Real Estate: Coldwell Banker Chesapeake Website Goes New Direction

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Coldwell Banker Chesapeake Real Estate is pleased to announce the launch of two new state-of-the art, fully-integrated websites. The new sites are more closely aligned with the brand’s strategic vision for a digital platform and growth through online marketing.

The launch of the new Coldwell Banker digital platform (www.ColdwellBanker.com ) is more than the launch of a website. Instead it brings a cultural shift to the industry as sellers, alongside their agent, will have the ability to be directly involved in the marketing of their home through emotion-based property descriptions, photos and videos. Buyers will benefit through enhanced sharing features and greater listing content than ever before seen in real estate! According to Google Analytics this URL generated 2.5 M total visits and 1.8M mobile visits following the launch in October.

Coldwell Banker Chesapeake recognizes that it must be both hyper-local and customer-centric in order to attract prospects to its local website (www.CBChesapeake.com). “Prospective buyers have access to a lot of information on national real estate portals such as Coldwell banker.com and Realtor.com”, says Hugh Smith, Broker of Coldwell Banker Chesapeake, “We have designed our new website to provide information to buyers and sellers of Eastern Shore real estate that they can’t find on the national portals. The website is tightly focused on the consumer, with all the functionality of a national portal, and instant access to locally knowledgeable sales associates.

The new website offers a modern and easy to navigate functionality as well as a content-rich site. Agent profiles give the consumer the opportunity to find a full-time professional agent who is knowledgeable about the specific area in which they are interested and who has a track record of results in any given property type. The individual listings and community pages provide consumers with local demographics, marketing information, and a wealth of knowledge on each property.

Hugh Smith, Coldwell Banker Chesapeake Real Estate’s Broker notes that this website utilizes the best features to keep consumers up to date on new listings and updated searches. “We think our website, along with our social media and digital marketing efforts, will help us quickly connect with our audience to provide an engaging customer service experience.”

Recording Artist, Songwriter Lynn Bryant Expands Faith Hope Dreams™ Apparel Line

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Pictured left to right are Lynn Bryant of Easton, founder of STAR HEART design brand, with Marjorie Adams, owner of Mimi’s Closet in Easton and Chestertown, and fashion designer Nina McLemore, who has dressed some of the world’s most powerful women. The three women were involved in a recent fashion show for the Women and Girls Fund of the Mid Shore.  The fashion show debuted Lynn Bryant’s new Faith Hope Dreams™ clutch handbag line.

Pictured left to right are Lynn Bryant of Easton, founder of STAR HEART design brand, with Marjorie Adams, owner of Mimi’s Closet in Easton and Chestertown, and fashion designer Nina McLemore, who has dressed some of the world’s most powerful women. The three women were involved in a recent fashion show for the Women and Girls Fund of the Mid Shore. The fashion show debuted Lynn Bryant’s new Faith Hope Dreams™ clutch handbag line.

Easton and Nashville resident Lynn Bryant has announced the expansion of her Faith Hope Dreams™ apparel and merchandise line. Bryant, a recording artist, songwriter, television/film creator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, has had an accomplished musical and business career. Her new line includes American-made clutch handbags, tee shirts, pullovers, yoga pants, baseball caps, duffel bags, mugs, and greeting cards designed to inspire, empower and unite people through creative design, inspirational messages, and a socially conscious business model. Several Eastern Shore businesses are now carrying the Faith Hope Dreams™ line.

A fashion show recently held at the Tidewater Inn in Easton, sponsored by the Women and Girls Fund of the Mid Shore and Mimi’s Closet of Easton and Chestertown, debuted Bryant’s Star Heart clutch handbags. Nina McLemore, who has dressed some of the world’s most powerful women, spoke at the event about fashion and philanthropy.

Bryant comments, “When I conceptualized the handbag line, I wanted to use the slogan, ‘Clutches aren’t just for evening anymore.’ Because women often do not have the luxury of going home from work before attending an after-work event or dinner, I designed a versatile clutch that is small, yet efficient, and offered in an array of fabrics and materials to suit various personal styles and functions. Each handbag is named after a city in America with a short fun tag line. Some handbags have messages of empowerment inside.”

Like her songs and other creative projects, Bryant created Faith Hope Dreams™ to inspire and empower people to open their hearts to others to make a difference. In 2004, she started her fashion STAR HEART apparel and merchandise lines as a source of capital for her charity – The Nancy Ferro Learning for Life Foundation – a charitable organization which provides after-school educational programs and tutoring to elementary school children. In 2013, she expanded her trademarked STAR HEART design brand, to include Faith Hope Dreams™ apparel and merchandise. A portion of proceeds from the apparel and merchandise sales benefit children in need across the country, including such charities as the Casey Cares Foundation.

Bryant comments, “My message to children everywhere is to dream big, love bigger, help someone else along the way, and to enjoy their journey – also a key message of my Learning for Life Foundation.”

Some of the program topics for children that Bryant promotes are: the importance of choosing your friends wisely, how to establish boundaries, understanding bully prevention (bystander, bully and victim) and appropriate responses, the importance of lyrics in songs (“your heart has a voice, your life is your song”), how to write a song, and personal responsibility.

For further information about the Faith Hope Dreams™ line, visit www.faithhopedreamsshop.com or email Bryant at info@faithhopedreams.com.

Solar Lane Holds Ribbon Cutting and Open House

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Solar Lane of Easton, MD recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house at the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce in Easton, MD. The company was founded to provide businesses and nonprofits in Maryland with lower-cost electricity. Solar Lane is in partnership with Paradise Energy Solutions, a solar engineering and operating company located in Salisbury, MD, to install its Solar Generating Facilities. To date, the partnership has installed over 100 solar electric generating facilities on the Eastern Shore. Their latest installation, just completed this month, is for the Federalsburg Volunteer Fire Company, Federalsburg, MD.

Solar Lane is using local investors to fund solar projects on the Eastern Shore and is looking to find other local businesses and nonprofits which are interested in reducing their energy costs. For further information about what the benefits of solar electricity might mean to your nonprofit or business and to receive a free solar assessment, contact Scott Kane at 240-478-7672 or email contact@solarlane.net.

Pictured front row, left to right, at the recent ribbon cutting for Solar Lane are Solar Tom Duncan (Edward Jones Investments), Talbot Chamber President Al Silverstein, Sabine Simonson (Talbot County Free Library), Ron Lee (Armistead, Griswold, Lee & Rust), Solar Lane President Scott Kane, Susan Schauer John (SpiderWeb Connection), Courtney Kane (Solar Lane), Amy Steward (Steward Writing & Communications), David Gill and Lena Gill.

Pictured front row, left to right, at the recent ribbon cutting for Solar Lane are Solar Tom Duncan (Edward Jones Investments), Talbot Chamber President Al Silverstein, Sabine Simonson (Talbot County Free Library), Ron Lee (Armistead, Griswold, Lee & Rust), Solar Lane President Scott Kane, Susan Schauer John (SpiderWeb Connection), Courtney Kane (Solar Lane), Amy Steward (Steward Writing & Communications), David Gill and Lena Gill.

Maryland Film Tax Credits at Risk; No More Wedding Crashers for Shore

Hannah Byron

Frank Underwood may be looking for a new base of operations.

Maryland tax credits worth millions have kept “House of Cards” in the state for three seasons, but a real-world budget crunch may mean Kevin Spacey — who plays the political villain — and rest of the cast and crew will head elsewhere.

A state legislative committee held a public hearing Tuesday on the feasibility of Maryland’s film production tax credit, most notably associated with the Netflix series.

Hannah Byron

Hannah Byron,, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts

Film productions are exempt from state tax when purchasing goods or services related to the production, but the state is reaping only 10 cents for every dollar it gives up, according to a report from the state’s Department of Legislative Services.

The report concludes that the credit does not promote long-term economic growth for Maryland and recommends that the General Assembly allow the film production activity tax to expire as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

Legislative Services staff members who contributed to the report were present at the meeting to defend their recommendations.

“The current funding amount is about $25 million (per year). But is that what optimizes economic benefits to the state?” said Robert Rehrmann, a policy analyst who contributed to the report.

Film production tax credits have become more popular in the last decade, with 37 states and the District offering some form of incentive in 2014.

In a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley last year, Charlie Goldstein, senior vice president of MRC Studios, which produces “House of Cards,” warned that if the show does not receive tax credits, they will look to film in another state.

In total for all productions, Maryland has provided or set aside $62.5 million in tax credits from fiscal year 2012 through 2016.

Supporters of the tax say the film industry promotes economic growth in Maryland by bringing in jobs and more local spending, and that we need to offer at least $25 million in credits each year to be competitive with what other states offer.

“For many small businesses in the state, it has made the difference for keeping their doors open, the difference in hiring new staff, or the difference in making capital improvements to their property, ” said Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts.

While some small businesses are reaping the benefits, the Department of Legislative Services’ report estimates that Maryland is only getting a 10-cent return for every dollar of tax credits provided to the film industry.

Byron countered that another independent study calculated a return of $1.03 — or 3 percent — on every dollar in credits, and that the Legislative Services report did not focus enough on indirect benefits of production, such as the potential for film tourism.

Still, the report has a few more criticisms, one being that 96.5 percent of all credits are going to only two productions — “House of Cards” and HBO’s “VEEP.”

The report also points out that a few jurisdictions benefit much more than others, and also that the productions are short-lived and will not add any permanent benefit to the economy because jobs provided will be temporary.

Michael Davis, a scenery builder in Maryland for over 27 years, disagreed with this idea Tuesday in testimony before the committee.

“I worked on project after project, sometimes more than one at a time, and other times no work at all … and the pay is at least 30 percent more per hour and we will work 50 to 60 hour per week during a production,” Davis said.

However, Rehrmann reminded, the report shows less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Marylanders are employed by the film industry.

The decision on whether to extend or modify the current tax credit will have to be made by the General Assembly by July 1 and could be influenced by Gov.-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr.

“We’ll take a look at (the report) and have something to talk about later … there’s one governor at a time,” Hogan said Tuesday.

By Dani Shae Thompson

Benchworks Acquires Safe Chain Solutions

Thad Bench, CEO; Pat Boyd, Executive Director/Partner; Charles Boyd, President
Thad Bench, CEO; Pat Boyd, Executive Director/Partner; Charles Boyd, President

Thad Bench, CEO; Pat Boyd, Executive Director/Partner; Charles Boyd, President

Benchworks is pleased to announce that it has acquired Safe Chain Solutions, a rapidly growing pharmaceutical drug wholesaler serving hospital pharmacies nationwide, with a combination of cash and stock. Safe Chain Solutions has a pharmaceutical distribution facility in Cambridge, Maryland, a sales office in Miami, Florida, and a digital development office in Nagpur, India. Safe Chain Solutions also has a vibrant Third Party Logistics (3PL) business serving a wide variety of clients in the beverage, apparel, and manufacturing sectors.

“The acquisition of Safe Chain Solutions demonstrates our continued commitment to the life science industry,” said Benchworks CEO Thad Bench. “The pharmaceutical division at Safe Chain which is currently engaged in supplying hospital pharmacies will eventually be able to produce patient starter kits and support Rx sample programs for our existing and new pharmaceutical clients upon regulatory approval. This is a significant step in growing our revenues and adding strategic capacity to our family of companies.”

President of Safe Chain Solutions Charles Boyd commented, saying, “We are excited to be aligned with Benchworks and look forward to continuing our rapid growth and expanding our service offering. We could tell almost immediately that Benchworks’ and Safe Chain’s cultures meshed very well.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services firm headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. The company specializes in the design, production, and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the pharmaceutical, beverage, manufacturing, and education industries in North America and Europe. Additional Benchworks operating units include Benchworks Consulting and a licensed products division. For additional information, please visit www.benchworks.com or call 800-536-4670.

Exelon Commits to Pepco Charities

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Local charities are looking forward to continued support from Pepco, the region’s oldest utility provider, even as state authorities review a proposed merger with Chicago-based utility Exelon.

Philanthropies were initially concerned that management changes would affect Pepco’s commitment to non-profits. But Exelon has issued assurances that the company will remain committed to Pepco’s 2013 level of philanthropic giving.

That is good news for charities throughout the region.

“I look forward to watching our Pennies for Patients program surpass the million dollar mark,” said Beth Gorman, executive director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, speaking of one of her organization’s regional projects. “With Pepco’s help and commitment I know that we’ll be able to get there.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is one of the world’s largest health organizations, dedicated to funding blood cancer research and helping patients through more than 60 chapters in the U.S. and Canada.

Pennies for Patients has been around for about two decades. In the metro area, the majority of the approximately 470 participating schools come from Maryland.

In the last two years combined they raised close to $1.7 million by encouraging schoolchildren of all ages to bring spare change and dollars to school to support the society’s mission.

Exelon has pledged a total commitment of about $50 million in charitable contributions over 10 years in the Pepco service territory, which spans D.C., Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. That’s about equal to the $5 million a year, or so, that Pepco has been giving.

“We’re…going to…continue to work with non-profit partners without missing a beat. We have already been there. And Exelon’s support to what we have been doing is just going to continue,” said Debbi Jarvis, Pepco’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

Gorman said she would like to see the partnership with Pepco expand.

Each year about 20 local high schools compete against one another in a fundraising effort as part of the Pennies for Patients program.

“In fact, our two top high schools typically come from the Maryland area,” said Gorman, adding that out of all the participating institutions, Walt Whitman and Walter Johnson high schools each raised more than $80,000 this year.

The society’s goal for the program in the upcoming season, which lasts January through April, is $900,000.

Pepco became involved with the program three years ago, Gorman said.

In addition to a direct contribution of about $45,000 a year, Pepco has provided a summer internship to one student from the school that raises the most money, Jarvis said.

“Over the next five years, Exelon alone on the utility side of the business will be investing $16 billion in the communities we serve,” said Chris Crane, Exelon’s CEO, when questioned about implications of the acquisition for the local philanthropies at an October event in Washington.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the proposed merger of Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings last Thursday.

The company is now awaiting approvals on the deal from public utility commissions in the district, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

According to the Maryland Public Service Commission, the next set of hearings where public comments about the merger will be heard are scheduled for January.

By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov
Capital News Service

SpyCam Moment: WCEI in Easton with Stacie Monz

StacieMonz

There is something irresistible about small-town radio stations. It might be the big personalities in tiny communities, or the community projects they help sponsor, or the devoted fan base for morning show hosts like Easton’s Matt Spence, but WCEI meets all the criteria for one of the best examples of what might considered a somewhat rare species.

And at the center of a radio station like WCEI is the famously multitasking job of general manager. While there are stereotypes like hands off Arthur Carlson in “WKRP in Cincinnati” or “NewsRadio” and the long-suffering Dave Nelson, the fact is that most station managers have to play many, many hats, including being on radio themselves.

This is the case with Stacie Monz at WECI. From sales to working with local elementary kids do the weather reports of Fridays, Stacie seems to do it all. The Spy caught up with her in the WECI studio for a SpyCam Moment.

Oyster Aquaculture in MD, VA Hits Snags in 2014

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Oyster aquaculture production continues to rev up the seaside economies in Maryland and Virginia, but the need for better leasing laws and procedures coupled with a tough year for hatcheries slowed production in 2014.

Hatcheries from Maryland to North Carolina experienced water-quality problems, and scientists haven’t figured out why. Unlike in 2011, when hatchery managers and scientists blamed a slog of freshwater from hurricanes for poor production, this year’s problems seem site-specific.

Technicians at the Horn Point Laboratories warm up the water to induce spawning in brood stock oysters in 2010. Production was down about 30 percent in 2014. (Dave Harp)

Technicians at the Horn Point Laboratories warm up the water to induce spawning in brood stock oysters in 2010. Production was down about 30 percent in 2014. (Dave Harp)

At the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Hatchery in Cambridge, production was down about 30 percent, according to Don Webster, an extension agent who specializes in aquaculture. Horn Point is the largest hatchery in Maryland, and the state owns and operates it. Unlike many private hatcheries, Horn Point’s is loaded with top-notch equipment and several filtration systems. Webster said Horn Point staff consulted with oyster experts elsewhere, but couldn’t figure out the problem, which lasted from May until July.

“This was the first time we’d seen it widespread, and for that long,” Webster said. “Nothing seemed to work on it.”

Horn Point will close the year with about 900 million spat, which oyster farmers and the state plant on the bottom after the larvae set on oyster shells. In 2013, Horn Point announced it produced more than 1 billion spat, more than any other hatchery in the country. That was after several years in the 500-million range.

Spat-on-shell is how most oysters are grown in Maryland and Virginia’s aquaculture operations. These oysters largely go to the shucking house market.

In Virginia, the half-dozen private hatcheries cater to both the spat-on-shell market and those who grow individual oysters in floats and cages. They fared better than Horn Point overall, said Jim Wesson, who is the head of conservation and replenishment for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

But individual hatcheries had their own crises. One on the Eastern Shore lost several days of production because a neighbor removed creosote from pilings during the spawning season.

Another, on Gywnn’s Island, was having its most productive year on record until the Virginia Department of Transportation began sandblasting paint off the island’s tiny bridge. Two days later, nothing would grow, Wesson said.

When asked what specifically killed the larvae, which are extremely sensitive, Wesson said it was a combination of the zinc, copper and cadmium in the paint and stripping materials, all of which got into the water.

“If you had to list things that would kill an oyster larvae, those would be on it,” he said. “Whatever this was, it was messing up their digestion. You could see it in the microscope. The metals are definitely there.”

State officials persuaded the transportation department to halt the project, and production resumed. But much had been lost because of the timing of the painting. Wesson said his department is trying to educate environmental engineers so they plan around the spawning season. Had the bridge been painted anytime between July and December, he said, the larvae probably wouldn’t have been harmed.

Despite the setback, oyster aquaculture in both states seems to be steady, with the Chesapeake Bay bivalves in both states plentiful enough to send to Louisiana for shucking.

Laws in both Maryland and Virginia have focused on making it easier for entrepreneurs to enter the oyster farming business. In 2009, Maryland passed a law legalizing oyster aquaculture in every county and requiring oyster lease-holders to work the leases they had or lose them. Now, Maryland has 318 shellfish aquaculture leases on nearly 4,000 acres. Karl Roscher, who manages aquaculture at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said he’s not certain how many jobs have been created. But the department has permitted and registered more than 1,400 individuals to have some role in leased-bottom aquaculture.

This number is poised to grow, as the department is reviewing 77 lease applications. Since the law changed, Maryland officials have struggled with the time it takes to issue leases, which has been up to a year and even longer in some cases. State officials have said they would like to reduce the time to three months, which is the average time in Virginia. The difference between the states is in the oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers. The Baltimore District’s review process takes much longer than the Norfolk District’s, even though the Baltimore district did adopt some of Virginia’s permitting practices.

Also helping Maryland’s numbers of aquaculture operations grow are several state programs that help watermen transition to aquaculture. Low-interest loans are available through the state agency, Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. Several programs within the Maryland Department of Agriculture have funded capital investments in oyster farms. Webster runs a remote-setting training program that teaches budding aquaculturists how to set oyster larvae on shells. He has established 32 tanks in 10 locations.

Virginia’s government has also invested in cultivating its oyster industry, and used some of the $15 million crab disaster funds it got in 2009 to help watermen buy materials and build cages.

In the past, Maryland has looked south and groused that Virginia had a better system for setting up and cultivating an aquaculture industry. A private oyster fishery, which is largely spat-on-shell aquaculture, has been thriving in Virginia for more than a century. It has 100,000 acres under lease. Last year’s combined public and private harvest topped $22 million, with the private leases comprising more than half of that.

But Virginia’s famed structure has hit a snag. It has no use-it-or-lose-it law. Anyone who pays the $500 application fee can get a lease of up to 250 acres and keep it for 10 years. It costs $1.50 per acre. After that, they have to show a plan to plant shellfish, but even that requirement is full of loopholes, Wesson said.

About five years ago, Wesson noticed many waterfront homeowners applied for large leases in front of properties with the hope of blocking would-be farmers from trying to plant oysters there. Those applicants are still holding on to those acres, many of which could be productive and contribute to both the ecology and the economy.

But another group has emerged: Poachers. They apply for leases on dead bottom just to have access to good bottom, so they can steal the crop. They will take oysters from private beds or the public bottom, Wesson said.

Many farmers will have oysters reach market size in March or April, but they won’t harvest them until the summer, when the wild fishery no longer operates and the price is high. Longtime watermen know that, he said, and will poach the crop and take the lower price. And they can see the police coming, if they’re on the waterways, and get away quickly.

Wesson said he can spot the applicants who are not serious; they’re asking for large plots, of 100 acres or more, and they’ll often apply for one in their name and then their spouse’s name. He knows they won’t plant the leases; there isn’t enough shell in the Chesapeake Bay for that kind of acreage.

Those who are serious about getting into the business will ask for one or two acres; those that are already in it might ask for 25 to 50. In the real industry, Wesson said, the trend is to get smaller; in “the lawless one,” as he calls it, it’s to get bigger.

Wesson is hoping to make the law change at an administrative level. If it’s not, he said, the commission will work through the legislature.

“It’s not doom and gloom. People are making money and people are doing this. But if we don’t get those loopholes closed up it’s going to get worse,” Wesson said. “We have got to change that old law.”

By Rona Kobell
Bay Journal News Service

Shore Bancshares Hires New Financial Reporting Officer

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Philip O’Neil III, Shore Bancshares Financial Reporting Officer

Philip O’Neil III, Shore Bancshares Financial Reporting Officer

Shore Bancshares, Inc. is pleased to announce that Philip O’Neil III has joined the Shore Bancshares team as the Financial Reporting Officer.

Philip will be responsible for managing the external reporting function in order to ensure proper controls related to SEC filings and other regulatory requirements.

Mr. O’Neil earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Frostburg State University in 2005. He also holds a Maryland CPA license and is an active member of the AICPA and MACPA.

Prior to joining Shore Bancshares, Mr. O’Neil worked as an accountant for CBIZ/MHM, a public accounting firm in Easton, for over nine years. At CBIZ/MHM he provided tax preparation and planning for small businesses and individuals; auditing for governmental entities, various non-profit organizations, commercial manufacturing, and employee benefit plans; and preparation of financial statements for a variety of entities.

“I am excited to be working with a company that has a long history in supporting the community through various services; banking, insurance, wealth management, and trust,” said Mr. O’Neil.

Mr. O’Neil is a lifelong resident of St. Michaels. He has served as Treasurer for both the St. Michaels Community Center and Spring Hill Cemetery and a board member of the Young Professionals of Talbot County. Philip is actively involved in the Talbot County Toys for Tots program and a member of Real Life Chapel in Easton. In his spare time, Philip enjoys playing golf, watching the Ravens and Orioles, participating in Fantasy Football, and spending time with family and friends.

SMMHS Business Class Offered Banking Lesson from Talbot Bank

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The Talbot Bank welcomed visitors from Mr. Nick Werner’s Business Class at St. Michaels Middle/High School (SMMHS) on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. The students were treated to a tour of the bank and educated on many aspects of banking. Later that week, Parker Spurry, Talbot Bank St. Michaels Branch Manager and Dawn Henckel, Talbot Bank, St. Michaels Assistant Branch Manager visited Mr. Werner’s classroom where they continued the financial lessons for the students and answered any follow-up questions. The Talbot Bank is committed to supporting financial literacy for the youth in our communities and encourages parents to reach out to Talbot Bank representatives for financial education assistance.

Pictured are students from Mr. Werner’s Business Class at SMMHS, Parker Spurry, and Dawn Henckel.

Pictured are students from Mr. Werner’s Business Class at SMMHS, Parker Spurry, and Dawn Henckel.