Friday Five | April 21, 2023

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. Small businesses react to Maryland’s accelerated $15 minimum wage increase

As the state accelerates its $15-dollar minimum wage increase, Baltimore businesses are bracing to see how higher costs will affect their bottom line. For small businesses, the labor price hike that was previously scheduled for 2026, will now roll out by the end of this year.

“As a small business, it’s always a struggle,” said Dwight Campbell, the owner of Cajou, a plant-based ice cream shop located downtown.

With his small business still in a pandemic recovery period, while also facing record-high inflation, Campbell says Maryland’s looming minimum wage increase is just another burden to bear.

“They actually raised the minimum wage or accelerated the increase in the minimum wage at a treacherous moment in economic history,” said Economist Anirban Basu.

According to Basu, the timing couldn’t be worse. He says Governor Wes Moore’s Fair Wage Act will speed up when Maryland hits a $15 minimum wage at the same time many economists predict the nation will be entering into a recession.

Read the full story here.

2. Governor Moore Announces $3.7 Million in Funding to Expand Maryland Department of Labor’s EARN Program

Governor Wes Moore announced Monday $3.7 million in funding to expand the Maryland Department of Labor’s Employment Advancement Right Now Maryland program. EARN Maryland is the state’s workforce solution that helps businesses cultivate the skilled labor they need to compete, while also preparing Marylanders for meaningful careers.

“It is through sustained and invaluable partnerships that Maryland’s economy will thrive,” said Gov. Moore. “Through programs like EARN, we can both meet the demands of businesses and support workers by cutting through red tape and providing access to resources that will create meaningful opportunities for growth.”

EARN Maryland awards funding to strategic industry partnerships between employers, non-profit organizations, higher education and local workforce development boards. Based upon employer-identified training needs, partnerships provide education and skills training to both unemployed and underemployed Marylanders, as well as career advancement opportunities for incumbent workers.

Read the full press release here.

3. Maryland Innovation Lab aims to pair local companies with international startups

A new program plans to bring international investment to Maryland by giving foreign startups a taste of the region’s economy through partnerships with local businesses.

The Maryland Innovation Lab is a collaboration among the state Department of Commerce, the World Trade Center Institute in Baltimore and London company L Marks, Gov. Wes Moore said in his announcement last Friday. The innovation lab is the first time the nonprofit sector, private industry and government have partnered in Maryland to attract international startups.

The Maryland Innovation Lab will pair local companies with international startups to develop new technologies, with the first cohort focusing on improving the state’s food sector through innovations in processing, packaging, logistics, supply chain and distribution. The initial grant agreement with the state lasts 15 months, but some view the program as a long-term project that can improve many different industries in the state, like cybersecurity.

Read the full story here.

4. Maryland lawmakers passed over 800 bills during the 2023 session

With Maryland state lawmakers back in their districts, at their day jobs, or, after last week’s sprint to the finish, perhaps on a vacation, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore has hundreds of bills to consider. The first-year governor has already signed 93 of the over 800 sent to him by the General Assembly, and doesn’t get a formal say on the abortion referendum, which he supports – nor a final say on the state budget, which he initiated.

Moore will sign or veto bills through the end of May. Any legislation he declines to act on becomes law.

From regulating recreational cannabis, to altering the selection process for the student member of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, to establishing the Black Bass Conservation Fund, here’s a breakdown of legislation passed during lawmakers’ 90-day session.

Read full story and view infographic series here.

5. United Safety Technology authorized as foreign trade zone at Sparrows Point

United Safety Technologies announced Tuesday that it was granted approval for its production activity at Sparrows Point by the Foreign-Trade Zones Board of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

With the designation and grant of authority, UST can begin to manufacture products using important components with tariffs and duties reduced or eliminated, thus reducing its costs and helping ensure high-quality domestically manufactured PPE can be competitively priced. The FTZ approval will apply to UST’s three leading glove products: seamless gloves, surgical gloves and examination gloves.

In 2021, the Department of Defense, in conjunction with HHS, awarded UST a $96.1 million contract to initiate the domestic production of medical-grade nitrile exam gloves.

Read the full story here.

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