Archives For December 2011

by Sandy Popp and Rhonda Ray, DBED Marketing & Communications

Maryland General Assembly Opening Day January 12, 2011

While many are looking forward to what the New Year will bring, legislators, policy watchers and the like are busy gearing up for what promises to be a busier than usual legislative session. The 431st Maryland General Assembly convenes in Annapolis on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. and will last for 90 days.

If you have been reading any Maryland news source, you know that many hot button issues will be debated soon after the opening bell rings. Some of the topics include offshore wind, gay marriage, funding for transportation infrastructure, regulatory reform, and reducing the State’s structural budget deficit.  And it wouldn’t be session without a debate on taxes. Another topic that will likely dominate a good portion of session is legislative redistricting. On December 16, 2011, the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee released its recommendations for Maryland’s State legislative district boundary lines. The General Assembly will have until the 45th day of session to approve and adopt a redistricting plan.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (Department) Office of Policy and Government Affairs (OPGA) team has played an active role in the development of the Department’s 2012 agenda. Job creation efforts, being a top priority of Governor O’Malley’s, have directed OPGA’s focus. Beginning in August, OPGA led a review of existing job creation tools the State has to determine which programs have historically been the most effective and which should be enhanced. In addition, staff has  reviewed other states’ job creation initiatives. OPGA is currently working with the Governor’s Office, other State agencies, and members of the business community to vet various initiatives focused on workforce training, tax incentives, and  commercialization – taking our world class institutional research and putting it in the hands of entrepreneurs.

OPGA is looking forward to releasing its 2012 legislative package soon and we look forward to working with business leaders to support initiatives that will stimulate the economy and put Marylanders back to work.

by Nancy McCrea, DBED Marketing & Communications

With all of the focus today on creating jobs there is unprecedented interest in employment data. Who is gaining jobs and who is losing? How many jobs are being created by small businesses or by start-up businesses? Research by the Kauffman Foundation and others has shown that small and start-up businesses are outsized contributors to job creation. But we know very little about who is starting those businesses and where.

From a research perspective, when we talk about jobs, typically what we are looking at is establishment data collected by the government—either a count of the jobs at places that are covered by unemployment insurance or the monthly survey of establishments. Both of these tell us there are about 2.5 million jobs in Maryland at some 160,000 some establishments. There is also a survey of households that tells us there are about 2.8 million employed persons living in Maryland and over 200,000 unemployed.  This is all useful information, but it is not the whole story.  What’s missing is the work that is being done but is not captured by these data sources.

Besides the 160,000 establishments in Maryland with employees there is a large and often overlooked part of the economy that doesn’t show up in the establishment surveys.  One place to look is at what the government calls “nonemployer” firms —firms that filed tax forms as individual proprietorships, partnerships, or any type of corporation and reported business income of at least $1,000. In 2009 Maryland had about 410,000 of these firms with over $16 billion in sales. So nonemployer firms are 75 percent of all firms in the state and 3 percent of total sales.  

Another often overlooked part of the economy is people whose jobs don’t show up on payroll records because they work on individual contracts with employers or customers.  These people don’t get the traditional W-2 paystub at the end of the year; they report their taxes with the IRS form 1099. It’s a growing phenomenon that’s being called the “1099 economy.” Sole proprietorships and LLCs/LLPs may have numerous workers under contract, yet appear in government statistics as a self-employment venture.  If you look at US Census Bureau figures on the self-employed, we find 270,000 self-employed Marylanders in 2009—1/10th of the workforce. Data on 1099ers are more difficult to come by but there is some recent data from EMSI that suggests about 1/5 of the total US workforce operates in the 1099 economy.  

Erik Pages of Entreworks has described the 1099 economy as having three groups:

  • The Reluctant 1099ers:  This group includes those who operate in the 1099 economy because they have no choice.  
  • The “Gig Economy” Workforce:   people who operate in industries that traditionally operate on a project basis.  We see this in film-making and events, where crews sign on with individual productions, and also in the arts, writing, web design, personal services and construction.   
  • The Entrepreneurial 1099ers:   While most sole proprietorships are quite small and generate limited revenue, some go on to generate significant incomes and may be poised for rapid revenue and job growth. 

These individuals and their firms make up a significant part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the state’s economy. What’s clear is that the traditional definition of a job no longer applies. For those of us doing community and economic research, that means we have to rely on nontraditional sources of information. That is why DBED wanted to assist GBTC in conducting the survey of business ownership –to learn more about the part of the economy that is not found in the data. The results tell us that 28 percent of all Marylanders have owned or operated a business.

Why is this important for economic development? Many firms that start with no employees can end up becoming major employers. Think of Kevin Plank starting Under Armour in his mother’s house or the many IT companies that started with a single programmer.   If we can somehow identify these individuals and make sure they get connected to resources they need to succeed, it is much more likely they will stay here to grow.

by Kathy Snyder, CCE, President/CEO, Maryland Chamber of Commerce

Black Friday and Cyber Monday beat last year’s sales records by a considerable amount and this year’s Christmas holiday season appears to be on track to surpass 2010.  If you are a smart shopper, waiting for the last minute to gain the “best deal” sounds like a great plan.  But perhaps an even better strategy would be to consider shopping locally.

Throughout Maryland, small businesses, including small retailers, are enticing shoppers to their locations.  You can save “green” by going “green” and walking to a nearby store or restaurant instead of driving.  While doing so, you will also be supporting the foundation of Maryland’s economy:  small employers.

According to the Department of Business and Economic Development, only 3,300 of the 162,000 business entities in Maryland have more than 100 employees.  The overwhelming majority of businesses in our State are small enterprises who employ in more employees than large firms.  These small business owners are local taxpayers who support their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy.  They hire local folks to fill jobs and often buy locally themselves.  During this season of joyous giving, why not consider buying locally yourself to help your neighbor entrepreneur succeed?

A great way to discover these local business owners and their special pricing is through your local chamber of commerce.   All have websites that show the names and locations of their members, making it easier to locate a restaurant, hotel, store or service business that is a part of your community.

All chambers list their members via category online and/or in a printed directory. Check these out: Baltimore County , Talbot County and Harford County.

Some go a step further.  The West Anne Arundel County Chamber, for example, is giving free Buy Local decals to area businesses to help consumers know of their home grown status. The Frederick County Chamber offers a web-based search for a quote for whatever product or service you need. 

Often, local chamber members offer discount programs or coupons that are available not just to their fellow members, but also to their employees. The Caroline County Chamber on the Eastern Shore, for example, has started a Member Buying Service that provides discount cards for the employees of its members to gain discounts on their products and services. 

The Howard County Chamber has taken this idea a step further and is offering a free program to its members via a new website at Howard Chamber members can put up to 5 offers/discounts at a time on the website.  All consumers have to do is print the coupon and offer it at the point of sale. 

Google your local chamber of commerce to see which businesses in your community are connected.  Consider buying your products and services from them first rather than online these last few days before the holidays.  You may be surprised to see that price, quality and service exceed your expectations- all just around the corner.  Here’s to a resoundingly successful holiday season for all of our small businesses in Maryland!

The Baltimore Ravens Leverage Social Media Platforms to Reach Fans

by Ari Munk, Bernadette Owen, Andrew Petcoff, Elizabeth Wilkinson & Mark Toran II, Loyola College

Walking into the stunning facility at 1 Winning Drive would be a slightly surreal experience for any Baltimore Ravens fanatic. The putting green out front; victorious images from Super Bowl XXV; the Vince Lombardi Trophy displayed in all its glory—it’s all enough to make one think, “Is this really happening?” That is, until one reaches a whiteboard that reads, “Words not to use around me: Good Enough.” That whiteboard is located in the office of Michelle Andres, Vice President of Digital Media. The words encapsulates how the Ravens have built a tradition of excellence both on and off the field. The franchise takes its marketing and fan relations very seriously and never forgets that this is the Baltimore Ravens—winning is what they do.

As a result, the Ravens have one of the most loyal fan bases in the National Football League. One could venture to say that the city of Baltimore lives and dies with the team. Starting on “Purple Friday”, a sea of purple envelops the city and surrounding areas and escalates through the weekend until game day. One will be hard pressed to find a person in Baltimore not wearing purple on Sundays. This loyalty has allowed the Ravens marketing department to take a unique approach to reaching out to the community. Currently, marketers do not have to worry about promoting ticket sales and, instead, can focus on other ways to allow the community greater access to the team that has so effectively captured its imagination. So far, it is hard to argue with the results.

A recent focus for the Ravens digital media team has been expansion in the digital space, including the team’s website, social media as well as mobile and email marketing. Andres’ digital media team happily leads this charge into the foray of facebook, twitter and online media. When Andres joined the Ravens five years ago, previously the Assistant Director of Interactive Marketing for the Orlando Magic, one of the first tasks she tackled was to “turn the titanic” on the corporate sales team’s view of digital media. Emphasizing this importance led to redesigning the team’s fan unfriendly website that screamed “don’t come here.” Although it was a painstaking process, the redesigned website was very well received.

The digital media team has also made efforts to connect with fans through social media platforms. Andres states that an important part of their efforts is to preserve what social media is – they do not want to turn the team’s Facebook page into an advertising stream. Facebook is used more as a fun, conversational medium for fans to interact with the team, whereas the team’s Twitter is used as a more focused news outlet. Initiatives such as “Ravens Reps” have helped the team use social media to get its message out. Ravens Reps is an ambassador program that enlists the help of fans to distribute the Ravens content. Fans are able to sign up for the program, thus agreeing to let the team distribute messages via the fan’s social network in exchange for merchandise, autographed items and bragging rights. The team has also partnered with sponsors, such as Toyota to create unique giveaways and contests for fans using facebook as a medium. Namely, the Toyota Camry Challenge was a successful contest in which fans were given a chance to win a Toyota Camry by guessing the number of footballs in a football-filled Toyota Camry displayed at games and various locations around town.

This next evolution of social media marketing strategy will be huge for the Ravens in the upcoming years. As more and more companies are recognizing the importance of social media, having expertise in this arena will be a distinct advantage. It also enables the team to compete in its local market space as a fairly small market team sandwiched in between larger markets like the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins. With close to a million “likes” on Facebook and over 80,000 followers on Twitter, one could say that the Ravens are well on their way.

Auction will raise a minimum of $70M to invest in State’s start-up and early stage companies.

by Wanda Persons Wickham, DBED Marketing & Communications

Gearing up for the implementation in 2012 of the State’s InvestMaryland initiative, Grant Street Group, tax auction consultants, has been selected to oversee and administer the auction of the State’s premium tax credits to insurance companies operating in Maryland with the goal of raising a minimum of $70 million.

The funds will be invested into promising start-up and early stage companies in Maryland, creating the largest venture capital investment in the State’s history with the potential to generate thousands of jobs in Innovation Economy sectors – life sciences and biotechnology, cyber security/IT and clean/green tech and attract billions of follow on capital, all with no immediate cost to taxpayers. The tax credit auction will take place in March 2012 with a floor of $.70 on the dollar and a maximum of $100 million in tax credits as authorized by law.

“We are looking forward to working with a highly regarded firm like Grant Street Group to move InvestMaryland forward,” said DBED Secretary Christian S. Johansson. “A successful tax credit auction with the goal of raising a minimum of $70 million and hopefully more will help fuel the jobs and companies of tomorrow and create an economic climate where the most promising ideas and innovations have a chance to mature.” 

Grant Street Group, www.grantstreet.com  develops, hosts and administers customized software applications used by governments and financial institutions to support revenue collection and auctions of fixed income instruments, tax deeds and real estate.  The company has over 3,100 government and financial clients and has been supplying hosted software as a service since 1997. Grant Street Group will work closely with the Maryland Venture Fund Authority, which was named earlier this year to oversee the administration of InvestMaryland.

Members of the Maryland Venture Fund Authority sworn in by Governor O'Malley on August 31,2011

The Maryland Venture Fund Authority will select venture capital firms that will invest 67 percent of the funds raised. Of the funds invested through private VC firms, 100 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the profits will be returned to the State’s general fund. The remaining funds – 33 percent – will be deposited into the State’s 15-year-old Maryland Venture Fund (MVF). Over its life, the MVF has invested $25 million into hundreds of start-up and early stage technology and life sciences companies, generating a $61 million return.  The Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) will also receive a portion of funds for investment.

Following the tax credit auction, the private venture capital firms will be able to begin making investments by mid-2012. Insurance companies will be able to claim tax credits beginning in 2015.

by Dean Storm, DBED Marketing & Communications

If Old Saint Nick were thinking about expanding his operations South, Valley View Farms in Baltimore County would certainly be a strong contender.  The garden center, nearing its 50th year, has become a mecca for all things Christmas and every fall transforms into a holiday wonderland, full of decorated trees, a huge outdoor lights display, and an International Christmas Shop featuring ornaments and gifts from all over the world.

Retail Greenhouse Manager Carrie Engel , who has 34 years under her green thumb, estimates that Valley View uses tens of thousands of LED energy saving lights every season and welcomes 250,000 customers a year.  Despite the packed aisles for Christmas, she says the holiday only accounts for about 20 percent of business and that springtime – Easter through Father’s Day — is their busiest time of year.

Before the nutcracker displays, the miniature villages, and hundreds of decorated trees, Valley View had humble beginnings in 1962 as a produce stand founded by brothers Billy and Punkey Foard to augment a large wholesale vegetable growing operation.  In the 70s, their Christmas business took off faster than a Rudolph-led sleigh and several year round and seasonal departments were added. The center, now run by father and son team Billy and Andy Foard, employs as many as 150 people during the busier times of the year.

According to national estimates, Valley View is poised for continued success. As demand and prices increase, Christmas tree spending in the U.S. is expected to rise 3.1 percent this year to $3.4 billion, the highest since the hard hitting recession year of 2008, according to IBISWorld. The research firm estimates that Americans will spend about $800 million for 25 million real trees and another $2.6 billion on 10 million artificial versions during the holiday season. 

Engel says the business has remained in Maryland for nearly a half century for a number of reasons. “We have developed a fantastic relationship with growers and other businesses in this area, the owners are from here, and most of the managers grew up and stayed in the area, so we’re happy being where we are.”  She also cited the state’s strength in ornamental horticultural as the no. 2 agricultural product in Maryland, second only to poultry. 

Many of the managers have been at Valley View for 15-30 years. Engel says the interaction with employees and customers and the changing seasons and displays keep her coming back for more. “Maryland’s been good to us. We don’t sell anything anybody needs, so when people want this stuff, they’re into it,” Engel said. “They have a passion for it and I think it keeps our passion growing, too – being able to provide what we think we can to keep a smile on people’s faces.”

by Elizabeth Affleck Carven, DBED Marketing & Communications

For Albert Kirchmayr, being a chocolatier is a dream that has lasted 25 years. 

His passion for chocolate making is clear as you enter his namesake retail location, Kirchmayr Chocolatier, in Timonium.

The heavenly scent of fine chocolate wafts through the air.  Rows of chocolate Santas and Snowmen tied with gold holiday bows stand sentry on the shelves.   Gaze into the glass case and you will find beautifully hand-crafted confections in both milk and dark chocolate ready to be sold as an individual treat or in festive, gold-line boxes for gift giving.  Cremes, caramels and cordials are a popular choice, as are some of the more exotic flavors like earl grey tea and black currant.

Albert Kirchmayr

Who is the youthful man with almost twinkling eyes behind thispassion?  Born in Bavaria, Kirchmayr moved to the United States for a career as a chef only to realize his true calling was in chocolate.  After spending a few years in the restaurant industry in Baltimore, he returned to Munich and Switzerland to study the art of candy making from a master chocolatier.  Upon completion of this training, Kirchmayr purchased equipment in Europe, returning to the Baltimore area to open his own business in 1985.

With only three full-time employees, and a few more during Christmas – his busiest season – Kirchmayr can produce a scale-tipping 200-300 pounds of chocolate per day.  Once the candy has cooled and been coated with a luxurious layer of chocolate, it’s ready to be hand-wrapped in brightly colored foil.

The personal touch — hand wrapping chocolates

Kirchmayr is animated as he talks about the last 25 years. He’s clear that owning a business is not for the faint of heart.   “To be successful, you have to be able to reinvent yourself.  You often have to go in a direction you hadn’t intended.” 

 While recounting some of the tougher times, it’s obvious that this is a labor of love.  Kirchmayr shared a few stories surrounding a robbery that put his business at risk and the responding generosity of not only his customers, but the community at large.

“In the beginning when I told people about this incident, I had tears in my eyes.  It is the most memorable time during my 25 years in business and made me realize that the majority of people in our society are truly good.”

 

by Maureen Kilcullen, DBED Marketing & Communications

If the sound of the Joint Strike Fighter flying overhead didn’t tip off visitors, certainly the street signs did. Cautionary signs like “Aircraft Taking Off” and “Yield to Landing Aircraft” lined the roads on Naval Air Station Patuxent River on Maryland’s southern peninsula. But – as the Federal Facilities Advisory Board learned during a recent visit – NAS Pax River does much more than just fly jets. It’s arguably the premier R&D and Test & Evaluation facility for aircraft in the world – by far, according to Congressman Steny Hoyer, who represents the installation in Congress.

That’s a message that was hammered home during the FFAB’s tour of NAS Pax River last week. The Atlantic Test Range, Anechoic Chamber, Manned Flight Simulator, and Joint Strike Fighter – all of which were stops on the board’s tour of NAS Pax River – aptly demonstrated the breadth of activities on the base. The tour began with a look at the Joint Strike Fighter, described as “the most affordable, lethal, supportable and survivable aircraft ever to be used by so many warfighters across the globe.”

In the R&D Test Facility, board members explored the helicopter flight simulator station that helps train pilots for duty in Afghanistan. The heavily-insulated Anechoic Chamber offered a unique perspective to those brave enough to climb into the cockpit of a helicopter suspended in the chamber for testing purposes. And the Atlantic Test Range showed off the installation’s airspace and surface target areas that are used for both aircraft testing and evaluation as well as for warfighter training missions.

Roundtable Discussion

Following the tour, Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Steny Hoyer were on hand for a roundtable discussion that focused on infrastructure, workforce development, education, technology commercialization and procurement.

St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan, who once headed the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, is an enthusiastic supporter of expanding NAS Pax River. “If you don’t grow, you go,” he told the board. “I’m here to grow.”

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) actions in 1991, 1993 and 1995 did just that, bringing thousands of jobs to Pax River. Today the installation, which was commissioned in 1943, is home to three major Navy commands (the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, and the Air Test Wing Atlantic), 52 tenant commands and several squadrons. With more than 17,000 employees, Naval Air Station Patuxent River is also the largest employer in the region.

 

by Jenny Lazarus, DBED Marketing & Communications

With a full head of steam, Western Maryland’s rich rail history converges each December in the storybook, mountaintop community of Frostburg, Maryland. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s North Pole Express chugs into the station of the nearly 200-year old university town arriving from Cumberland packed with families eager to share the thrill of riding over mountains and through tunnels on an authentic steam train. A walk up Main Street, festooned with pine wreaths and holidays ribbons, leads holiday visitors to discover a tyke-size toy town and train set, assembled by the local Community Model Railroad Club, recreating the Christmas tradition of generations of children, young and old alike.

Lights blink, horns blare and the unmistakable aroma of synthetic smoke blows from the four “O”-scale locomotives pulling the colorful rows of train cars as they chug, clack and whistle their “I think I can, I think I can” tempo while rounding the tracks of the miniature town. Encircled by a new generation of captivated, wide-eyed children the model trains cast their spell on everyone, including parents, grandparents, friends and family.  Railroad club member, Ed Tippen grins as he shares the excitement, “Sometimes you have to pick them up and carry them out – the kids just don’t want to leave.”

“We are arguably in the golden age of model railroading,” according to Rich Foster, VP of Columbia, Maryland based M.T.H. Electric Trains. Thirty years ago Mike Wolf founded a toy train mail order business in a bedroom of his parent’s home – now the company features the broadest range of any model train company in the world.  Today, all model electric trains are imported from China – between January and September 2011, the toy market’s most popular holiday gifts, including electric trains, generate $2.5 billion.

 

Holder of the official state record for greatest monthly snowfall, 67 inches in January 1978, Frostburg may not have the North Pole’s reindeer but it does have Christmas elves. Frostburg State University deployed more than 300 student volunteers, including 130 smiling, rosy-cheeked felt-and-jingle bell-costumed student elves into the city to assist the bustling crowds of shoppers and entertain visitors during the recent Storybook Holidays. The annual event, sponsored by the FSU Children’s Literature Centre and the City of Frostburg attracts visitors from six different states. According to Fred Powell, owner of Main Street Books, “The community starts planning for this event in September. It is a huge weekend for us.”

Imparting the life lessons of optimism and hard work of the well-known children’s book, The Little Engine That Could, Frostburg is simply a wonderful community, pulling together into the future with an enduring love of family and place. FSU 2009 graduate and Foundation for Frostburg AmeriCorps Project Manager, Dean Wittier (FSU 2009, Frederick native) echoes the mountain magic of Frostburg’s year-round Christmas spirit when he says “I stayed here because I love the community.”

by Wanda Persons Wickham, DBED Marketing & Communications

Governor O'Malley, 2012 Symposium on Job Creation, Annapolis

Governor O’Malley, joined by more than 300 business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators,  legislators and industry stakeholders, gathered Friday for the Maryland Made Easy 2012 Symposium on Job Creation at the Miller Senate Building in Annapolis to discuss how to spur job creation in Maryland.

Governor O’Malley hosted the panel event to prepare for the upcoming 2012 legislative session, to update the business community on the Administration’s progress on job creation efforts, to review progress during 2011 on Maryland’s infrastructure, regulatory reform and innovation environment and to solicit ideas and recommendations about improving the state’s economic climate.

“Job creation remains our most urgent and important priority,” said Governor O’Malley. “This symposium gives us an opportunity to hear from our partners in business, education and other industries as we look toward job creation initiatives in the upcoming legislative session.”

The morning symposium, kicked off by Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian S. Johansson, featured business and policy leaders and young entrepreneurs in discussion about the steps necessary to improve the economic climate in Maryland and nationally; ideas about what business and government are doing to support economic growth and about their experience starting a business in Maryland.

Gabrielle and Daniel Williams with Governor O'Malley at 2012 Symposium on Job Creation

Young entrepreneurs Gabrielle and Daniel Williams from Upper Marlboro were featured. Gabrielle, eleven years old, has a thriving jewelry business and a recently authored a book on entrepreneurship and her brother Daniel, thirteen years old, writes a blog reviewing books and movies.

“I do what I do because I don’t like it when people waste their money on movies that will burn into your retinas forever reminding you of the money you wasted in the recession,” said Daniel Williams, Entrepreneur, Upper Marlboro, MD.

Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County spoke on Maryland’s ability to connect businesses, education and the classroom and capitalize on innovation as a competitive strength to move Maryland’s economy and job creation efforts.

Other local leaders on the panel featured Maureen McAvey, Executive Vice President, Urban Land Institute and Dan White, Executive Vice President, Whiting Turner Construction discussing infrastructure and regulatory reform respectively.

In October, Governor O’Malley signed an Executive Order for a 60 day review by State agencies of regulations that can be reformed or eliminated to continue to spur job creation. The Administration has received 352 suggestions thus far and plans to introduce other regulatory reform recommendation packages in the coming 2012 session.

The Maryland Made Easy-Fast Track Program, created by executive order to expedite project review, increase communication in resolving cross-agency issues and facilitate major development projects and reduce delays, was launched along with the Maryland Made Easy Website, http://easy.maryland.gov  on June 30, 2011. The website, which hosts information about the FastTrack process as well as the application, also features a GIS interactive map that will help users determine eligibility to apply for FastTrack, along with links to Easy Essentials and bulletins on relevant state and federal initiatives and policies.

In addition to FastTrack, the Maryland Made Easy initiative includes Central Business Licensing (CBL), an online one-stop shop for individuals to complete and submit various applications for licenses related to starting a business in Maryland. For more information go to: http://easy.maryland.gov 

 

by Melanie Semko, DBED Marketing & Communications

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2009, there were almost 22,000 electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in the U.S., employing some 320,721 workers. The value of retail sales by these establishments in December 2010 totaled $34 billion—the highest total for any month last year. If you are among the growing number of time-strapped consumers shopping online this holiday season, don’t be surprised if your online order is filled at a distribution facility right here in Maryland.  In fact, several retail businesses announced expansion plans in Maryland this year to support the growth of online shopping.

Kohl’s purchased a 602,000-square-foot building in Edgewood for a website distribution center last March.  The department store company opened the fulfillment facility during the summer and plans to expand to one million square feet by 2012, employing 1,200 within three years. Harford County site was selected as the site for its business-friendly community, strong economy, availability of a robust workforce and proximity to Kohls.com eastern customer base. “This new facility will ensure that Kohl’s is able to accommodate the tremendous growth of our Kohls.com business,” said Ken Bonning, Kohl’s executive vice president of store planning and logistics.

In May, SuperBookDeals purchased a 13,400-square-foot, two-story office building situated on 1.4 acres in Columbia for $2.1 million.  A third-party bookseller, SuperBookDeals is a distribution facilitator for Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Abe Books, Half.com, Valore Books, and Play.com. This internet retailer is a one-stop source for textbooks, trade books, and books on virtually any topic and offers a wide selection at rock-bottom prices

Simplexity, the Internet’s leading authorized seller of cell phones and wireless services, established a Technology and Operations Center in Upper Marlboro in June, creating 85 new jobs in Prince George’s County. Based in Reston, Virginia, Simplexity operates proprietary e-commerce platforms, providing affiliates and marketing partners with integrated solutions for cell phone and wireless product merchandising, activation, logistics and fulfillment.  The privately held company also creates and maintains web sites for a variety of companies, including many of the largest retailers in the U.S. Simplexity’s business and technology solutions include comprehensive inventory and rate plan management, order processing, automated activation, online merchandising, high-level customer care and customer relationship marketing.

In October, Hearty Pet, a Washington County-based retailer, leased a 14,532-square-foot distribution warehouse in Hagerstown, as well as 2,026 square feet for a retail store at Hagerstown Premium Outlets. The online distributor of pet food and supplies ships orders all over the nation. Hearty Pet sells premium pet foods and treats for dogs, birds and cats, as well as accessories such as toys, collars, leashes and beds. The company, owned and operated by Tracy Blair of Boonsboro, hired five new employees as part of the expansion, and employs family for web development, accounting, marketing, packing, and shipping.  The company focuses on holistic, natural and organic pet foods and emphasizes the health benefits of premium-quality foods.

Last, but not least, in November, Sephora USA signed a 70,133-square-foot lease in Belcamp’s Riverside Business Park, expanding its existing 316,524 square feet of distribution space in Harford County.  Sephora is a major presence in hundreds of retail centers worldwide while Sephora.com is one of the Internet’s foremost beauty shopping sites and the company’s largest North American “store” in terms of sales and selection of products and brands. In 2006, the company became the exclusive provider of beauty products for JCPenney stores across the country, requiring an expansion of its distribution network. This prompted management to reevaluate whether to remain in Belcamp.  Sephora decided to stay and extend Belcamp’s lease, thanks to Harford County’s many benefits, including its strategic location on the I-95 corridor, proximity to several international airports and seaports, and an excellent labor pool.

By Ashante Saunders

DBED Secretary Christian Johansson talks with MDBizMedia about the State’s recent trade mission to India and reflects on his cultural experiences.