Happy Holidays! This season is a time to be thankful for our blessings and give back to the community that connects us. This winter, please share what you can – food, money, or your time – with those who are less fortunate; even small acts of kindness have the ability to lift up our neighbors and provide hope to one another. Let’s also not forget about the men and women who sacrifice so much, including time spent away from their families during this holiday season, to serve and defend our nation.
Together, we have made remarkable progress over this past year, and we remain committed to expanding opportunities and protecting Maryland’s middle-class families. As our children rejoice in the spirit of the season, let’s remember the choices that we make today will determine what legacy we leave for them.
Enjoy the company of your neighbors and friends, and take pride in all you have done to move our State forward. Katie and I look forward to seeing you and your family at Government House this year. On behalf of my family and Lt. Governor Brown’s family, we wish you a joyous holiday season.
Thank you for making Maryland the best place to live.
Martin O’Malley, Governor
Please join us at our Holiday Open House
Saturday, December 14, from 1:00 to 4:00
At Government House, Annapolis MD
Annapolis Parking and Shuttle Service from Naval Stadium Lot (Rowe Blvd. and Taylor Ave.)
Supporting Maryland’s more than 440,000 veterans, and reducing unemployment within this invaluable community, is one of our highest priorities as a state. After facing so many barriers to protect us in the U.S. and abroad, these individuals should never come home and face barriers to supporting themselves and their families.
That’s why the Veteran’s Full Employment Act is so important. It allows us to do right by our veterans and their families by making sure we remove barriers to employment here at home.
Today, I met with members of our veteran community—veterans, employers, and representatives of the agencies and organizations that support our servicemen and women–to update them on our progress implementing VFEA. Cabinet heads from across state government talked about what we’re doing to overcome barriers to employment in Maryland, for both veterans and military families. These Marylanders all have skills, experience, and training in demand by Maryland employers. By breaking down these barriers, we are not only doing right by our veterans, but we are also making our economy stronger by tapping into these skills. Every single person—and every person’s talent—is needed in order to create jobs and expand opportunity.
I also shared with the group the new Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs website, which is designed to be a streamlined source of information for veterans and their families in Maryland. This new site will allow our veterans to find all the information they need about jobs, benefits, health care, financial assistance, and every resource Maryland has to offer, in one convenient place.
While the veteran unemployment rate–in Maryland and around the country–remains slightly lower than the overall unemployment rate, we have an obligation to ensure that all of our Maryland veterans have employment opportunities when they return home from service. The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs continues to work, in partnership with its sister agencies, toward reaching our goal to fully employ veterans in Maryland by 2015:
- MDVA maintains an email distribution list of almost 15,000 residents and Veterans in Maryland and through collaborations with local employers, job openings are being shared via email with Veterans across the State;
- Over the last five years, the O’Malley-Brown Administration has provided $5.1 million in funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Scholarship Program to help veterans attain their educational goals and enhance their ability to gain employment;
- Since FY10, through Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development, we’ve provided $775,000 in funding for the Military Personnel and Veteran-Owned Small Business No-Interest Loan Program; and,
- Our Vet Stat- quarterly meetings tracks our efforts and holds agencies accountable for accomplishing these goals;
As we move forward as a State, we’re doing everything we can to coordinate services, problem-solve, and communicate with one another to better serve Maryland’s veterans.
Yesterday, Governor O’Malley and governors from seven other states announced a groundbreaking collaborative initiative to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
These governors have joined forces to revolutionize the automobile market by promoting zero-emission vehicles that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and public health, enhance energy diversity, save consumers money, and contribute to economic growth.
In Maryland, we now have 430 public charging stations, and over the next two years, with State and private investments, Maryland expects to add an additional 150 to 200 new charging stations.
There are two financial incentives available to expand our electric vehicle market: a $1,000 excise tax credit for the purchase or lease of a plug-in electric vehicle, and a tax credit of up to $400 on the purchase and installation of an electric vehicle charging station. And this year, we are making an additional $1 million capital investment for new charging stations at MARC and Metro Stations.
There are great economic advantages to zero-emission vehicles as well. Electricity is the most widely available source of power and typically costs about two-thirds less than gasoline on a per-mile basis. By 2025, the average zero-emission vehicle driver will save nearly $6,000 in fueling costs over the life of the car.
Samuel K.Himmelrich Jr., owner of the Montgomery Park building where the Maryland Department of the Environment is located, was very excited to have two charging stations for electric vehicles installed.
“It is great to do anything to accommodate electric vehicles,” Himmelrich, an electric vehicle owner, said. “They are cheap to drive and better for the environment. It just makes a lot of sense.”
In Maryland, we will continue to invest in innovation, such as electric vehicle infrastructure, and harnessing sun and wind power to create jobs and expand opportunity now and in the future. We are making better choices by investing in these areas of opportunity and innovation in order to achieve better results and a cleaner, greener Maryland.
At the Elkridge offices of cybsecurity firm Accuvant, Frank McLallen is in a holding pattern. As the Accuvant vice president in charge of the firm’s public sector contracting work, he was supposed to be hiring right now – as many as 40 or 50 people over the next nine months.
Today, even as Accuvant’s commercial practice remains strong, expansion of its federal portfolio in the midst of an ongoing government shutdown is “absolutely on ice,” said McLallen.
Accuvant provides information security services for a range of customers. Most hail from the private sector, but the company has expanded into federal contracting in the last 18 months, pursuing “the next natural source of growth.”
Amid the fiscal uncertainty, Accuvant won contracts with the Department of Defense, the Defense Information Systems Agency and civilian agencies. But despite the high priority of cybersecurity projects, McLallen said the company’s work fell into three categories after the shutdown — business as usual, potential future casualties of the shutdown and outright cancellations of projects.
As a result, McLallen has already shifted eight of his cyber consultants off mothballed federal projects and on to active private sector work. Another six to eight could follow soon.
While Accuvant’s commercial workload is helping the company weather the shutdown, shifting resources away from federal work will have long-lasting effects for both Accuvant’s public sector business and the government.
McLallen said sequestration and budgetary uncertainty has made agencies less likely to deploy new technology or update and fix existing programs unless the need is absolutely critical. The shutdown will compound those issues and the agencies Accuvant works for will lose out on the expertise and experience as would-be contractors shift to other work due to the disruption of the shutdown.
“The people we may have earmarked as key personnel and our delivery teams could be affected,” McLallen said. “This is not a positive thing for us by any stretch. I’m seeing the shutdown in my community, in the folks who have been sent home from work. For us, it’s a shutdown of growth in our public sector business. We’re limited now at a time that should be a ramp-up period. And that’s very frustrating.”
Nick Sohr, Managing Editor for MDBizNews contributed to this story.
by Raquel Guillory, Assistant Secretary, Department of Business and Economic Development
Fyodor Biotechnologies Corp. is on the precipice of a breakthrough in investigating sources of fever, other than malaria, in developing countries. Chairman and CEO Dr. Eddy Agbo was thrilled when he received word, only last week, of a National Science Foundation grant for their work. But before they could even process the payment, our federal government needlessly shut down.
Fyodor, headquartered in Baltimore at the UMB BioPark, has three full-time employees in Maryland and five in Africa. This grant meant an opportunity to seek out additional staff to help fulfill Fyodor’s mission of doing social good through science, but now those plans are on hold.
“The greatest challenge for us as we are developing our products is that every day we lose time, somebody is dying because that product could have benefited them and added years to their lives,” Dr. Agbo said. “It’s really very frustrating. It doesn’t allow you to keep focused on the critical mission that you set up the company.”
If the shutdown persists – he predicts that Fyodor would have no choice but to shutter the project.
“There are no very good options. If we don’t have the money, then the options for us are to put the project on hold entirely until we get the resources, which is really a pity,” Dr. Agbo said. “The other option for us is to find bridging funding. But you have to be able to tell the other source ‘In one week’s time, or two weeks’ time, I’ll be able to pay this back to you.’”
Despite the gloomy outlook for Congress coming together to fund our government, Dr. Agbo will not give up hope for his company’s mission of doing social good.
“We are adding our voice to the chorus,” Dr. Agbo said. “We are really urging our lawmakers and the president to find a way to resolve this. The impact is directly on the lives of people.”
By Raquel Guillory, Assistant Secretary, Department of Business and Economic Development
After a half-decade of economic recession and recovery, there was “finally light at the end of the tunnel,” said Cidalia Luis-Akbar, who owns and runs M. Luis Construction with her sister Natalia Luis.
Then the federal government shut down. Instead of light, they faced more economic darkness.
“Every day we’re out here taking risk. We’re making financial decisions based on a feeling that we’re finally starting to get out of the financial difficulty we’ve felt for five years,” Luis-Akbar said. “But this is terrifying. It’s scary out here now.”
President Obama visited M. Luis on Thursday to call for an end to the shutdown.
“Across the country you’ve got farmers in rural areas and small business owners who deserve a loan, but they’re being left in the lurch right now,” President Obama said. “They might have an application pending as we speak, but there’s nobody in the office to process the loan. The SBA gives a billion dollars of loans a month to small businesses — a billion dollars a month goes to small businesses all across the country. Right now those can’t be processed because there’s nobody there to process them.”
Founded by Portuguese immigrants with a wheelbarrow and a pickup truck in 1985, M. Luis has grown into a $60 million road construction company with 250 employees and a thick portfolio of projects across the Washington and Baltimore metro areas. Cidalia and Natalia are the daughters of Manuel and Albertina Luis, the company’s founders.
Many of their contracts, with Baltimore City, Montgomery County, the State Highway Administration and other towns and counties in the area, are partially funded by the federal government. They worry the shutdown will postpone future contracts and, if the situation persists, disrupt payments for current projects.
“We’re concerned about potential delays,” Natalia Luis said.
“It may be that contracts that were scheduled to bid in the coming weeks will get pushed back. That will have a huge impact when the backlog gets cleared and there’s not new work to take its place,” she said. “You’re talking about a significant and severe hardship.”
Luis said she and her sister will start to meet with their clients this week if the shutdown does not get resolved. They’ll assess the impact the shutdown will have on paving, road construction and other projects across the state.
“We cannot take any more out here,” Luis-Akbar said. “We are all barely hanging on by our fingernails. We’re not out of the woods. This makes us think twice about every decision we make.”
By Raquel Guillory, Assistant Secretary, Department of Business and Economic Development
The federal government might be shut down, but the lights at Kloudtrack stay on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, President and CEO Mike Binko said.
With eight employees in Rockville and Annapolis, Kloudtrack is a subcontractor on three IT and cloud computing projects within the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security. An example of the kind of innovative small businesses that are helping strengthen Maryland’s growing and upwardly-mobile middle class.
Kloudtrack is making tremendous progress, even in the face of an unnecessary government shutdown, and their work on contracts critical to our national defense and obligations to our veterans continues. However, if the Congress fails to fund our government, it will eventually be forced to put its ambitions and growth on hold.
“We are keeping an eye on it and if it goes beyond a week, then it’s a bigger concern,” Binko said. “We have to ask ‘Are we going to have to carry the load on operating costs?’”
Kloudtrack is a tremendous example of the startup culture that has made Maryland the #1 state in the nation to start a business. Their original focus on financial services firms helped guide them through the transition from legacy IT systems to cheaper, more nimble cloud computing. They look at which systems and data sets are best suited for a move to the cloud, and then provide the software to ensure that sensitive information and processes are safe, secure and auditable. Kloudtrack later broadened its expertise to include the healthcare sector and government.
As it turns out, government contracts have become Kloudtrack’s greatest source of uncertainty. Companies with smaller profiles like Kloudtrack, that have invested in the expertise necessary to handle government contracts, will feel the impacts of an extended shutdown more acutely than their larger counterparts. Small and medium-sized businesses typically don’t have the cash flow, reserves and borrowing capacity to withstand a long-term shutdown that puts their ability to receive payment in jeopardy.
“Small- to medium-sized guys like us, who are at a critical growth stage … that decision making is more on a month and quarters timeframe,” Binko said. “If the shutdown is protracted, if it goes beyond days or weeks, we have decisions to make on hiring, profits and cash flow. And that’s a concern for us.”
For now, despite the uncertainty, Kloudtrack will keep going.
“When the government shuts down, Kloudtrack doesn’t shut down,” Binko said. “We’re going to keep working. Our lights stay on 24/7.”
By Melinda B. Peters, Administrator of State Highway Administration (SHA)
Thousands of people and organizations nationwide created actual (albeit temporary) parks in parking spaces that normally hold vehicles on Friday. SHA participated in PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event where artists, citizens and groups transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks for one day. SHA created its temporary park at the corner of Calvert and Monument streets, adjacent to SHA’s Headquarters Building in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.
SHA’s PARK(ing) Day featured a miniature water treatment project similar to those used along highways throughout Maryland. SHA volunteers also created a working model to demonstrate how stormwater runoff can be filtered with trees, pervious concrete and bio-swales that collect and cleanse water as it drains through different layers before being discharged into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Administration uses these practices to both beautify our State’s roads and to filter pollution before it reaches our waterways to keep it clean.
SHA is very pleased to participate in this national event to highlight our commitment to the natural environment. This is an excellent way for us to connect with our neighbors and share innovations in improving water quality and protecting the Bay.
PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 in San Francisco and occurs annually the third Friday in September. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has become a global movement, with organizations and individuals using creativity to turn a single parking space into something green for one day.
State portal earns international distinction
We just learned that the state’s flagship web portal, Maryland.gov has won an Interactive Media Award for ‘Best in Class’ in the government category.
From their website: “The Best in Class award is the highest honor bestowed by the IMA. It represents the very best in planning, execution and overall professionalism.” Maryland’s site earned 482 out of 500 points to distinguish itself among the 137 government sites nominated. Five other states earned this prestigious award.
“It is an honor to be recognized for our online efforts here in Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “This award affirms our commitment to citizens to make government more engaging, useful and available. The business of government is reaching its citizens, and I would like to extend my thanks to the our team at the Department of Information Technology and NIC for achieving this milestone.”
And in case you missed it, last month, Maryland’s web portal won a VEMA (Visual Excellence in Media Arts) Award.
By Martin O’Malley
Yesterday, I joined Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian Lowery, and Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin Maxwell at Barnaby Manor Elementary School and Oxon Hill High School to welcome students for their first day of the 2013-2014 academic year. It was great to meet with some of Maryland’s best educators and brightest students.
In Maryland, together we’ve chosen to invest record funding in K-12 education and set the nation’s first specific STEM education standards that support educators in preparing our students for the 21st century economy. Over the next few years, we will continue to support our students and educators as we transition to better prepare them to compete globally.
With better choices, we have built what Education Week magazine says are the #1 best public schools in America five years in a row. Maryland’s high school students continue to set records for success. Our high school students are #1 in AP success for the 7th consecutive year according to The College Board, breaking records for AP STEM participation and success, and are graduating at the highest rate in our State’s history. And just last year, Maryland’s high school students broke state records for AP STEM participation and success.
This year, we will continue to invest record funding in our schools and build on the progress we’ve made together to prepare our children today for the jobs of tomorrow. We wish all of Maryland students and educators success in the new school year!