Linking Private, Public Labs

A technology-promoting group in Maryland said it plans to conduct a study of the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery County to find out how to better link research at public and private labs.

The Technology Council of Maryland in Rockville, a nonprofit group that promotes technology in the area, issued a request for proposals to hire a contractor to do the study for $25,000.

Maryland is home to several large bioscience and tech companies that want to be close to federal labs, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. But business executives and tech industry experts said there could be more coordination between labs.

The study is to be completed by the spring.

-- Dana Hedgpeth


Expanded Credit Union Access

Service Centers, which operates two centers in Prince George's County, is expanding its business in the county. The organization, a co-op owned by credit unions to provide a shared branch and ATM network for their members, recently opened its second credit union in Capitol Heights. In its first month of operation the branch processed more than 12,000 transactions.

The center is 10 miles from the company's first Prince George's location in Marlow Heights, which averages more than 50,000 transactions per month and is the third-busiest Service Centers branch in the country.

"The Capitol Heights office was opened to accommodate our continued growth, including eight new credit unions that signed on this year, and also to take some of the load off of the Marlow Heights branch," Dan Balagna, president and chief executive of the company, said in a statement.

Service Centers serves more than 350 credit unions with access to nearly 900 shared branches that perform over 1 million transactions a month. The company is a subsidiary of Ontario, Calif.-based CO-OP Network.

-- Krissah Williams


State Backing of Firm Grows

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development invested $50,000 in Columbia software development firm Business Devices Inc., doubling the state's total investment in the company.

The funds come from the state's Challenge Investment Fund, which is designed to help technology start-ups while providing the state with revenue from successful businesses or products the businesses sell to the public. Investments require matching funds from the firm and often provide the state with royalties or convertible stock options.

Business Devices, founded in July 2001, creates software that helps clients better monitor their operations, such as with the use of inventory and diagnostic sensors. The company's target markets include bulk products distribution; warehouse, inventory and asset management; and physical asset security.

The company has started several pilot projects with companies in industries such as gas supply and control systems and has targeted companies that distribute liquid and gas in bulk as potential future customers.

-- Sabrina Jones


Job Growth Rate Turns Higher

Jobs in Maryland grew in November for the first time since last year, according to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state's growth rate was 0.12 percent, compared with the nation's job loss rate of 0.14 percent. Virginia posted a loss rate of 0.21 percent, while the District had a positive rate of 0.38 percent, mostly due to a rebound in business services jobs.

Maryland had negative job growth from November 2001 to October 2002, said officials with the state Business and Economic Development Department. The United States had negative job growth from September 2001 to November 2002.

Pradeep Ganguly, the department's chief economist, said the November job figures illustrate growth in the state's construction, health services and federal government employment sectors. Construction had a 5.7 percent growth rate in November, health-services jobs grew 2.6 percent, and government jobs grew 1.6 percent, primarily related to federal homeland security initiatives. Meanwhile, job losses were cut in manufacturing and business services, which refers to companies that provide services to other businesses, such as temporary help firms and cleaning services.

"It appears the state's downturn was not as deep as the nation's," Ganguly said. "It does not mean everything is well and good. The economy still has a ways to go before it can start growing strongly again."

-- Sabrina Jones