County's Jobless Rate

Dropped in December

Howard County's unemployment rate fell to 2.4 percent in December, from 2.6 percent in November , the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported this month . That compares with a jobless rate of 2.9 percent in December 2001.

The overall state unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in December, from 4 percent in November. The national joblessness rate remained at 5.7 percent in December .

$10 Million Available

For Route 1 Loans

Farmers & Mechanics Bank recently allocated $10 million for business loans as part of the Route 1 redevelopment loan program created by the Howard County Economic Development Authority. The program was established to encourage redevelopment of historic business corridors in Howard. Businesses could qualify for loans ranging from $50,000 to $3 million.

The loans are incentives for new and existing firms to undertake construction, refurbish storefronts, landscaping and job creation.

State Insurance Official

To Answer Questions

A representative of the Maryland Insurance Administration will be available to answer questions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Maryland State Comptroller's Office, 7274-B Waterloo Rd., Jessup. The agency regulates life, health, automobile and homeowners insurance. For more information, call 800-492-6116.

Columbia Bank Aims

Loans at Small Firms

Columbia Bank, a Howard County banking company, has launched a commercial loan program targeting small businesses in the Baltimore-Washington region. The "Business Custom Capital" program offers qualified businesses an unsecured line of credit up to $100,000, with approval given within 48 hours.

Companies that have been in business for at least two years and have annual sales of more than $50,000 are eligible for the program. Applications are available at any Columbia Bank branch or by visiting www.thecolumbiabank.com.

Builder Receives Remodeler Certificate

Kevin Kennedy, owner of KPK Construction in Columbia, has been designated a certified graduate remodeler by the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council. To earn the CGR designation, a remodeler must complete a series of industry education courses, provide letters of recommendation and proof of licensing and insurance and follow a strict code of ethics. Kennedy is one of about 1,000 professional remodelers nationwide who hold the CGR certification.

Send items for Thursday's Business Notes to Sabrina Jones by fax at 410-772-2330; by mail to Business Notes, The Washington Post, 10490 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Suite 650, Columbia, Md. 21044; or by e-mail to jonessl@washpost.com.