Maryland 3.0: Sprouts Starts to Take Over the Eastern Shore

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Just so you know….perhaps one of the most significant “foodie” experiments in the country is taking place on the Mid-Shore.

A young couple, primarily trained in nutritional science and fitness, decide to escape the rat race of the Western Shore and relocate to Trappe to start a food delivery business dedicated to high quality prepared meals with locally sourced produce and meat.

The concept was simple. Rather than send clients the raw materials to make a nutritious meal (think Blue Apron), Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll would take it to the next level and actually cook the meals for its customers.

Sprout would do all the work. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack, Ryan and Emily identify local farmers within a 200-mile range that produce some of the most exquisite examples of fruit, vegetables, chicken, pork, or beef in the region to produce meals that could be left at your doorstep twice a week.

Fast-forward one year later Sprouts has become an increasingly important provider on the entire Eastern Shore as well is in Annapolis. With Ryan’s mother in Chestertown, the couple continues to seek a local partner to help as a delivery station, which they call a “Sproutlet,” but they hope to cover the entire Mid-Shore within the next two years.

The Spy spent some quality time with Ryan in his portable kitchen in Trappe to discuss the couple’s courage and conviction it took to start a business of this kind and their aspirations over the next few years.

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

Trump China Trade Policies could Hurt Maryland, Analysts say

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If new Trump administration policies trigger a trade war with China, the port of Baltimore and Maryland could see revenue and job losses, according to analysts.

“Obviously China is a key trading partner. We do a lot of business with China and a lot of other Asian countries,” Richard Scher, director of communications for the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), told Capital News Service.

China ranked as the fifth-highest trading partner in exports and third in imports in 2015, according to the Port of Baltimore’s most recent foreign commerce statistical report. The port oversaw approximately $4 billion worth of materials that were exchanged between the U.S. and China that year.

The economic relationship between the U.S. and China has been trying at times, and yet the two nations remain each other’s largest trading partners.

However, the U.S.’s trade deficit with China reached $367 billion in 2015, according to a report last month from Robert E. Scott, senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

“Put another way, since China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the U.S. trade deficit with China has increased annually by $20.3 billion, or 11.2 percent, on average,” Scott wrote.

The deficit and President Donald Trump’s unfavorable stances towards China’s trading practices have caused many to speculate about the possibility of a trade war developing between the world’s two largest economies.

“We’ll see how things progress, but we’ve certainly made a lot of investment over the years to have business come over from the Far East,” Scher said.

However, imports into the Port of Baltimore benefit many states in the mid-Atlantic region.

“Certainly a lot of business is done out of the port,” said Benjamin Orr, executive director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, located in Baltimore. “But if there is a trade conflict with China, it’s not necessarily that the impact would land on Maryland’s economy specifically. Lots of goods that come into the port end up out of state.”

Orr said that the biggest impact of a potential trade dispute with China would likely be a loss of jobs at the port or in local industries that rely on China for business, such as container shipping companies.

According to Scott’s report, the trade deficit with China caused Maryland to lose 46,000 jobs between 2001 and 2015, approximately 1.6 percent of the state’s total workforce.

Over the 14-year period, Maryland ranked 37th among states in percentage of workforce displaced by the trade deficit with China. Most mid-Atlantic states were not significantly affected.

“The eastern region isn’t particularly susceptible to a trade war with China,” Orr said. “Some effects would be, specifically, prices on Chinese-made goods go up, which could affect Maryland shopping habits and sales tax, and the stock market could fall.”

The White House released its annual trade agenda Wednesday, which indicated that U.S. trade policy under the Trump administration could break from the standards set forth by the WTO.

According to the Washington Post, the agenda suggests the U.S. could impose unilateral tariffs against countries it feels are employing unfair trade practices, such as China.

Trump has accused China of currency and trade manipulation before and has identified the U.S.’s trade deficit with China as something his administration would like to address in future trade discussions, saying he wants to pursue “better deals” with China.

Any conflict would undoubtedly be affected by the two nations jockeying for economic position in the Asia-Pacific region, says Sara Itagaki, project associate in the trade, economic, and energy affairs group with the National Bureau of Asian Research.

In order to establish a strong U.S. economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as check China’s rising economic power, the Obama administration helped draft the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country economic agreement completed in October 2015.

Trump called the deal “catastrophic” for the American economy during his campaign and effectively withdrew the U.S. from the deal on Jan. 23.

“The TPP was the Obama administration’s prime Asian agreement,” Itagaki said in an interview with Capital News Service. “The withdrawal raises questions about (the U.S.’s) commitment in the southeast Asian region and could hurt U.S. businesses.”

Itagaki said the TPP was “contentious politically” and that there were questions about the agreement from many other politicians.

Despite Trump’s TPP withdrawal, U.S. companies are not retreating from the Pacific, according to Itagaki.

“The U.S. needed a greater presence in the region and missed its chance to anchor its economic influence in southeast Asia,” Itagaki said. “But the U.S. is still a large market for these Southeast Asian countries. They can’t ignore the U.S. economy.”

Of course, those countries cannot ignore the local and increasingly powerful economy of China, either.

China has been promoting its own multinational trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which aims to include several countries that would have been a part of the TPP, in hopes of capitalizing on the U.S.’s withdrawal and increasing its own economic presence in the area.

While competitiveness is recognized as a central part of international trade, it remains to be seen how it will affect the way the U.S. and China do business with each other.

However, the economic risk factors are great enough that the chances of a U.S.-China trade war aren’t high, according to Itagaki.

“U.S. consumers gain a lot from trade with China,” Itagaki said. “The government still has issues with China’s economic practices … but there is great benefit in trade with China for the U.S. economy.”

The unpredictability of the Trump administration, along with its proposal to break from traditional WTO trading practices, makes it difficult to foresee how the State Department will approach trade negotiations with China, but Itagaki suggests both sides should hope for a cordial agreement.

“Both governments recognize the value of their trade relationship,” Itagaki said. “Neither economy should want a conflict because both will be hurt in the end.”

By NATE HAROLD

Radcliffe Corporate Services Celebrates 30th Year

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Radcliffe Corporate Services,  a full service Certified Public Accounting firm, located in Chestertown at 870 High Street, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in business.  Founder and President, Randall (Randy) Cooper, CPA, started the firm in 1987. Before launching Radcliffe, Cooper was a Vice-President for Mellon Bank and then Bank of America, working in the U.S. and abroad.  At that time in his life, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay was a haven for him.  When he founded Radcliffe, Cooper envisioned a small firm in a beautiful place with serious quality of life.    Thirty years later Cooper remains enchanted by the beauty of the Eastern Shore and the opportunity to live near the Chesapeake but also muses, “I’ve never worked so hard, and I haven’t been sailing in ages.”  

In 2008, the firm undertook a major renovation of the Radcliffe Mill building complex in Chestertown.  “It was a huge financial, personal and business commitment to preserving a Kent County landmark,” explained Cooper.  The property, which is on the National Register of Historic Properties, is a well-known landmark off the High Street circle.  It has added value to the community not only for unique office space it houses but also as the location of two locally prized restaurants:  first Brooks Tavern and currently the popular Café Sado.  Soon the Seed House, another building in the complex, will open as a wellness center, adding another chapter to the Mill restoration story.  “I’m proud that we made this investment, but the project was far more involved than any of us could have imagined,” says Cooper.

Over the years Radcliffe Corporate Services has gained respect regionally for its accounting expertise and now employs 20 professionals working in four distinct business units.  Myles Loller, CPA and Partner, has been with the firm for over 20 years.  Loller, who was born and raised in Kent County has developed strong relationships with businesses and individuals across the region and nationally.  “The great thing about a firm like Radcliffe is that we work closely with clients to help them understand tax situations to make sound decisions.”  

Maureen Karns, CPA, and Larissa Davidson, CPA, oversee the attestation and auditing services for the firm, as well as providing tax and accounting for individuals and businesses.  Karns notes, “There is no other firm in Kent County certified to perform the auditing services we do.”  Larissa Davidson, CPA, works with Karns in the auditing department.  Karns and Davidson share a special interest in working with regional non-profit organizations.  “It is especially satisfying to use our skills working with local organizations providing services to the community,” said Davidson.

In 2002, Radcliffe launched a financial services department offering financial planning and investment advisory services.  “Investments are one of my areas of special interest that bring into play tax planning, investment and portfolio analysis.” says Cooper.  In 2015, Sarah Schut, investment advisor representative, joined the firm to expand the financial services department.  Schut highlights that Radcliffe’s commitment to providing unbiased tax and financial planning.  Radcliffe works with Cetera Financial Specialists LLC, Radcliffe’s independent broker/dealer firm.  Securities offered through Cetera Financial Specialists LLC, member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory services offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC.  Cetera entities are under separate ownership from any other named entity.  

One of Radcliffe’s major divisions provides financial management and CFO services a large behavioral health organization that provides mental health services in four states.  Recently, Radcliffe has been engaged to manage Kent Center Inc., which provides residential and day program services for adults with intellectual and developmental disability, adding to the firm’s broad spectrum of services.

“I couldn’t have imagined the scope of Radcliffe when I started it,” says Cooper.  In the coming year, Radcliffe plans to host several events celebrating the anniversary, including a talk about the historic significance of the mill building and the restoration process.  

 

Annapolis: Maryland Annual Corporate Filing Fee would be Raised Based on Company Assets

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Maryland businesses have come out strongly against a proposed change in the annual corporate filing fee that would go from a flat fee structure to a progressive tax based on a company’s assets.

The annual corporate filing fee is currently a flat fee of $300 in order to maintain the legal entity’s existence in the state; the progressive tax could climb as high as $4,000 based on a company’s fixed assets.

Sponsors of the bill say they’ve received massive support from constituents with small businesses.

“This bill is about fairness,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard County. “And it attempts to put businesses on a graduated scale based on their taxable assets.”

Fees would drop for 250,000 firms

Under the measure, HB691, 233,000 entities in Maryland would see the annual fee drop to $150 and another 19,000 would see a decrease to $200.  Around 11,000 businesses would continue to pay $300, according to the fiscal note.

In 2003, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich raised the fee from $100 to $300.

“Essentially what we would like to do is not make Ben Kramer Save the Puppies LLC to have to pay the same amount as Under Armour,” Atterbeary said, using the name of a committee member.

But once fixed assets pass $50,000, the fee more than doubles to $750 and climbs north to $4,000 for companies with fixed assets above $200,000.

“Why should any small business pay the same exact $300 fee…as a Northrop Grumman,” said one of the bill’s cosponsors, Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, in testimony before the House Economic Matters Committee on Wednesday. He said he had received many complaints in recent years about the regressive nature of the tax.

“This does represent a tax break for entities we often say we want to support,” he said.

Del. Chris Adams, R-Dorchester, said the fee under the bill appears to be more of a tax increase than a fee increase.

“We’re getting away from the idea that there’s a fee that we pay for the privilege of doing business in the state of Maryland and moving [it towards a tax], Adams said. He challenged Morhaim’s testimony referring to the fee as a “tax.” Morhaim quickly apologized for the characterization.

Adams said many CPAs in his district complained more about the proposal than the current sick leave bill moving through legislature.

“I got more phone calls on this bill than I did the sick pay bill,” he said. “I got a lot of opposition from the business community on this one.”

Champe McCulloch of Maryland Associated General Contractors said the progressive tax would punish businesses that investment in Maryland.

“Do you as the General Assembly want to hold business that make substantial capital investments in Maryland in disdain and [assess] a higher fee because they are committed to Maryland and committed to investing in Maryland,” McCulloch asked the committee.

Assets don’t correlate with income

Many who testified against the bill said using fixed assets could raise the fee for companies with higher fixed assets, like trucks and tools, than a small firm with very little fixed assets that makes considerably more from services, like a law firm.

Mike O’Halloran, Maryland director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told the committee that the small businesses the bill aims to help can easily have more than $50,000 in fixed assets.

“You can get up to $50,000 in taxable assets fairly quickly,” O’Halloran said. He said a caterer he knew would see an increase simply because the kitchen equipment easily exceeds $50,000 in value.

Atterbeary said the proposal was revenue neutral.

The initial expenditures to administer the new fee structure comes to $500,000 in fiscal 2018 and $66,000 annually. Revenues are expected to increase by $435,000 annually.

But Maryland Chamber of Commerce in written testimony said the bill was an attempt at a revenue increase.

“The State’s Department of Assessments and Taxation has imposed filing fees to offset the administrative cost to the State of updating corporate documents each year,” the Chamber said.  “To replace the traditional fee with a scaled fee is a veiled attempt to increase State revenue at the expense of small businesses.”

By Dan Menefee

Free Consumer Debt Clinic Dates for February

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Do you need legal advice about Bankruptcy or Consumer Debt? If so, contact Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s Debtor Assistance Project.

The Debtor Assistance Project (“DAP”) is a clinic, originally located at the U.S. Courthouses in Maryland, which provides debtors with an opportunity to meet with a bankruptcy attorney for a free half-hour consultation. The DAP is designed to help individuals without an attorney to answer legal questions about bankruptcy and general consumer debt issues. The DAP cannot provide an attorney to complete your paperwork for you or represent you.

Call 410-690-8128 to schedule your appointment.

Locations:
Queen Anne’s County District Courthouse, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2017
Mid-Shore Pro Bono Office, 8 S. West Street, Easton, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2017

How to Schedule an Appointment?
Contact the Mid-Shore Pro Bono at info@midshoreprobono.org, or 410-690-8128 to pre-schedule your DAP appointment.

Do I Need to Arrive Early? Yes, please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time to complete the DAP’s intake form.

What do I need to Prepare/Bring with Me? If you have already filed for bankruptcy, please bring your case number and copies of any documents you wish to ask questions about.

The DAP can only provide you with a brief half-hour consultation with a bankruptcy attorney. If you need assistance beyond that period, you should contact an attorney.

The DAP is the result of collaboration between the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Maryland State Bar Association Consumer Bankruptcy Section, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, the Standing Chapter 13 Trustees, Civil Justice, Inc., Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County, the Montgomery County Pro Bono Program, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service, Mid-Shore Pro Bono, and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. For more information, visit www.midshoreprobono.org.

The Business of Mentoring: Chesapeake Bank and Chesapeake Investment Advisors Join Forces

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While it is true there is no binding contract or plans to merge two of Chestertown’s most active financial advisor practices; the Spy was nonetheless intrigued by a partnership recently announced between Kristen Owen at Chesapeake Bank and Trust and Marty Knight of Chesapeake Investment Advisors the other day.

In the great tradition of mentoring, it established an informal link between Kristen, a relative newcomer to the world of financial advice services after playing several other roles in her eleven years with Chesapeake Bank, and Marty, the seasoned professional, who took over Chesapeake Investment Advisors on Spring Street from Robert and Joanne Gearheart several years ago after he retired from his first career in law enforcement with the Maryland State Police.

In this short Spy interview, Kristen and Marty talk about the role of mentoring in the sensitive but rewarding field of individual financial portfolio management as they start to consult almost every day on the best investment vehicles for their growing list of clients.

This video is approximately three minutes in length

Wye Financial & Trust Welcomes Colin Pryor, Client Relationship Manager

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ColinPryor_2016_cropWye Financial & Trust, a division of Shore United Bank and a member of Shore Bancshares community of companies, is pleased to announce that Colin Pryor has joined the company as their Client Relationship Manager.

Colin will be responsible for working with clients to strategize toward the preservation and continued growth of assets and introducing clients to a broad range of investment management opportunities.

Mr. Pryor is a graduate of the University of Delaware and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

Prior to joining Wye Financial & Trust, Mr. Pryor worked with Wilmington Trust, in the advisory services industry focusing on personal trusts; and four years with Bank of Oklahoma Financial managing retirement and investment accounts for local businesses.

“Colin is a welcome addition to our Wealth Management team.  He brings personal trust and corporate asset management experience that will benefit our clients,” said Wye Financial & Trust Manager, Talli Oxnam.

“I enjoy helping clients work towards their financial goals and to be working with a company that cares about its clients and communities,” said Mr. Pryor.

Mr. Pryor resides in Eden, Maryland with his wife Meghan. He actively volunteers with Junior Achievement in Salisbury.

Benchworks Names Jake King as Creative Director

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Jake-King_400x500Benchworks is pleased to announce the recent hire of Jake King. He joins the company as Vice President, Group Creative Director. In this role, King will lead the company’s creative team, develop concept strategies and oversee creative execution for integrated marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Benchworks, King was Creative Director at CorasCloud and Associate Creative Director at Wunderman DC. He has experience as the creative leader on a variety of accounts including Pfizer and Merck. At Benchworks, King will oversee the creative efforts in the Chestertown and Philadelphia locations.

Benchworks President Melissa Johnston commented on the position saying, “I am very excited to have Jake join the Benchworks team. His role as Creative Director is a central role in the organization and I am looking forward to collaborating with him. Jake will be responsible for developing and implementing the vision for all of the agency’s creative projects. I am confident that he will provide insightful strategic guidance for our clients and the agency. His extensive and wide-ranging experience will be extremely beneficial as he strives to create marketing campaigns that will inspire the target audience and deliver results.”

Regarding his new position, Jake King said, “I am thrilled to join Benchworks and to contribute to our clients’ success. This is a vibrant, thriving company and I am honored to work with the very talented people on the creative team.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services agency headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. With offices in Philadelphia and Boston, the company specializes in the design, production and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the life science, pharmaceutical, beverage, manufacturing and education industries in North America and Europe. For additional information, visit www.benchworks.com or call 800-536-4670.

Greenaway and Viniar to Speak at Nonprofit Board Chair Roundtable

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All nonprofit Board leaders – Chairs & Presidents – are invited to join the conversation on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at the Talbot Hospice offices, 586 Cynwood Drive in Easton when Kristen L. Greenaway, President of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum joins Barbara Viniar, Ed.D, President of Chesapeake College to share their insights and expertise about strategic planning.

This facilitated discussion will begin with a brief networking reception at 5:00 pm and will conclude at 7:00 pm. Diane Rohman, President of Talbot Hospice Board of Directors will host the Roundtable; Teri Bordenave, founder of the Board Chair Roundtable, will facilitate this session. Diane says, “The Roundtable is a wonderful forum to exchange ideas, questions and concerns amongst local nonprofit board leaders regarding the challenges that we all face in trying to better serve our community. A huge thanks to Teri for facilitating this effort which brings together some of the very talented people we have in our area so we can benefit from their knowledge and experience.”

The nonprofit sector has always faced challenges; those challenges have increased in recent years thereby putting more pressure on the governing bodies of these organizations. Effective Board leadership is essential to sustaining successful, viable nonprofit businesses. The Nonprofit Board Chair Roundtable offers an opportunity to strengthen governance leadership skills and knowledge, to develop a peer learning network, and to provide support for these key volunteer leaders.

The Roundtable, which has been meeting since the spring of 2010, was initiated and is facilitated by Teri Bordenave of The Thalia Group LLC. Since that time, Teri has continued to offer her services to this effort pro bono. Teri has more than 25 years experience in the nonprofit sector as a CEO, Trustee, and governance consultant. Topics for these lively sessions are driven by Roundtable participants. The Roundtable meets quarterly around the Mid-Shore region.

There is no cost to participate, participation is limited, and pre-registration is required. To register, contact Teri Bordenave at 443.249.3268 or bordenave.teri@gmail.com.