Politics & Business

Radcliffe Jewelers is Our Launch Sponsor

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Thanks to Radcliffe Jewelers for being the launch sponsor of Baltimore Fishbowl.  We couldn’t make the site work without advertisers. (I can practically hear all the old media types groaning.) We are grateful to Radcliffe for being willing to be part of the adventure. We’ll be trying out some new ideas with Radcliffe, like videos and sponsored posts, so stay tuned.  

New Executive Director at ACY

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In recent years, there have been several jobs whose responsibilities and burdens seem to require superhuman ability and patience.  With the faltering economy and shrinking foundation dollars, the non-profit executive director certainly falls into that category. Advocates for Children and Youth, the only multi-issue, statewide, child advocacy non-profit in the state, just hired its fifth executive director: Rebecca (“Becky”) Wagner on April 4th. Wagner boasts years of experience working in the trenches for low-income families. She founded Rainbow Place Shelter for homeless women in Montgomery County, where she served as director. Previously the exec of Interfaith Works in Rockville, she enabled 35,000 people to break away from poverty by helping them obtain housing, clothing, and education. Washingtonian Magazine named her Washingtonian of the Year in 2008; in 2010, she ranked among The Rockville Gazette’s State of Maryland Top Fifty Power Players.  ACY’s Honorary Chair, Susan Leviton, said they are excited to have Wagner as new addition because she is such a seasoned advocate. “Becky understands real people, real problems, and has worked on policies to make a difference,” says Leviton. When asked why now is the right time for a new director, Leviton replied, “Becky has tremendous experience working at the policy level and really knows what the needs of children and families are. She knows how we can work together to make things happen for them.” Leviton says they are hoping that, with Becky and new policies in place, ACY will be able eventually to expand help and awareness outside of Baltimore, throughout the entire state.

Grim job market sends 20-somethings farming in Hampden. Yes, Hampden!

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Coast down hilly Ash Street in Hampden and you’ll spy a couple of queen-size iron headboards sprouting from a hill that’s been neatly divided into planted rows. The headboards function perfectly as trellises, but they look like funky sculpture.

Welcome to the Baltimore Free Farm, one of more than a dozen garden programs cropping up locally.

In January of 2010, Don Barton, 28, and a dozen or so friends, all in their twenties, all of whom found job prospects in Baltimore extremely dim, decided to found a farm in Hampden, and attempt to live off the food they raised.

Through Baltimore City’s Adopt-a-Lot program, Barton’s acquaintances Bill Hudson and Allison Guitard had secured an abandoned plot suitable for community gardening, and invited their more creative, industrious friends to roll up their flannel sleeves and plant.

The young farmers lease two buildings on site, a row house, where five of the participants reside, and a multi-use warehouse, ideal for rooftop gardening. Money’s tight, but expenses low. They stage fundraisers to help make ends meet, and received $10,000 early on from Kickstarter.com. Helps, too, that the landlord gave them a big break in rent, after the crafty crew promised to rehab the warehouse week by week.

Currently, a few hundred people participate in the Free Farm. City dwellers rent four-by-eight foot plots and raise food seasonally, for a donation of their choosing.

“We really want to lift the [intimidating] veil of mystique off food production,” Barton explains. “To show people how to do it and learn to do it ourselves.”

Seedlings have just been started in the group’s greenhouse: onion, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant coming soon.

Most days you can find at least several Free Farm members working outdoors, on the steep hillside land they call their own. Barton says they were very pleased, and frankly relieved, that soil analysis revealed healthy Hampden dirt (for the most part).

“We’re growing in the ground on our hill; it’s safe soil,” Barton says. “When we can’t vouch for the soil, we use a raised bed technique. You build a box and put landscaping plastic or a barrier, and fill it with soil, and you can grow in it.”

Core group members possess an impressive range of practical skills. Barton grew up in Carroll County, raising chickens, planting, and canning. His girlfriend, A.J. Sherman, does fiber work and screen-printing professionally. She helps decorate the space and stage colorful community events. Other workers are adept with carpentry, cooking, and coaxing a nice array of delicious veggies to life.

It sounds like a free-style hippie commune on one level, yes, but these kids seem much more driven than your typical song-singing hippies. They’re committed for the long haul, to educating people about growing food locally, and sharing and selling a portion of what they can produce. (Thus far, they’ve sold tomatoes to Woodberry Kitchen and Frazier’s.)

“I’d like to think Baltimore will follow through—we can clean this place up and make a difference,” Barton says.

Upcoming plans include alternative energy projects, and raising hens for their eggs.

“We plan to experiment with growing prawns and tilapia in tanks,” Barton explains. “And we’ll incorporate an alternative energy system to power the system—a [specialized] roof for rain collection can feed the tanks. Rooftop gardening is in the works. Up there, plants can be directly fertilized.”

Volunteers are welcome to help with farm chores every Saturday. The address: 3519 Ash Street. To learn more about the Baltimore Free Farm or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to: www.baltimorefreefarm.org

Announcing Donated Media: MD SPCA

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Baltimore Fishbowl’s Donate Media Program gives one-year of free media to a selected non-profit. This year’s recipient is the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Learn more about the Donated Media program at the bottom of the page. 

The MDSPCA Executive Director Aileen Gabbey kicks off the program with her interview below.

What is a typical workday like for you? Our mission is to help pets and people, so I need to stay focused on that. Recently, most of my time has been devoted to opening our new building, which was very exciting! Now, I have the fun of sharing that with our supporters! I’ll give tours of our new building; I’ll share happy stories with the media; I’ll spend time with staff and volunteers on our annual goals. I also spend time working with fellow directors in our Baltimore shelter alliance. Right now, we’re doing a big joint spay and neuter event together, which has been just great.

What is the most important thing the Maryland SPCA accomplished in 2010? The new building is definitely the big highlight! Our Board worked tirelessly on the campaign and our Staff worked wonders while we were under construction. While all of this was going on, we also opened a new wellness clinic, adopted almost 3,000 pets, neutered over 8,000 dogs and cats, and took in over 1,200 animals from the BARCS city shelter. We don’t sit still!

What is your highest/most ambitious goal for 2011? Hardest challenge? We want to keep focused on helping pets and people and each year we want to help more and more. This year, we want to increase our spay and neuter surgeries by 10%. We want to help more pets through our wellness clinic. I guess our challenge will be to let people know we still need help. Despite the success of the new building, we still have animals inside who have lots of needs!

Share some inspiring animal news! One of my favorite dogs recently was Stewie. He’s a five-year-old Lab we took in from the city shelter. Not only is Stewie older, he’s also blind. There is no time limit for an animal’s stay at the MD SPCA, so we know it takes a little longer for older or handicapped pets to get adopted. The dogs go out several times a day with our volunteers. I frequently saw Stewie out with his volunteer friends, warming his face in the sun. It took a few weeks, but, Stewie finally got adopted! I’ve attached his picture the day he went home with his new mom.

What can Baltimore animal lovers do to help the MD SPCA most effectively? Come help and spread the word that we need help! We don’t receive any operating funds from the government or the ASPCA. That surprises a lot of people. We rely on kind-hearted people to donate and volunteer.

How many pets do you have? And, are you sometimes tempted to adopt your rescues? People assume I am going to have a full house! My husband and I actually have just one dog and one cat, both from the MD SPCA. I try not to overdo it. But, I have to say, it is really tempting sometimes when I see the cute faces as I walk through each day!

 

Invasion of the Techies

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Long renowned for its industrial/manufacturing-based economy—which nearly disappeared over the final three decades of the 20th Century – Baltimore, in the past 10-plus years, gradually has established a thriving technology-driven business community. While not on a par with California’s Silicon Valley, the Route 128 corridor outside Boston, or even the stretch along I-270 in Montgomery County, Baltimore has recently begun to flex its economic muscles, fueled by support from the city and state governments, local universities, and, especially, innovative private entrepreneurs. Prominent among them are the following six individuals, determined to shepherd the city out of its rust-encrusted past into a wired future.

1 & 2. Yair Flicker (28) and John Trupiano (27), co-principals of technology consultancy SmartLogic

Yair Flicker

In a straight-from-the-tech-startup-playbook scenario, Yair Flicker and John Trupiano launched SmartLogic in 2005 in their respective apartments. Now operated from proper offices in Canton, their firm helps both startups and established companies implement innovative technology, shows marketers how to leverage technology to aid their clients, and demonstrates to existing businesses how Web-based applications can cut costs and drive revenue.

John Trupiano

SmartLogic boasts a smorgasbord of clients, from the Kidney Paired Donation project, which employs software to efficiently match kidney donors with kidney recipients, to the Spotcrime.com iPhone application, which allows users to type in their address – or any address – and up pops a crime map for the immediate area from the nation’s largest crime-accessible database (“My mom loves the service and is an avid user,” declares Flicker).

Not forgetting JP Morgan Chase, for which SmartLogic built a competitive analysis tool, and Brown University’s Distance Learning Program, for which it devised an online course management system used by the school’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

Meanwhile, Flicker and Trupiano’s relentless efforts to increase Baltimore’s tech savvy include sponsoring a gaggle of events such as—geek alert!—Bmore on Rails, Baltimore Javascript Users group, Refresh B’more, Ignite Baltimore, and BohConf.

 

3. Greg Cangialosi (37), president and CEO of e-mail marketer Blue Sky Factory

Greg Cangialosi

Greg Cangialosi sheds no tears for the withering offline marketing industry. Goodbye and good riddance to clunky brochures, hotel-conference-room dog-and-pony shows, and sweaty basement phone banks. Since 2001, when he founded Federal Hill-based Blue Sky Factory, Cangialosi has grown the company from two employees to a team of 25, cementing its reputation as a national leader in e-mail marketing. Its client roster features music concert promoter and producer behemoth Live Nation, testing and assessment services provider Prometric, and global PR agency Weber Shandwick.

“E-mail marketing is an immediate, versatile channel in which you can build relationships and stay in front of your audience,” Cangialosi says. “When done right, effective e-mail marketing will ultimately help your business make more money.”

Locally, Blue Sky Factory stokes the city’s old-school wired community as an active member of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, on whose board Cangialosi serves as vice chair. Other close-to-home partnerships/associations include the Baltimore Chapter of the American Marketing Association, the Social Media Club of Baltimore, and the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce.

“We help many local organizations build their presence in social media,” he notes, “and educate them as to where they should be focusing their online marketing efforts in order to grow their business.”

4. Martin Roesch (41), founder and chief technology officer of cybersecurity provider Sourcefire

Martin Roesch

Sourcefire takes its mission – protecting the data infrastructure of corporations, U.S. civilian government agencies, and the American military from malicious Internet attacks – seriously. Extremelyseriously. So seriously, in fact, that the Columbia-based firm’s website fails to mention even one of its clients, and its PR division, when asked to cough up a couple names, responds, “Typically, the company does not disclose customer information.” Okay, okay: Message received.

Founded in 2001 by Martin Roesch, who served as the firm’s first CEO, Surefire parlayed the success of the Roesch-written Snort intrusion-detection/prevention software into wider commercial applications. In the ensuing years, kerfuffles and epiphanies rocked the company: the feds ixnayed its purchase by an Israeli firm; Sourcefire rejected a takeover bid by another U.S. company; it completed a successful IPO; and, long after Roesch gave up the CEO title, a successor bowed out in favor of even fresher blood. Ultimately, a stronger Sourcefire emerged.

Accordingly, this past winter, Forbes magazine tabbed Sourcefire at #15 on its list of 25 Fastest Growing Technology Companies in the U.S., the only Maryland firm mentioned, and it now stands poised to expand exponentially with the massive infusion to the state of military and commercial contractors associated with the federal Base Relocation and Closure process.

And Sourcefire, it turns out, despite its overt cloak-and-daggerism, actually possesses a sense of humor. Inside its fortress of solitude, a bumper sticker in Roesch’s office wisecracks “My Kid Reads Your Honor Student’s Email.”

5. Tom Loveland (50), founder and CEO of consulting and technology services firm Minds Over Machines

Tom Loveland

Though only 50, Tom Loveland comes off as somewhat Brahmin-like in the context Baltimore’s youngish techie horde, having launched Minds Over Machines, his Web-design/IT-strategy/software-development business in 1989, the equivalent of the digital Pleistocene Era. Under Loveland’s leadership, the Owings Mills-based company has undertaken successfulprojects for a disparate group of government and commercial clients, notably the furniture/home accessories maker IKEA, contracting company Whiting-Turner, Calvert Educational Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Recently cited as one of the 50 most Influential Marylanders by the Daily Record and a member of the board of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, Loveland founded the Maryland Computer Services Association, a lobbying group that in 2008 cajoled the General Assembly to rescind a six-percent statewide technology tax before the law was implemented.

Last year, he was named (unpaid) “Google Czar” by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. In that capacity, Loveland marshaled the city’s public and private tech forces in an effort to persuade the Web-search giant to wire Baltimore with ultra-ultra high-speed fiber-optic infrastructure as part of its Google Fiber program. After a yearlong wait, Google selected Kansas City, KS, late last month, but, reportedly, Baltimore made a significant impression, and may yet be chosen in the future if the company continues the initiative. Undeterred, Loveland continues to champion the city as “a tinderbox of innovation.”

6. Rico Singleton (31), chief information officer, Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Information Technology

Rico Singleton

This past January, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed an executive order instructing city agencies to make data sets under their control available via the Office of Information Technology’s website. Called OpenBaltimore, the initiative offers an instantly accessible /searchable/downloadable cache of information detailing property taxes, crime reports, flood-plain risks, maps galore (including one showing the locations of homicides), and a plethora of parking-related data. Previously, info-seekers faced a glacial-like wait after filing an official public request.

In a prepared statement, Rawlings-Blake said, “Innovative and creative people will now be able to collaborate with government, and hopefully find ways to improve service delivery and save money for taxpayers.”

Rico Singleton appointed the city’s chief information officer this past November after working as a deputy CIO in New York State’s tech office, led the OpenBaltimore project.

Two weeks after the program’s official announcement, more than 30 eager laptop-toters convened for a “hackathon” at the city’s Canton tech incubator to brainstorm potential useful applications for the raw information. Weeks later, the first one emerged: the website SpotAgent.com. Something of a backhanded compliment to the city’s data largesse, it allows users to determine a “threat rating” in Baltimore’s various neighborhoods for receiving a ticket for failing to feed a parking meter or running a red light/speeding in view of a pesky pole-mounted camera—all in an effort to avoid paying a fine, which, oddly, meets the mayor’s goal of “saving money for taxpayers.”

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