Thornton 2.0: A Chat with Serial Entrepreneur Charlie Thornton

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As they say in New York City, where Charlie Thornton grew up, he’s “been around the block” in the field of structural engineering. Almost immediately after graduating from Manhattan College in the early 60s, Thornton not only started working with some of the best architects in the world, including his friend, Cesar Pelli, but became just as notable in his own right in the specialized and very complex area of tall building construction. All of which can be seen in the founding and remarkable success of Thornton Tomasetti, an international business with now 1,400 employees.

And in his spare time, Thornton created the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program, a non-profit offering training to more than 40,000 inner-city high school students across the United States. To date, ACE has awarded more than $6 million in scholarships.

Having sold the firm in 2005, Thornton did a few things after his tenure came to an end. He and his wife, Carolyn, began spending much more time on the Eastern Shore, eventually moving here permanently, and he never stopped working. This second life of his gave him the opportunity to reunite with a fellow engineer on a radically new concept of building construction, which promised to could cut costs in half, complete buildings faster, and become a more safe work site for workers.

This new approach was slated to be used decades before in New York on a Russian Consulate residence, but the project was killed due to the politics of the times in US-Soviet relations. But the idea itself lived on in the mind of these two engineers, and finally, some thirty odd years later, two buildings were serendipitously commissioned by Intel Corporation in India using the technique and, bingo, the results came in as promised. Two perfect buildings were ready for business with dramatic cost-savings, delivered in half the time, with hardly any worksite injuries.

This extraordinary success story is now being used as Charlie, and his small band of colleagues travel the country demonstrating how this could save billions of dollars in construction costs. The results so far have yielded contracts for a dozen or more buildings in the next few years, and the prospects of almost single-handedly bringing creative disruption to one of the most capital-intensive sectors of our economy is now a distinct possibility.

A few weeks ago, the Spy sat down with Charlie at his home in Talbot County to talk about this remarkable chapter in American entrepreneurship and engineering.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Charles Thornton and LIFT Group please go here

Maryland 3.0: Checking in with KRM’s Bryan Matthews

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Just a few years ago, the Dixon Valve & Coupling Company made a corporate decision that would have a significant impact on Kent County’s economy and yet very little was said about at the time. The company, faced with growing pains and stiff competition for their range of piping and fitting products, had to make a difficult choice to either expand their business locally in Chestertown or take advantage of lower production costs, larger workforce populations, and reduced taxes by moving operations to another state or perhaps even another country.

This kind of significant call is not an uncommon one for American manufacturing companies. And in most cases, these businesses very quickly conclude that their bottom line profits will improve dramatically by migrating to a more business-friendly location. But in the case of Dixon, which would impact close to 375 employees in Kent County, their final decision went against that popular trend. Dixon quickly made up their mind that they would stay put in Chestertown.

While most communities in America would have held parades or honored local politicians for saving a town’s anchor manufacturing business, the Dixon decision, like so much of the rest of the family-owned business culture, was a low-key affair. Once they concluded that Kent County would remain their home for the foreseeable future, Dixon leadership assigned the task of building facilities for that future growth to the company’s subsidiary, KRM Development, and thus began a complicated multi-year plan to move warehouse, production and administrative functions to new locations.

A good part of that job is now in the work portfolio of Bryan Matthews, who retired as Washington College’ athletic director and facilities manager after thirty years of service to his alma mater to join the KRM team two years ago. In his Spy interview, Matthews talks in detail about the intricate planning required for this kind of major undertaking as well as some of the vision behind Dixon’s plans for their North Chestertown campus.

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

Maryland 3.0: TEDCO’s Startup Help on the Shore with Bill Bernard

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For almost ten years, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, otherwise known as TEDCO, has been the state’s s leading source for business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies.

And during their nine years of existence, TEDCO’s track record has been impressive. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have been helped in taking their products to market through mentoring, funding and networking.  That has led to over $110 million in investment dollars and over 350 and research programs funded since 1998.

But what does that mean for the Eastern Shore?

We asked that question to Bill Bernard, TEDCO’s new representative for the Eastern Shore, to get a better idea of how TEDCO works. Bill’s response was to give the example of a very young entrepreneur with a great business idea but who needed help getting his product to market.

Bill also cites his work with hotDesks, a program started by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, to provide the tools (like 3D printers) and business consultation support through its Revolution Labs program.

It doesn’t hurt that Bill comes to this new position after a long history of entrepreneurship after a tour of duty in the Peace Corps and a career in marine biology with the Smithsonian Institution. His businesses have included an aquaculture company that operated in the Dominican Republic, and more recently, founding 3Di’s Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Division.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about TEDCO please go here

Making it Work on the Shore: Reinventing Downtown Easton with Ross Benincasa

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In years past, the role of a director of a downtown association would consist of managing and promoting a series of special events created to encourage retail shopping. Special days like “First Friday” and free concert programs have become the standard practice to bring residents and their families to their downtown districts, but is that enough in a country that soon can expect same day delivery from internet sellers?

The answer coming from Ross Benincasa, the Easton Business Alliance’s director, is a definite “no.” While special events remain important strategies, the work of promoting downtown shopping has become increasingly more sophisticated as Ross notes in his first Spy interview.

Specifically, Benincasa, the EBA Board, and Easton’s Town Council are now looking such things as downtown “walkability” improvements and studying pedestrian navigation patterns to significantly improve the experience of shopping. In fact, through Ross’ initiation, the town was the recent recipient of a $145,000 grant from Google to implement its new store view program, allowing app users to peek inside stores, restaurants, and public institutions like libraries and museums, before actually stepping into those venues. The grant also provides Easton a generous advertising budget to go into Washington and Baltimore media markets with its message.

The Spy caught up with Ross at the Bullitt House, where the Easton Business Alliance has their offices, to talk about the future of downtown Easton, its current challenges, and a very encouraging forecast that Easton is well positioned to adjust to this changing climate and maintain its position as one of the Eastern Shore’s most popular shopping hubs.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Easton Business Alliance please go here.

 

Maryland 3.0: Mid-Shore Small Town Businesses Survive with Google Search

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For close to a decade now, small businesses, particularly in rural regions, have handled the internet in two ways. The first is to ignorant it completely, or, more typically the second way, where money is spent on having  a “web presence.” And that normally means a one page homepage. Both strategies, according to Susan Schauer John at SpiderWeb Connections, yield about the same return on investment, which is very little to nothing.

That’s because very few business owners think to optimize their website for Google searches, which goes by the charming name of search engine optimisation. And the bad news is that if your company doesn’t come up on the first page, you might as well not exist since 97% of all web users never go to the second page of results.

In her Spy interview, Susan talks about this important gap in web strategies and what can be done to make sure the best stay at the top.

This video is approximately six minutes in length 

 

Everyone, Start Your Businesses! The STRT1UP Road Show Bus Begins Its Fall 2016 Statewide Tour

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StartUpMDWashingtonCollege2Are you ready to pitch your killer business idea? Washington College’s Department of Business Management and the Upper Shore Regional Council are inviting entrepreneurs to join the 2016 STRT1UP Road Show and the Pitch Across Maryland, which is kicking off its annual statewide tour at Washington College on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The STRT1UP Road Show bus—also known as the Startup Maryland bus—travels the state each fallin a quest for and celebration of entrepreneurship and high-growth innovation-centric startup companies. At each stop, entrepreneurs can video a pitch on the bus for their existing enterprises or their dreams of start-up ventures. These video pitches are uploaded by Startup Maryland to YouTube to be reviewed at the end of the tour by Startup Maryland panelists for possible entry to the annual TEDCO Entrepreneur Expo. In 2015, eight finalists out of more than 150 pitches won this opportunity.

At the Washington College event, the Department of Business Management and Upper Shore Regional Council are inviting participants to warm up by presenting to a live audience and a panel of judges from the local business community and the College. At the end of the event, the judges will announce winners of the best business pitch and best student pitch.

The event, based in Martha Washington Square and running from 2-4:30 p.m., is open to the public, so save the date and plan to attend to hear about the exciting projects your neighbors are pursuing. If you are seeking investment capital, want to promote your budding business, or just want to get feedback on your idea for a business, please sign up to pitch. Limited taping slots are available so contact Christy Rowan at crowan2@washcoll.edu or (410) 778-7877 as soon as possible to register.

For more information about the event itself, please contact Susan Vowels at svowels2@washcoll.edu or Doris Mason at dmason@kentgov.org. More information about Startup Maryland can be found at startupmd.org.

Making It on the Shore: Alex Haschen and IAMBOOST

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There may be a website out there that is dedicated exclusively to kids from age ten to fifteen on their physical health, but Alex Haschen hasn’t found one yet. And as a result, and many years of other research, the Easton-based personal trainer turned on IAMBOAST.com last month as a web extension of his local work with young people.

In his Spy interview, Alex talks about his business model and the potential market of working with parents and children on fitness through video and quiz programming. Another example of making it on the Shore.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

Making it Work on the Shore: Piazza Finally Gets Their Kitchen

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It may seem like a simple matter to have a really serious kitchen as part of a market devoted to fresh Italian food. From pasta to soup, it goes without saying that this kind of asset would be standard for such an undertaking.

But the truth of the matter is that a serious commercial kitchen can cost these days about the same as a mid-sized house on the Eastern Shore. When you add the costs of professional-grade stoves, ranges, and mixers, as well as the significant changes in gas and electrical lines, the capital outlay is far too great for many.

And this was the case for Piazza Italian Market. Financially prevented from having their own kitchen, Piazza has spent the last seven years going from one rental kitchen to the next to produce their highly praised prepared foods and lunch fare. Not only was this a logistical nightmare, but it put a significant cap on what they could create and how much they could produce.

Not anymore. With the new year comes a new kitchen for Piazza and owner Emily Chandler. Located only a few blocks from Piazza’s retail store at Talbottown Shopping Center, this new investment corresponds to Emily’s optimism about the future of a high-quality Italian market on the Mid-Shore. In her Spy interview, Emily talks about life before and after the store had a kitchen to call her own, as well as her decision to keep Piazza’s retail space small.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture Receives Industry Recognition

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South Fork Studio, an Eastern Shore-based landscape architecture firm, was honored for the quality of two separate projects by the American Society of Landscape Architects – Potomac Chapter during its 2015 Awards Banquet. The awards honor projects that demonstrate a superior quality of design and execution.

“These awards are the culmination of great partnerships with our clients,” said Miles Barnard, Principal and Founder of South Fork Studio. “It’s satisfying to be recognized for the work we were able to produce, but also sets our expectations higher moving forward. We know we can find that right balance between function and form and will seek to keep finding new ways to deliver the best work possible.”

The Chapter honored seven projects in total; South Fork Studio was the only firm to receive multiple awards – the Built Honor Award for a residence in the heart of historic Lewes, Delaware and the Built Merit Award for a project on a 122 acre farm in Kent County, MD.

The Lewes project design them of ‘historic meets contemporary’ provided a great challenge. “We designed everything outside of the home,” said Barnard, “including all the masonry steps and walls, fencing, swimming pool, water feature, paving, soils, planting, lighting and irrigation.”

“Beechwood is a special project in every way. The design assignment seemed simple enough: find a way to connect informal and formal gardens in different areas of the property and incorporate water into the design. Instead of a path with a water feature, we made the path the water feature. It’s one of the most unique projects we have ever done” said Barnard.

 

To learn more about South Fork Studio, please visit our website: http://southforkstudio.com/

More on South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture

South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture is dedicated to creating inviting, innovative and environmentally sustainable human spaces and native landscapes throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Our mission is to create and nurture a direct connection between the landscape and the people that inhabit it. Whether designing a small intimate garden room or a commercial development, our philosophy is to focus on how the needs of the people are best served by the landscape and how the landscape can be maintained as a self-sustaining and functioning ecosystem.

More on the Potomac Chapter of ASLA

The Potomac Chapter represents approximately 360 landscape architects at the local level. The purpose of ASLA is to advance the profession of Landscape Architecture in the eyes of the general public. The Chapter is the main advocacy body to advances the profession on the local level by holding events, meetings, outings and providing information regarding the profession to the local media and schools. The Chapter may also interface with municipal governments regarding local issues that could impact the profession, or the public realm.

 

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