The Howard County Chamber’s 2017 Signature Event, “A Night of Illusion,” was one county business and community leaders will never forget. Illusionist Jason Bishop mesmerized guests with his sleights of hand, double levitation and grand illusions.

But the illusions were just part of the action-packed evening, which also included the presentation of HCCC’s annual Awards for Chamber Excellence.

2017 Business Person of the Year: Bita Dayhoff, Community Action Council of Howard County

When you hear Bita Dayhoff mentioned, you may automatically think of the Community Action Council of Howard County (CAC). For the past eight years, Dayhoff has served as the organization’s president, spearheading the council’s vision and expansion in its Head Start, Food, Weatherization and Energy Assistance programs, all while making the Baltimore Sun’s “Top 100 Employers” list.

Dayhoff is passionate about helping people, particularly children. She believes that, when a parent succeeds, a child succeeds, and so, under her leadership, CAC has taken a “two-generation approach” to serving low-income families in Howard County. Dayhoff explained that the two-generation approach “means that no family member is left out: Parents get connected to skills and career training, children are in quality learning environments, and families are connected to health care and other services to address their basic needs.”

She believes that same two-generation approach not only benefits the families who seek out the CAC for assistance, but also the community as a whole, including local businesses. Families who are doing well amount to “motivated employees, active consumers and engaged citizens.”

Dayhoff also believes in building connections and forming partnerships with local businesses. That is part of the reason that, under her leadership, the CAC first joined the Chamber. Although the CAC is mission-oriented rather than profit-driven, Dayhoff said that nonprofits should be run just like other businesses.

2017 Large Business of the Year: BGE

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) is the largest electric and natural gas utility in central Maryland, which helps to explain why it is committed to the growth of the economy both in Howard County and at the state level. BGE’s history in this area goes back more than 200 years to 1816, when Rembrandt Peale lit the first gas lamp in Baltimore.

BGE joined the Chamber back in 1970 to help bridge the gap between the company and Howard County’s small businesses. BGE representatives see Chamber events as a way to connect with their business customers. They want Chamber members to consider them partners, rather than simply bill collectors.

The company employs more than 3,200 people, but it is still keenly aware of the financial obstacles facing nearly every small business. In 2015, BGE launched its Smart Energy Economic Development (SEED) Program, offering incentives for new and expanding businesses and creating new, full-time employment through discounts on natural gas and electric connection and usage costs. In its first year, the SEED Program provided those incentives to 19 businesses, which BGE estimated would contribute to the addition of nearly 2,400 new jobs in Maryland.

Within Howard County, BGE is also active in several community service projects, including the Columbia Festival of the Arts, and environmental stewardship through its Green Grants program and Bright Ideas Teachers’ Grants. Bright Ideas Grants were born out of a desire to encourage innovation in local schools. Teachers are eligible for grants up to $500 to buy supplies to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or innovative technology projects in their classrooms.

BGE’s Megan Eaves currently serves on the Chamber’s board of directors as well as the Legislative Affairs Committee. The company also supports the Chamber through event sponsorship. Most recently, it was the presenting sponsor of the 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast.

2017 Small Business of the Year: Commercial Insurance Managers

For nearly 30 years, Commercial Insurance Managers Inc. (CIM) and President Gordon M. Mumpower, Jr., have been active in the Howard County community. Mumpower started CIM in 1989 to create a business-to-business insurance agency that could work with clients in any industry. When asked what advice he would give to new entrepreneurs, he said it’s simple: “You have to spend at least 60 hours a week working.” Mumpower did just that, and CIM has flourished. Mumpower, the father of three daughters, with three grandchildren, told his daughters to find jobs that would make them happy. For his daughter Candice, that meant going to work for CIM. In August, Candice became CIM’s new president and CEO.

One thing that definitely won’t be changing with its leadership is CIM’s commitment to charitable work. Mumpower and the CIM staff have spent thousands of hours working on community service projects, sponsoring fundraising events and working on the homes of community members who are differently abled in and around Howard County. CIM is committed to putting community first, even cofounding many of the charitable organizations and events county residents have valued for years. It is one of the original investors of the Howard County Economic Development Authority and is a founding contributor to the Jim Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund, which helped fund and establish the Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Regarding the future of CIM, Mumpower said its No. 1 goal is to improve service continually for its clients. Recently, CIM launched an HR Hotline so that clients can call in and get free advice on insurance-related questions.

As far as a secret to success goes, CIM’s website has a quote from Mumpower that sums things up nicely. “So many of my clients have also become my best friends.”

2017 Entrepreneur of the Year: Justin Bonner and Kasey Turner, Jailbreak Brewing Company

On the company website, Justin Bonner and Kasey Turner write that: “Jailbreak is a freedom expression.” The name has dual meanings: Bonner explained that its craft beer is meant to be an escape for its customers, but the company itself also was an escape of sorts for its founders.

Bonner and Turner were both working in the government contracting and high tech fields in Howard County when they decided to take a big risk and take their lives in a completely different direction.
Although both live in Anne Arundel County, Bonner said Howard County was the obvious choice when it came to starting Jailbreak. He said Howard County’s government was willing to work with the partners on legislation that ultimately allowed Jailbreak to start as the first commercial brewery in Howard County. Their brewing operation started in 2013, but even though the company has been in business only a few years, Jailbreak is already talking expansion. In order to meet the demand the taproom now sees, the partners decided to change their liquor license to allow the taproom to stay open and produce their beers at the current rate.

While beer certainly has been flowing at Jailbreak’s taproom, the company’s founders also are always looking for ways to give back to the community. After the devastating flood of 2016 in Old Ellicott City, Jailbreak joined forces with Flying Dog Brewing to produce a special beer they called Watershed Moment Belgian IPA, with 100% of the profits going to flood relief.

Bonner and Turner are only a few years into the journey of Jailbreak Brewing, but that’s long enough to have some advice for anyone thinking about starting a business: “Find an opportunity, and take a risk.”

2017 GovConnects Business of the Year: Unanet

Unanet is relatively new to the Howard County Chamber, but it has managed to have a big impact on the business community in that time. Founded in 1988 by Chair and CEO Fran Craig, the company started by offering web timesheets. After just a few years, customers began asking for a way to manage their projects as well, so Unanet met the demand and has continued to grow ever since.

Although it isn’t based in Howard County, Unanet’s leadership realized how important this community is to the government contracting industry and knew that, to continue to serve their customers at the highest level, they would have to become an active part of Howard County’s business community. Unanet joined the Chamber and is heavily involved with its GovConnects program.

Currently, Unanet’s Jackie McGuigan is on the GovConnects Advisory Council, and Unanet is a sponsor of the program as well.
Unanet’s business philosophy includes an emphasis on charitable work. The company is a proud supporter of more than two-dozen philanthropic organizations, but it also encourages a culture of volunteerism among its own staff. The company offers two days each year for employees to spend working with the service organization of their choice.

In addition to a focus on connecting to the community around them, Unanet’s President & COO Christopher Craig has this advice for fellow businesses: “Get involved in the Chamber and get out to events, because you never know who you will meet.”

2017 Exemplar of the Year:
Pete Mangione, General Manager,
Turf Valley Resort

When you think of Turf Valley Resort, you think of Pete Mangione, and when you think of Pete Mangione, you think family. Mangione is one of 10 children born to Nicholas and Mary Mangione, and they are about as tight-knit as it gets. More than 30 years ago, Pete’s father bought the land that would become Turf Valley Resort, and since then the entire business has become a family affair. Every sibling in the family has had his or her hand in some aspect of the family’s businesses, but Pete is the face of Turf Valley Resort, and it’s a smiling face.

As hard as he works, Mangione clearly enjoys what he does. That applies to his role as general manager of the resort, but also to his role in dozens of Howard County’s charitable organizations. The list of volunteer work and fundraising that Mangione is a part of is extensive, from the Columbia Festival of the Arts, to Blossoms of Hope, to blood drives for the American Red Cross, and to serving on the Morgan State University Foundation Golf Committee, the Good Scout Committee (2013 recipient), and the Taste of Howard County Committee benefitting Gilchrist Hospice Care. He also assists with the Arc of Howard County’s Chocolate Ball.

Mangione is also one of the most active board members the Chamber has ever had. He has rarely missed a board meeting in nine years, he attends every luncheon and most ribbon-cutting ceremonies and is always willing to help in any way the Chamber needs. Mangione is quick to point out though, that what he’s given to the Chamber, he’s gotten back tenfold.

He is humble to the core, and credits his work ethic to his parents. Mangione said he and his siblings saw what his parents did, and followed their lead.

As for the future, Mangione said that his family will work to pass their values on to the next generation and continue to be a strong corporate partner in the community.

Spring Awardees

Awards were also presented earlier in the year at the Chamber’s 48th Annual Meeting. Those honorees were recognized at the Signature Event as well.

2017 Business Advocate of the Year: Michael Fowler, BGE
The Chamber has long taken great pride in being an advocate for small business and industry. Its 2017 Business Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Michael Fowler, who has served as the Legislative Committee’s co-chair and a member of the board of directors since 2014.

Fowler has been a long-time member, advocate and sponsor of the Chamber and its legislative efforts, and provided strategic insight regarding the electorates that was of immeasurable value. His support was available whenever requested, and many times he helped with drafting testimony and making contact with elected officials prior to events that involved the Howard County delegation. He recently retired as the external affairs manager in BGE’s Governmental & External Affairs Department, where he was employed for more than 40 years.

Because of his continued commitment to making sure the business community’s voice is heard, Michael Fowler was an obvious choice for 2017’s Business Advocate of the Year.

2017 GovConnects Advocate of the Year: Ronald Sroka, Jr., Esq., Evolve Consulting Group Inc.

As a founding member of the GovConnects Advisory Council, Ron Sroka, Jr., has dedicated five years of support to growing GovConnects into a highly respected program recognized for its contribution to the growth of the federal contracting community in Howard County. His company has supported the GovConnects program through both volunteerism and sponsorship over the past five years.

Sroka served as a member of the Education Subcommittee, has led sessions for the CFO Roundtable program and participated in GovConnects focus groups to help with future goals and the direction of the program. He has shown leadership within the program and has been a continuous support for the Chamber and GovConnects within the government contracting community.

2017 Ambassador of the Year: Kartik Shah, PNC Bank

The Chamber frequently counts on its ambassador volunteers to assist in member services and support. 2017’s Ambassador of the Year, Kartik Shah, of PNC Bank, has been an ambassador for three years and has shown a commitment to helping members reach their Chamber objectives.

Shah has been a mentor to more than a dozen new members, reaching out to them throughout the year to discuss their needs, meeting with them and providing them with additional support as needed. He has made himself readily available to participate at the ambassador meetings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Business After Business events, and at the luncheons where he can be found greeting attendees upon their arrival.

2017 Young Professional of the Year: Elyssa Auerbach, Lowe Wealth Advisors

The Howard County Chamber arguably has one of the best programs for young professionals in the greater Baltimore region. This is largely because of its dedicated board and committees. The Chamber presented the 2017 Young Professional of the Year award to Elyssa Auerbach, of Lowe Wealth Advisors, who has been on the Young Professionals Network Board of Directors since 2014.

Auerbach has been a driving force behind the new YPN education series, “Celerate,” designed to provide young professionals the mentorship and experience to meet and learn alongside their peers. Auerbach put together a committee of volunteers who came up with a name, found venues and marketed the program. Almost 70% of the attendees were from member firms that had not yet attended a Chamber mixer, and the engagement the Chamber has received from these members has been great. Auerbach has reinvigorated the YPN Events and Membership Committees and increased volunteer involvement.