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Finksburg woman designs app for Towson attractions

Colleges and UniversitiesTowson UniversityBusinessRestaurant and Catering IndustryComputer Hardware

Life is finally starting to settle down for Brooke Bianchetti, who graduated from college, accepted a full-time job and moved to Finksburg all within a few weeks this spring.

As one who can appreciate having information at her fingertips and who has a background in graphic design, public relations and marketing; the 22-year-old recently designed an online application for what's happening in Towson for the Towson Chamber of Commerce.

"We expect to launch it in the next two to three months," said Bianchetti, assistant to the executive director of the chamber, of the approximately $10,000 to $12,000 project.

The chamber is in the process of picking a local company to develop Bianchetti's design, which will be downloadable for smartphones and Android devices, and free to users and to the businesses, chamber members or not, that will be in it.

Bianchetti is familiar with the area, having graduated in May from Towson University. She was hired by the chamber in April, only weeks before she moved to Carroll County.

"Everything happened at once," said the Montgomery County native, who had worked as a student intern with the chamber before being hired.

"I work very closely with Towson University and Goucher College," said Nancy Hafford, the chamber's executive director. "This is the first time we've hired a kid on a full-time basis.

"I went to TU, and they sent me some wonderful applicants. Brooke was among the top two," said Hafford, who is in her ninth year as the chamber's director.

Hafford said she was impressed by the 22-year-old's maturity.

"She brought one of the most professional presentations of her work to us," Hafford said.

"Another thing that was really important is we work with hundreds and hundreds of business leaders in Towson. You need to be able to communicate with them and hold your own.

"Plus, we are the county seat, so you are not just working with CEOs. You need to know how to work with the county executive and the County Council, because we work very closely with local government," she said.

Bianchetti's design for the chamber's app incorporates that diversity.

The app will take users to information about businesses or their websites. The information on the app will be updated at least once a week. Businesses can upgrade their connection to the app with advertising; the price is still being determined.

Rob Horney, manager of The Greene Turtle, a restaurant on York Road, pointed out that several Baltimore City neighborhoods maintain their own entertainment apps. "Linking all the businesses in Towson is a great idea. The more people who know about us and what we offer, the more people will come to Towson," he said.

Deb Moriarty, vice president of student affairs at Towson University, said that the university was considering developing its own app, in addition to its events website that lists speakers, concerts, arts and athletics activities. Now, it doesn't have to.

"The idea is for the chamber app to link to our website," she said. "It's a way for Towson University to let a broad audience know what is happening on campus."

Bianchetti referred to the Ocean City app as the type of design she was aiming for. A navigation bar at top leads to a colorful mix of arts and bars, sports and events. Likewise, the chamber app will have arts and cultural events, movies, restaurants, sports, hotels, nightlife, activities at local colleges and directions to parking.

Incongruous as it seems, the app will also have information about and directions to the Baltimore County Circuit and District courts. "From Monday to Friday, the most frequently asked question is, 'Where are they?' " Hafford said, "so they'll be on it, too."

The entertainment app, so far without an official name, was inspired by this past spring's Towsontown Festival. For the first time, the chamber produced an app, designed specifically for the two-day event in May. Much to the chamber's surprise, nearly 500 people downloaded the app, an unqualified hit.

"People come from all around Maryland," Bianchetti said. "We needed somewhere where people could find the vendors, the bands, everything, on their smartphone."

While Bianchetti credited the intern who preceded her at the chamber for much of the work on the app, she has put the finishing touches on the website and several other projects.

"One of the things we were really lacking was someone with computer skills, who knows social media and the technology that goes with it," Hafford said.

"She was one of those things that was almost too good to be true. This is such a big job," said Hafford, whose only other staff member, Patty McClean, works on a part-time basis. "We really, really needed someone to come in and carry the load."

"I love my job," Bianchetti said. "I wanted to do something with graphic design (that's my passion) and I get to do that a lot.

"We're like a small company," she said. "There's the three of us, and there are 80 events outdoors during the summer. There's the Towson farmers markets on Thursdays; the concerts, called Feet on the Street, Fridays; the monthly meetings. We're pretty busy."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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