A pair of events celebrating area businesses are set for this week, with The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce’s Business Forum & Showcase on Wednesday and Montgomery County’s first ever Small Business Awards Luncheon on Friday.
The Showcase will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda (7400 Wisconsin Ave.) and includes more than 65 area businesses displaying their products and services.
The event also includes two educational presentations and a networking luncheon. For more information and to register, visit the event website.
Andy Stern, owner of Andy Stern’s Office Furniture in Rockville and the chair of the Chamber Board, sat down with Comcast Newsmakers to discuss the event and challenges facing local businesses.
On Friday in North Bethesda/White Flint, Montgomery County will put on its inaugural Small Business Awards Luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center (5701 Marinelli Rd.)
The ceremony will honor winners in eight award categories: Bioscience Company of the Year, Information Technology Company of the Year, Montgomery County Innovation Network Company of the Year, Small Business Award for a company with one to 10 employees, Small Business Award for a company with 51 to 200 employees, Small Business Award for a company with 51 to 200 employees, Start-up Business of the Year and Workforce Award.
The county’s Department of Economic Development initiated the event and will present the awards, chosen from more than 60 entries.
Video via Comcast Newsmakers
Community Profits Montgomery, an organization created by Bethesda Magazine and a local communications firm, will kickoff its effort to encourage philanthropy from area business owners at an event next week in Bethesda.
The panel discussion, called Dollars & Change, will look into how Montgomery County businesses are giving back and the state of need in the county today.
The event will take place on May 23 at the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce with Honest Tea founder and CEO Seth Goldman, Bethesda attorney Nancy Fax and Bethesda Magazine editor-in-chief and publisher Steve Hull, who helped found Community Profits Montgomery last year.
Silver Spring-based communications pro Carrie Fox and Hull put together the group with the goal to provide more positive recognition to local companies that give back, with the thinking those efforts would provide motivation for more philanthropy.
Members of the organization must contribute at least two percent (with a minimum of $5,000) of their operating income to charitable organizations supporting Montgomery County.
The event next week will offer examples of charity efforts and pro bono support that area companies are offering.
For more information on the group, visit its website.
Residents Argue Against Pepco Rate Hike — At a public hearing last week in Rockville, many said the power company’s desired infrastructure repairs should come from profits, not from a $60.8 million a year revenue bump that would cost the average residential customer $7.13 more each month. [The Gazette]
Gun Turn-In Day Nets 111 Guns, 1 Grenade — Montgomery County’s Gun Turn-In Day resulted in the turn-in of 69 handguns, 27 rifles, 15 shotguns, one grenade, 11 BB guns, one sword and about 10,000 rounds of ammunition, according to police. A donation for each gun turned in will be made to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. [Montgomery County Police]
Maryland Ranked 41st For Business, According To Survey — The Connecticut-based Chief Executive Group recently ranked Maryland 41st in the country for best states to do business in because of tax increases and proposals to raise the minimum wage and make paid sick leave mandatory. Forbes’ most recent state rankings put Maryland at No. 16 due to its labor supply and quality of life. [Washington Examiner]
Bus Rapid Transit Debate Restarts This Week — The Planning Board’s Public Hearing on dedicating traffic lanes exclusively to a Bus Rapid Transit network is Thursday and Greater Greater Washington/Just Up The Pike/Friends of White Flint blogger Dan Reed last week wrote about why he thinks the county should say yes to the proposal. [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr photo by ehpien
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Thursday told Bethesda small business owners he’s confident a bill that would require online retailers to collect sales taxes will pass the House of Representatives.
The Marketplace Fairness Act, which the Senate passed and which awaits review in the House, would force major online retailers such as Amazon to collect sales taxes from customers in other states. Franchot said Maryland loses out on roughly $170 million in uncollected online sales tax revenue each year, though his main concern is the disadvantage it provides small businesses.
In my business, we have medium-sized companies that don’t have locations in Maryland that sell on the internet,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Andy Stern. Stern owns Andy Stern’s Office Furniture, which has a Rockville showroom. “Not only can they sell at lower prices because they don’t have bricks and mortar, they don’t have to carry inventory. They don’t have to do any of that stuff. They then have a six percent advantage when they sell into Maryland because they don’t have to charge their customer the sales tax. It’s completely and totally unfair.”
Stern joined Franchot, Maryland Retailers Association President Patrick Donoho and Union Hardware co-owner David Goldberg at Goldberg’s Wisconsin Avenue showroom.
“Because if it’s about price, I’m gonna lose,” Goldberg said. “I know that up front. I can’t make it if it’s about price. So I’ve had to figure out a way to make it not about price. I’ve been bringing in products, mostly from Europe, that aren’t on the internet.”
States have been pushing for enforcement of an internet sales tax for years and if passed, each state will likely have to manage enforcement issues.
Franchot said he’s optimistic that the Republican-controlled House will pass the measure, despite its appearance as a new tax.
“This is about protecting Main Street and everybody has a Main Street,” Franchot said.
“I know it’s difficult for people to put their mind around, but this is not a tax increase. You already owe the tax,” Donoho said. “It’s just a way to collect it. That’s all it is.”
Stern said he has people come into his showrooms with their iPhones who take pictures of price tags, decide what furniture they like, Google it and order it over the internet in his store.
“I’m at a six percent disadvantage automatically,” Stern said.
Franchot related a similar story from a longtime jewelry business in Baltimore, where customers will browse the merchandise, order it online and then ask the owner for an empty jewelry box so their wives won’t know it came from an internet company.
“You need to support the local brick-and-mortar stores. I want to make it to 100 years and beyond,” Goldberg said. “It certainly has not been helpful.”
Bethesda Green, the environmental sustainability nonprofit and business incubator, will hold its first Investor Pitch Training Program in June and choose about six entrepreneurs to pitch investors on their businesses.
The program, funded by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration, is open to tech and non-tech early stage green businesses in the D.C. area.
Bethesda Green’s business incubator has produced notable green businesses such as Rockville-native Zack Kline’s green landscaping company. Last year, Kline and other incubator businesses made their pitches as part of the Startup Maryland competition.
Applications for the new program are due May 17. Robert Snyder, Bethesda Green’s incubator manager, said its the culmination of the group’s six-month finance workshop series.
Entrepreneurs who apply should have sustainable products or services and a plan to grow. Those who have the most feasible ideas and best business models will be selected to pitch to a panel of four active investors for feedback.
For more information, visit the program website.
Many have criticized Montgomery’s business climate because of perceived regulatory hurdles in the zoning approval process and Virginia’s willingness to provide tax incentives to major companies. The release notes the 3.6 percent job growth rate in Fairfax City and County and the 2.8 percent job growth rate in D.C.
The Department of Economic Development made the announcement, using data from consultant Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.
“The positive job growth in the county from 2010-2012 is good, but we can’t stop there,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said in the release. “We can do even better.”
He said the county’s Economic Development staff is working proactively with large, small, public and private businesses and entities to help with grants, loans and assistance with permits, zoning and site selection.
Professional, scientific and technical services accounted for a boost of almost 5,300 jobs, making it Montgomery’s top job-gaining sector. Government, retail trade and health care/social assistance each added more than 3,000 jobs during the three-year period.
Capitol One, which has offices in Bethesda, added almost 300 jobs, according to the county. The Bethesda-based Henry M. Jackson Foundation added more than 200 jobs.
The Department of Economic Development and the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County recently partnered to produce a three-minute promotional video that aired last month on US Airways and American Airlines flights.
Marriott Begins Layoffs — The Bethesda-based hotel giant issued layoff notices to 34 IT workers in its Bethesda office and warned of more, perhaps hundreds of layoffs at its three Montgomery County offices in Bethesda, Rockville and Gaithersburg. The company is downsizing its technology staff and farming some of the work out to an India-based contractor. [Washington Post]
Woman Starts ‘Laughter Yoga’ Company — Potomac resident Nira Berry started a Bethesda-based company called Laughing RX, which leads small groups, corporations and cancer patients in laugther yoga. Berry, a breast cancer survivor, said laughter yoga helped her cope. She went to Switzerland to get laughter yoga certified. [ABC7]
Suburban Hospital Gets Honorable Mention In Nursing Award — The Bethesda hospital won honorable mention for the 2013 Award for Nursing Certification Advocacy. Since 2009, the number of certified nurses at Suburban has grown each year. The hospital says 22 percent of nurses, 50 percent of nurse managers and 83 percent of nurse administrators are certified. [Suburban Hospital]
Flickr photo by eddie.welker
Developer Seeks Buyer For White Flint Office Building — LCOR, which last year completed a 14-story office building near its future North Bethesda Center mixed-use development, is looking for buyers of the office complex. It is fully leased to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has its headquarters across Marinelli Road. [Washington Business Journal]
Mitchell and Emily Rales Expansion Plans For Glenstone Art Collection — Bethesda native Mitchell Rales is planning a major expansion of his up until now very private art collection at his Glenstone estate in Potomac. The expansion is said to cost more than $125 million. [New York Times]
Urban Country Gears Up For Special Show — Bethesda Row furniture store Urban Country (7117 Arlington Rd.) is celebrating a month-long spring sale with a Designers Guild Trunk Show on Thursday, May 2 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All merchandise will be 10 percent off. [Urban Country]
Start-Ups Get Spotlight At Bethesda Blues & Jazz — The club (7719 Wisconsin Ave.) will host a conference of some of the fastest-growing tech start-ups in the region this afternoon called TechBUZZ Spring 2013. [TechBUZZ]
Flickr photo by Craig Thoburn
Two weeks ago, Zack Kline quit his full-time job at a Rockville payroll company to take the plunge into business for himself, an eco-friendly landscaping company he hopes to one day grow into a national franchising model.
For now, Kline, 24, rides from house to house, taking soil samples of prospective clients, answering emails and trying to put his A.I.R. Lawn Care company on the map. It’s an ambitious if risky idea, inspired by hot, humid summers toting around gas-powered lawn equipment and $5,000 in start-up money from a college business competition.
“There’s a lot of excitement for it and yeah, it’s a little nerve-wracking because you don’t have that consistent cash flow,” Kline said. “You have to figure out how you can be as resourceful as possible.”
Kline is one of many young Bethesda entrepreneurs trying to make it on their own in a time when the unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year olds is nearly double the national average, more and more young adults age 20-34 are living in their parents’ homes and some college graduates can’t find jobs.
A pair of Walt Whitman High School grads recently started a website that refers drivers to car repair shops. Two North Bethesda residents started a late night shuttle service between bars in Bethesda and D.C. last year and recently expanded it to Washington Nationals games for summer weekends.
“Unfortunately, a majority of people in our generation get labeled as lazy, not really driven and a lot of other negative connotations,” Kline said. “It gets older people, I think, kind of excited to see someone that maybe reminds them of themselves when they were younger, but also just to see that there is potential and hope for the up-and-coming generation.”
Connie Griffith and friend Debbie Kaufmann are marketing their brand of sauces and mixes to honor Griffith’s husband Ron, who before his death from ALS in 2011 envisioned making his barbecue sauces and other recipes into a business. A percentage of profits from the business go to the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins. The two have started a website where people affected by ALS can find resources.
On Sunday, April 14, Gator Ron’s will launch a partnership with BlackFinn Bethesda (4901 Fairmont Ave.). Gator Ron’s Bloody Marys will be available at the Woodmont Triangle bar and during the event guests can try out its sauces on wings and other appetizers.
Bloody Mary’s, either Chesapeake or Original, will be available for $5. The event runs from 11:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 14.
The owners of the Bruce Variety party and crafts store claim Stronsiders Hardware, their next-door neighbor in Bradley Shopping Center for almost 60 years, orchestrated their ouster from Arlington Road in order to grab the space to start its own variety store.
Bruce Variety owners Linda Ridenour and Richard Dimock closed the Bethesda favorite in January because they said they could not afford the rising rent. They settled on a new location across town on Woodmont Avenue.
After Strosniders general manager Bill Hart told us last week that the hardware store decided to open its own Bradley Party & Variety Store in the same space with no knowledge of Bruce Variety’s planned re-opening, Ridenour left a comment claiming Hart and the people at Strosniders wanted their space “for years” and have worked to “manipulate the community’s thinking.”
What goes unmentioned in the comment, copied below, is that Dimock is the ex-husband of Robin Strosnider, who Ridenour claims paid a retired Bruce Variety worker for inside knowledge of the store’s vendors:
The truth of the matter is, everyone knew including Hart from Strosnider’s, that Bruce’s was relocating. We had a sign with our new 8011 Woodmont Avenue address posted on our door during the 50% moving sale, and up until the landlord or the new tenant, removed it when we vacated the space. For Strosnider’s to say that they didn’t know, and then try and manipulate the community’s thinking to believe that they were trying to “save the day” by putting another variety store in, is simply not factual.
In fact, Hart of Strosnider’s even denied to us on numerous occasions that they were interested in Bruce’s old location , yet we discovered that they reserved their new business name for Bradley Party and Variety within five days after we moved to our new location. Does anyone really believe that a business decision of that magnitude wasn’t premeditated, long before? There’s no question that Strosniders wields influence in that shopping center, and there is no question that they have wanted that space for years. So lets be upfront……….
Furthermore, we discovered recently that Robin Strosnider, contacted a retired employee of Bruce Variety, and has been plying the retiree with money to reveal our vendor resources. Not sure if that is a business method of Ms. Strosnider, or a business principal of the new variety store owners, Hart of Strosniders.
Strosnider could not be reached at a listed number today. Ridenour and Dimock did not return requests for further comment and a manager at Strosniders said Hart is out-of-town on vacation.
When reached for comment, Bradley Shopping Center trustee Helen Olson referred all questions to fellow trustee Ed O’Hara. O’Hara did not return a request for comment.
Dimock left the same comment on the Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row blog.
Bruce Variety has yet to open its new location at 8011 Woodmont Ave., despite an announced March 1 opening date. Strosniders is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the shopping center this year. Hart said he hopes to open Bradley Party & Variety (6922 Arlington Rd.) in early May.
“When we lost Bruce’s, the shopping center lost an icon in the community. We felt basically we need to kind of control that situation and bring on another business similar,” Hart said last week. “I think what we’ll find is, we’re not going to know exactly what to carry at first but we’re going to try our best and listen to customers and kind of have them help us figure out our way.”
The two main groups charged with recruiting businesses to Montgomery County will take their message to the sky with this three-minute video that will be shown on 1,700 U.S. Airways and American Airlines flights during April.
The county’s Department of Economic Development and Conference and Visitor’s Bureau produced the video as part of an ad buy through In-Flight Media Associates.
The Washington Business Journal first reported the story. A spokeswoman for DED told the Business Journal the video cost $29,500 to produce and place.
Bethesda figures prominently in the spot. The video cites Bethesda as “home to the nation’s highest per capita concentration of Ph.D.’s,” and references the Congressional Country Club and North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center with its 25,000-square foot ballroom, the largest in the county.
In February, the County Council passed a bill to devote a projected $630,000 in additional funding to the County Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit of five full-time staff members, to promote the county to tourists and organizers of business conferences.
It will raise the amount of hotel/motel tax collected by the county and directed to its Conference and Visitors Bureau from 3.5 to 7 percent.
Bill supporters said it was a necessary measure with a casino planned for Prince George’s County National Harbor.
Last year, the county hired a full-time president for the quasi-public Montgomery Business Development Corporation. That organization was created to help bridge the gap between Montgomery and its main competitor for businesses, Fairfax.
Video via Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Just in time for yesterday’s rush on snow shovels, salt and other winter supplies, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot stopped in at the Strosniders Hardware Store (6930 Arlington Rd.) in Bradley Shopping Center to honor store employees for 60 years of business.
Franchot, who stopped at a press event earlier in the day at Hoover Middle School in Potomac, presented Strosniders store manager Jim Beckett and general manager Bill Hart with a Certificate of Recognition for the store’s 60th anniversary:
Early today Strosniders Hardware was presented a Certificate of Recognition from the Comptroller of Maryland, Peter Franchot, for 60 years of exceptional customer service to our patrons. We could not have done it without your support! Thank you for shopping with us and we look forward to serving all of our patrons for years to come!
Image from Strosniders Hardware via Facebook
Eric Reid, owner of the SPAGnVOLA chocolate boutique in Gaithersburg, says his dark chocolate bars, bonbons and truffles will likely be coming to Bethesda via a partnership that’s in the works with a “high-end” existing business.
“It will at least give us the ability to serve our customers that are currently in Bethesda,” said Reid, who along with wife and SPAGnVOLA’s head chocolatier Crisoire Reid, hand pick cacao beans from their farm in the Dominican Republic. “We want to start to build that market organically. If things go well and we have the right formula, we’d like to open up our own boutique there.”
Reid then has the cacao beans shipped to SPAGnVOLA’s headquarters in Gaithersburg, where the beans are handcrafted in small batches to create flavors and products that have become popular in the two years since he opened the store and factory.
The facility regularly hosts tours and chocolate-making classes, another feature that has drawn attention.
“Most people said, ‘You’re crazy,’ to open up that kind of business in that economy,” Reid said. “We believed in it two years ago and we’re going to continue to try and find ways to innovate and create partnerships.”
More information on where SPAGnVOLA will be heading soon.
Video via MYMCMedia
Downed Tree Causes Backup On Connecticut Avenue — A downed tree on southbound Connecticut Avenue near the intersection with East-West Highway in Chevy Chase is causing a significant traffic backup this morning. At 8 a.m., only the far left lane was getting by. [Photo from TrafficLand.com]
MCPS Superintendent Holding “Student Town Hall” at Walter Johnson — Superintendent Joshua Starr will head to Walter Johnson High School this morning for a conversation with students that will run from 10:55 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. [MyMCMedia]
Yoga Summer Camp Sign-ups — extendYoga (12106 Wilkins Ave., North Bethesda) will hold a yoga summer camp for children age 5-8 this summer. Sign ups are now. The week-long camp includes instructional yoga classes, crafts and teambuilding exercises. [extendYoga]
Bethesda Church, Synagogue Hold Forum On Gun Violence — The Saint Mark Presbyterian church and the Beth El synagogue held a forum on gun violence last week that included police, school and mental health officials. [The Gazette]
Report Says MoCo Business Incentives Provided $1.2 Billion Return — A county report says business incentives provided to private companies by the government since 1996 has meant a $1.24 billion return in private investment, $38 million in annual net economic benefit and 26,775 jobs. The county has given out about 250 grants in that time, investing about $40 million in businesses. [Washington Examiner]
Developers, Politicians Cut Ribbon On First Class A Office Building Since 2001 — From yesterday afternoon, the ribbon cutting for the 7550 Wisconsin Ave. office building, the renovated former NIH building near the Bethesda Metro station. [BethesdaNow]
Photo via TrafficLand.com