Per Montgomery County:
I’d like to begin this newsletter with an economic development update.
On Tuesday I helped celebrate one of the latest stars in our ‘Satellite Valley.’ Don’t know what I mean? Hughes Network Systems and a number of companies supporting satellite R&D and manufacturing are located in Montgomery County. Now Intellian, a leader in satellite communications, has joined them with the opening of a new $100 million Advanced Development Center (ADC) in Rockville. The company’s proprietary industry-leading phased array chipset has made it a leader in global satellite communications. They already employ more than forty employees in the new ADC R&D center and expect to hire at least 30 more jobs during the coming year.
Company leaders are highly confident that expanding the new facility here in Maryland will allow them to remain at the forefront of technological innovation in the industry.
I thank the company for choosing Montgomery County and wish them out of this world success.
On Wednesday I joined the Montgomery County-based Facility Logix on a tour they hosted for local economic development officials of several biotech businesses for which they provided design and/or engineering support — MaxCyte Inc., On Demand Pharma, Sirnaomics and United Therapeutics. It was my first visit to both MaxCyte and On Demand Pharm. All four of these companies are focused on saving lives through biotech innovation. These major employers and biotech industry leaders are in Montgomery County because there is value in being part of one of the largest life sciences clusters in the nation.
The unemployment rate in Montgomery County is down to 2.6 percent. That’s a level we haven’t seen since the pre-pandemic days of 2019. It’s also below the DC metro region, the state of Maryland and the U.S. unemployment rate. And when a commercial property near the Rockville Metro station opens up its something so special that it deserves a story in the Washington Business Journal. That’s doesn’t happen with every available lease.
There are many more reasons to be proud of Montgomery County than just our school system and healthy housing market. We want the world to see Montgomery County and the DC region as one of the most imporant places in the nation for life sciences companies and next-level innovation.
We’re Going Green and Want You to Come Too
Earth Month is winding down but combatting climate change is a top priority for us every day of the year as you can tell by how much we’re doing to achieve our Climate Action Plan goals.
However, more is needed from all of us – we are in a period of great transition for our residents and businesses to change habits, use new technologies, and implement best practices.
According to NOAH, humans are putting an estimated 9.5 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year by burning fossil fuels, and another 1.5 billion through deforestation and other land cover changes Since 1750, humans have increased the abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by nearly 50%. You can read more about where that stat comes from by following this link.
Maintaining the status quo is not enough. If we want our kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren to grow up in a better environment, not a worse environment, we have to address climate challenges now. And I am proud that Montgomery County is leading the way.
“This is a time where we see that Montgomery County is going to lead. There are certain places that . . . are right now debating about what progress looks like. They are in the process of figuring out, ‘Well, how do we get there?’ And then there is Montgomery County saying, ‘We will see you at the finish line.”
To help us reach that finish line we have committed to the following solutions over the next four years.
- Provide funding for buildings to transition from gas to electric
- Electrifying and retrofitting our County buildings and fleet for energy efficiency
- Expanding the collection and composting of food waste Countywide
- Expanding the implementation of solar on roof tops, parking lots and fields.
- Financially assisting marginalized communities most often impacted by climate change to transition to clean energy,
- And shutting down the incinerator, which is both a public health and climate threat.
Additionally, we are not just focusing on policy ideas but are investing in our operating and capital budgets. My recommended FY24 budget includes $272.6 million total in boththe operating and capital budgets toward our efforts to combat climate change.
While there are a number of initiatives in the budget, I want to mention funding to help residents and businesses better navigate the options and requirements for electrification and solar power. We need to make it easier for residents and business owners to take advantage of programs already in place to go green. Passing laws or enacting new policies is not enough; we need to help residents navigate the transition, assist those who may need financial assistance, and answer their questions and concerns.
The recommended budget also includes money to advance Community Choice Energy, climate grants for community organizations, and for the management of an electric vehicle purchasing co-op. It also increases funding to plant more shade trees. In March, we planted our 10,000th tree since launching Tree Montgomery.
New positions would also be added to identify and address the illegal discharge of pollutants throughout the County, and to ensure our stormwater management structures are inspected and maintained.
Let me be clear – none of this easy. And we must be deliberate and intentional in how we engage and educate our communities. The good news is that County has an overwhelming majority of residents who care – and that is not something that we do not take for granted in a nation filled with climate deniers and consistent misinformation being propagated by the fossil fuel industry. We are also fortunate to have leadership in the White House and in the Governor’s office in Annapolis who understand the importance of addressing climate change. We now have more resources and support today than just a couple of years ago. The time is right to take advantage of this opportunity to accelerate our sustainability efforts in pursuit of our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 4 years and 100 percent by 2035.
Resource for Auto Repair Complaints
Most people take their complaints about car repair to the next mechanic they use, but when transactions between vehicle owners and car repair businesses in Montgomery County reach serious conflicts, the County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) often can help.
When there is a dispute, it is important for residents to be aware that there are resources available through our outstanding OCP department that can help resolve them. Residents can contact our Office of Consumer Protection if they feel they are being ripped off or scammed by any business – especially when it comes to potentially expensive automotive services.
Here are some things you might not know about auto repairs:
- Estimates for work of more than $25 must be given upon request. The final bill must be within 10 percent of the estimate—unless the customer is notified.
- Authorizations either written or oral are required before auto repair companies are allowed to do any work on your vehicle.
- Used or rebuilt parts must be identified in the estimates repair shops give customers.
- Labor charges, service charges and charges tied to the release of your vehicle if it is not repaired must be stated by a company before giving you the estimated cost of repair.
It is important that the relationship between consumers and car repair operations be one of excellent service, respect, trust and transparency. To learn more about how the Office of Consumer Protection can help you with automobile repair or other consumer issues please follow this link to their website.
Over the next few weeks, there will be a lot of news coverage regarding the end of federal funding for COVID related expenses. This could cause some confusion amongst our residents about what this means about the resources we have been offering for vaccines, tests, as well as food donations and rental relief.
In my FY24 budget recommendations, we have proposed to keep as many of these resources as we could afford.
Free vaccinations and PCR tests will still be offered. We will still have regular appointments Tuesday through Friday at the Dennis Avenue Health Center and the Up County Regional services center as well as other clinics in Rockville, Wheaton and Burtonsville coming up. Our libraries will continue to offer free rapid tests and masks. And we are going to still provide food resources and rental relief to those most in need.
Just because the federal emergency may be ending, the need for these resources remains in our community. Even without the federal funding, we want to make sure we help children who are hungry and help prevent families from eviction.
In other COVID news, we mentioned last week new FDA guidelines approved by the CDC recommend a bivalent booster shot for people who are immunocompromised and if it’s been at least 2 months since their last booster. Boosters are also recommended for people 65 and up if it has been 4 months since their last shot. Sometime this summer these guidelines will be reevaluated by the FDA in time for the start of school.
As we prepare for the latest round of booster shots, a majority of County residents still have not received their bivalent booster. During the initial roll-out of the vaccine, over 95% of our 65+ population – the age cohort most vulnerable to severe illness and death – got their first and second doses. To date, only 58% of 65+ residents received their bivalent booster. Only 27% of our largest cohort of residents – those 18 to 49 – have gotten the bivalent booster.
These numbers are just too low. Earlier this month, the New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of researchers who found that the bivalent boosters were 67 percent more effective in preventing hospitalization and death in those who had been previously vaccinated or boosted. And although Pfizer and Moderna bivalent vaccines were initially designed to target the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of omicron, they also reduced the risk of infection, hospitalization and death against the currently circulating BQ.1/BQ.1.1 and XBB/XBB.1.5 strains.
The facts prove that these vaccines work, we must continue to communicate and engage our public in getting their shots.
Death of Harry Belafonte
Finally, I am saddened by the death of Harry Belafonte, a beloved American icon.I was a fan of his music and artistic career. Beyond that though, he was one of the civil rights leaders who influenced me from a young age to fight for equal rights and freedoms for all Americans throughout my life.
Our nation will forever be indebted to Harry Belafonte and the fellow civil rights leaders of his generation. Their willingness to speak up and speak out was crucial and courageous. We will miss Harry Belafonte but we will continue to appreciate his many contributions.
And I, as always, appreciate all of you,
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has begun “preseason” stocking with the first of about 290,000 trout in Maryland waters statewide.
Detectives from the Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Harmonee Sarah Sykes, a missing 16-year-old from Germantown.
County Executive Marc Elrich recently stated that he will be seeking a third term as Montgomery County executive.
Longtime ABC News 7 anchor and reporter Horace Holmes passed away on December 3, 2023 at the age of 66.
SATURDAY 12/9/23 Join us for the ultimate year-end celebration of art, vintage finds, and fashion at CNXN.WORLD's Art & Vintage Event! Sponsored by So What Else, Inc. We will be hosting a hygiene product drive as well! Please bring items like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and more to donate and make a difference. Sign up for a chance to WIN a $40 credit you can use towards any purchase at the event! We've got food, drinks, and more prizes during the event! Vendor Lineup: @thefoundrymd @poetic_sole @on2thenext_vntg @fleetwoodmarket @anatething @bimdayz @thriftlifeadvintage @yester_dayz @bratty_couture @camryncurtiss @crushthrifts @888deadgirl @ken_blendz @misfitbodega @mando.nc @mozartsthriftshop @seamslikenew @skuffstore @the.crucial.cookie @sowhatelsehelps Saturday, December 9th, 20231:30 PM to 6:00 PM4924 Wyaconda Rd, North Bethesda, MD 20852. See you there!