Friday Five | June 10, 2022

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

1. Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates debate crime, gun violence, I-270 widening project and more 

In a forum hosted by Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Beat, eight Democratic and four Republican candidates for governor discussed their visions for Maryland on issues including education, gun violence, crime, abortion rights and the proposed widening of I-270. Candidates said that the November election offered Marylanders a fundamentally different choice for the state’s leadership, regardless of who won either the Democratic or Republican primary on July 19.

Read the full story here.

2. Md. pandemic aid to businesses hindered by rules, caution, officials say 

On Tuesday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot called for a quicker response in a future pandemic situation during a workgroup meeting reviewing how state pandemic aid was spent. He said that efforts to get aid to businesses struggling to survive at the beginning of the pandemic may have been slowed down by a paralyzing fear of fraud.

“Here’s the problem: We are paralyzed in this country by this notion of fraud,” said Franchot. “We see a lot of (fraud) … but we’re paralyzed by it. Scared of our own shadows. We don’t want to give the money unless there is a 25-page application filled out in detail.”

The work group, headed by Franchot, heard from business owners and advocates in the state’s hospitality industry about some of the challenges they faced and what did and did not work during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, pointed out that communication informing small businesses about available grants often lagged. Minority and ethnic restaurants may have suffered disproportionately due to language barriers and a lack of understanding and awareness of programs put in place.

Read the full story here.

3. BOEM plans environmental review for first Maryland offshore wind farm 

On Monday, the Department of the Interior announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will conduct an environmental review of the first offshore wind farm in Maryland proposed by US Wind. BOEM will open a 30-day public comment period as part of the process to help determine the scope of the review. The agency, which has final say over offshore wind projects in federal waters, will review approximately 10 nautical miles off the coast of Ocean City and approximately nine nautical miles offshore Sussex County, Delaware.

“If approved, this project will represent another step forward to creating a robust offshore wind industry here in the United States, all while creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to using the best available science and traditional knowledge to inform our decisions and protect the ocean environment and marine life. We look forward to receiving input from our government partners, ocean users, and other stakeholders, which is critical to a successful environmental review process.”

Ocean City town officials have been supportive of the proposal since the wind turbines will be placed far enough offshore that it will not impact the landscape from the shore. But other groups have questioned the environmental impact of popular fishing and recreations areas offshore.

Read the full story here.

4. After ‘perfect storm,’ nearly all valid unemployment claims cleared, Md. officials say 

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told the Board of Public Works on Wednesday that her agency continues to dig out from “a perfect storm” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and has cleared 98% of unemployment claims. Robinson addressed the board in an effort to extend the agency’s current contract that provides call center workers, freeing state employees to review claims. The 6-month extension, unanimously approved by the board on Wednesday, will be in place until the department hires a new vendor that will be ready to handle the next wave of unemployment filings.

“There is talk of a recession,” Robinson said, adding that over the next six months “we want to make sure we have the ability to scale up and scale down. We continue to hope to scale down.”

Read the full story here.

5. Georgia bedding manufacturer to open in Havre de Grace, creating 225 new jobs in Maryland 

Elite Comfort Solutions, a Georgia-based furniture and bedding manufacturing company, is expanding to a warehouse in Havre de Grace, adding 225 new full-time jobs to the suburban market over the next three years. The manufacturing company is moving to an industrial complex at 1900 Clark Road in the small town that sits on the Chesapeake Bay off Interstate 95. To further incentivize Elite’s move, the Maryland Department of Commerce will provide the company with a $900,000 conditional loan through Advantage Maryland, formerly the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (MEDAAF). The state program is intended to help with business attraction and retention, among other economic development efforts.

“Elite Comfort Solutions’ decision to expand its production capabilities to Maryland is a huge gain for our state’s manufacturing industry and the local economy in Harford County,” said Gov. Larry Hogan, in a statement. “We believe this expansion will allow the company to accomplish great things in the area and continue growing its business throughout the East Coast.”

Read the full story here.

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Congressional Roundup 2022 on Sept. 14 in D.C.

Attendees will receive a front-row seat on Capitol Hill at a program tailed specifically to your primary business priorities. You will hear from the Maryland Delegation and experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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