Bel Air’s Armory Marketplace business incubator, a project town leaders said Monday was “years in the making,” was recently recognized by the Community Development Network of Maryland with its Impact Award for 2018.
The honor was bestowed upon town economic development staff Oct. 24. It was one of six Awards of Excellence the community development network gave out to its organizational, government and individual members during its annual meeting and awards luncheon, according to the network’s website. The CDN has more than 180 members, according to the site.
The Bel Air Town Commissioners celebrated the honor during their meeting Monday evening, along with the Cecil County winner of the Maryland Municipal League Cecil and Harford County chapter’s 2018 scholarship contest and the winners of the town Appearance and Beautification Committee’s commercial and residential landscaping awards.
Economic Development Department staffers Angela Robertson, the economic development coordinator, and Patti Sterling, grants coordinator, presented the award for the Armory Marketplace, plus a citation signed by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland, to town Mayor Susan Burdette.
“It’s a fantastic award,” Burdette said, noting it makes the town eligible for more funding, such as grants, for projects.
The Armory Marketplace is a town initiative to convert former storage garages behind the Bel Air Armory into spaces to host small businesses. It hosts the Harford Artists Association as a permanent tenant operating its gallery, and four more tenants in business incubator spaces. Tenants include Ferrari Frame & Design, Caprichos Books, the Love Evolution Studio yoga studio and the Kore Bootcamps fitness center, according to the town website.
“It’s been years in the making,” Burdette said. “It’s been years and years of volunteers and staff, and a lot of expertise and a whole lot of passion.”
Thirty-one full- and part-time employees work in the four incubator spaces, Robertson said.
“This project has really been a labor of love,” she said. “We’re thrilled with how it turned out.”
Robertson expressed thanks to Burdette and her fellow commissioners, Town Administrator Jesse Bane, town staff and department heads. She also thanked the “funding partners” that supported the project, including the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which provided Community Legacy Grants, the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation and the Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development, which provided Community Development Block Grant funds.
Burdette called Armory Marketplace “a beautiful project,” and she has highlighted it in talks before the Maryland Municipal League and other events around the state.
“We have visitors coming from all other cities to take a look at this incubator project that we have here in town, so please stop behind the Armory and take a look,” she said.
Grant Handley, 18, of Elkton, is the Cecil County winner of the MML Cecil-Harford chapter scholarship contest. The Harford County winner had been recognized at an earlier commissioners’ meeting.
Burdette, a member of the chapter’s scholarship committee, said there are usually 15 to 25 applicants each year. The winners are selected based on their grade point averages, their activities in school as well as in the community, letters of recommendation and essays.
Contestants must write essays about the importance and function of municipal governments and conduct research on the municipality in which they live, or the community closest to them.
The scholarships are presented during the winners’ high school awards ceremonies during the spring, Burdette said.
“His knowledge about town government was outstanding,” Burdette said of Handley.
Handley came with his parents, Dan and Laura Handley. He is a 2018 graduate of North East High School and attends Cecil College, according to his mother.
He plans to transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park next spring to study public policy, Laura Handley said. She noted her son spent part of his childhood in Belcamp and attended Church Creek Elementary School.
Grant Handley said he works for Elkton’s parks and recreation department, his father is the town’s public works director, and his mother is the former head of the civic association for the Middlesex neighborhood in Baltimore County.
Grant talked about the vital services provided by local governments, including snow removal, maintaining water infrastructure, education funding, even Independence Day fireworks shows.
“Local government is a paramount key to everyday societal function,” he said.
Handley also discussed public apathy and lack of knowledge about the role of local government — he said many of his friends assume what happens in Washington, D.C., “directly impacts them.”
He said he helped found the Cecil County Young Republicans Club to educate young people about local government, “putting partisanship aside.”
Commissioner Philip Einhorn told Handley he made arrangements with the office of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, whose district includes Cecil County and northern and central Harford, for the young man to visit the U.S. Capitol.
“Congratulations on a wonderful, wonderful job,” Einhorn told Handley.
Town officials and Appearance and Beautification Committee members honored the commercial and residential winners of the committee’s landscaping awards.
The residential winners are Jill and Richard Gerety, of Webster Street, and the commercial winners are Brenda and Henry Holloway, owners of the Mill of Bel Air on North Main Street, said Steve Kline, Bel Air’s public works director.
The Geretys were not at Monday’s meeting, but the Holloways were.
“It’s a pleasure every day coming into town, and yours is one of the first businesses we see,” Kline told the Holloways.
Kline also lauded the ABC members, saying he has worked with the committee during his nearly 19 years with the town.
“It’s a great group of volunteers here in the town, and they really care about how the town looks,” he said.