Taking Stock: The Cambridge Hyatt Economic Development Project at 16 Years Old

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It seems like ancient history now, but in the early months of 2002, there was a dramatic addition to the city of Cambridge when the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay officially opened. A few visionary leaders in Dorchester County, DC developers, and most importantly, the Maryland Economic Development Corporation made good on their plans to construct a 400 room, 650 acres, hotel and resort on the shores of the Choptank with the goal of providing a long-term benefit for the then economically struggling center of the Eastern Shore.

At the time, this multimillion-dollar project was seen by some at the time as a remarkable risk. Cambridge was not known as a tourist or conference destination, even though it was located near some of the most remarkable natural resources on the East Coast. It also did not have the advantages of being in a major city, near a major amusement park, or benefiting from a tropical climate. Why stop in Cambridge, the story went, when you could drive another hour and arrive at the beachfront communities in Delaware and Ocean City.

But now that the Hyatt has been in place for sixteen years, The Spy thought it would be a good idea to check in with its general manager, Joel Bunde, who has a unique perspective on this economic development project. That is because Joel arrived in 2005 to be part of the executive management team to run the property for four years, and has now recently returned from another tour of duty to become its general manager. It is that arc of experience that made the Spy interested to hear Joel’s general observations about the Hyatt, the remarkable renaissance of downtown Cambridge, and the collateral soft and hard benefits that have come with the then $155 million investment in the Eastern Shore’s future.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Additional aerial video content by Micah Berkley.  For more information about the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay 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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“Golden Ticket” Raffle at the Garfield Center”: Your Chance to Win – and Help the Garfield!

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Enter the Garfield Center’s “Golden Ticket” Raffle for a chance to win a theatre weekend in Philadelphia! Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased online at or in the theatre’s box office. This raffle serves as a fundraiser for the Garfield Center, with the winning ticket being drawn on February 16th during opening night of the theatre’s first play of 2018, The Little Prince. The winner will receive an exclusive weekend in the “City of Brotherly Love”, which includes:

 

Garfield Center for the Arts in Chestertown, MD

Two tickets to the historic Walnut Street Theatre

Dinner for two at the unique and romantic “M” Restaurant

Overnight lodging at the boutique style Morris House Hotel

Drink and snack at Six Feet Under – Washington Square’s newest           gastropub

The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown, MD.

 

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Shop Local on Small Business Saturday!

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High Street in Chestertown – She, She apparel and gift shop

The Holiday and Christmas Season begins this weekend in downtown Chestertown — and it’s a great chance to find a special gift while supporting your local small businesses and enjoying the holiday spirit.  This Saturday, November 25, is national Small Business Day, when people are asked to support their local communities by buying local.  It’s a perfect follow-up — and a nice contrast to — the day before, Black Friday, when all the national chains and big box stores have their first big holiday sales.

Arrival of Santa Claus and Elves in the 2016 Chestertown Christmas Parade.

Here in Chestertown, the season kicks off Friday night with Santa’s arrival at Fountain Park, where he will greet visitors in his house throughout the season. The Kent County Community Marching Band, Rudolph, Olaf the Snowman, even the Grinch will be there to welcome Santa! The marching band will perform holiday favorites beginning at 6:30 p.m., and Mayor Chris Cerino will turn on the lights in the Historic Downtown district.  The Chestertown Volunteer Fire Department will deliver Santa to town in style. A favorite event for kids of all ages!

Saturday begins with another great tradition, the annual Christmas parade at 10 a.m. on High Street, featuring marching bands, fire trucks, classic cars, floats, and of course, Santa! Bring the whole family to enjoy this holiday tradition. The parade begins at Dixon Drive and follows High Street to Queen Street, a block past Fountain Park.

After the parade, you can get a jump start on your holiday shopping and support local independent businesses. Many of the member businesses of the Downtown Chestertown Association have invested in the community through volunteerism, community events, and charitable giving. When you shop in these independently owned boutiques, galleries, and stores, you’ll find unique gifts, generous sales, and genuine appreciation for your business.

For more shopping fun – be sure to pick up a local “shopping passport” created by local businesses and filled with special offers. Then get your Passport stamped at each participating merchant that you visit.  Submit the stamped passport for a chance to win fantastic prizes.

Another option for gifts with a local slant is the “Spend Local, Stay Local” gift card from Chesapeake Bank and Trust. The bank has partnered with about 50 local businesses to create a “local” gift card. Available in any amount from $25 up, the card can be used at any business that accepts Discover Card. Glenn L. Wilson, President of the bank, said on Wednesday that since the program began in 2011, more than 3,000 cards have been purchased, with total sales of nearly $100,000 — with most of that staying in the local community, supporting the merchants of Chestertown and Kent County.

Glenn Wilson, President & CEO of Chesapeake Bank, and Russell Gertsch hold a copy of the bank’s local gift card, good for around 50 local businesses plus any store that accepts Discover Card.

Wilson said that the program, created by Chesapapeake employee, Kristen Owen, is one of the ways the bank can give back to the community.  It’s not a money-maker for us, Wilson said.  But it’s something that the bank can do to help make the community stronger, and that, of course, helps everybody. Among the local businesses in the program are Aqua Fit, Twigs and Teacups, Hegland Glass, and the Garfield Center for the Arts.  The list covers almost every category of business from apparel — Dockside Emporium, Empty Hangers Consignment, and Mimi’s Closet — to home construction and repair — JBK Hardware, Chestertown Lumber, and Rock Hall Lumber. Restaurants and groceries  are also on the list , including Evergrain Bread Company, Chestertown River Wine & Cheese, Luisa’s Cucina Italiana, JR’s Past time Pub, the Fish Whistle, and Bayside Foods in Rock Hall. A complete list of participating merchants is on the bank’s website.

To purchase the “Spend Local, Stay Local” card, call 410-778-16– or email spendlocal@chesapeaketrust.com or just come into the bank.  There is no fee for gift cards $50 and over.  For cards under $50, there is a $1.00 processing fee.

However you do it, please remember to support your neighbors, your community, and your local economy by shopping locally when possible.

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

 

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

Benchworks Named One of Fastest-Growing US Companies

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Thad Bench

Benchworks has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Benchworks is ranked at number 933 with a three-year sales growth of 471%. The company consists of two growing specialty units: Benchworks
Marketing Communications and Safe Chain Solutions, a national distributor of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. Benchworks was also ranked #8 in the Top Baltimore Companies category.

This is the third year that Benchworks has been included on the Inc. 5000 list and the 2017 roster is one of the most competitive lists to date. The Inc. 5000 rankings are based on three-year sales growth and revenue. Last year, Benchworks ranked at 1005 with a three-year sales growth of 395% and revenue of $31.1 million. Companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees of the Inc. 5000.

“The Inc. 5000 is the most persuasive evidence I know that the American Dream is still alive,”
said Inc. President and Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “The founders and CEOs of the Inc.
5000 tell us they think determination, risk taking, and vision were the keys to their success, and I
believe them.”

“We are honored to receive this award again for our consistent rapid growth,” said Thad Bench
Sr., CEO of Benchworks. “We could not have achieved this milestone without the help of all our
terrific employees at Safe Chain and Benchworks Marketing. Our goal is to continue to advance
our role as a commercialization partner and connect with other potential affiliates. We are
working toward that goal through planned strategic growth.”

Safe Chain, a Benchworks Company, continues to thrive and it sets Benchworks apart from other
agencies and pharmaceutical distribution companies. Benchworks offers more than marketing,
helping clients build out operations, providing support during mergers and acquisitions, and
introducing clients to manufacturing partners and sources of capital.

Companies on the 2017 list will be honored at the 36th annual Inc. 5000 conference October 10 –
12 in Palm Desert, California. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and
an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region and other criteria, can be found here.

Benchworks, an award-winning comprehensive marketing services agency headquartered in
Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. 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 the Benchworks website or call
800-536- 4670.