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Change Matters Becomes Maryland's First Benefit LLC

Change Matters, a social enterprise consulting firm, has become Maryland's first Benefit LLC. The Takoma Park-based company advises Maryland non-profit and social purpose businesses.

"This designation honors and recognizes the way we want to do business. In a balanced way. And really in a way that puts serious emphasis on community improvement and environmental stewardship. I do think that this designation is a differentiation factor," says Change Matters, Benefit LLC founder and principal Amy Kincaid.

The Benefit LLC structure is the first of its kind in the US. Maryland's Benefit Corporation law took effect last October, making Maryland the first state to recognize a specific corporate designation for companies that choose to balance financial concerns with social and environmental missions. The statute creating the designation was signed by Governor Martin O'Malley in May, 2011.

June 1, 2011 was the first day that companies could file for organization as a Benefit LLC. In addition to Change Matters, other Maryland firms are pursuing the Benefit LLC designation. Substance 151, a Baltimore-based communications firm, was the second company to file. Clean Currents, a wind and solar energy provider, has also filed for the designation.

"There are no direct, clear financial incentives to doing this. Even though I do think there is potential value to the state to encouraging this kind of business, there are no tax incentives, there are no special procurement points, marketing business development assistance, or such," continues Amy Kincaid. "I believe this kind of economic activity can generate perhaps modestly, but deeply and sustainably, local jobs and revenue and community assets, innovation toward solving social problems."

Change Matters founder Amy Kincaid will be moderating the panel discussion "Social Enterprise: When Your Business Is Changing The World" at July's ThinkBig Baltimore conference.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Amy Kincaid, Change Matters, Benefit LLC

Terrapin Adventures Adds Jobs and Fun in Savage

An innovative business idea can come to an entrepreneur at any time. For Matt Baker, the founder of Terrapin Adventures in Savage, inspiration struck during a zip-lining tour of the rainforest in Costa Rica. After touring the US to look at similar facilities, Matt returned to Baltimore to open the outdoor adventure experience Terrapin Adventures.The growing company has recently doubled the size of its staff, adding 15 positions in the last two months.

"We try to share our love of the outdoors with people," says Baker, who goes by the title Chief Adventure Officer.

Located at Savage Mill, Terrapin Adventures offers team building adventure days for corporate clients, church groups and scout troops, and also books private parties. Open year round, Terrapin Adventures holds a variety of events, including murder mysteries, moonlight madness events, and the "Beer & Fear" Hallowe'en event with partner Ram's Head Tavern.

The adventure park offers participants the opportunity to try a wide range of adrenalin pumping activities, including zip-lining, climbing towers, high and low challenge courses, and the giant swing. Teams are accompanied by a guide who stresses both safety and fun. The challenges on the courses are designed to maximize team work and creative thinking.

"We create an 'a-ha!' moment, when the process of sharing something outside of the normal workplace gets people to think differently," continues Baker. "We help build stronger relationships."

The company is also active in its community. They have partnered with Arlington Echo to adopt two endangered terrapin turtles, and sponsored a clean-up of the Little Patuxent River. Terrapin Adventures recently sponsored a 5k race, "Terrapin And The Hare," to benefit Playworks D.C.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Matt Baker, Terrapin Adventures

Enoch Pratt Library's Forest Park Branch Expands Technology Services

The Enoch Pratt Free Library's Forest Park branch re-opened Monday, Feb. 7 with design renovations and six times as many computers as it previously had. Located at 3023 Garrison Blvd. in northwest Baltimore, the library will now provide online access to more community members conducting employment research and filing paperwork as they find potential work.

John Damond, manager of the Business, Science, and Technology center at the Enoch Pratt central branch on Cathedral Street in Mount Vernon, expects the thirty-two new computers at the Forest Park location will see heavy use. "There has definitely been an increase in searching for jobs and job application" using public PCs at the central library, he says.

Many companies that are hiring refer candidates to local public libraries for computer use, and since many human resource departments now operate exclusively online, these services are essential. In the central branch's PC Commons and Public Computer Center, as well as in subject departments and the dedicated Jobs & Career Center, Damond estimates that there are 75-100 computer workstations at his location. Newly overhauled branches like Forest Park, which now has 32 computers, or the Edmondson Avenue branch that reopened in June 2010, generally have dozens of options for job-seekers to get online and get back to work.

Organizational support for the city library system's expansion of computer services has come from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and the David and Barbara B. Hirschorn Foundation.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: John Damond, Enoch Pratt Free Library

Inclement Weather Leads to Short-Term Stimulus

Though inclement winter weather sometimes prevents thousands of Baltimoreans from getting to work, the snow is a boon to many small enterprises, like Ray Hill's Hill Gardens & Landscaping.

When a big storm is forecast, Ray doubles his standard staff of five to between ten and twelve people. That spike in shovel-pushers and plow-drivers may not last long enough to change statewide job numbers, but such seasonal business bumps can provide much needed short-term stimulus. Sometimes, when Old Man Winter hangs around, the jobs stick as long as the snow and ice do.

"We work a storm until it's done," Hill says. With three plow trucks and one front-end loader, this crew and others like it spread out all over the area to allow others get back to school and their jobs. Working from sunrise to sunset is tough, and some people just aren't cut out for it. But Hill is willing to give a shot to students, construction workers, or anyone else who will do an honest day's hard work in the freezing cold. "If they work out, we love to have them back." 

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Ray Hill, Ray Hill's Gardens & Landscaping

MEDA Seeks Nominations for 2011 Awards

The Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA)  has issued a call for nominations for its 2011 MEDA Awards.

Recognizing the innovation, synergy, and leadership at play when economic development transforms communities, the annual MEDA Awards will be presented in seven categories:

In honor of MEDA's 50th Anniversary, the MEDA Economic Impact Award was created to celebrate a project or program bringing lasting investment, momentous impact, and luster to a region and to the state at large. Eligible submissions create and nurture economic growth, prosperity, and renewal on a sweeping scale, improving Marylanders' lives far beyond regional borders.

"The MEDA Awards recognize members' efforts to attract and support businesses, redevelop business districts, market communities, and promote workforce development, tourism, and agriculture," says President David S. Iannucci. "If you know of a red carpet-worthy project or program in any category, nominate it today."

Nominations for the 2011 MEDA Awards must be submitted by January 31, 2011. Awards will be announced and award-winning entries will be displayed during the 2011 MEDA Annual Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay on June 6, 2011.

Source: MEDA
Writer: Walaika Haskins

CreateBaltimore Looks to Bring Together Baltimore's Arts, Tech Scenes

Over the past few years Baltimore's reputation as a hub of creativity -- both artistic and technological -- has grown. But, while the work of the city's artists and techies has done much to help the city as it marches forward, the efforts of the two communities have largely been separate. What would happen if the two groups came together, sharing their strengths and ideas?

That's the question Andrew Hazlett and Scott Burkholder, J. Buck Jabaily and Dave Troy hope to begin answering this Saturday, Jan. 15 at CreateBaltimore, a conference for artists, coders, crafters, curators, designers, entrepreneurs, hackers, connectors, activists, makers, educators, museum staff, performers, tinkerers, writers, and others who want to work together to enrich life in Baltimore.

"We were at a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance event, talking about futurism, networks and participatory cultural organizations, and it occurred to us simultaneously that a lot of these things were starting to sound familiar. We both are in the arts and culture sphere but had spent time hanging out with the tech and entrepreneurial community in Baltimore. We realized that there are a lot of ways in which these two communities are more alike than they realize, but at the same time have a lot to learn from each other," says Hazlett, co-organizer of CreateBaltimore.

"It's not just that museums and artists need to become more adept with social media. Or, that web designers need to understand art and design better, it's deeper than that. So many different topics came to us that we think people would like to talk about," he continues.

The two contacted J. Buck Jubaily, executive director of Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, and Dave Troy, an entrepreneur and leader in the local tech community who started TEDx Mid-Atlantic. The group decided that the best way to kickstart the conversation would be with a BarCamp or unConference-style event that allows participants to create the agenda, make presentations, and generate the discussions that interest them the most.

"We're hoping there will be some really good connections made between people who have more in common than they realize. We want it to have both short and long term impact. Conversation is great, but you have to have concrete next steps that take place. We view this as the start of an ongoing process. We'd like to see some theoretical back and forth, but also have some specific ideas about how entrepreneurs and the DIY, Etsy, craftmaker community can collaborate to take advantage of the storefront offers the city government has been working on. That could result in some concrete economic activity in the city," says Hazlett.

The event, which will be held at the Maryland Institute of Art's Brown Center, is sold out, however, Hazlett encourages anyone who would like to attend to sign up for the waitlist.

Source: Andrew Hazlett, CreateBaltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore Unveils Citizens it Ranks as the "Pride of Baltimore"

It's time we started giving credit where its due in the Baltimore area.

That's the thought behind the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore's (EAGB) new "Pride of Baltimore" campaign that will honor five area leaders as "rock stars who make things happen in Greater Baltimore."

The campaign, announced at the organization's 2011 Annual Meeting, will highlight people from industry, education, community leaders, government, and other sectors who help make Baltimore City great and an area that can outperform competing markets economically. It will include profiles of area leaders in ads, marketing materials, and web content.

"Our role is to promote this region as a place in which to grow a business, invest, and bring jobs. We found the best way to do that is to get the people behind our positive testimonials to tell their stories and give it more of a community feel. If we can connect those leaders, together we can better address opportunities that come along," says Thomas Sadowski, EAGB president and CEO.

The initial five "rock stars" recognized by the EAGB are: Maryland State School Superintendent Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick; former Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith; Thomas Wilcox, President and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation; Brian Rogers and the T. Rowe Price Leadership Team; and Juxtopia Founder Jayfus Doswell. According to Sadowski, featured leaders are either nominated or are people the organization considers standouts.

"We're working on a new list of honorees that will come out in the next week or so. Obviously they're certain people who stand out, and we began with the list that we did because they're obvious or should be obvious to most. T. Rowe Price and their contribution to the business community. Nancy Grasmick and everything she's done for education with us being No. 1 in public education, that's significant. BCF is doing great things in the community not just from a social perspective, but what they're doing in the tech community to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. We'd heard Jayfus Doswell's story a couple of times now and felt like it was a good one. Here's a guy who's doing great things in business and to give back to the community. They're a lot of people like Jayfus who're doing great things for our community and we want to tell their story," Sadowski says.

The idea to celebrate the region's heroes came from a trip to Austin, Texas where Sadowski says they've invested a lot in highlighting these members of their community. "A lot of them were grown out of Dell and some of the other companies that have launched there. These firms have made great strides and are now giving back to the community. They're readily known in the business community and are serving as mentors. We have a lot of that going on in Baltimore, but we're a bigger market and a little bit more diverse given the federal government agencies in the area. We thought it was a great idea and figured let's do what we can to start introducing these champion leaders to one another," Sadowski says.

Source: Thomas Sadowski, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore Green Spaces to map city's vacant lots with help from volunteers with smartphones

On December 11th, Baltimore Green Space is sending 20 2-person teams to explore Baltimore and put their smartphones to use for a good cause -- to create a map of vacant lots that have been turned into community green spaces, including gardens, pocket parks, horseshoe pits, and the like.

The group has undertaken this task, it says, "because Baltimore City is working hard to streamline its sales process for land and buildings." While Baltimore Green Space acknowledges that this is great news, it says the improvement presents an urgent challenge to preserve green spaces.

With some 13,000 vacant lots, the group hopes to help the City deal with the information problem it faces as the city doesn't know which of these "vacant" lots are actually community assets that improve the livability of neighborhoods and thus property values.

The City is eager to learn which lots should be included in the "community use" category of their database, according to Green Space. The organization has already given them about 200 block/lot numbers, but says there are considerably more that need to be mapped and, unfortunately, the time to document them is running out.

Green Spaces has piloted "a great way to document the exact location of gardens" using geo-coded photos taken on smartphones. It has already tested the technology out during a 3-hour event during which six teams of volunteers photographed 150 addresses. Now, there are another 450 to go.

During the Dec. 11 event the group plans to catalog the remaining addresses as well as any that they don't yet know about.

Source: Green Space
Writer: Walaika Haskins

OSI-Baltimore Awards $400K to Seven Baltimore Residents to Help the City's Underserved

An acclaimed comedian and mother of three will take young women from Park Heights on a journey through time to study their rich African and Native American ancestry and heritage. An attorney will work to protect low-income residents who have been victims of creditor abuse by providing training, assistance and co-counseling services to other attorneys who take on the victims' cases. A woman who learned to love skateboarding as an adult will mentor young Baltimore skateboarders and teach them leadership and self-advocacy skills, as they work to get a skate park built in the city. And a recent Johns Hopkins graduate will pair graduate psychology students with youth charged as adults to connect them with mental health, case management and rehabilitation help while they await trial.

These are just four of the seven people whom the Open Society Institute-Baltimore selected to be 2010 Baltimore Community Fellows, as the program celebrates its 13th year of supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve their dreams to improve the city.

Each of this year's fellows will receive $48,750 to work full-time for 18 months, implementing creative strategies to assist and revitalize underserved communities in Baltimore. This year's new class brings the total number of Baltimore Community Fellows to 117 most of whom still are actively working in the city, continuing to bring their energy and ideas to effect social change.

"Our new Community Fellows are dynamic and committed social activists, each with an innovative vision for bringing opportunity and greater justice to Baltimore's neighborhoods so that all residents can participate fully in community life," says OSI-Baltimore Director Diana Morris. "With this 13th class, we are proud to add to our corps of talented Baltimore Community Fellows. Working across issues and neighborhoods, these Fellows are bringing hope, new approaches, resources and advocacy skills to residents throughout the city, mobilizing them to take action to meet their own needs and to revitalize Baltimore communities."

Source: Open Society Institute Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Morgan State University Enrollment at All-Time High

Morgan State University, an historically black university, has enrolled the highest number of students -- 7,888 --  in its more than 140-year history.

"This is wonderful news for the Morgan community," says Dr. David Wilson, the university's president. "At 7,888 students this academic year, we have truly reached a new milestone in the University's history and it is a direct reflection of the hard work of our faculty and staff. They have built a reputation of excellence for Morgan that attracts the best and brightest minds from across Maryland, the nation and many parts of the world."

The numbers reported to the Maryland Higher Education Commission show that more than 600 additional students enrolled for the 2010-11 academic year compared to 2009-10 enrollment. That represents an increase of 7.5 percent for undergraduates and approximately 19 percent boost in graduate and honors students. The largest increase came from transfer students enrollment that grew 33 percent over the previous.

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie classified doctoral research institution offering more than 60 academic programs leading to bachelor's degrees as well as programs at the master's and doctoral levels.

Source: Morgan State University
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore County Announces 2011 Restaurant Week

Baltimore County has announced that its 2011 Restaurant Week  will take place Jan. 14 through Jan. 28. The dates, revealed last week, came with an open invitation to Baltimore County restaurateurs to participate in the event.

"We have so many wonderful restaurants in Baltimore County and this promotion will make it easy for residents and visitors to enjoy our local flavor," says County Executive Jim Smith. "I am looking forward to two delicious and affordable weeks of dining in Baltimore County."

The county hopes a wide variety of eateries throughout the area will participate. The Baltimore County Department of Economic Development office has sent out more than 500 letters to County restaurants outlining the promotion and inviting participation.

"It's easy and affordable for restaurants to participate," says Jill Feinberg, conference and tourism director for Baltimore County. "We expect to appeal to all palettes and price points." Participating restaurants will offer 1, 2, and 3-course lunch and dinner menus from $10.11 to $35.11 at five-dollar increments.

More information can be found at www.baltimorecountyrestaurantweek.com.

Source: Baltimore County DBED
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Bmore Team Takes Home Philly's Gigabit Genius Grant

Bmore Fiber, a group of business leaders and residents working to bring super high-speed broadband access to Baltimore, has won the $10,000 Gigabit Genius Award, created and funded by Philadelphia's startup and technology communities to encourage gigabit innovation worldwide. A panel of expert judges selected by Philadelphia's Division of Technology were instructed to choose the most promising projects from anywhere in the world.

The winning projects were chosen from among 20 finalists by a panel of expert judges drawn from Philadelphia's technology, civic, academic, and entrepreneurial leadership.

The projects were chosen for their potential to transform lives using ultra high-speed Internet connectivity known as gigabit. Gigabit technology would make the Internet up to 100 times faster than it is today, a difference in speed similar to the transition from dial-up modems to broadband Internet connections.

Bmore Fiber was awarded the bulk of the prize, $7,500, to begin developing teleradiology technology that will enable specialists to transmit and review radiology scans in real-time, making the experience identical whether the specialists are in the next room or the next continent.

"We are going to meet to consider our next steps. This is a big topic. One question is whether the funds should go to enabling the gigabit technology and then seek a path for the teleradiology work, or whether we should start work on the teleradiology project right away. In my mind the two are inextricably linked, so we'll have to see what makes sense," says David Troy, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur and spokesperson for Bmore Fiber.

The team will also start looking for partners from among Baltimore's robust technology and healthcare sectors.

"We have a broad range of volunteers here in the community, but we don't have anyone specifically lined up for the teleradiology project yet. Here in Baltimore, though, it would seem that with Hopkins and UMD medicine so strong here, we should not have trouble finding willing partners," says Troy.

The remainder of the prize, $2,500, was awarded to Israeli entrepreneur Daniel Dobroszklanka for a remote education project that would enable students anywhere in the world to participate in a world-class live classroom experience.

Source: Dave Troy, Bmore Fiber
Writer: Walaika Haskins

National Aquarium Teams With Uno Chicago Grills to Raise Dough for Conservation

The National Aquarium and Baltimore-area Uno Chicago Grills have come together to help save the planet -- or at least our part of it. The deep dish pizza joint and the National Aquarium have come together to launch the first ever Dough Rai$er, a year long fundraising event to benefit the Aquarium's conservation initiatives and education programs. The fundraiser gives the Aquarium's fans an opportunity to take action and support a healthier environment when dining at Chicago Uno Grills.

To participate in the National Aquarium Dough Rai$er just get a a voucher and bring it to a Baltimore area Uno Chicago Grill location through September 1, 2011. Twenty percent of sales generated from the vouchers will go to the National Aquarium's conservation and education programs.

Participating locations include Baltimore City (Harbor Place), Ellicott City (Long Gate Shopping Center), The Mall in Columbia, Bowie Town Center, Frederick, and Union Station in Washington D.C.

"This partnership highlights the power of community based partnerships," says Denise Aranoff-Brown, senior director of marketing for the National Aquarium. "In Uno Chicago Grills, we have found a partner that is equally committed to providing easy opportunities for consumers to get involved. In this case, local residents can help protect their local environment by supporting the Aquarium's conservation research and action programs."

In addition to the Dough Rai$er program, Uno Chicago Grill will support the Aquarium's conservation-related events. To help kick-off the partnership, Uno donated food for the Aquarium's Rock the Boat fundraiser that raised well over $1,000 for conservation research and action projects designed to restore, protect, and manage critical species or ecosystems.

"Uno Chicago Grill is proud to support the National aquarium with our hugely popular Dough Rai$er program. We care about the well-being of our customers and understand the importance of a healthy ecosystem such as the Chesapeake Bay," says Jim Hartnett, Harbor Place managing partner. "To date, we have donated more than $3.4 million to deserving organizations."

Source: The National Aquarium
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Two Baltimore Community Health Centers Receive $500K Gift from GE Foundation

Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers, Inc., two Baltimore-based community health centers, have been awared a total of $500,000 from the GE Foundation - the philanthropic organization of GE. The funds, distributed as part of the organization's Developing Health program, are part of an effort to help increase access to quality healthcare across the United States.

Developing Health is a three-year, $25 million GE program that aims to improve access to primary care in targeted under-served communities across the United States. The program aligns with GE's healthymagination initiative, a commitment to reduce costs, improve quality, and increase access in healthcare.

"We are pleased to partner and engage with Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers to help drive community access to quality healthcare in Baltimore," says Bob Corcoran, president, GE Foundation. "A staggering number of 47 million people in the United States are uninsured or lack access to basic healthcare, and we are committed to providing services to the uninsured and underserved through grants and GE volunteering in the communities. Both Chase Brexton Health Services and People's Community Health Centers are well equipped to provide the necessary services and make a difference in their communities."

"Over the last 30 years at Chase Brexton, we've endeavored to create programs and services that enable us to provide comprehensive, affordable healthcare to our patients. This grant from the GE Foundation will help us expand our existing services and support our efforts to improve health outcomes for the people we serve," says David H. Shippee, CEO of Chase Brexton Health Services.

The grants will expand access to primary care for residents in the area. "We pride ourselves in providing medical care to those who cannot afford it, regardless of their income or their insurance status," says Patricia Cassatt, CEO of People's Community Health Centers, Inc. "We are honored to be recognized by the GE Foundation for our efforts, and are excited about the prospect of providing increased access to care with the help of the Developing Health program."

Developing Health is a partnership between GE Corporate Citizenship and the GE Corporate Diversity Council. Modeled after GE's successful philanthropic program Developing Health Globally, the program was launched in New York City in October 2009, and has since expanded to Milwaukee, Houston, Cincinnati, Louisville and New Orleans.

Source: GE Foundation
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Barclay/Old Goucher Neighborhood to get $85M Makeover

The first phase of a major redevelopment initiative in Baltimore's Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood got underway last week. The innovative $85 million dollar redevelopment plan for the neighborhood was developed by community residents, neighborhood organizations, local developers, neighborhood social service providers, and city officials, in collaboration with urban/housing developer Telesis Corporation. The redevelopment plan will provide a range of housing opportunities including market rate and affordable housing, offered both for sale and for rent, in addition to new parks and community facilities and services including a Youth Safe Haven.

The first phase of the redevelopment will provide 72 units of affordable rental housing, 35 units of for-sale housing, and neighborhood jobs. Construction of the affordable rental housing, with a mix of new construction and rehabilitation, started in June 2010. In partnership with Healthy Neighborhoods, Telesis secured a $4.7M allocation of Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funds from the federal government, which will be used to rehabilitate homeownership properties. Construction of the homeownership units is scheduled to begin in late 2010. 

This redevelopment initiative is part of a larger, multi-party effort to redevelop the Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood and bring new opportunities and a better quality of life to the community. Deteriorated housing and high vacancies have left their mark on this architecturally sound neighborhood with committed community leadership.

In June 2007, Baltimore Housing and key community partners created the Barclay/Old Goucher Redevelopment Plan, strategically identifying redevelopment locations in the neighborhood. Telesis Corporation was awarded 268 parcels from Baltimore Housing, to be redeveloped in four phases that will complement the community investment initiatives, both underway, and recently completed. While Telesis focuses on the awarded parcels for redevelopment, many nearby organizations are contributing to the neighborhood revitalization by improving community gardens, rehabilitating privately owned homes, and establishing after-school programs for at-risk children. The result of this major, ongoing redevelopment effort will be a safe, stable, mixed-income community with a range of housing opportunities and community services.

Source: Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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