Mid-Shore Commerce: Looking Forward with Shore Bancshares Chair Frank Mason

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Last month, the Spy spent some quality time with Chris Spurry, the outgoing chairman of the board of Shore Bancshares, Inc., to talk about his extraordinary tenure during a time of significant financial upheaval on the Eastern Shore as the full impact of the Great Recession was dramatically felt throughout the Delmarva.

It was a story of corporate nimbleness and perseverance as Chris and his colleagues navigated through very troubled waters over several years to finally find themselves, and their grateful customers, once again on fiduciary terra firma as signs of a real recovery started to be seen by late 2015.

At the conclusion of that interview, Chris noted that while he will remain on the board, he would be succeeded in the chair position by fellow board member and Mid-Shore native, Frank Mason, to steer the publicly traded corporation into a new era.

The Spy thought it would complete the story of Shore Bancshares to catch up with Frank as well to talk about this new, exciting, and radically different world in finance.

An Easton native who has taken a unique journey himself, Frank Mason has been part of one of the Mid-Shore’s most specialized manufacturers in the region for his entire career. Now president of Jasco Inc. based in Talbot County, which produces spectroscopy and chromatography analytical instruments, Frank also has strong family ties with Shore Bancshares where his great-grandfather had also served on the board of Talbot Bank, the precursor to Shore United Bank.

In his interview with the Spy, Frank talks about Shore Bancshares future and what he sees as an extraordinary new era for financial services in the 21st century.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Shore Bancshares please go here.

Looking Back: A Conversation with Shore Bancshares Chair Chris Spurry

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When Chris Spurry was appointed to be the chair of the board of the Talbot Bank in 2006, he felt both honored and excited to take on this role during a time in banking when, as he recalled it, “a blind chicken could get fat.” The economy in general, and real estate in particular, was hitting historic highs in value and returns on investment. To be part of this extraordinary moment in Delmarva prosperity could not have been more fulfilling for him.

The St. Michaels native also saw this new role on the board of this highly regarded community bank as another positive outcome of his decision to move his a manufacturers’ representatives firm to Talbot County in 1983 after over thirty years serving in senior leadership positions with a Fortune 500 manufacturing corporation and food equipment supplier based in New York City. With Spurry (now Spurry-Curren and Associates) operating out of Easton, Chris was able to return home to the Mid-Shore he loved and directly particulate in its economic future.

But when troubling financial smoke signals were popping up in 2007, which later unfolded the following year into the country’s most significant economic collapse since the Great Depression, Scott and his fellow board members realized quickly that within this short period, the entire future of the Talbot Bank, Centreville National Bank, Avon-Dixon Insurance, and Wye Financial & Trust were now being severely threatened.

And as a result of this perfect storm, the Talbot Bank directors oversaw one of the most dramatic and sweeping corporate reconfigurations in the commercial history of the Eastern Shore.

In short order, the board was strengthened, a new senior management team was hired, banking operations were consolidated, as well as dozens of other operational changes required to cope with this new economic environment as well as an unprecedented wave of fiduciary regulations.

Now, after nine years of hard work and significant cultural change, Shore Bancshares is safely out of the woods and thriving.

The Spy caught with Chris at the Shore Bancshares corporate headquarters last month to talk about this extraordinary time in banking history as he steps down from being one of Shore Bancshares’ longest-serving board Chairs.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Shore Bancshares please go here

 

Chesapeake Bank and Trust Promotes Robert Thompson to Senior Vice President

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Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company is pleased to announce Robert Thompson’s promotion to Senior Vice President.

“Rob is an excellent community banker. He is well known in Kent County, and is well liked by our clients for his expertise and responsiveness. This promotion is very well deserved” – Glenn L. Wilson, President & CEO

Robert Thompson is Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company’s (CB&T) Senior Lending Officer, and has worked at the bank for over ten years. He joined CB&T in 2005 as a Loan Officer Trainee, became a seasoned Lending Officer, and was promoted to Vice President & Senior Lender in 2015. Thompson’s clients can be comforted and know that they are receiving the highest level of service and knowledge when they work with him.

A graduate of James Madison University, with a B.S. in Engineering and Manufacturing from the Integrated Science and Technology Program and of Kent County High School, Thompson lives in Worton with his wife Jessica and their daughter.

Founded in 1986, Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company, Chestertown’s Truly Local Banking Experience, has roots in Kent County dating back more than 100 years. Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company is a well-known pillar in the community, helping residents and businesses with their banking and investments needs. For more information please visit www.chesapeaketrust.com or call (410) 778-1600.

Chesapeake Bank “Spend Local, Stay Local” Gift Card Boosts Local Economy

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Glenn Wilson, President & CEO of Chesapeake Bank, and Russell Gertsch, Executive Assistant to the President, hold a copy of the bank’s local gift card, good for numerous local businesses plus any store that accepts Discover Card.

Chestertown, MD, December 8, 2017– In 2010, Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company introduced the innovative “Spend Local, Stay Local” gift card program. Since the program’s inception, over 3,000 gift cards have been issued, totaling nearly $100,000. These gift cards are targeted towards our local shops, restaurants, and businesses. The program highlights the wide variety of businesses that are located right in our backyard. Current participating retailers include hardware stores, coffee shops, bookstores, salons, gift shops and more. An up-to-date list of participating retailers is maintained on the program’s website.

“We are proud to offer this card, not to profit the Bank, but to support our community’s businesses.” – Glenn L. Wilson, President & CEO of Chesapeake Bank & Trust Company During this Holiday Season, consider supporting our local economy by giving the “Spend Local, Stay Local” gift card to friends, family and loved ones. Businesses may want to give them to their employees and customers.

Gift cards may be purchased at Chesapeake Bank and Trust Company’s High Street location. If you would like to accept the gift card in your business, buy a gift card, or learn more about the program, visit the website or send an email to spendlocal@chesapeaketrust.com or call 410-778- 1600.

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The Caroline Foundation Awards Grants

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The Board of Directors for the Caroline Foundation: Terry Mead, Bob Jarrell, Berl Lovelace, JoAnn Staples, Becky Loukides, Harry Cole, Richard Wheatley, Charlie Davis, Wayne Cole, Glen Plutschak, Michele Wayman, Miki Phillips, Jerry Garey and Tony Gianninoto and Mid-Shore Community Foundation President, Buck Duncan presented $564,570 in grant funding to the following organizations.

Caroline County Emergency Services – Response Services and Automated External Defibrillators, Caroline County Family YMCA – Open Doors Program,Caroline County Health Department – Addiction Treatment, Caroline County Public Schools – LifeSkills Training Program, Caroline County Public Schools – Weekend Food Program, Caroline County Sheriff’s Office – Drug Dog, Caroline Hospice Foundation – Patient Services, Caroline Medical Adult Day Care – Financial Aid, Channel Marker – Transportation Improvements, For All Seasons – Patient Services, His Hope Haven – Homeless Shelter, Partners in Care – Outreach Coordinator, Rebuilding Together Caroline County – Home Repair Services, St. Martin’s Ministries – Healthy Seniors Program, Upper Shore Aging – Patient Services.

The Caroline Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that awards grants to nonprofit organizations that provide medical and/or health-related services to residents of Caroline County.  The Mid-Shore Community Foundation provides administrative services and manages the grantmaking process on behalf of the Caroline Foundation.  Grant applications are available online at mscf.org/caroline-foundation and the deadline for submission is July 1, 2018.  Contributions to the Caroline Foundations are tax-deductible and should be directed to the Caroline Foundation, P.O. Box 607, Denton, MD.  Planned giving options are available.  For additional information, visit https://www.mscf.org/.

Maryland 3.0: As Medical Cannabis Nears, Bill could boost Minorities’ Stake

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After a four-year wait to provide medical cannabis to patients, the drug could be available to Marylanders as early as this month, according to industry stakeholders.

“I think we could see product in November, with increase in December and a steady flow from all operators in the new year,” said Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for Curio Wellness, a company in Lutherville, Maryland, awarded two licenses to cultivate and process medical marijuana.

However, racial diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry is wanting, and some lawmakers said they are planning to introduce a bill early next session to grant licenses to African-American business owners.

A disparity study ordered by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in April and due in December focuses on whether minorities who sought a license in the cannabis industry were at a disadvantage.

The study was prompted after the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus raised concerns about the lack of African-American involvement in the industry.

Of the 321 business owners granted preliminary licenses to grow, distribute or process the drug, 208 were white men or women and the remaining 113 identified as a member of a minority group or as multiracial. Of these, 55 — about 17 percent — were black men and women, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

“It’s shameful in a state like Maryland where we have one-third of the population of the state, one-third is African American,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

As the General Assembly’s January session approaches, members of the Black Caucus told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service they have begun drafting a bill that would award 10 new licenses for growers and processors specifically targeted at African-Americans interested in the industry.

They will move forward with their legislation regardless of the outcome of a Hogan’s disparity study, Glenn said.

“I will bank on it that we’ll come away from the table with five new licenses for growers and five new licenses for processors that will be awarded based on the results of the disparity study. What does that mean? That means these licenses will go to, in large part, African Americans,” said Glenn.

A weighted scoring system will give businesses an advantage of being awarded a particular license if they have a certain percentage of African-American ownership, Glenn said.

A “compassionate use fund” will be part of the legislation in order to make medical marijuana affordable for patients in Maryland. The fund will be financed based on the fees that licensees in the industry must pay, Glenn said.

“Marijuana is still an illegal drug, according to the federal government. Your insurance will not pay for marijuana even though it is medical marijuana. So what does that mean? That means it becomes a rich man’s struggle. We’re not gonna have that,” said Glenn, whose mother died of cancer and is the commission’s namesake.

Marylanders who are insured through the state’s Medicare and Medicaid programs will not be covered for medical cannabis, said Brittany Fowler, spokeswoman for the Maryland health department.

The legislation has been numbered Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2, and should gain initial approval as an emergency bill during a joint hearing by the House and the Senate during the first weeks of the session — which is scheduled to start Jan. 10 — Glenn said.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said they intend to use the upcoming election as leverage for the bill.

“Next year is election year … so timing is everything … I am very, very sure that this is going to be taken care of,” Glenn said.

Cannabis companies have said that the drug is likely to be available to patients this month.

ForwardGro Inc., the first licensed medical marijuana grower, successfully passed the state’s cannabis assessment this year, said Darrell Carrington, the medical cannabis director of Greenwill Consulting Group LLC.

Patients will be able to get cannabis in a variety of forms such as lotion, pills and transdermal patches, said Michael Klein, the chief operating officer of Wellness Solutions in Frederick, Maryland.

The industry has been projected to open toward the end of the year, according to Brian Lopez, the chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

“The industry is starting to move forward,” Lopez said late last month. “We hope we are going to have another 20 to 30 dispensaries by the end of the year and at that point we will have an industry that is starting to receive product consistently around the state. But with that we are going to also, I’m sure, see some growing pains.”

Maryland still faces a wide range of challenges as the industry starts up. The commission has not decided how to regulate how dispensaries will serve out-of-state patients, deal with the green waste from the cannabis, or address fraudulent activity within the industry, said Lopez.

“I’m sure we are going to hit road blocks, but we plan to work through them in a very consistent manner and with diligence,” Lopez said.

Maryland is considered to have one of the slowest medical cannabis rollouts in the nation, hampered by several delays that arose during the four-year process since it was legalized.

Stakeholders in the industry have pointed to the lack of funding of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in its beginning stages, and to lawsuits filed against the commission, as major stumbling blocks.

In 2016, GTI — Green Thumb Industries — a Bethesda, Maryland-based company that was originally awarded pre-approved licenses as a grower, filed a lawsuit against the commission for retracting its licenses in order to create geographical diversity.

The commission, which as of mid-2017 had 10 new members, made the decision to retract the license from GTI after the Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh stated in 2016 that the commission must ensure geographical diversity when choosing applicants.

GTI attempted to work with the Black Caucus to reverse the decision during the 2017 General Assembly session through legislation, which would have awarded them a license, said Delegate Pamela Queen D-Montgomery, financial secretary for the Black Caucus.

The legislation failed in the last 90 minutes of the session and there were no additional medical marijuana growing licenses given to any companies owned by minorities, Queen said.

The Legislative Black Caucus earlier this year asked Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert, and Speaker of the House Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to reconvene the General Assembly to Annapolis for a one-day session to pass a law expanding the medical marijuana industry. However, the request was denied.

In another lawsuit against the commission, filed in October 2016 by Alternative Medicine Maryland, a predominately African-American owned business, Judge Barry Williams ruled in May that if he finds that the commission unlawfully disregarded racial diversity during the application process for licenses he reserves the right to revoke the licenses of those who were pre-approved.

This could ultimately shut down the industry, according to John Pica, a lobbyist and attorney representing Alternative Medicine Maryland.

Frosh also had said it would be unlawful to seek racial diversity in the application process without there being a history of racial disparities in the nascent cannabis industry.

“While it is still too soon to say for certain when we can expect a final analysis, we are encouraged and grateful to collaborate with these offices as we pursue this important work,” said Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson, who announced his resignation from the commission on Thursday.

Queen said she thinks that a major issue that negatively affected the industry was the poor funding the commission initially received from the state.

When the panel was created as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission in 2013, its purpose was to oversee academic medical intuitions in distributing medical marijuana. However, the institutions were unwilling to distribute the drug because it is illegal under federal law.

In 2015, when the commission was recreated as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, they were given a greater responsibility to evaluate and certify businesses to grow, process and distribute the drug.

The commission received $140,795 in fiscal year 2015 and $2,540,331 in fiscal year 2017. The increase of funding over time was used to hire more employees, contractual labor, office spaces that can support the growing staff, travel expenses and to pay Towson University for scoring license applications for the industry, according to Maryland Department of Budget and Management.

By Oluwatomike Adeboyejo

 

Mid-Shore Pro Bono Executive Director to Receive William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award

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Mid-Shore Pro Bono Executive, Director, Sandy Brown, is a 2017 recipient of the William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation. The annual award is presented to a “non-attorney who has demonstrated outstanding service representing the civil legal needs of low-income Marylanders or by expanding access to justice.”

“I am honored and deeply touched to have been selected for this award,” Brown said. “It is a reflection of the progress our staff, volunteer attorney network and community partners are making to improve access to justice for the most vulnerable populations of the Eastern Shore. Mid-Shore Pro Bono is often overlooked simply because we aren’t in the mainstream. I feel the most important part of my job is to be an advocate for residents of this great community.”

Brown has served as the Executive Director of Mid-Shore Pro-Bono since 2008, and has grown the organization and its impact during her tenure. Under her leadership, Mid-Shore Pro Bono was awarded Non-Profit of the Year in 2014 by the Talbot County Chamber Commerce, and in 2015 received the same recognition by the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, she was selected to participate in the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellows Program. Brown has been nationally recognized by the American Bar Association and serves as a trainer to assist new Legal Services Pro Bono Program Managers for Rural Areas.

Brown will receive the award on Monday, December 4th at the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, Md. For more information about the award and the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, visit www.mlsc.org. 

About Mid-Shore Pro Bono

Mid-Shore Pro Bono Mid-Shore Pro Bono connects low-income individuals and families who need civil legal services with volunteer attorneys and community resources. The organization serves citizens across 2,000 square miles in Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties. For more information or to make a donation, call Mid-Shore Pro Bono at 410-690-8128 or visit www.midshoreprobono.org.

Finishing Touch to Get Clean Energy Funding

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The Finishing Touch on High Street in downtown Chestertown

Maryland PACE, a statewide partnership anchored by the Maryland Clean Energy Center to promote the finance of energy saving projects for commercial properties, announced today that the first C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) financed project in Kent County has been approved.  State-wide, the approval marks the third in the nascent program’s history and the first for a ‘main street’ retail business.

The Finishing Touch, a custom frame and print boutique in downtown Chestertown, owned by Robert Ramsey, will utilize the commercial PACE (C-PACE) program to finance $134,438 in energy savings improvements including new windows and a full HVAC system upgrade.

The program is not a grant as private capital is provided, in this instance by Greenworks Lending, a specialty C-PACE lender. Rather than a traditional working capital loan or cash-out from a commercial mortgage refinance, Ramsey will repay his investment in reduced operating expenses via a special tax assessment with a term of 20 years.

“One of the key advantages of the MD-PACE program is that it allows the commercial property owner to match the financing term to the useful life of the investment,” said Gerard Neely, MD-PACE program manager. “For The Finishing Touch and Robert Ramsey, this gives them the ability make a long-term investment in energy savings, comfort and efficiency while realizing positive cash flow from the onset.”

The project at 309 and 311 High St. in Chestertown will replace air conditioners and windows that date back to 1978. Pinder and Blue Heron Contracting, top providers of energy efficiency projects on the Eastern Shore, will develop and install the upgrades.  The HVAC upgrades are projected to save $6,420/year in energy expenses while more than 1,000 sq.ft. of low R-value glass will be replaced, improving the building’s overall energy efficiency year-round.

“ We are so pleased to see the MDPACE program at work, especially since with this project, it is being used to finance a project on the main street in a classic Maryland small town,” said Kathy Magruder, Executive Director of the Maryland Clean Energy Center. “This financing model makes it so much more workable for a variety of small and large scale businesses to fund energy measures and free up their own operating capital in a very advantageous way.”

“This project is a perfect fit for the MD C-PACE program.  The property is in a Maryland designated Arts & Entertainment District, a Historical District, and on a Maryland Main Street.  Mr. Ramsey, a Downtown Chestertown business owner for almost 40 years, will be able to upgrade his commercial property and take immediate advantage of decreased operating costs, while increasing energy efficiency”, said Kent County Commissioner William Short.  “The work is being done by local contractors and adds to the enthusiasm of the project.  Kent County has been hard at work identifying, implementing, and promoting incentives for businesses to grow, locate, and prosper here.  The expertise and professionalism provided by the Maryland Commercial PACE team have been a great asset to economic development in our community.”

MD C-PACE is an innovative and affordable way for commercial, industrial and nonprofit building owners to pay for green energy upgrades. The program provides 100% up front financing that is repaid over long terms (often 20+ years) via a property-tax surcharge. The structure allows owners to replace end-of-life equipment with no upfront capital outlay and to see immediate net operating income (NOI) improvement when upgrading a wide variety of equipment including HVAC, lighting, roof, envelope, solar, and cogeneration.

Maryland passed policy enabling C-PACE in May 2014 and Kent County passed an ordinance establishing its program in September 2016. Kent County became one of the first counties on the Eastern Shore to enable C-PACE financing for its business community.

MD-PACE is a statewide partnership between PACE Financial Servicing and the Maryland Clean Energy Center to build a statewide commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program.

 

Mid-Shore Commerce: Commentator Craig Fuller Comments on Easton Airport

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When people ask Talbot County’s Craig Fuller about his opinions these days, it is more likely to be of a political nature.

There’s a good reason for that. Craig was one of the early members of the Reagan team that moved into the White House after the 1980 election. From there, he became the chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and later chaired Bush’s transition team after the 1988 vote.

And a lot of people are asking Craig Fuller’s opinion these days. He can regularly be found on cable news as a commentator or writing Op-Ed articles for leading journals.

One can count the Spy as another media outlet also seeking out Craig’s thoughts, but with an entirely different subject of mind, namely small airports.

Beyond the significant political experiences the Fuller had in his early years in Washington, he left public service to become the CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During that time, his familiarity with rural and small regional airports was not only part of his job, but he was also able to critically evaluate the good and the bad ones of the more than 5,000 small airports in the country.

As the Mid-Shore approaches the annual Airport Day at the Easton Regional Airport on September 30th, the Spy saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk to Craig about the importance of small airports and his thoughts on ESN.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Airport Day at the Easton Airport please go here