To the Cordish Companies, channeling money into the Local Development Council (LDC) grants were part of the deal to open Live! Casino (and more recently Live! Hotel) and presented an opportunity to give back to the Anne Arundel County community.
To the community, the LDC grants are the gifts that keep on giving – this year to the tune of $18.8 million.
The fiscal 2020 grants bring the total funds generated by Live! Casino & Hotel in support of county organizations to more than $130 million since the casino opened seven years ago. And that $130 million has gone a long way.
“Through [Live! Casino’s] support, we’ve been able to address critical needs and priorities that help so many people across the county through support of food banks, social services, workforce development, schools, public safety and so much more,” said Karen McJunkin, LDC chairperson.
McJunkin, who is in her third year as LDC chair, said, “Our focus continues to be on how to help the community. That’s what it’s all about.”
One example, she said, is the new award of $3 million toward the $12 million needed for construction of the Severn Intergenerational Center, which will rise on Reece Road beside Van Bokkelen Elementary School. Construction will start in a year or two, as the new award was a carryover from last year’s total of $2.7 million.
“Transportation is the number one problem in that area,” McJunkin said, “so if you can help locate services in a walkable distance, you’ve solved a problem.”
Transportation is an issue because it impacts how many people in lower-income areas get to work.
The BWI Business Partnership received a more than $1 million grant for its County Connector Shuttle.
“Last year was the pilot; this year, we have a new minority-owned vendor,” which is Dream Management of Baltimore, said Partnership Executive Director Gina Stewart.
With its popularity growing, more than half of the grant, about $600,000, is being directed to promote the free shuttle, which stops at key spots in the BWI Business District like the BWI Light Rail station, the BWI MARC station, Arundel Mills and Live! Casino & Hotel, Dorchester Woods and Arundel Preserve.
“Last year, it carried 90,000 riders,” Stewart said, “and we have data from [July and August 2019] that usage reached about 9,500 per month. Last year, it was 5,400 per month.”
The rest of the grant, about $400,000, will go toward beautification efforts for a three-mile radius around Arundel Mills and the casino with vendor DMF Landscaping of Millersville. The work includes tree trimming, mulching, flower beds and picking up refuse – which in 2018 totaled about 79 tons.
The grants are as varied as the organizations that receive them.
For instance, the Fort Meade Alliance Foundation garnered $381,000 to help bolster the local cyber employee pipeline.
“This is our first request,” said Penny Cantwell, vice president and treasurer of the Foundation. “We’ve been talking with Anne Arundel County Public Schools about the cybersecurity pipeline. We all see the need for the cyber workforce to be increased.”
She said it’s an opportunity for high school students to be able to fill in some of the pipeline jobs that don’t require all of the experience and education the bigger jobs do.
“We need the industry involved in what the students get,” said Cantwell, “because many of the teachers can teach the certification part but they don’t have the experience in the industry to deliver the experiential part. So, we bring in industry partners who can help develop experiential learning that the students would not get from computer science or information technology courses.”
The funds from LDC will allow the initial buildout at Meade High School, she said, noting the computers and software account for “more than half of the money.” The rest is for teacher development, a field trip to the Baltimore Cyber Range, training and special furniture.
“The LDC grant provides an important component of our workforce needs for the region,” Cantwell said. “We feel, by starting the pipeline in high school, we’re getting a step ahead of where we are now because now most of the training starts in college.”