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The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge is in full swing. If your business is in need of a jump start, check out this site for more information about the national business competition. The Challenge offers applicants free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors and the chance to compete for more than $600,000 in prizes. Winners of the Life Sciences, IT, Cybersecurity and General Industry categories will each win $100,000 awards. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes. Applications are due by Dec. 6.

Judges include a distinguished lineup of industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Meet a selection of judges below.

Meet The Judges:



Robb Doub joined New Markets Venture Partners in 2003. Robb is the lead administrative partner and serves as a board director for eCoast Sales Solutions and Appfluent Technology, and is lead partner or board observer for K2 Global, Kroll Bond Ratings, Navtrak, Three Stage Media, CSA Medical and TidalTV. He also serves on the board of Egeen International and the Conflicts Advisory Board of the off-shore hedge funds.


Daphne Dufresne joined RLJ Equity Partners from Parish Capital Advisors, where she was a Venture Partner managing the direct investment and co-investment program. Formerly, Ms. Dufresne was a Principal at Weston Presidio Capital with $3.4 billion of assets under management. She also served as Associate Director in the Bank of Scotland’s Structured Finance Group. Ms. Dufresne received her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.


Christy Williams Wyskiel is an entrepreneur and investor with 20 years of experience focused on the life sciences and healthcare industries. Previously, Christy was Managing Director at Maverick Capital, an equity hedge fund with $12 billion under management. She co-founded GrayBug, an ophthalmic drug-delivery company. In 2012, Christy joined the Johns Hopkins Alliance, a board charged with evaluating the commercial viability of research projects at JHU.


Frederick J. Ferrer has over three decades of experience in the National Security, Intelligence Community (IC), Homeland Defense and Cyber. Mr. Ferrer holds a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and serves in a number of leadership capacities, including the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence; National STEM Consortium Advisory Committee; and Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.


As the Executive Director and President of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, Ms. Tillett is responsible for management of budgetary, administrative, programmatic functions and strategic planning. Prior to joining ETC, Ms. Tillett served as president and co-founder of Immersive 3D, LLC, a technology start-up providing web-based 3D computer gaming solutions for K-20 education and offering contract-based technology services.

See the full list of judges and submit your application on

Keep up with the latest Maryland business news.

The recently passed Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, which will likely result in a wind farm near Ocean City, provides $10 million to assist minority firms in gaining contracts. It also paves the way for clean energy programs at historically black colleges, the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

According to the article:

The funding will help businesses gear up to handle a variety of work related to the wind farm, including manufacturing components for wind turbines, transporting freight and providing engineering and other professional services, said [Vernon] Wade, CEO of Wade Enterprises Inc., an information technology company based in Ft. Washington …

The legislation also includes the creation of a Clean Energy Program Task Force to recommend whether Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore should establish programs that would grant a degree or certificate in clean energy.

Find the BBJ’s complete report here.

by Christine Hansen

Emory Knoll Farms sits on 140 acres of lush greenery in Harford County.

When Emory Knoll Farms was founded, the company’s goal was always centered around sustainability.  So when Maryland became the first state to create a benefit corporation designation, it made sense for Emory Knoll Farms to apply.

Emory Knoll Farms began as a nursery operation in 1998 after Ed Snodgrass began growing perennials and container gardens and selling them at local farmer’s markets.  It was his visits with other nursery owners where he learned about green roofing.  After doing research, he discovered that no nurseries in the region specialized in the growing of green roof plants and decided to fill the niche.  In 2003, he touched base with John Shepley, an old friend and colleague who was interested in starting a sustainable business.

The business, Emory Knoll Farms, Inc., also known as Green Roof Plants, was officially formed in 2004 and has been growing green roof plants for the North American region ever since.


“Water has become one of our most important natural resources. Clean, drinkable, usable water has become rare in a lot of parts of the world with population growth and the increasing demand on all of our resources,” Shepley said.  “One of the biggest public health benefits of green roofing is that they help mitigate storm water runoff, which creates erosion. It helps eliminate an enormous amount of pollutants. The plants retain the pollutants and the plants use it as food. It helps preserve the bay and our environment. And they help green our cities.”

The company is responsible for a number of projects in Maryland, including the Montgomery Park building, the Barbara Mikulski Center at the Living Classrooms Foundation, the National Aquarium, and several universities.  The company has also done a number of projects across the U.S. including a chiropractic office in Pennsylvania, and the National Audio Visual Conservation Center of the Library of Congress.  Shepley, vice president and co-owner of the company, oversees many of the day-to-day activities of the farm, including finding ways to stay innovative and remain competitive.

The Barbara Mikulski center of the Living Classrooms Foundation has a green roof by Emory Knoll Farms.

“Our biggest competitor is a large wholesale nursery out in the Pacific Northwest.  For them, the green roof business is a small part of their operation, but they have hundreds of thousands of acres of plants that can be sold for the green roofing business,” Shepley said.

In order to have more of a national reach and to even out the competition, the company has partnered with some of the best of the nurseries across the country.

“It’s not always sustainable for us to deliver plants to California or Kansas City, for example, so we have a partner that we work with in the Midwest, and he grows the plants to our standards and ships them directly to our customers in that region.  It’s a win-win,” Shepley said.

Emory has also continued to innovate with their products in the size of the plants they grow and the potting mix that they use. The potting mix is made up of 100% reclaimed materials, such as by-products of the rice industry and the coconut industry.  The farm is powered by wind and solar energy, and waste vegetable oil is used to heat the farm’s offices and greenhouses.  The farm also believes in reusing materials.  Old bath tubs, toilets, and other miscellaneous items can be seen throughout the grounds as potting containers.

Emory Knoll reuses old materials, such as a bathtub, to pot plants in their nursery.

This attention to detail and to preserving the environment extends throughout the 140 acres of lush greenery, and within Shepley’s own belief system.  When Snodgrass and Shepley founded Emory Knoll Farms, sustainability was always at the forefront of their minds – not only for the environmental impact, for the social impact as well.

“When we founded this company, we included sustainability in our plans – not only environmental and ecological, but also prosperity – the three legs of the stool that makes up sustainability,” Shepley said.

The company’s website explains their company philosophy:  “Rather than focus strictly on financial performance, we look at three different bottom lines: Environmental, Social, and Financial.  Each has its own measures, management practices, and values.  It’s not only important to try to maximize performance in all three areas, but we must also maintain a balance.  We cannot be environmentally responsible to the degree that our business is no longer viable and we put people out of work.  All three areas must work together to maximize the sum of the parts, and they must be in balance in order to do that.”

Emory's greenhouses are heated by waste vegetable oil.

So, a few years later, when Maryland became the first state in the Union to create a new corporate form creating benefit corporations, Shepley and Snodgrass jumped on the opportunity to define their company even further as a sustainable corporation.  The new law can apply to those businesses whose mission is to drive a material, positive impact on society and the environment.

“When I heard about the benefit corporation, we saw it as a way to exhibit leadership in this field,” Shepley said. “The whole benefit corporation movement allows businesses to take steps to become sustainable, but it protects businesses and shows businesses that there are other ways to do business besides looking at the financial bottom line.”

The process, Shepley said, was simple.  Companies already in existence need to amend their Articles of Incorporation, making sure to add the specific language created by the law designating it as a benefit corporation.  New businesses can use the same language when drafting their Articles of Incorporation.  The law does require benefit corporations to make an annual sustainability report – assessed by an independent third-party – publicly available.

Emory Knoll Farms, Inc. was officially designated as a benefit corporation on October 1, 2010.  Today, the company employs 10 people and offers benefits including a healthcare and retirement package.

“I hear the argument a lot, especially in the business community, that a lot of the things we do is not possible – but I think what we do is demonstrable. Anyone can do what we are doing and get the same benefits we get.  Everything we have done in our business in regards to sustainability has improved our profitability,” Shepley said.

Why Knott?

MDbizMedia —  September 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

Knott Mechanical: Strength of a Family Business

by Christine Hansen

For 16 years, Martin Knott, Jr., has helped to build his family-owned business to the success it is today. Photo courtesy of Knott Mechanical.

Martin Knott, Jr. understands what it means to build a family business. President of Knott Mechanical, a second generation family-owned HVAC and plumbing business, Knott spent his boyhood and college years learning all aspects of his father’s business, turning an already successful company to a growing empire.

When it was time to go to college, Knott chose to study Business Management and Entrepreneurial Studies.

“Entrepreneurial studies really gave me a look at all the different aspects of business, from finance to marketing to business management.  I knew I was going to run a business one day,” Knott said.

Knott worked for his father during summers, working his way up through the ranks.  After college, he worked in the field for two years, and in 1996 he bought the company from his father and became President.

Today, Knott Mechanical serves over 350 clients from schools to restaurants to hospitals and office properties across the Central Maryland region, providing a number of services including plumbing installation and repair, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) service, installation and retrofitting.

But what sets them apart from other HVAC and plumbing companies, Knott said, is their compassion for performance.

“My father, when he was growing the business, developed great relationships with his clients and he delivered for them and I think that is what we try to continue to do today,” Knott said.  “We work hard to develop solid relationships, work hard to maintain our relationships – not only through communication but through performance. We are very passionate about delivery and I think that passion for wanting to deliver to our clients has spanned a couple generations, and because of that, we have been able to remain successful.”

The company’s proprietary tracking service, KTrack™, also plays a fundamental role in setting the company apart from its competition.  The software, designed by Martin’s brother, and Chief Operating Officer of the company, Owen Knott, allows for instant access to a complete history of all equipment and work performed by Knott Mechanical.  The wireless system provides a direct link to all pertinent information, including highly detailed cost tracking, while enabling the ability to document all work on equipment being serviced.


“This KTrack™ system that we developed is really fueling our growth.  When we go out and talk with prospective clients, they see the information that we are able to provide them along with the reputation we have had since being in business over the last 39 years.  Organizations like Knott Mechanical have been around for a long time, but you have to determine how you can infuse information technology into business to become more efficient and collect data.  And that always adds value when working with clients,” Knott said.

And every client at Knott Mechanical has direct access to Knott.  As the State prepared for the setbacks from Hurricane Irene, Knott took a call from one of its biggest clients, Comcast, to determine what steps should be taken in the event that service was disrupted.  Knott explained that the company worked closely with all of its clients in preparation for any natural disasters.

The attention to detail and care for each its client’s unique needs has helped the company expand.  The company recently announced an expansion, which included the hiring of eight more employees, bringing the total number of employees to 48.  Since 2007, the company’s revenue has grown from $4.6 million to $8 million this year.

“With the way technology is moving especially in this business, it’s important for us to continue to improve our way of doing business and apply these new technologies in any way we can.  In the next 40 years, I hope to see our techs being able to talk with our machines to help us more quickly and efficiently diagnose the problems with equipment.  It’s an exciting field and there are a lot of great things happening,” he said.

Knott Mechanical's KTrack system can help companies trim their bottom line by monitoring their HVAC equipment.

by Leah Michaels

TIC Gums Headquarters


TIC Gums, located in White Marsh, Maryland, is a global company that has been developing ingredients for the food industry for over 100 years. To create these ingredients TIC Gums combines organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and material science in their laboratory. Their ingredients are then used in food products that other companies produce.


“If you were to go to the grocery store, I guarantee you that half of the products you pick up probably have our ingredients in them, but you would not really know it unless you looked at the ingredients statement,” says Matt Patrick, Vice President of R&D.

The gum ingredients provide texture and stabilization to everyday food products. Most food products could not survive shelf-life at a grocery store without a gum in it. However, there are other benefits.“Even though gums are typically used for their functionality, the texture, and the stabilization, they are also mostly soluble dietary fiber. A lot of folks actually put them in foods just for the health benefits,” says Gregory Andon, President of TIC Gums.TIC Gums latest breakthrough product is TicaPAN, which is a novel solution for chewing gum coating. Gum arabic is the current ingredient used for coating chewing gum, however it comes from Africa and is expensive. Produced locally, TicaPAN saves at least 20% in costs compared to gum arabic. It has a shorter drying time, provides a whiter, harder, and crunchier shell, and would end the reliance on Africa for gum arabic. TicaPAN is also sugar-free and non-cariogenic.

For the first 80 years the company was located in New York, but the state could not provide the space that the company needed in terms of expansion. TIC Gums needed a state with a port and Maryland was the perfect place. Along with their R&D center in White Marsh, TIC Gums owns a manufacturing facility in Belcamp, Maryland. The company has approximately 100 employees and is currently hiring.

TIC Gums with TicaPAN and Gum Arabic


by Christine Hansen

A rooftop view of McCormick's Belcamp distribution center solar installation, which is expected to generate 2.3 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

McCormick (NYSE: MKC) and Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG) have completed the installation of a 1.8 megawatt solar panel system at McCormick’s 363,000 square foot distribution center in Belcamp, one of the State’s largest solar energy projects.  The project, the second for McCormick, is estimated to generate 2.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, covering approximately 75 percent of the facility’s electricity needs.

Officials cut the ribbon for the new solar installation at McCormick's Belcamp distribution center on June 7.

“This newest solar installation is part of McCormick’s commitment to environmentally responsible operations.  Since 2005, we have reduced our global water usage 26 percent, greenhouse gas emissions 23 percent, solid waste 22 percent and electricity 17 percent,” McCormick President and CEO Alan Wilson said in a statement.

Economic Deputy Secretary Dominick Murray congratulates McCormick on helping reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

Dominick Murray, Deputy Secretary for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, was in attendance at the celebration of the completion of the project with McCormick, Constellation and other officials celebrated the completion of the project at the facility on Tuesday.

“It’s been the State’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. It’s good that McCormick is setting an example, investing in clean energy programs, and helping us all reduce the negative impacts of climate change,” Deputy Secretary Murray said.

McCormick’s Belcamp solar system is made up of 7,491 roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels.   In 2008, a 1-megawatt solar system was installed at McCormick’s Spice Mill in Hunt Valley, bringing the company’s total amount of hosted solar power statewide to nearly 3 megawatts.

Constellation Energy developed, owns, and maintains the solar power systems at both locations. McCormick, in return, purchases all of the electricity generated by the solar panels at below-market rates.  Constellation officials estimate that the project will save McCormick $3.4 million in electricity costs over the term of the agreement.


If McCormick used nonrenewable sources at the Belcamp facility, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the amount of electricity generated at that facility would result in the release of 1,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the emission from more than 300 passenger vehicles annually.