A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Small Business Week: Baltimore-area small business owners on tackling hiring, inflation and cash crunch
Grocery shopping elicits a serious case of sticker shock these days. Shelling out $5 or more for a dozen eggs and $7 for a pound of salted butter is a thing – and business owners this Small Business Week (April 30-May 6) are feeling the inflation pressure. It’s just one challenge they face as they try to eke out a profit in a post-Covid era that has seen everything thrown at them – supply chain struggles, staffing shortages and a capital crunch.
Hiring issues rattled the construction industry even before the pandemic, but in the last few years, Susie Comer has put even more focus on her workforce.
The president of Comer Construction strengthened the benefits packages offered to her 100 workers and their families at the small business based in Forest Hill. She also upped wages, both hourly and salaried, to attract and retain construction workers and has offered several training options to help advance young and middle-career workers.
“We’re losing people to other industries and it’s very challenging,” Comer said, of the national trend that has seen a dwindling lot of construction workers migrate to new careers. “We found we have to remain competitive salary-wise. We leverage offering our good benefits packages toward more middle-aged workers to get them and keep them once they have married and settled down.”
Read about obstacles facing other small businesses.
2. Here’s how the Federal Reserve’s latest quarter-point interest rate hike impacts your money
The Federal Reserve raised the target federal funds rate by another 0.25 percentage point on Wednesday, marking the 10th time the Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate over the past year or so – the fastest pace of tightening since the early 1980s.
Even though the Fed’s rate-hiking cycle has started to cool inflation, consumers are now paying record high rates to borrow.
The federal funds rate, which is set by the U.S. central bank, is the interest rate at which banks borrow and lend to one another overnight. Although that’s not the rate consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and saving rates they see every day.
This rate hike will correspond with a rise in the prime rate and immediately send financing costs higher for many forms of consumer borrowing. On the flip side, higher interest rates also mean savers will earn more money on their deposits.
3. Democrats prep for battle to replace Cardin in rare Maryland Senate race
Sen. Ben Cardin’s retirement announcement on Monday is opening the door to what is expected to be a fierce battle to fill a rare open Senate seat.
Cardin, 79, revealed on Monday that he would not seek a fourth term in the upper chamber, saying in a video to supporters that “it’s time” for him to call it quits after what will be a 58-year legislative career.
If the past is any indication, whoever wins the seat could have decades in office. Just five people have represented Maryland in the upper chamber over the past 35 years.
Thus far, Rep. David Trone and Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando have entered the race for Cardin’s seat. Rep. Jaimie Raskin. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski are likely prospects for entering the race as well.
4. Governor Moore announces $2.7 million in financial support for six small, minority and veteran-owned Maryland businesses
Governor Wes Moore and the Maryland Department of Commerce announced on Monday that six small, minority and veteran-owned businesses have been approved for a total of nearly $2.7 million in financial assistance to support business growth in Maryland. The funding comes in the forms of loans and lines of credit through two state programs – the Military Personnel and Veteran-owned Small Business Loan Program and the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority – and will help the businesses retain 29 workers and create 41 new jobs in the state.
The businesses receiving assistance through the military loan program include Escape Proving Ground, a Pasadena adventure and entertainment company specializing in interactive escape rooms; Patuxent Pride Inc., a franchised PrideStaff business that provides temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct hire staffing services in Columbia; and the Brunch House, a startup barbeque restaurant with plans to locate in Glen Burnie. Together, these business owners have more than 32 years of experience in the Maryland National Guard, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Army National Guard.
The businesses receiving assistance through the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority include Interbiome, a start-up contract manufacturing organization in Rockville that services biotechnology organizations bringing new products to market; One Leg Up Pets, a dog walking, pet sitting, daycare and boarding service provider in Laurel; and Sweeten, a Baltimore City platform for home renovation and home remodeling experts.
5. Chesapeake Bay draws millions of visitors, boosts Maryland economy, report says
A new study released by the Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Tourism Development has shed light on the significant role the Chesapeake Bay plays in attracting visitors to the state.
Conducted in partnership with the National Park Service and finalized by Rockport Analytics, the research aimed to understand the influence of the Chesapeake Bay and its related attractions on vacation planning.
The Maryland Office of Tourism said the Chesapeake Bay region welcomed 8.9 million visitors, who spent a total of $4.2 billion in 2021. This spending supported 59,683 jobs, with a total of $1.94 billion in paid wages and salaries, the report said.
According to the report, visitor spending saved each Maryland household more than $266 in state and local taxes.
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