12 Enterprise installs the software, converts the school system’s data to the system, trains school personnel on its use and provides ongoing support and maintenance. The price is based on the number of students in a school district, and can range from $40,000 to $250,000 and up.
K12 Enterprise and Sartox established a partnership in 2010 when Sartox became an official reseller of K12 Enterprise software. Terry Garber, Sartox’s president, has become general manager of K12 Enterprise’s Virginia office. 

Source: K12 Enterprise CEO Andrew Fass
Writer: Barbara Pash

Ingenuity Project Encourages City Students' Scientific Achievements

Two Baltimore City public high school students are representing Charm City at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.

The students, both grand prize winners in the Baltimore Science Fair, are enrolled in a little-known nonprofit, the Ingenuity Project. The project spends $1 million a year to encourage middle and high school students in Baltimore City public schools to excel in science.

"We're one of the best-kept secrets in the city," says Karen Footner, Ingenuity's spokesperson.
Footner, an educational consultant, says the project dates to 1993 when educators and advocates of the city school system asked why Baltimore had never had a winner in the Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and best known youth science competition.
Acceptance into the project is competitive, based on school grades and multiple tests. Students apply in 5th and 8th grades. The project is held at three middle schools (Roland Park, Hamilton and Mount Royal) and one high school (Baltimore Polytechnic Institute).  If accepted into the project, students have to request to attend those schools.
“The money is spent mainly for teachers for accelerated math and science classes,” says Footner, noting that 80 percent of the funding comes from the Abell Foundation and Baltimore City Public Schools.
There are currently 486 students in the program, split evenly boys and girls and of whom half are African-Americans.
Since 2005, seven Ingenuity students have been semifinalists, and three have been among the top ten winners nationally in the Intel Science Talent Search. “For Baltimore City kids, that’s extraordinary,” Footner says.
The Ingenuity Project will host a fundraiser April 17 at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, featuring  science writer Flora Lichtman.
Source: Karen Footner, educational consultant
Writer: Barbara Pash

The Next Ice Age Seeks the Next Kimmie Meissner

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

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

Education Company Adding More than 100 Jobs

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

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

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

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

Closed Rec Center May Become Tech Center

Many of Baltimore's neighborhood recreation centers are scheduled to close, or have closed already, as a result of the city's continuing budget woes. Members of the Riverside community and Digital Harbor High School boosters have been looking at ways to transform the soon to be shuttered South Baltimore Recreation Center into a neighborhood technology center.

A meeting on the subject will be held Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the Baltimore Room at 100 Harbor View Dr. The meeting is being held jointly by the Key Highway Community Association and the HarborView Social Committee.

Andrew Coy, an educator at Digital Harbor High School who was named one of “10 Rock Stars Making A Difference In Baltimore” by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, will fill the community in on plans to pay for the transformation. Coy is looking at using grant money to get the centers up and running. Digital Harbor students will also be presenting information about how technology impacts their education. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m..

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Jane Wehrle, founder of the Loop, an activity network in South Baltimore 

Rent-A-Center Donates Computers to Creative Kids, Inc.

Creative Kids, Inc. will be receiving new computers as part of Rent-A-Center's "Random Acts of Caring" initiative. The company will be providing Creative Kids with three laptops, six desktops and one tablet --  ten new computers in all.

"Creative Kids is grateful to be the recipient of Rent-A-Center's generous donation," says Jennie Fumarola, Creative Kids director. "The computers will serve our community in immeasurable ways, allowing us to provide increased access to computers and the internet and free educational instruction to families who may not have access to these resources."

Creative Kids operates community centers focused on helping children and families in Maryland. Through their community center programs, the non-profit uses a whole family approach to help disadvantaged families cope. The community centers, in Cockeysville, Essex, and Loch Raven offer children's activities including after school programs, tutoring, arts programs, and play groups. Creative Kids also offers programs designed to help adults in need, including job search assistance, financial training workshops, and ESOL classes.

The community centers feature computer labs that are accessible to the families Creative Kids serves. The new computers donated by Rent-A-Center will be used to enhance the programs and services that are offered at the centers.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Creative Kids

Baltimore's Inner Harbor Gears Up for Summer Tourism

Tourism is heating up for the summer in Baltimore. As the city enters a summer packed with headline-making events like the Grand Prix and Baltimore Pride, the hospitality sector is looking forward to a busy and profitable season. 

"Tourism is lifting itself, and doing very well," says Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore. 

At the Inner Harbor, increased tourism spending is providing opportunities for growth. The Rusty Scupper, a staple of the Inner Harbor tourist trade, expects revenues to increase 25% this year. The National Aquarium and The Maryland Science Center are also experiencing increases in visitor traffic and revenue. Baltimore's popular free bus service, The Charm City Circulator is experiencing increased ridership, and expects to reach 2 million riders this year. 

Visit Baltimore has taken the expected increase in tourism seriously. Through its Certified Tourism Ambassador program, Visit Baltimore aims to have hundreds of specially trained personnel around the city to provide welcoming help to visitors. The program will train hospitality industry workers, police officers, cab drivers and workers in other tourism related industries to help tourists navigate the city and answer questions about history, venues and landmarks. 

"We're training a knowledgeable force, so that as a guest you'll run into someone who is certified, has taken a class and passed an exam," adds Noonan. 

Hotel occupancy is increasing, fueled by both a rebounding travel market and a healthy convention business downtown. Baltimore's hoteliers are adding approximately 2,500 new rooms to handle the increased demand. The city's hospitality profile will increase with the addition of the new Four Seasons Hotel in 2012.

Author: Amy McNeal

Source: Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore

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