The power of Howard County’s small entrepreneurs is mighty, from our startups to our long-standing family-owned shops, these businesses matter! They provide needed goods and services and steady employment for our residents. In Howard County, small business is the backbone of our community and, as your County Executive, I am directly supporting them through several programs and events. 

From April 30–May 4, we are celebrating Small Business Week. The County has more than 10,000 businesses and over 80% are small employers. We provide numerous networking opportunities, host programs that support and enhance business development, and launch partnerships that create endless opportunities for public and private contracting.

We recently announced our fourth cohort of HoCo Higher, an intense hands-on boot camp that uniquely supports early-stage small businesses with educational support and opportunities for grant funding. This successful partnership with M&T Bank and the Howard County Economic Development Authority has supported over 70 small and diverse local businesses with grant funding of more than $350,000. This latest cohort will complete the program on June 19.  We will soon have over 20 new graduates in the County who will be better prepared to take on challenges faced by business leaders and become successful.

On June 12 at 10 a.m., we will hold our 2nd annual Diverse Contractor Event at 10960 Grantchester Way, Columbia, MD 21044, with the Howard Hughes Corporation. This networking event provides women and minority-owned companies access to Prime Contractors who are working on the various development projects in Downtown Columbia, along with the County’s Prime contractors. 

Additionally, we have taken bold steps to expand opportunities through the promotion of our Local Business Initiative (LBI). The LBI provides certified businesses more opportunities to take part in county procurement in areas such as construction, architectural and engineering services and more. When I became County Executive, there were about 100 local firms certified with the Howard County purchasing office, doing about $4 million in business with the county. Today, we have close to 400 local certified firms – and in the first two quarters of this fiscal year alone they did nearly $16 million in business with the county. 

We also made it easier for LBI-registered businesses to compete for County government contracts:

  • A certified local business can win a proposal through the County’s procurement process even if it is up to 10 percent higher than a bid from a nonlocal firm 
  • Local businesses automatically receive preference for purchases of less than $10,000

If your principal place of business is in Howard County, you can apply for certification on our website. To learn more about the Local Business Initiative visit

Businesses can also apply for our Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) certification to get certified as a Minority, Woman-owned or Disabled-owned Business. To learn more about the EBO program visit 

Please call 410-313-6370 for questions about our certification programs.

Our local and small businesses drive our economy, and I am committed to making sure you, and your business, will thrive. 

Dr. Calvin Ball is Howard County Executive.