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Study Ranks Maryland as Second Most Charitable State

In the mood to give to your local soup kitchen this holiday season? Well you’re not alone -- at least not in the Free State.

24/7 Wall St. ranks Maryland as the second most charitable state, behind only Utah.

It analyzed IRS data compiled by the Urban Land Institute and ranked the states according to charitable donation per taxpayer. Marylanders gave $1,661 to charities, the study found. More than 40 percent of Maryland residents donate to charity.

The average income per taxpayer was $66,614 in 2009, making it the fourth highest in the country. The study found that, in general, the wealthier states gave more and the poorer states gave less.

Utah residents gave $2,388 per taxpayer, with an average income of $52,021. That puts it at No. 21 for income.

Maine ranked the least charitable, with residents giving an average of $612. It is the 10th lowest in income, pulling in $46,683 per taxpayer.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Main Streets' Microloan Program Goes to Washington

A group of Baltimore Main Streets board members and merchants attended a White House Business Leaders Briefing last month to showcase the Federal Hill microloan program at a small business forum.

Federal Hill Main Street is launching this because of a lack of access to capital for small businesses in our community. I think nonprofits are the future for lending to small businesses - banks certainly aren't doing it,” says Jane Seebold, Executive Director of Federal Hill Main Street.

The program offers small, short-term loans – from $500 to $2500 – to businesses in Federal Hill for low interest rates. The loans can be used by the businesses for specialized tasks like technology upgrades or seasonal inventory purchases. The loan board has secured an insurer after a lengthy struggle.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Jane Seebold, Federal Hill Main Street

Small Business Saturday Promotes Local Shopping

Did you remember Small Business Saturday? Now in its second year, the program sponsored by American Express aims to draw attention to local businesses for post-Thanksgiving shopping.

“I did patronize a couple local businesses in my neighborhood Saturday for that reason, but truth be told, I tend to shop local for everything I can, including Christmas presents," says Zoe Saint-Paul, local blogger and founder of SlowMama.com

Neighborhood retailers were offered an advertising boost this year featuring politicians like U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin encouraging Marylanders to “Shop Small” this holiday season. Cardin, a Democrat who represents Maryland, recently co-sponsored a bill to give Small Business Saturday an official designation and date in 2011.

Alexa Webb, owner of Alexa Webb Artisan Jewelry in Federal Hill, says sales from Small Business Saturday increased 480 percent this year compared with last year. Webb credits the advertising campaign in part.

According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 212 million shoppers spent $45 billion on consumer purchases during Thanksgiving weekend last year. Figures are not yet available for this year.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: National Retail Federation; Alexa Webb, Alexa Webb Artisan Jewelry; Zoe Saint-Paul, SlowMama.com; the Office of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Dynamic Shared Services Launches

AVF Consulting founder Andrew Fass and his team have launched a new business. Dynamic Shared Services will provide accounting, membership management, dues processing, and reporting services to school systems, non profits and local unions nationwide.
“It is exciting to identify and develop new business opportunities that compliment AVF,” says Andrew Fass, CEO and founder of AVF Consulting, Inc. “As a Microsoft Silver ERP partner, AVF provides Microsoft Dynamics financial management software and services to unions, nonprofits, and other businesses. It makes sense to leverage our experience into new opportunities.”
The business emerged from an opportunity created by AVF's relationship with the country's fastest growing union - Service Employees International Union. SEIU was looking for ways to provide accounting services for some of their local union members.  
“Many organizations and small school districts do not have the bandwidth to perform all the necessary, accounting, reporting, and processing required to maintain their operations,” says Fass.“DSS’s experts are proficient at these services and can provide them at a cost savings. Because DSS is a shared service organization, our clients have access to technology that they may not have been able to afford on their own.”
Jeanette Gaines, co-founder of the new business, will be the chief operating officer of DSS.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: AVF Consulting

Hamilton Crop Circle Raises Funds

Even though it's fall, and most people are done with gardening for the season, the Hamilton Crop Circle is still going strong. The effort, run by urban farmer Arthur Morgan, is finding new ways to raise money for its hoop houses, fundraise for its programs and get fresh produce to Baltimore's less fortunate.
The Hamilton Crop Circle used the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise more than $15,000 in 45 days to fund its program of building hoop houses for winter growing at the Hamilton Farmer's Market and Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. Through the elementary/middle school hoop house project, Hamilton Crop Circle will be able to increase its educational programs at the school to expose children to gardening and healthy foods. The produce that is grown by the students is used in the school cafeteria, so the kids get to taste the results of their work.
Urban farmer Arthur Morgan and the Hamilton Crop Circle are also taking initiative in gathering leftover produce from area farmer's markets and farming operations to feed the hungry. Seven Maryland farms allow Morgan to glean the leftovers from their fresh crops, which he then transports to Baltimore City non profits that feed the hungry and homeless.
The Hamilton Crop Circle has also recently held several local fundraisers, including restaurant nights, happy hours and even a Tattoo Day at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Erika Alston

MEDA Celebrates 50th Anniversary, Announces Economic Development Week Conference

The Maryland Economic Development Association is turning 50. The non-profit organization was formed in 1961 with the goal of encouraging partnership and networking among the businesses and professionals involved in the economic development climate in Maryland.

MEDA will be hosting a conference in conjunction with Maryland's Economic Development Week. This is the first year for Economic Development Week, which MEDA hopes to make an annual event. MEDA, in conjunction with Comcast, will be sponsoring economic development week to highlight award-winning economic development projects in Maryland.

As a highlight of Economic Development Week, MEDA also plans to host the MEDA Fall Conference on October 28th at the Turf Valley Conference Center in Ellicott City. The MEDA 2011 Fall Conference is entitled "Economic Development: An Investment in Partnerships That Strengthens Our Competitiveness". The conference will feature programming and sessions designed to showcase new ideas in the economic development marketplace, identify areas for improvement in Maryland's economic development strategies, and celebrate the programs, projects, and people that have made a difference in Maryland's economic development landscape in 2011.

MEDA is currently accepting nominees for the 2012 MEDA awards, as well as applications for membership.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: MEDA

TEDCO Hosting Entrepreneur Expo

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, a state-sponsored agency to encourage technological and entrepreneurial development in Maryland, is hosting the event "2011 ENTREPRENEUR EXPO: Harnessing the Power of Innovation in Maryland" on November 14 at the BWI Marriott. The event is designed to serve as a kick off for Global Entrepreneurship Week in Maryland.

The program of events includes a prize competition entitled "Entrepreneurial Launch Pad" in which conference participants are offered 3 minutes on stage in a conference hall to explain to a panel of judges and audience members what their business is doing that is innovative. Prizes will be awarded to the most innovative entrepreneur.

The Expo will also offer a Marketplace exhibition hall where Maryland companies and emerging entrepreneurs can showcase what their companies are doing with exhibits and demonstrations. The Marketplace will offer a Town Square central area with interactive programming and curated sessions by Betascape. Attendees will also have the opportunity to search for a mentor at the Meet Your Mentor event, a speed networking event with over 50 service providers and entrepreneurial support organizations participating.

Early Bird registration is available through October 20th.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: TEDCO

Small Business Survival Summit Offers Business Knowledge in Troubled Times

The inaugural Small Business Survival Summit was held at the Baltimore Convention Center on September 7 -9. The idea for the Small Business Survival Summit grew from a grassroots effort spearheaded by founders PJ and Patrick Chambers, the minds behind the Harford County web design firm WebIXI. The master of ceremonies for the event was Bob Paff, a noted local motivational speaker and founder of Integrated Benefits Corporation.

The workshops, lectures, and networking events were tailored to the needs of small business owners. Workshops including "Getting Social Media Savvy- Building Your Buzz Online" and "Social Media Blueprint" were designed to offer introductory and intermediate lessons to small business owners looking to increase their online presence. Marketing was featured prominently in the majority of the Summit's workshops.

"You can make the best cupcakes or coffee, but what does it matter if you don't promote it?" Paff says.

Workshops on obtaining government contracts, upcoming legislation relevant to small business owners, logistics, and employee relations were also offered. The Small Business Survival Summit featured specific activity tracks dedicated to Marketing (Traditional, Online and Social Media tracks), Non Profits, Leadership & Organization and Government and Your Small Business, to allow business owners to easily keep up with the topics of interest to them.

"We're looking to do this every year," Paff continues. "Small business is the backbone of this country."

Also on the program of activities were networking events and lectures. Evening banquets featured entertainment and inspirational talks from luminaries, including speeches by Dr. Ben Carson and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Small Business Survival Summit, Bob Paff

Capital Studios Offers Startups a Launchpad

The logistics of opening a new business can be tricky. When pursuing the idea to start a venture, entrepreneurs are faced with the choice of keeping overhead low by working from home, or engaging premises to have meeting space. That's where co-working environments like Capital Studios come into the picture.

"I travel a lot and have seen co-working spaces here and there. We wanted something very general that a lot of different groups felt comfortable in," says Mike Morris, a real estate professional who founded Capital Studios with partner Kevin Hollins.

Just opened on Bank Street, Capital Studios in The Tack Factory offers startups and entrepreneurs the opportunity to engage office space that's flexible and still affordable. Their open-plan space features modular work stations, equipped conference rooms, and office equipment. There's no concern for a budding business to get the utilities turned on or furnish an operating space. The decor is minimalist and modern. Work space, including access to conference rooms, can be rented on a daily or monthly basis.

"What this is really geared toward is the person working at a Starbucks who wants to have their mail delivered here, have a meeting, talk to the person sitting next to you," Morris says.

The newly opened facility has the capacity to provide the base for dozens of startup firms and small businesses. There are currently a dozen businesses based at Capital Studios full time. The current crop of small enterprises at Capital Studios has a tech focus. The list of firms calling Capital Studios home includes graphic designers, programmers, foreign currency traders, and members of the staff of the Baltimore division of Citybizlist.

Capital Studios is expanding the facility and will be offering additional work spaces in the near future.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Mike Morris, Capital Studios

Pratt Libraries Introduce E-Readers

As the way that many readers access books is changing, the Pratt Library is changing to keep up with the times. Starting August 8th, two branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system will begin offering e-readers to library patrons for check out.

"We're always asked what will be the future of libraries and books with the arrival and boom of e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. So instead of shying away from this change, the Pratt Library has decided to embrace it," says Roswell Encina, Director of Communications for the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

The Barnes and Noble "Nook" branded e-readers will be available for checkout at the Reisterstown Road branch and the Waverly branch. Each e-reader comes preloaded with titles ranging from new bestsellers to children's books.

"Currently the e-readers are preloaded with 22 titles that includes best-sellers like Tina Fey's Bossypants, Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay and David Baldacci's The Sixth Man. Its a combination of fiction and non-fiction. There are also children's and teen titles as well as several classics, like Little Women," Encina says.

E-readers can be checked out by Pratt library patrons 18 and older who have a good library record, a library card, and a photo ID. Patrons will be allowed to keep the e-reader for 3 weeks. The Pratt Library system is hoping to expand the e-reader program to other branches in the future, and is looking for sponsors to help with that expansion. The library plans to offer additional e-readers through the Student Express Department at the Central Library. E-readers preloaded with the year's reading list will also be offered to middle schoolers at Saint Ignatius School.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Roswell Encina, The Enoch Pratt Free Library

Knott Foundation Seex Tax Credit Boost to Non-Profit Investment

The head of Baltimore's Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation says an expansion of Maryland's million-dollar Community Investment Tax Credit program to include corporate donors could help non-profit organizations expand their physical investments in the city, in addition to boosting programming.

"When I directed Light Street Housing, we used the CITC program to develop new relationships and garner tens of thousands of increased donations," says Knott Foundation executive director Greg Cantori.

Under the CITC, organizations that have received grants from foundations or other grantmakers can distribute tax credits to donors in order to spur more strategic giving. Donors, in turn, receive a tax credit that can be added to state and federal deductions the same year, or rolled over for as many as five years.

Donors can find non-profit organizations that match their giving goals and have available tax credits on the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's GIVE Maryland site, here: http://www.mdhousing.org/givemaryland/

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Greg Cantori, Knott Foundation

Living Classrooms Moves Forward on East Baltimore Projects

In June, the Living Classrooms Foundation broke ground on a new youth sports field in Patterson Park with the support of Under Armour and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. As that project moves forward, Living Classrooms is adapting a historic two-story firehouse on Caroline Street in the Perkins Homes community.

The first floor of the firehouse will include a multi-purpose space for after-school programming to add to the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center on East Fayette Street. The first floor will also include a community technology center. The second floor will hold offices for Living Classrooms staff and the Perkins Homes Tenant Council as well as conference rooms and space for community health fairs.

Perkins Homes is part of the Living Classrooms Target Investment Zone in East Baltimore, and the firehouse will be renovated with the help of participants in Project SERVE, Living Classrooms' initiative to lower recidivism and raise the employment rate among those re-entering Baltimore communities following incarceration.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Talib Horne, Living Classrooms

International Dyslexia Association Launches Parent Initiative

The International Dyslexia Association has launched an initiative to help parents of dyslexic and learning disabled children connect with one another and get the information that they're looking for to help their children. The initiative includes a lower membership price for parent members, a new bi-monthly news letter, and other tools for parent members.

The centerpiece of the new program is a website that allows parents of dyslexic and learning disabled children to connect with other parents dealing with the same issues. The private, secure forum allows parent members to post questions, have conversations, post photos and videos, and make connections within the dyslexia and learning disability community. The connection site is currently being tested in 12 markets.

The Timonium based International Dyslexia Association has up to this point been a resource that was tailored to the needs of clinicians, researchers, educators and other professionals in fields that contribute to dyslexia research and education. The initiative to make the IDA accessible to parents was spurred by large numbers of parent calls and emails to the IDA.

"We get phone calls and emails from parents all over the country. Our goal is to support our parents in any way that we can. One of the things that we see the most is that parents want to connect with other parents," says Kristi Bowman, Director of Development for the International Dyslexia Association.

The IDA will be continuing the parent outreach program with new informational materials designed for parents. The new parent focused informational brochures and other learning materials will be available later this year.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Kristi Bowman, International Dyslexia Association

First Annapolis Irish Festival Successful Fundraiser for Hospice of the Chesapeake

Hospice of the Chesapeake was looking for ways to raise money in a difficult fundraising environment. A group of Annapolis based philanthropists was looking for a non-profit to benefit from the first Annapolis Irish Festival that they were organizing in Crownsville. The result was a match that exceeded everyone's expectations.

Several thousand people attended the bustling festival on July 9th, and Hospice of The Chesapeake raised both funds and awareness of its activities in Maryland.

"A group in Annapolis wanted to to put on a festival to benefit a non-profit in the community and approached us. The turnout has been wonderful. It's been great to work and meet people, and we're all having fun," said Kathy Bourgard, Director of Volunteers for Hospice of the Chesapeake.

This is the first year for the Annapolis Irish Festival. The daylong celebration of Irish culture included musical performances by Irish rock bands, traditional entertainers, Irish dancers, food, and shopping. The festival also featured Gaelic Games sponsored by the Baltimore Gaelic Athletic Association, and a large children's activity area.

Hospice of the Chesapeake will be making use of the new influx of funds to support the foundation's many programs, including the Life Centers. The organization operates two Life Centers, in Annapolis and Landover. The Life Centers provide grief counseling for adults and children, assistance for patients with terminal illness and their families, perinatal support, and educational workshops for caregivers and grieving families. Hospice of the Chesapeake will receive all of the proceeds generated by the Annapolis Irish Festival.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Kathy Bourgard, Hospice of the Chesapeake.

New Fells Point Farmer's Market Offers Opportunity

The newly opened Fells Point Farmer's Market offers the neighborhood fresh opportunities for growth. Merchants offering meat, herbs, produce, baked goods and more are setting up shop in the square on Saturdays, providing the neighborhood with both new food choices and a gathering spot.


Opened under the auspices of Fells Point Main Street, the market has been an immediate success.  Vendors are being added to the mix, with five new vendors expected to be added in the next few weeks.

For some vendors, this market provides the opportunity to start their businesses and explore the possibility of pursuing their passions as a profitable enterprise. Baker Teresa Pessaro had been creating her vegan treats for friends and clients for some time before she decided to take a shot at expanding her enterprise Goody Goody Gumdrops with a stall at the market.

"There's been a good, positive response. There's so many people in the neighborhood, and with the water taxi and tourists, you meet a lot of different people. I've gotten good feedback." says Teresa Pessaro.

The market is focused on both building a better community in Fells Point and providing opportunities for residents to get fresh food. Fells Point Main Street is looking to expand the market's offerings, and find ways to give back to the neighborhood.

"We're all about supporting the neighborhood, getting people to shop local and stay local. What a better way than to make it so that people can wake up, grab a head of lettuce or something from the market and stay in the neighborhood." says Fell's Point Main Street volunteer Nathalie Mageria.

The market will run every Saturday until November 12. Fells Point Main Street is accepting applications for new vendors, and recruiting volunteers.

Author: Amy McNeal

Sources: Nathalie Mageria, Fells Point Main Street; Teresa Pessaro, Goody Goody Gumdrops


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