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Printing company makes 'Ironmark' in county

Ironmark, a newly branded print and digital imaging company, completed its move to Howard County this week, bringing 110 employees and a high-tech, diversified operation to a 50,000-square-foot building in Annapolis Junction.

Ironmark is a printing company that designs and creates a variety of publications, images, signage and digital products, like websites, for its clients. The company was created in 2011 by the merger of Frank Gumpert Printing and Corporate Printing Solutions, which were previously based in Annapolis and Hunt Valley, respectively. After the merger, the new company, temporarily dubbed CPS Gumpert, looked to consolidate its operation, eventually finding a home in Howard County.

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Ironmark employees, County Executive Ken Ulman and officials from the Howard County Economic Development Authority and the Howard County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the move at a ceremony Oct. 8 at the company's new headquarters, located on Junction Drive at the county's border with Anne Arundel County.

At the ceremony, company leaders lauded the county for creating a welcoming environment for business.

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"Howard County is streamlined to get things done for business," said Scott Hargest, president of Ironmark. "If it wasn't the [Economic Development Authority], it was the [Chamber of Commerce] calling us. We knew we were being taken care of, so I can't tell you how much we feel welcome here."

Hargest also praised Ulman, who he said he met while Ulman was campaigning to become the Democratic nominee for governor last year; Ulman is currently running for lieutenant governor with Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Governor Anthony Brown.

"Fifteen minutes with this guy, and I was like, he gets it. He is pro business. He understands," Hargest said.

Ulman said economic development has been a priority during his time in office.

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"For the last eight years, we've really worked hard on quality of life in Howard County. ... But at the same time, we know we don't get to make the investments in those things unless we have a thriving competitive business climate here in the county," Ulman said.

Ulman said that Howard County ranked first in the state among private-sector jobs added over the last five years, and he added that the county has had the lowest unemployment rate in the state for the last eight years; two points he said demonstrate his administration's commitment to business.

"We fight for jobs. We make sure – although we aren't perfect, and we don't claim to be – we are really working hard to make sure we are a great place to do business," Ulman said.

Jeff Ostenso, CEO of the company, said Howard County's central location played a large role in their decision.

"We do a lot of work in Northern Virginia, north of Baltimore, and everywhere in between," Ostenso said. "The access to Interstate 95 was really attractive to us."

Patrick Wynn, director of the Howard Tech Council, an affiliated arm of the Economic Development Authority, helped lure the company to the area. He said he was familiar with the two separate companies, and that he "read the tea leaves" when they decided to merge.

"You take a look at a company based in Annapolis and a company based in Cockeysville. ... This is a better place when you are talking about centralization of assets," he said.

He added that the county is "at the crossroads of the state," which is a selling point for the organization.

"There is a lot going for Howard County, and it's our job to make sure that we are amplifying that message," he said.

Jay Goldscher, president of the Printing and Graphic Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said having a model company like Ironmark in the county is "a home run" for everyone involved.

"To bring people into a building like this, who know nothing about our industry and see this. This is the printing industry unfolded," Goldscher said at last week's opening ceremony.

He said Ironmark's diverse profile, which includes a focus on digital content, is indicative of a shift in the printing industry.

"People will say print is dead. It's not dead; it's broadened," he said. "It's a whole graphic and communication experience."

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