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InvestMaryland Challenge Finale

The InvestMaryland Challenge will conclude May 19 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

For months, competitors in the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge have fine-tuned their business plans, developed growth goals and presented before judges. Their quest will conclude during the challenge’s finale on May 19 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development‘s second annual early-stage business competition will award $100,000 grand prizes to businesses in four categories, including information technology hardware and software, life sciences, cybersecurity and general industry. All challenge competitors are also eligible for more than $300,000 in grants, software, lab and incubator space and other prizes.

The finale will feature Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and DBED Secretary Dominick Murray as they celebrate the State’s startup ecosystem. A reception, remarks from public officials and the presentation of awards will be followed by an opportunity to explore the aquarium.

Grand prizes winners will be selected from among 12 remaining finalists, announced in March, including:

IT Hardware and Software

Life Sciences

General Industry


Challenge applicants, judges, partners, sponsors and public officials will be admitted free but must register online. The general public may purchase tickets for $25 and exhibit tables are available for $300.

See the Eventbrite invitation for additional details and registration information.

Maryland Pew

The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzes state public policy.

Economic development incentive programs can play a major role in energizing a state’s business climate, but how the results of those programs compare remains largely unknown.

In an effort to measure the effectiveness of these programs, The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness—both nationally recognized non-profit, non-partisan organizations—recently launched the Business Incentives Initiative. Maryland is among just seven states selected to participate in the program.

Nancy McCrea, Director of Research at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, led the State’s application process for the initiative and will manage Maryland’s contribution to the groundbreaking new partnership.

“We especially welcome the opportunity to work with other states and national experts in the field to identify areas where evaluation can be improved. We’re interested in how other states have improved reporting requirements to make them more consistent across programs and what tools they have used to collect performance information,” McCrea said.

“Essentially, the program is offering us consulting services for our work in developing better incentive evaluation procedures,” she added.

McCrea will join representatives of Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia at a kickoff event May 7-8 at Pew’s Washington, D.C. offices.

According to Pew, the Business Incentives Initiative has three main goals:

  • Identify effective ways to manage and assess economic development incentive policies and practices.
  • Improve data collection and reporting on incentive investments.
  • Develop national standards and best practices that states can use to successfully gather and report data on economic development incentives.

Ultimately, the initiative hopes to assist states in supporting incentive programs with the biggest positive impact, according to Jeff Chapman, Manager of the Economic Development Tax Incentives Project at Pew.

In an interview with the Bloomberg BNA SALT Blog, Chapman said, ”We will be working intensively with the seven selected states to develop and implement tailored solutions to the challenges they face in this arena. In addition, there will be a heavy focus on cross-state dialogue throughout the initiative. This work will pave the way for the development of a set of best practices that can be put to use by states around the country.”

Find additional information on Maryland’s business incentive programs through DBED and information on the Business Incentives Initiative through Pew.

GoWaiter.comSatisfying a craving from your favorite restaurant likely involves a drive, a parking spot, a table and a server.

But an innovative new franchise, GoWaiter of Waldorf, hopes to streamline that process, bringing food directly to customers’ homes from restaurants that do not ordinarily offer their own delivery service.

GoWaiter of Waldorf in Charles County is now slated for expansion thanks to a $100,000 State-sponsored loan to Bell Enterprises, LLC. The loan was made possible through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development‘s (DBED) Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) and Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program (MPVSBLP), DBED announced on Tuesday.

Kristen Bell founded GoWaiter of Waldorf in 2012 and is owner, president and CEO of Bell Enterprises, LLC. Her husband, Christopher Bell, is Bell Enterprises’ chief information officer.

The husband and wife team trace their work history back to the United States Air Force. Kristen Bell served 11 years of active duty and is now a service-disabled veteran who works as an intelligence analyst. Christopher Bell is also a veteran who works as an information systems security manager.

According to Kristen Bell, the $100,000 loan will open up new opportunities for their young Maryland business.

“These programs are very valuable assets to small businesses owners, especially veterans, and could mean the difference between a company expanding or not staying in business,” Bell said in a statement.

“Oftentimes as a veteran, you may not have the money to start up or expand a business. This money will help us reach a larger customer base, as well as potentially grow in Maryland,” she said.

DBED Secretary Dominick Murray praised the loan program and its potential to assist entrepreneurial veterans.

“DBED was pleased to assist this promising veteran-owned company with their expansion in Southern Maryland,” Secretary Murray said in a statement.

“Maryland has an outstanding climate for entrepreneurs, including programs and resources that help propel a company from early stage to high growth. We look forward to working with more companies like GoWaiter of Waldorf to ensure their success and continued growth in our State,” he said.

Maryland DBED and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs offer a variety of programs to assist Maryland military veterans. Find additional information on their websites and a link to DBED’s full loan announcement here.

The Maryland General Assembly concluded its 2014 legislative session this week, wrapping up with the passage of several bills in support of Maryland’s economy.

Central to those initiatives was an increase in the State’s minimum wage, which will incrementally rise from $7.25 to $10.10 by July 1, 2018. Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick Murray praised Governor Martin O’Malley and other State leaders for championing the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014.

“This is going to help strengthen Maryland’s middle class. It will create about 1,600 jobs and provide nearly $500 million in economic activity,” Secretary Murray said.

Governor O’Malley’s approved budget also supported funding for multiple DBED-sponsored programs, including a $7.4 million infusion into the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund, DBED’s primary financial incentive program. MEDAAF offers direct aid to companies, county economic initiatives and redevelopment programs.

Legislators also approved $17.1 million for the Maryland State Arts Council and $14.4 million for the Maryland Office of Tourism.

State tax credit programs benefitted, as well.

Funding for the Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit increased by $2 million, funding for the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit increased by $1 million and funding for the Research and Development Tax Credit increased by $1 million.

Find Secretary Murray’s full address on the legislative session in the above video filmed in Annapolis, and visit DBED’s website for further information on programs that stimulate growth and innovation in Maryland.

BALTIMORE, MD (March 25, 2014) – The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced today that 12 startup companies have advanced to the final round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, the State’s national business competition. The finalists are competing for $100,000 top prizes in four categories — Information Technology, Life Sciences, General Industry, and, new this year, Cybersecurity. All companies who entered the Challenge are eligible for more than $300,000 in other prizes, including grants, software and lab and incubator space. The winners will be announced in May.

“Congratulations to the finalists and all the companies that advanced in the InvestMaryland Challenge. To stand out from the field of 260 applicants is an achievement in itself and a testament to the strength of the companies competing for the top prizes,” said Dominick Murray, DBED Secretary. “For two years in a row, Maryland has been named the #1 state in the country for innovation and entrepreneurship and companies like those competing in this Challenge are the reason why. They are the future leaders of Maryland’s Innovation Economy and we are proud to support them as they grow and create jobs.”

Now in its second year, the InvestMaryland Challenge drew 260 applicants, including 29 companies from 11 other states and Washington D.C. The field was narrowed over two rounds of judging by more than 80 investors, successful entrepreneurs, business executives and other members of the Maryland startup community. In early March, panels of judges interviewed 41 semifinalists — 14 in IT, 10 in Life Sciences, 11 in General Industry and six in Cybersecurity — and selected the 12 finalists from that pool. IT, Life Sciences and Cybersecurity were open to only Maryland companies. The General category was open to out-of-state companies as well as Maryland companies.

IT Finalists: Continue Reading…

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), through the Maryland Venture Fund (MVF), has invested $75,000 in CoFoundersLab, a Rockville startup that provides an online matchmaking service for entrepreneurs. The MVF investment was made with funds raised byInvestMarylandone of Governor Martin O’Malley’s key economic development initiatives. A public-private partnership between the State and venture capital firms,InvestMaryland raised $84 million to reinvigorate the State-run MVF and support the growth of young Maryland companies in biotechnology, cybersecurity, e-commerce and other high-growth industries.

“CoFoundersLab is an innovative, exciting young company and a valuable resource for their fellow entrepreneurs. Having a strong team in place is often the most important ingredient in a startup’s success,” said Dominick Murray, DBED Secretary. “Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are the engine that drives Maryland’s economy and keeps our State competitive. We are proud to make this investment in CoFoundersLab and look forward to their success, and the success of the companies they touch.”

“We’re delighted to gain the support of the Maryland Venture Fund to help CoFoundersLab achieve its ambitious plans for growth. InvestMaryland has proven to be one of the most progressive state programs to help foster startups activity, the engine for job creation,” said Shahab Kaviani, Cofounder and CEO of CoFoundersLab. “With this investment we’ll continue to improve our matching algorithm and launch events in more cities so the best founding teams can unite to launch new business and create jobs for Maryland and beyond.”

CoFoundersLab is the world’s largest online community of entrepreneurs and helps them discover and connect with more than 25,000 cofounders, advisers, and interns to launch and grow new businesses. Members make connections through an online matching site at and through in-person matchup events hosted in more than 35 cities across the globe. Its success stories include ReelGenie, an online service based in Silver Spring that creates videos from a customer’s videos and photos. ReelGenie received a $150,000 investment from the MVF in July 2013. CoFoundersLab has also provided Premium Memberships to all 41 companies that advanced to the second round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s national business competition.

Created by Governor O’Malley and passed by the General Assembly in 2011, InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. In March 2012, the State raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies. Two-thirds of the funding – $56 million – is being managed by carefully screened private venture firms that will invest the funds and, if successful, return 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the State’s general fund. The remaining third of the InvestMaryland capital is largely allocated to direct investments by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund.

The Maryland Venture Fund is a regionally recognized leader in seed and early-stage investing and a national model for state-supported investment programs. With nearly two decades of experience and numerous successful investments, MVF invests in highly innovative technology companies across the full range of industry sectors including software, communications, cybersecurity and life sciences companies in the areas of healthcare IT, medical devices and diagnostics.

Recent changes to loan programs through the U.S. Small Business Administration are easing the financing process for Maryland entrepreneurs, and winning approval from State business leaders.

The SBA is now waiving the upfront guaranty fee and ongoing fee on category 7(a) business loans of $150,000 or less. Potentially, a small business owner obtaining a $150,000 loan could save more than $2,500 in fees. The waiver became effective on Oct. 1, 2013 and continues through Set. 30, 2014. Participating banks will continue to receive an 85 percent guaranty on 7(a) business loans. The backing of the SBA lowers the loan’s risk and acts as an incentive for participating banks to loan funds to qualifying business owners, according to the SBA.

Category 7(a) business loans are the most popular SBA loans issued by participating banks in Central Maryland, which is served by the SBA’s Baltimore District Office. In fiscal year 2013, participating banks issued 432 7(a) business loans, representing over $166 million, out of 510 total business loans with a total economic impact of over $272 million, according to the Baltimore District Office.

Find additional information on 7(a) business loans here.

The SBA is also waiving upfront fees for SBAExpress loans of $350,000 or less for veterans. These loans qualify for a 50 percent guaranty from the SBA. This benefit became effective on Jan. 1, 2014 and will continue until Sept. 30, 2014.

Find additional information on SBAExpress loans for veterans here.

The Maryland Governor’s Commission on Small Business, created by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2010, applauded these waivers during its recent winter meeting.

“The SBA has really made a difference for small businesses in our State. I’m glad to see their loans become even more accessible,” said Ackneil Muldrow, chairman of the GCSB.

Edward Knox, the lead SBA lender relations specialist at the Baltimore District Office, addressed members of the GCSB on the changes, emphasizing the SBA’s ongoing partnership with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

SBA-backed loans help reduce the collateral required by small business owners in need of funding. SBA programs may reduce the risk to the business owner and the participating bank, but they do not reduce the quality of the investment, according to Knox.

He cited Baltimore-based Under Armour, now a world famous sportswear brand, as an example of a once-small business that experienced rapid growth after receiving an SBA-backed loan.

“An SBA guaranty is not used to make a bad loan good. It simply enhances an otherwise good loan,” Knox said.

Baltimore, MD (February 20, 2014) – Governor Martin O’Malley released the Unmanned Aerial & Space Systems & Launch Industry Feasibility Study, which identifies opportunities for investment and growth in aerospace and space on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. The study was funded by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and prepared by LJT & Associates, Columbia, Md., for the Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore.

“Space is more than just ‘the final frontier’ for scientific exploration – it is a promising economic frontier for our nation, for our state, and, as this study attests, for our Lower Eastern Shore,” said Governor O’Malley. “With Maryland residents comprising nearly 50 percent of its workforce, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has had a significant impact on the economy of the Lower Shore for more than six decades. This feasibility study outlines the potential for further development of the industry around Wallops, attracting new businesses to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, creating jobs for Marylanders and strengthening the nation’s space science and exploration capabilities.”

Continue Reading…

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Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 prioritizes job growth and support for entrepreneurs.

“This jobs budget puts us on the path to eliminating our inherited structural deficit by 2017, with no tax or fee increases, ” the governor said in a statement. “This fiscally-responsible budget builds on the tremendous progress we’ve made as a State, strengthening our economy by supporting 48,000 jobs, protecting our  #1 in the nation schools with record investments in education, and upgrading our transportation infrastructure with modern investments.”

The governor’s balanced budget, announced on Wednesday, fosters industry initiatives targeting clean technology, green technology, biotechnology, life sciences, cybersecurity and basic research and development. Efforts toward modernizing infrastructure, including schools, roads, bridges and highways, could create 48,000 new jobs, according to the governor’s office.

The budget would significantly expand the state’s primary job creation program, the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (MEDAAF). Approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 1999, MEDAAF is a non-lapsing revolving loan fund, designed to assist businesses, targeted industries and political jurisdictions through a variety of funding opportunities.

The governor has proposed an $8 million increase in funding for MEDAAF, aimed at ensuring the program’s sustainability. The increase would bring the fund’s total investment to $28 million in FY 2015, a major gain for the program’s managing agency, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED).

A variety of development tax credits, managed by DBED, are also proposed to expand in the new budget:

  • The Research & Development Tax credit could grow by $1 million, from $8 million to $9 million.
  • The Biotechnology Tax Credit could grow by $2 million, from $10 million to $12 million.
  • The Cyber Security Tax Credit could grow by $1 million, from $3 million to $4 million.

The governor’s budget also provides $11 million for the film production tax credit, which would support continued seasons the hit HBO television show “Veep” and the Netflix drama “House of Cards.” Both series have proved especially valuable in supporting small businesses.

Record funding is also proposed for the Maryland Office of Tourism at $14.4 million, including $2 million for promotion of events related to the War of 1812. The Maryland State Arts Fund could receive $17.1 million, with $2 million is allocated toward the Special Find for the Preservation of Cultural Arts.

The Maryland General Assembly may adjust the budget through the end of session in April, unless an extended session is required.

Find a full list of budget highlights and enhancements in the governor’s budget here, and presentations below.

Watch live streaming video from statemaryland at

Maryland workers will benefit from workforce training.

For workers with New Year’s resolutions to learn new skills and advance their careers, the EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) program may soon provide some assistance.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) announced last week the recipients of planning grants for collaborative worker training programs in various industries across the state. The 29 awardees will now use the grants to fund the creation of partnerships with fellow key players in their industries, ranging from biotechnology to manufacturing.

Through conferences, meetings and training sessions, they will determine the type of training needed most among workers in their industry. They will submit finalized Strategic Industry  Partnership Workforce Training Plans by March 2014, and by May 2014, DLLR will award implementation grants.

The two-phase process of planning grants and implementation grants is funded by the state at $4.5 million. Funding for planning grants averaged $22,000, according to DLLR.

Governor Martin O’Malley praised the program, which has become a signature part of his jobs creation plan for the state. ”There is no progress without a job. By awarding today’s state-funded Planning Grants to these selected strategic partnerships, we’re moving our State forward and helping more Marylanders get the skills they need to qualify for Maryland’s most in-demand jobs. Working together, these EARN planning grants will provide industry-specific, state-of-the-art training for high-demand occupations,” the governor said in a statement.

While the initiative is the first of its kind in Maryland, similar programs have succeeded in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and have already assisted workers in industries including aerospace, healthcare and clean energy.

Organizations and business leaders applied for grants to fund the creation of Strategic Industry Partnership Workforce Training Plans between October and November.

Find a full list of awardees categorized by industry below. Learn more about the applicants by clicking on the links.

Industry Planning Grant Awardees
Biotechnology 1) Baltimore Biotechnology Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc., and Baltimore BioWorks, Inc.
Co-Conveners: BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc., and Baltimore BioWorks, Inc.
2) Montgomery County Biotechnology Training Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Montgomery College
Convener: Montgomery College
Construction 3) Prince George’s and Charles County Construction Industry Partnership for Jobs
Lead Applicant(s): Finishing Trades Institute
Convener: Washington DC Building Trades Council
4) BIM Technology for the Incumbent Worker in the Construction Industry
Lead Applicant(s): Towson University Division of Innovation and Applied Research
Convener: Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation
5) Project Jump Start Construction Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Associated Builders and Contractors Baltimore Metro Chapter
Convener: Associated Builders and Contractors Baltimore Metro Chapter
Cybersecurity/IT 6) Central Maryland Cyber/IT Consortium
Lead Applicant(s): Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, Inc.
Convener: Dunbar Digital Armor
7) Western Maryland IT Center for Excellence
Lead Applicant(s): Allegany College
Convener: Exclamation Labs!
8) 21st Century Technology Business Services Partnership for Prince George’s County
Lead Applicant(s): AgemO Technology
Co-Convener: Prince George’s Community College & Bowie State University
Green Industry 9) Water and Wastewater Career Development Partnership of Central Maryland
Lead Applicant(s): Maryland Environmental Service (MES)
Convener: Maryland Environmental Service (MES)
10) Baltimore Regional Green Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Civic Works
Convener: Civic Works
11) Maryland Offshore Wind Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Humanim
Convener: Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind
Healthcare 12) Northeast Maryland Health Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation
Convener: Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation
13) Ready to Care: An Eastern Shore Partnership to Train Healthcare Workers
Lead Applicant(s): Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center
Convener: Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center
14) Montgomery County Healthcare Practitioners: Rx for Employability
Lead Applicant(s): Montgomery Business Development Corporation
Convener: Montgomery Business Development Corporation
15) Baltimore Healthcare Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH)
Co-Conveners: BACH and Center for Urban Families
16) Southern Maryland Healthcare Industry Alliance
Lead Applicant(s): Tri County Council
Convener: College of Southern Maryland
17) Prince George’s and Charles Counties Healthcare Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Associated Black Charities
Convener: Associated Black Charities
Health Information Technology 18) Health Information Technology Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Community College Baltimore County (CCBC)
Convener: CCBC Continuing Education and Economic Development Division (CEED)
19) Mobile Health Technologies in the Baltimore/Washington Corridor
Lead Applicant(s): Howard Community College
Convener: Maryland Health Tech Coalition
Retail / Hospitality 20) Baltimore Regional Culinary/ Hospitality Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Humanim
Convener: Humanim
21) Building Employer Led Alliances for Careers in Hospitality (BEACHES)
Lead Applicant(s): Wor-Wic Community College
Co-Conveners: The Governor’s Economic Development Committee of Ocean City Maryland & The Carousel Group
22) Purple Line Skills Training Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Convener: CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Logistics 23) Maryland Mid-Western Transportation & Logistics (MOVE) Partnership
Lead Applicant(s) Montgomery College
Co-Conveners: Hagerstown Community College and Montgomery College
24) Chesapeake Transportation and Logistics Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Cecil College
Convener: Mid-Atlantic Transportation and Logistics Institute
Manufacturing 25) Manufacturing Workforce Partnership of Frederick County
Lead Applicant(s): Wright Manufacturing
Convener: Wright Manufacturing
26) Shore Manufacturing Strategic Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Chesapeake College
Convener: Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board
27) Maryland Manufacturing Incumbent Workforce Training Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
Convener: Maryland MEP
28) Maryland Manufacturing Boot Camp
Lead Applicant(s): Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
Convener: Maryland MEP
Marine 29) Marine Trades Industry Partnership
Lead Applicant(s): Marine Trades Association of Maryland
Convener: Marine Trades Association of Maryland


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