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Carroll County Biz Challenge to take on a new look this year

The COVID-19 pandemic will affect how the ninth annual Carroll County Biz Challenge will operate.

The May 31 application deadline concluded with 29 applicants, which left Mike McMullin, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, pleasantly surprised.

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“I am extremely proud of the fact that in a COVID-19 year, where things have just been locked down so much, that we’ve got 29 applicants," said McMullin. “I mean, that’s pretty impressive.”

Last year there were more than four dozen applications in the “Shark Tank”-inspired competition that began in 2012.

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Mike McMullin

According to McMullin, the finalists for the challenge will be announced no later than June 29. They will compete for the grand prize of $5,000 or the people’s choice award of $1,000.

Usually a meet and greet is held among the applicants, chamber members and sponsors but this year that will be done as a virtual Zoom call. If people would like to participate in the call, they can by going to the Chamber of Commerce website and register for the call on their event calendar.

The Biz Challenge live event scheduled for Aug. 27 is up in the air on how it will be conducted based on Gov. Larry Hogan’s phase-in reopening of Maryland.

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“If we’re fully into phase two where 50 people can be gathered in one area, I’m hoping and trusting that we can still meet at the Carroll Arts Center, and it may be more of a scaled back audience instead of a full house," McMullin said.

He added that when it comes to the votes for the audience choice award, people will be able to text their vote from home.

“It might be a little different," said McMullin. "It’ll still be as exciting, because we’re going to work really hard to make it a really exciting event still, but it may be a little different in that we may not be able to have a packed house. It may be more select select seating.”

There will be a switch in judges this year with an entire new panel including past winners Dave Palmer, co-owner of Brewery Fire and Hélène Taylor, owner of the French Twist Cafe and the first people’s choice award winner eight years ago. Joe Dominick, owner of Gauge Digital Media and mayor of Westminster will also be a judge.

McMulllin said that the chamber will find a way to make it fun either way, but he is hoping to be able to have a live event.

“It would really be a stinker if we couldn’t do it live at the Arts Center, but we’d still figure it out," said McMullin. "We have a backup plan if it comes to it but I don’t think it’s going to. I think we’re going to be OK.”

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