Calvin ball’s record on:
Helping our entrepreneurs create the jobs of the future
Howard County Executive Ball and the Howard County Economic Development Authority launched “HoCo Higher,” a transformative entrepreneur accelerator program conducted with assistance from private sector partners. The empowering program teaches essential skills in business planning, operations, credit building, digital communication, and financial management to early-stage and historically underserved entrepreneurs.
Top business mentors, coaches, and subject matter experts lead the 10-week boot camp at no cost to participants. County Executive Ball believes that small businesses are the economic engine that pushes Howard County forward and helps the community thrive. The program has accepted its second cohort of applicants.
Responsible fiscal management leading to best-in-class AAA bond rating Under County Executive Ball, Howard County continues to be a leader in fiscal responsibility. During all four years of his administration, and despite the uncertainty amid the pandemic, Howard County received an AAA bond rating from all three bond rating agencies – Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services, and Standard & Poor’s.
Among more than 3,100 counties in the nation, Howard County is one of 49 to receive a AAA rating from all three agencies. The rating affirms the County’s ability to pay its debts and gives taxpayers the lowest possible interest when repaying bonds sold by the County. In issuing its rating in 2022, Standard & Poor’s said that Howard County has “stable financial operations and very strong management, including comprehensive policies and practices that have allowed them to weather several economic downturns.”
Commitment to local businesses
County Executive Ball has worked tirelessly to ensure that local businesses have the opportunity to receive their portion of the estimated $260 million that the County spends every year on contracts, supplies, and services.
County Executive Ball has strengthened and expanded the Howard County Local Business Initiative, ensuring government spending stays within the County. Under his financial plan, if a bid from a Howard County company is within 10 percent of a bid from a non-local firm, the contract can be awarded to that certified local business. Local businesses also automatically receive preference for purchases of less than $10,000.
The program delivers results. In December 2018, 100 local firms were certified with Howard County’s purchasing office, conducting about $4 million in business with the County. Today, Howard County has 300 local, certified firms, conducting nearly $15 million in business within the first two quarters of this fiscal year alone.
County Executive Ball also grew Howard County’s Equal Business Opportunity Program (EBOP). This past fiscal year, 29.2 percent of all County spending went to minority and women-owned firms, the highest proportion in county history. This is up from 18.8 percent in FY17. Of the FY21 EBOP spending, 25.5 percent went to firms owned by African Americans.
Focused Support to Assist Businesses During COVID-19
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ball Administration quickly found ways to support those business owners who needed the most support. Howard County is home to more than 10,000 businesses, with 86% having fewer than 10 employees. Throughout continued partnership with our federal and state delegations, the Ball Administration dispersed four rounds of funding to 2,000 small, businesses, farms, restaurants, hotels, live venues, business associations, and childcare providers. This funding totaled more than $20 million and was a critical step on the road to recovery.
Growing an Innovation Economy
On his 100th day in office, County Executive Ball signed an agreement with the Howard County Economic Development Authority to make the Maryland Innovation Center a reality. The innovation center, serving nearly 30 businesses, was launched as a nexus of resources and innovation for small, minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. The center combines in-house expertise with established technology and business leadership resources that fosters small business growth for the Baltimore-Washington corridor community. The industry sectors include cybersecurity technologies, healthcare IT, and government solution providers. Since opening, the Innovation Center has launched dozens of new businesses, resulting in hundreds of new jobs for Howard County.
Making government easier for business
County Executive Ball actively listens to the needs of the local business community and has taken important steps toward efficient and seamless business transactions within the County.
The first step was launching the “Restaurant Wizard,” an information consolidation software for the Department of Licenses and Permits, the Department of Planning and Zoning, and the Health Department regarding their respective permitting processes. This helped prospective restaurant owners quickly identify what permitting is needed for their specific situation.
County Executive Ball also accelerated the outdoor dining process when indoor dining was still prohibited. This eventually led to the creation of his expedited Outdoor Table Service Permits program. This allowed restaurants to set up outdoor seating in virtually any available outdoor space, including parking lots, grassy areas, and sidewalks. The Ball Administration also worked with the Liquor Board to extend on-premises alcohol consumption. As of April 2021, more than 50 Howard County businesses utilized the outdoor seating permit process.
County Executive Ball improved the review process for developmental plans—technical drawings that showed locations for buildings, parking, trees, landscaping, and other features. Under County Executive Ball, the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has implemented a new process to review developmental plans that maximize the use of technology and save up to six weeks in production time.
Supporting Ellicott City Businesses
One of the first initiatives County Executive Ball announced after taking office was the “EC Holiday Bucks” program. The program provided a ten-dollar spending voucher redeemable at participating restaurants, shops, and service providers within the Old Ellicott City historic district during the Christmas holiday season. The holiday bucks were extremely popular, and the program continues today through the Ellicott City Partnership.
Revitalizing the Long Reach Village Center
After years of blight and ongoing challenges, in 2019, County Executive Ball created “Long Reach Rising,” a swift, short-term renovation and long-term renewal strategy for the Long Reach Village Center. Since the announcement of “Long Reach Rising,” more than 45,000 square feet of office and retail space has been leased, including 25,000 square feet of the space that previously housed Safeway. New additions to the village center include the African-American Museum of Art, 13 artist studios through the Howard County Arts Council, Head Start, Howard International Grocer, Roving Radish, Roll Up ‘N Dye, and Vegan Soul Bakery.
Launch of the Digital Equity Initiative
Throughout the pandemic, it became apparent that not all Howard County residents and businesses had the means to navigate a new, digital world. This awareness prompted County Executive Ball to launch “Transform Howard,” an equity initiative designed to expand digital inclusion and increase community access to broadband.
Driving Down the County’s Unemployment Rate
Under County Executive Ball’s leadership, Howard County’s unemployment rate continues to decrease as the County recovers from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The County’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 percent in May 2020 to 4.5 percent as of March 2021. This is the lowest unemployment rate in the region and the 4th lowest in the state. Since the Ball Administration came into office, several large businesses have chosen to locate or expand in Howard County, such as TJ Maxx, Cavalier Logistics, Long Home Products, and the prepared meals company Freshly.
Expanding Opportunity for All
As part of his commitment to Howard County’s small businesses, County Executive Ball hosted the first-ever Small Business Summit, drawing 161 attendees and representing 145 small, women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses. The event provided resources, networking opportunities, and information about bidding and winning small business contracts with government and private industries.