Benchworks’ Thad Bench Finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year

Thad Bench

Thad Bench

Ernst & Young (EY) announced that CEO Thad L. Bench, Sr. of Benchworks is a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Award in the Maryland Region. The awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Thad Bench was selected as a finalist by a panel of independent judges. Award winners will be announced at a special gala event on Thursday, June 25, 2015, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

Thad stated, “Being nominated as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award is a great honor. I am proud of the people we have brought together in our organization and am delighted to see their hard work and passion recognized by this prestigious nomination.”

Benchworks is a family of operating units that includes a full-service advertising agency, a product launch logistics center as well as a consulting group focused on commercialization planning for biotech companies.

Benchworks is a multichannel strategy and execution partner, providing end-to-end marketing services from traditional print marketing to cutting-edge digital technology. Benchworks makes marketing happen graciously: by being responsible, accountable, flexible and tirelessly honest—creating innovative marketing programs that position their client partners for success. The team consists of excellent listeners, methodical strategists and nimble tacticians…and they use every ounce of those skills to ensure that their clients’ brands grow.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National program. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 14, 2015. The awards are the culminating event of the EY Strategic Growth Forum®, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Now in its 29th year, the program has expanded to recognize business leaders in more than 145 cities and in more than 60 countries throughout the world.


Founded and produced by EY, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are nationally sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and SAP America. In Maryland, regional program sponsors also include the Baltimore Business Journal, DLA Piper, PNC Bank and Smart CEO. Maryland reception sponsors include DTZ, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Randstad.

Checking In: The Chester River Packet One Year Later


Editor’s note:  Periodically, the Chestertown Spy checks in with new businesses to see how they are holding up after their first year of business. This time around, we asked Greg Kimmel, one of the owners of the river boat, to give an update. 

When the Chester River Packet was first conceived in the spring of 2013, our concerns were many. Chestertown’s deteriorating waterfront was, and remains to this date, of greatest concern. Fortunately, the town of Chestertown, with Mayer Cerino’s enthusiastic support, is making an aggressive push to revise the sins of the past owners and what remains of this once historic colonial port.

Our second concern was if we could generate enough interest from the public to operate a river tour based in Chestertown. Much to our surprise the response has been more than overwhelming.

At the completion of our first season, which started in April 2014 and ended with a New Year’s day cruise we were fortunate enough to have carried just shy of 4,700 guests. Approximately 80 percent were from in and around the Kent Queen Anne’s County area. Delaware and Pennsylvania made up the balance.

The support we received from the Kent Counties Office of Tourism, Economic Development, the county administrator and Office of Public Landings was incredible. That and the help from the town management and encouragement from Downtown Chestertown Association made this endeavor possible and allowed us to continue to operate uninhibited.

As several entities have clearly come to appreciate, Chestertown has become a destination for the traveling public. With venues such as Brittland estates and the incredible array of B & B’s within the surrounding areas, we are attracting more and more people who are enjoying “staycations “. Many of these people are returning to retire here as a result. Our local economy has evolved quickly and quietly to become dependent on tourism and the services that are aligned with the retired and semi-retired population. The Chester River Packet Company is now part of that evolution.

Having been on and around the Chester River for close to 30 years, I assumed everyone was enjoying her beauty. As Captain of the River Packet, I am astounded at the shear number of people who have only driven over and or around the river.

Once we are underway and pass Primrose Point, generally a hush comes over our passengers as they get their first unobstructed, panoramic view of the Chester River in all its splendor. It is as though we have traveled back in time. This, coupled with the breathtaking sunsets and virtually no boat traffic, has allowed us to developed an astonishing number of repeat customers.

Hopefully, we will attract as many passengers as we had done so last year. We intend to expand our routes to include departures, not only from High Street in Chestertown, from Quaker Neck Landing, which will allow us to travel the Langford Bay and Corsica River waterways.
We also intend to expand the availability of the River Packet to allow the viewing of the historic Log Canoe Races held on two separate weekends in July. The races have been held out of the public’s eye for years, and we would like to offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness first hand this time honored tradition.

As Captain of the River Packet, I spend a considerable amount of time these days traversing the waters of the Chester River, I never once take for granted the good fortune I have found nor the beauty of the surroundings I am so fortunate to find myself working within. If it was not for the members of the LLC, the county, town and patrons of the River Packet none of this would be possible.

I thank everyone and hope they will join us again this season.

Top Mid-Atlantic Economist To Speak At Country Club Sept. 3

Top Mid-Atlantic Region Economist, Anirban Basu.

Top Mid-Atlantic Region Economist, Anirban Basu.CHESTERTOWN, MD – Economist Anirban Basu will speak at the Chester River Yacht & Country Club at 5:30 p.m. Using the most current data available from credible sources, Mr. Basu will examine the state of the national economy from the perspective of labor, financial, housing and other key markets. He will place special attention on the economic performance of Kent County and the Eastern Shore region. He will also provide an economic forecast for the year to come.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Mr. Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies. Among other things, Anirban serves as the chief economist to Associated Builders and Contractors (national) and as chief economic adviser to the Construction Financial Managers Association.

In recent years, he has also focused upon health economics, the economics of education and economic development. He currently lectures at Johns Hopkins University in micro-, macro-, international and urban economics.

In 2007, Mr. Basu was selected by the Daily Record newspaper as one of Maryland’s 50 most influential people. The Baltimore Business Journal named him one of the region’s 20 most powerful business leaders in 2010.

Mr. Basu is involved with numerous organizations in a voluntary capacity, including serving as a Baltimore City Public School System board member and as a board member to the Baltimore Children’s Museum and to the Baltimore School for the Arts. Mr. Basu is also on the board of First Mariner Bank. He is also chairman of the Baltimore County Economic Advisory Committee and economic advisor to the Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Basu earned his B.S. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1990. He earned his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his Master’s in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park. His Juris Doctor was earned at the University of Maryland School of Law in 2003

Tickets: $15 Chamber Members           $20 Non-Chamber Members

RSVP Online Reservations ONLY

 Seating is Limited. Reserve Today!

 Deadline for Reservations: August 29, 2014

For additional information, please contact the Chamber office at 410-810-2968 or

Social Media Workshop for Agribusinesses


The Upper Shore Regional Council (“USRC”), an economic development and planning entity for Kent, Queen Anne’s and Cecil Counties has been partnering with the Washington College GIS Department to further develop its Harvest Directory brochure and online mapping tools. The Directory is listing 127 agri-businesses across the region—a tool to assist with marketing their products and services.

On Thursday, March 6th 2014, from 10:00-noon, the Council will host social media expert, Mindie Burgoyne and invites agriculture-based businesses, and other small businesses to come out to learn how to use social media tools to greatly enhance their efforts to market their products and reach out to a broader customer base.

The workshop is followed by a networking session from noon until 1:00 p.m., which will offer businesses the opportunity to connect with experienced business resource representatives and with each other. The event will be held at Washington College in the Hyson Lounge (right across the walkway from the Miller Library). We invite all who own or have an interest in an agri-business, or other small business to attend. 

The workshop is free of charge and light fare will be served. Please contact Doris Mason, Executive Director for the Upper Shore Regional Council or Luis Machado with questions, or for more information.

Small County, Big Task: Paige Bethke on Talbot’s Economic Development


On the list of jobs that could qualify for hardship pay, Eastern Shore county directors of economic development might be one of them. Working in a weak post-recession world, with fewer resources, at a time when the retail and manufacturing sectors are in midst of profound change makes life tough, but when you add in that they operate in a state that has a reputation of not being business-friendly makes one say good luck with that.

And yet Talbot County’s Paige Bethke, has been doing just that the last five years, and has actually found ways for a small economic development office to strategically focus their limited resources to keep Talbot competitive.

In her interview with the Spy, Paige talks candidly about the current business climate on the Mid-Shore, and how economic development does and can happen on the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately eleven minutes in length

Maryland 3.0: A Pitch for Chester River Brewing Company


Local brewmaster Kevin Shertz spend time with Startup Maryland a few months ago to outline his plans for the Chester River Brewing Company in Kent County. His “pitch” has recently been shared by the organization.

The Video is approximately four minutes in length.

Maryland 3.0: Main Street is the New Wall Street


“America’s investment system is broken,” according to Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense.  “Half the jobs and the output in the U.S. economy derive from local busScreen shot 2013-10-28 at 9.12.57 AMiness but almost all our investment dollars go into big corporations on Wall Street,” far from home.  Shuman advocates balancing the scale between Main Street and Wall Street through new mechanisms developed for local investment which yield, according to his research, “a five percent living rate of return,” among other community benefits.

Shuman is a community economist and author of several books, including his most recent, Local Dollars, Local Sense.  His central message?  We must begin to shift some of our investment dollars from Wall Street to Main Street, from corporations over which we have no control to local community enterprise where we can see a business up close and personal, track its progress in real time, and benefit from its recirculating dollars locally. Investing in corporations may have been wise decades ago when corporations were mostly local. But now, Shuman emphasizes, corporations are global, stock markets are “casinos of high risk” driven by technology, and financial markets serve the corporate bottom-line, rather than the health and wealth of community economies.

Shuman acknowledges that implementing local investment will be a paradigm shift for investors. Current government and financing policies favor Wall Street as the single most valuable investment platform and communities have traditionally focused on attracting global business operations.  For example, 15 states have spent over 80 percent of their economic development dollars to attract and retain global businesses.

Yet, data for Main Street investments show, according to Shuman, that it is both lower risk and averages a more consistent and higher rate of return than global enterprise. “Small businesses, including homegrown businesses,” he reports, “have maintained their share of jobs in the economy since 1990 at the same time that nonlocal businesses have failed to increase their presence or profit in that same economy.”  In other words, in a financial and public policy system that goes contrary to local investment while favoring the global businesses of Wall Street, Main Street has held its own unassisted. Overall, sole proprietorships are three times more profitable than C-corporations and, on regional measures, a higher density of locally-owned firms is positively associated with per capita income growth.

Acknowledging that investing in Main Street is in its “infancy,” Shuman described several “cutting-edge capital tools” that have been successful in various U.S. locales.  Developed by non-profits, local and state governments, and private enterprise, these mechanisms have significantly assisted economic development at the community level. They include investing in revolving loan funds for local businesses, intensive “buy local” campaigns, the formation of producer and consumer cooperatives that have lending capacity, development of local business portfolios for investment, and local bank issuance of specialty Certificates of Deposit (CDs) to benefit the business community.

Shuman cites Main Street investment for its multiple attractions: Investors can evaluate and promote the products and services in which they’ve invested; they often know the business owners and directors – or can get to know them – to provide feedback; they can easily know if their investments are socially and environmentally sound; and they can ensure that local businesses are spending locally, creating a positive feedback loop for the entire business community.  Local businesses are also flexible, able to shift with their market, and can help reinforce a community’s identity. In many cases, just-in-time delivery, lower shipping costs, and convenient storage facilities bring added advantage.

“The U.S. has $30 trillion held in various forms of savings, with less than 1% of those savings held at the local level,” asserts Shuman. If a larger percentage of that very large pot were dedicated to Main Street, even a small town of 5,000 could find itself in possession of several million dollars for starting or expanding local businesses. Fortunately, Shuman points out, public policy regarding investment is beginning to look toward Main Street.  In the past, an investor had to be accredited to formally invest in a business, a process open to people with a wealth base of $1 million in assets (excluding their home) and involving complex and expensive legal activity by the business seeking investment.  Accredited investors are roughly 2% of the economy. With the recently-passed federal JOBS Act, the other 98% of Americans who are unaccredited investors are being invited into the action. The best-known result so far are crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter which allow a business to solicit dollars from the general public.

Shuman confesses that he himself was drawn into the tried-and-true “Wall Street is where it’s at” mantra.  Then, like so many others, a victim of Wall Street’s collapse and the housing bubble, the light bulb sparked on for him and he started afresh.  Now his mantra and practice are about encouraging individual investment in local businesses to help them start, grow, diversify, and thrive. The best method to build prosperity, he believes, is to invest our extra dollars in “local businesses we know and trust, so that our families, our neighbors, and our communities become our true sources of wealth.”

Maryland 3.0: Startup Maryland Pitch Program Now on YouTube


Startup Maryland has announced that the 2013 Pitch Across Maryland videos are now up and available on the Startup Maryland YouTube Channel.

With that update, the two separate competitions that define the next stage of the Pitch Across Maryland. The first competition is a fun thing we refer to as the Fan Favorite. To be the winner of the Fan Favorite you need to get the word out about your video and let all your family, friends, fans, pets know that your video is now available for their viewing pleasure.

Mobilize social networks (or knitting club) pals to Rock Your Vote. Your Tour Stop Co-Hosts will be doing the same on your behalf and have “bragging rights” at stake being able to “claim” the Fan Favorite emerged out of their ranks.

The Fan Favorite tallying will continue until noon (12:00pm) Eastern Time on November 6. Shortly there-after the top Fan Favorites will be announced to much fan-fare.

Reminder, this is not for big money and prizes, instead, just a fun thing we decided to do last year during the period when our panel of experts (investors / serial entrepreneurs) will also be reviewing each video and selecting ourPitch Across Maryland Eight Finalists (a.k.a. The Great 8).

The Great 8 will be invited to TEDCO’s Entrepreneur Expo ( on November 18 and given the opportunity to “pitch” the full conference on their venture and the opportunities ahead. More details on that to come . . .

For those of you who are new to this, below are some links and simple steps you can use to find the Pitch Videos.

Here is the link to the Startup Maryland Channel (and more importantly) the direct link to the Playlist Page:

Maryland 3.0: Eastern Shore Business Plan Contest offers $35,000


The process of writing a business plan is much more than taking ideas and placing them in a document. A business plan is as much of a commitment to action as it is a strategy. Regional entrepreneurs with startup businesses and existing businesses can also use this process as a way to connect with much needed resources thanks to the second annual Eastern Shore business plan contest.

During this year’s competition not only will the first place winner automatically advance to the semi-final round of the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge business competition in pursuit of $100,000 cash prize, but also all three winners may enter free of charge (i.e. application fee waived) into the 2014 MassChallenge competition. MassChallenge is a the four-month accelerator program which provides world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more along with $1million in cash awards ($10 million plus in-kind support).

Applicants can register online at Click on “Eastern Shore Business Plan Competition,” then “Sign Up” for an account in the right margin. Individuals or teams interested in the competition must confirm eligibility, complete registration, and submit all material by Monday, October 28.

The Eastern Shore business plan contest is sponsored by founding partners: Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and Maryland Capital Enterprise; contributing partners: InvestMaryland Challenge; MassChallenge; and Rural Maryland Council. For more information contact, Mike Thielke, executive director, Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC), at

The Eastern Shore business plan competition is open to startups and existing business owners who want to start a new business or expand an existing one. Individual or group applicants are accepted. All finalists or winners must agree that they will use the prize winnings to establish or continue business operations in Maryland Eastern Shore counties.

A maximum of five individuals or teams will be selected to advance to a final round of competition and will present in front of a panel of judges during a session of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. The judges will select first, second, and third place winners who will be announced during the Business Expo networking reception. The top three winners will receive a total of $35,000 in cash and services: $20,000 for first place; $10,000 for second place; and $5,000 for third place.

Founded in 2006, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center works to develop and enhance an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ESEC provides training; services and programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by creating greater access to capital, and offering programs that develop entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Included are NewVenture, a comprehensive 10-week entrepreneur-training program, annual business plan and student plan competitions, and an annual entrepreneur conference.

In 2012, ESEC launched “hotDesks,” providing co-working spaces for independent professionals. The first location opened in Salisbury with a second location to be announced on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the business plan competition or ESEC, call (410) 770-9330, or connect with ESEC at