SBA visits local veteran-owned companies

CAMBRIDGE — Small Business Administration Regional Administration (SBA) Regional Administrator Michelle Christian visited veteran-owned companies on the Mid-Shore on Tuesday. The trip was “to thank them for their service and recognize them for their business success and contributions to the local and state economies,” a statement from the SBA said.
In Dorchester, stops included the salon Mirror Mirror on Race Street in Cambridge, owned by Danielle van Riel; Your Doc’s In, on Sunburst Highway in Cambridge, owned by Dr. Walt Gianelle; and the Eastern Shore Innovation Center (ESIC) in Bucktown, where Lee Simms of Quevara and Mike Ross of Cambridge Federal were honored.
Ms. Christian visited businesses that have used SBA products. “We can connect you with lenders with loans we guarantee,” she said. Then after the capital is available to get things off the ground, the SBA can help with planning and consulting services to keep the company on track.
She encouraged businesses to take advantage of the assistance, offered free of charge by the federal government. “It’s their tax money,” she said.
Range of services
The ESIC is the Eastern Shore’s first full-service business incubator. Space is offered at the low rate of $1.25 per square foot, giving new companies a boost as they get started. “It’s ridiculously cheap,” Director Jeff Trice said.
“As Dorchester’s one-stop shop for economic assistance and advocacy, we offer a range of business-development services,” the ESIC’s website says. Advice available includes site selection, workforce training, technical assistance and financial incentives.
At the Innovation Center, Ms. Christian’s group stopped at Quevara, owned by veteran Lee Simms. The company was launched in 2014.
“We’re a software company,” Mr. Simms told the delegation. “We do a lot of work with the intelligence community.”
Time at the Innovation Center has already paid off for his company. “We doubled in growth last year,” Mr. Simms said, noting that his experience in the military helped him get started in business, as it developed important personal qualities.
After hearing his visitors praise his efforts and success, Mr. Simms got a laugh from the group when he said, “You got me blushing and everything.”
Mike Ross owns Cambridge Federal, the other veteran-owned company at the ESIC.
“Cambridge Federal (CF) offers LiveScan Fingerprinting services; CF is the only State of Maryland and FBI-certified LiveScan vendor in Dorchester County,” the company’s website says. “Cambridge Federal is committed to fostering economic development and career opportunities for the surrounding community.”
One of those development opportunities could involve the military and existing infrastructure in the county.
“We’re really hoping that the Army helicopter training comes through for us,” Mr. Ross said. “The airport would be awesome.”
Cannabis research
Though the group was scheduled to visit only veteran-owned businesses, the ESIC is fully booked, with about a dozen companies active there, so Ms. Christian stopped by several others.
At Peninsula Alternative Health (PAH), the group heard from CEO Anthony Darby, who updated them on his company’s work with cannabis-derived health products. While one branch of the company operates Peninsula Holistics, a marijuana dispensary in Salisbury, PAH makes medicine out of industrial hemp – the plant looks like marijuana, but with a significant difference. “It doesn’t get them high,” Mr. Darby said.
Hemp oil has been shown to be effective as an anti-epileptic and anti-inflammatory treatment.
Mike Arntz from the office of Representative Andy Harris (R-1) was part of the group. He shared his family’s experience with cannabinoids, saying his son had suffered a traumatic brain injury and found relief in similar medications. He thanked Mr. Darby and his team, saying, “It if weren’t for what you’re doing, he would be on opioids.”
Mr. Darby said, “This isn’t a silver bullet,” but added that research on cannabinoids is not yet complete.
Development of the cannabis industry isn’t complete yet, either – right now, though it can be grown legally for medical purposes in Maryland, that has to take place indoors. That could change, and Mr. Darby is preparing for that.
“We’re working with several farms to start growing it on the Eastern Shore,” he said.
Mr. Trice noted that diversity from corn and beans could help local farmers. He said, “We can look at agriculture in a different way.”
The tour of regional businesses and their diversity proved to be informative for the visitors. “It’s been fascinating to see,” Ms. Christian said.