Wednesday, February 28, 2007

But We'll Live Longer

"We're not Howard County" --- that's how one Sun columnist described Baltimore's objections to a smoking ban in bars. Smoking bans have not exactly hurt the restaurant and bar industry, as anyone who has tried to grab a table around here at dinnertime can attest. The restaurant and bar industry is not crying the blues either:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It Can Happen Here

A midnight fight behind a high school and now one teenager is dead. Nuff said. Here's a link to mediation and conflict resolution services at Howard County Community College.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Where Eagles Soar

The Post says the US Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to remove the bald eagle from the threatened and endangered list, which would mean protection for the bird would be left to a 1940s law that says they should not be disturbed. Problem is: What does disturbed mean exactly? The government is debating that right now....Turns out the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center over by Fort Meade played a key role in the revival, according to this mention in an article by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Gradually, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assembled the largest colony of breeding bald eagles in captivity at its Patuxent Wildlife Research Center near Laurel, Maryland, in a major effort to return healthy eagles to the wild (the center is now run by the National Biological Survey).

Patuxent's scientists enhanced the species' breeding potential by removing the bald eagle's first clutch of eggs and incubating them artificially. The bald eagles would usually then lay a second clutch, which the birds were allowed to incubate themselves. In all, 124 bald eagles were hatched at Patuxent.

These captive-hatched bald eagles were an important source for restocking wild populations in certain areas of the country and helped to reestablish a broader distribution. Patuxent's program came to an end in 1988, as bald eagles began to reproduce more successfully in the wild, and the center turned its efforts toward other more critically endangered species."

Friday, February 23, 2007

And The Oscar For Best Stunt Goes To...

The best part of this story from The Post is not the arrest or what this guy was trying to do but the fact there's a bit of Hollywood in our backyard. Time to do a little exploring...

"A man who claims he pursues urban exploration as a hobby was arrested this week for breaking into a Columbia studio used to film the HBO show "the Wire."
Michael Steven Arndt, 25, of Columbia, was arrested Sunday night after he was found inside an east Columbia warehouse where interior scenes are shot for "The Wire," a much acclaimed police drama set in Baltimore.
Arndt told the building's security guard that he crawled through the building's trash chute and thought the warehouse was abandoned, according to charging documents. Police said he had a leather bag containing burglary tools.
Arndt was charged with misdemeanor counts of burglary and possession of burglary tools. He was released on his own recognizance.
The day after his arrest, Arndt had a pizza delivered to the security guard at the warehouse with an apology and printouts from Web sites about urban exploration, said William "B.J." Spencer, owner of VIP Security Unlimited LLC, which provides 24-hour security for "The Wire." Urban exploration is the examination of abandoned or little-used buildings.
Arndt wanted to explain his hobby "so we would understand," Spencer said. "But to do that with a bunch of burglary tools is ridiculous." "

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's The Technology Stupid

New HoCo prez Ken Ulman vows to upgrade county computers, recounting in his state of the county talk how his wife stayed up way past her bedtime trying to log on to the rec site to register their child for a summer camp. "Let me be clear, my wife is the most important constituent I serve," he said to laughter, according to The Post's account. But better servers are only part of the problem. Whole parts of the government still are not accessible to the Web, and by accessible, I mean having the ability to transact business with the county. Send me a thought on what you'd like from your county government.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cows in Keds

Maggie Moo's, the local ice cream emporium, gets new owners. NextCen started life as a wireless company, then used its assets to go into real estate financing, and now is trying something new. NexCen also bought Athlete's Foot---how's that for synergy?

NEW YORK, Feb. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NexCen Brands, Inc.
("NexCen" or the "Company") (Nasdaq: NEXC) is pleased to announce that it
has entered into definitive agreements to acquire MaggieMoo's
International, LLC ("MaggieMoo's") and the assets of Marble Slab Creamery,
Inc. ("Marble Slab"), two well known and established brands within the
hand-mixed premium ice cream category, for a total combined initial
purchase price of $37.1 million, plus a potential earn-out of up to $2
million on the MaggieMoo's acquisition. These two transactions are expected
to be completed before the end of the first quarter and will mark the first
acquisitions for NexCen in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector, and
establish the QSR operating platform for NexCen's third operating vertical,
in addition to its consumer branded products and retail franchise based
Robert W. D'Loren, NexCen's President and Chief Executive Officer,
noted: "These acquisitions will provide NexCen with two well positioned
brands in the hand-mixed premium ice cream category. With 520 existing
stores and 225 stores in the pipeline on a combined basis, these two brands
will place us solidly as the number one player in quality and the number
two player in the number of franchise units in the hand-mixed premium ice
cream sector. There is a tremendous growth opportunity with these brands
through organic growth and licensing opportunities. We intend to grow these
brands outside of the United States through our international franchise
network currently operating in over 40 countries worldwide," Mr. D'Loren
The President of Marble Slab, Ronald J. Hankamer, addressed the
opportunity by stating, "I turn the reins of Marble Slab Creamery over to
Bob D'Loren's team with the utmost confidence they will continue our
longstanding commitment to providing the world's freshest - and tastiest -
ice cream."
MaggieMoo's Chairman, Stuart Olsten, was equally pleased with the
acquisition. "NexCen's executives understand our business and have the
tools to both grow our business as well as expand the MaggieMoo's brand
beyond ice cream. We are eager to move forward under NexCen's growing
platform," Mr. Olsten said in closing.
The initial purchase price for MaggieMoo's is $16.1 million, consisting
of approximately $10.8 million of cash, and NexCen common stock valued at
approximately $5.3 million. NexCen also agreed to an earn-out arrangement
that will entitle the sellers of MaggieMoo's to receive an additional
amount of up to $2 million, approximately 10% of which will be payable in
cash and the remainder in cash or stock priced at the time of issuance, at
NexCen's option. The additional amount will be payable if recurring
royalties and non- recurring franchise fees for 2007 meet performance
targets specified in the acquisition agreement.
In the separate Marble Slab acquisition, the purchase price consists of
$16 million of cash, and seller notes in aggregate principal amount of $5
million that earn interest at 6% per annum and are payable one year from
closing. The Seller's notes are payable in either cash or stock priced at
the time of issuance, at NexCen's option.
For the year ended December 31, 2006, aggregate revenues for Marble
Slab and MaggieMoo's are approximately $10 million, and NexCen anticipates
that aggregate revenues for the two businesses will increase by
approximately 20% in 2007. Assuming both deals are completed on March 31,
2007, NexCen estimates that aggregate reported revenues from the two
businesses in the remaining nine months of 2007 will be approximately $9
million. NexCen expects that the transactions will be accretive in 2007 and
that after integration into NexCen's operations will generate combined
operating margins of approximately 60%, consistent with NexCen's
expectations for a QSR franchising operation.
Conference Call
The Company will host a conference call to discuss these acquisitions
on February 15, 2007 at 4:30 p.m. EST. Interested parties may access the
call by telephone at 800-231-9012. Please ask for confirmation code
7341369. Replay of this call will be available until March 15, 2007, by
calling 888-203-1112 or 719-457-0820, access code 7341369.
NexCen Brands was represented by UCC Capital Corporation.
About the Companies
NexCen Brands, Inc. is the premier 21st century brand acquisition and
management company focused on assembling a diversified portfolio of
intellectual property (IP) centric companies operating in the consumer
branded products and franchise industries. NexCen owns and franchises The
Athlete's Foot brand worldwide, and in December 2006 entered into an
agreement to acquire the worldwide rights to Bill Blass, a designer apparel
Since 1983, Marble Slab Creamery(R) has set its standards of quality
unusually high. Every batch of the super premium ice cream is homemade and
hand-rolled in freshly baked waffle cones in each store. There are
currently 336 stores located in 35 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and the
United Arab Emirates.
Based in Columbia, Md., MaggieMoo's currently operates 184 stores
located in 36 states domestically. Each location features a menu of freshly
made super-premium ice creams, mix-ins, smoothies, the country's first ice
cream cupcakes and custom ice cream cakes. MaggieMoo's chocolate, dark
chocolate, vanilla, vanilla bean and strawberry ice cream flavors all have
been awarded The National Ice Cream Retailers Association's prestigious
Blue Ribbon Award, for taste, texture and overall appearance for eight
years running. MaggieMoo's is the only national retail concept to win all
five awards.
Forward-Looking Statement Disclosure
This press release contains "forward-looking statements," as such term
is used in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Such
forward-looking statements include those regarding expectations for the
development of the new IP strategy business, expectations for the
performance of Maggie Moo's and Marble Slab, and NexCen's ability to
complete the acquisition of Maggie Moo's and/or Marble Slab. When used
herein, the words "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "intend," "may,"
"will," "expect" and similar expressions as they relate to the Company or
its management are intended to identify such forward- looking statements.
Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations and
assumptions, which are subject to risks and uncertainties. They are not
guarantees of future performance or results. The Company's actual results,
performance or achievements could differ materially from the results
expressed in, or implied by, these forward-looking statements, including
the estimates and expectations regarding future revenues and operating
margins contained in this press release. Factors that could cause or
contribute to such differences include: (1) we may not be successful in
implementing the new IP strategy, (2) we may not complete the acquisition
of either Maggie Moo's or Marble Slab on the negotiated terms or at all,
(3) we may not be successful in operating or expanding either MaggieMoo's
or Marble Slab or integrating the acquisitions into our IP business
strategy, (4) risks associated with marketing and franchising our acquired
trademarks and with successfully integrating and growing both franchised
brands, (5) risks associated with the ability of franchisees to
successfully market and sell ice cream under the MaggieMoo's or Marble Slab
trademarks, and (6) other factors discussed in our filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission. NexCen undertakes no obligation to
update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new
information, future events or otherwise.
For more information on these transactions, or about NexCen please
visit our website at .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

HoCo Community College Gets New Prez

The local papers all report that HCC's prez is stepping down. Mary Ellen Duncan, who oversaw unprecedented growth during nine years at the once-struggling institution in Columbia, announced her retirement, to be succeeded by the college's executive vice president, Kate Hetherington. I found this number enlightening in the Post's story:

"The community college's annual tuition and fees, amounting to $3,020 a year for a full-time, in-county student, have risen in recent years and are among the highest for Maryland community colleges."

Here's a comparison. This is what Harvard is charging in tuition and fee charges for the 2006-2007 academic year:

Full-time Students Per Academic Year $30,544.00

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is Columbia A Real City?

The fight goes on over a 275-foot residential tower in downtown. What makes a city? The developer, held up by protests, wants a speedy legal decision.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Built It And They Will Come

Posted at 07:51 AM ET, 02/13/2007

But is that a good thing? The Pentagon's push to close facilities around Washington will bring new jobs to places such as Fort Meade. Local officials see opportunities to get money to widen Route 175 and other roads. This update is from WaPo's "Maryland Moments" blog:

Paying for BRAC

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said yesterday that she would push an amendment allowing any school district affected by the realignment of military bases to receive federal aid before the arrival of students whose parents relocate for the job shifts.

But another Maryland Democrat, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, cautioned later in the day that the state "needs to be in position to shoulder the load."

A Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development study released Friday projected that Maryland would gain more than 45,000 federal and private-sector jobs as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan, known as BRAC.

Mikulski (D-Md.) said her amendment might bring the state $25 million more in federal impact aid, which now compensates school systems across the country only for students from military families who enroll.

"This is a national priority," she said.

Mikulski spoke at a news conference with Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R), who has asked the state to accelerate key road projects such as the widening of Route 175 near Fort Meade. Anne Arundel would gain 10,049 positions because of BRAC, including 5,717 jobs moving directly to Fort Meade, according to the state report. "BRAC is a great opportunity, but we need the resources," Leopold said.

But Hoyer cautioned yesterday that Maryland should not expect a great deal of help from the federal government. "Most of the communities in America would kill for that sort of economic expansion," Hoyer said at a luncheon with reporters in Bowie.

"After all, we went and argued vigorously that we wanted this expansion," Hoyer added. "We really now can't come down and say, 'Look what you've done to us. We need money.' "

A study paid for by the U.S. Department of Labor projects that BRAC would create a demand for more than 25,000 homes in eight Maryland counties, increasing the burden on crowded schools and roads. Federal, state and county officials are working to develop a regional plan to prioritize projects.

Raymond McCaffrey and Steve Vogel

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Finally....We have the first real storm of the season...Now let's get it out of here...Here's a minute-by-minute map of where the Howard County snow plows are.