Greetings from Taipei, Taiwan. This week, I have been in Taiwan leading an economic development mission from Montgomery County. It has been an incredible week to talk, listen and learn with government and business leaders from around the world. I look forward to sharing more about our successes and reflections on this trip next week.
In lieu of my weekly video this week—and to honor to the end of Women’s History Month—I hope you enjoy the video message from three Montgomery County women trailblazers who made history: former State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, former First Lady of Montgomery County Catherine Leggett and former Maryland State Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez. These three women shared advice for the next generation of female leaders. Look for their full-length interviews with the Jodi Finkelstein, executive director of Montgomery County’s Commission for Women, soon.
Montgomery County has a strong legacy of women representing important issues that impact our quality of life. It was trailblazers like Nancy Kopp, Catherine Leggett and Ana Sol Gutiérrez who broke barriers and enabled this County to have for the first time in County history a female majority on our County Council. I encourage you to hear what these women have to say about what Women’s History Month means to them. View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9aEjwcQVBE.
Throughout March, the County has done a wonderful job of sharing stories of successful women who work in our government and how they lead us forward. The County also has hosted educational forums and contests. I appreciate those who put together these programs and activities and encourage everyone to continue engage, educate and support the progress and empowerment of Montgomery County women.
Taiwan Trip Focused on Economic Development
We often are reminded about our best attributes when reflected through the eyes of others. This is how I routinely felt this week in Taiwan as businesses and government leaders around the world complimented our County on our innovative approaches, forward thinking policies and ambitious goals.
We were invited to be a part of this year's Smart City Summit and Expo in Taipei. The trip is an outgrowth of an invitation I received from the Taipei Computer Association to speak at the conference about Montgomery County's Climate Action Plan and Net Zero activities. Montgomery County was a featured delegation at this summit, which was attended by 1,300 people from 47 countries.
Joining me on the trip were County Councilmember Natali Fani-González, chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee; Kevin Beverly, board chair of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC); Gail Roper, Montgomery County’s chief information officer; and Judy Costello, the County's special projects manager for Business, Innovation and Economic Development. Five businesses in Smart Cities-related technologies also are attending the conference as delegation members. They are DSFederal, Lumo Imaging, Machfu, Person Clinic, and TCCS, LLC.
On Monday, we met with leaders of Taipei Medical University and National Taiwan University. I discussed collaborating with their AI and bio-design accelerator programs and developing synergies with the upcoming University of Maryland Institute for Health Computing. We also spent time actively recruiting talented people and businesses interested in expanding their operations and establishing an office in the United States. We shared with them the benefits of choosing Montgomery County: a booming life sciences industry, proximity to several Federal agencies that need life science professionals and the most diverse community in the U.S.
I also met with Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an, the Taiwan External Development Council (TAITRA) and leaders in the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our group visited with high-technology companies such as Advantech, Taiwan AI Medical, Mitac and Unimicron Technology Corportation to learn about their work and discuss future collaboration opportunities.
Grant Program for Small Businesses Impacted by Purple Line Construction
Work continues on the Purple Line, a rail line that will directly connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Until it is up and running, many businesses that lie along the future route are dealing with the growing pains of construction.
To help alleviate the financial hardships that come with street closures, limited parking and other challenges, the County Council and the Montgomery County Business Center are partnering up for a second round of assistance for small businesses that qualify. We will begin taking applications for the grant money on Saturday, April 1.
In the first round of funding, 40 businesses were chosen through a lottery system and received assistance. We estimate close to 400 businesses to be in similar positions. For this second round of funding, businesses that were not chosen before will be prioritized.
Here are more qualifying factors for business owners interested in applying. To be eligible, they must be businesses:
- Established prior to Aug. 1, 2017.
- Registered and in good standing with the Maryland State Department of Assessment & Taxation (SDAT).
- That have suffered revenue loss due to the construction of the Purple Line Light Rail project.
- That have a physical location identified as adjacent to the construction of the Purple Line Light Rail project, as determined by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA).
- Employing 20 or fewer employees.
- Independently owned and operated
- That are not a subsidiary of another business.
- Not dominant in their field of operations.
Celebrating ‘Earth Month’ Throughout April
“Earth Day” is April 22, but throughout April we are going to be celebrating “Earth Month” in Montgomery County. We will be highlighting events that promote sustainability, conservation and eco-friendliness.
Highlight events in April will include a two-day GreenFest event in Wheaton. The events will be at Brookside Gardens on Saturday, April 22, and at Marian Fryer Town Plaza on Sunday, April 23. Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation also will host free classes for adults to help them learn how to ride bikes and scooters so they can keep their cars parked more often. A social media campaign will aim to cut down on the amount of usable food that is wasted. Montgomery Parks will start the month with a free tree sapling giveaway at South Germantown Recreational Park on Saturday, April 1. On that day, South Germantown Park also will host “Petals and Paws,” a free event from 9-11 a.m. on the HeartSmart trail. You can also expect native plant sales and park cleanups throughout the month.
I am excited to see our County coming together to celebrate the beauty of our natural resources and preserve it for generations to come. I encourage everyone to take part in the activities and initiatives we have planned and to make sustainable choices every day.
In Montgomery County, we have an ambitious Climate Action Plan (CAP) to cut community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035, compared to 2005 levels. We cannot get there without your help.
I am proud to report that during the first year of CAP implementation, County departments and agencies actively worked on 75 climate actions out of the 86 actions identified in the CAP. In Fiscal Year 2023, County departments and agencies intend to make progress on 77 climate actions.
This past week, Montgomery County hosted its 10th annual Montgomery County Energy Summit. Hundreds of people heard from the director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon and industry leaders about preparing the commercial building community for compliance with energy benchmarking, building energy performance standards and emerging building codes. I was sorry to miss the conference, but appreciated Rich Madeleno, the County’s Chief Administrative Officer, for attending and speaking to the group.
The conference is an excellent example of how we are successfully bringing the public and private sectors together to develop a path forward to increase building energy performance, boost economic opportunities and create jobs in Montgomery County—all while working toward our climate action goals.
National Public Health Week
The first week of April marks National Public Health Week. During the week, we will be thanking the public health professionals that work for Montgomery County by showing how diverse and expansive is our Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Through the DHHS Twitter and Facebook platforms, as well as Healthy Montgomery’s Twitter and Instagram, we will deliver daily messages corresponding to daily themes. The themes are:
- Community (Monday, April 3)
- Violence Prevention (Tuesday, April 4)
- Reproductive and Sexual Health (Wednesday, April 5)
- Mental Health (Thursday, April 6)
- Rural Health (Friday, April 7)
- Accessibility (Saturday, April 8)
- Food and Nutrition (Sunday, April 9)
Look out for those social posts and share them so we can let even more people know how appreciative we are of the public health workers who keep our community safe.
As for our community health update for this week, COVID-19 continues to pose a ‘low’ threat. Our case rates and COVID hospitalization statistics are around the same level they were last week.
Keeping your loved ones up to date with their boosters is still highly recommended. Last spring, we saw a lull in cases before they shot back up during the summer. Remember, you can still pick up test kits from your local library, but please limit how many you take.
School Shooting in Nashville
When this week began, we could not have imagined the tragic loss of six people shot and killed during an attack on a school in Nashville, Tenn. Three of those victims were 9 years old. One of the saddest facts to come from the news coverage of this event is that gun violence is now the No. 1 cause of death among children in our country, surpassing car accidents.
How can that be?
Let’s hope the shock and horror of this latest school shooting is enough for lawmakers to get serious about enacting the kind of restrictions that prevent someone from waging war on unarmed men, women and children. This is not the kind of society prior generations of leaders envisioned nor one we should have. We must find the common ground to protect the innocent from dying from gun violence or living through the kind of nightmare that Nashville is now dealing with.
As always, my appreciation for all of you,