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Foreclosure rate declines 66 percent in 2011

Maryland ended 2011 with the nation’s 35th-highest home foreclosure rate, down 66 percent from 2010, according to new data from RealtyTrac of Irvine, Calif.

The state had one filing per 162 households last year, compared with one per 69 households nationwide. The U.S. rate was down 34.3 percent from 2010.

Maryland’s rate in 2011 was the latest in a multiyear decline in foreclosures. It also was down 66.7 percent from 2009, 55.4 percent from 2008 and 23.6 percent from 2007 — but up a whopping 366.1 percent from 2006, before the housing market cratered.

For the year, Prince George’s had the state’s highest rate, with one filing per 67 households, down 59.1 percent from 2010.

Greenbelt company wins $101.2M Navy contract

Gryphon Technologies of Greenbelt has won a $101.2 million contract from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane for research and development, engineering, analysis and other services to support operations of the Sea-Based X-Band communication system.

Gryphon will provide coordination of the radar, platform and mission integration activities, including the direct-to-sailor entertainment system, company officialsi said.

CEO P.J. Braden said in a statement that the SBX system is “strategically important to the nation. This is a big vote of confidence and a credit to our technical ability."

The Gryphon team includes General Dynamics IT, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Applied Technical Systems, GBS Group, Kaya Associates, the Parker Group and Stimulus Engineering.

Sales tax bill among first introduced in legislature

A proposal that would expand the state’s sales tax exemption during tax-free holidays to certain school supplies and personal computers was among the first bills introduced Wednesday in the General Assembly.

The pre-filed bill by Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier would exempt from the 6 percent tax supplies costing less than $100 and computers costing less than $600. The holidays, which usually run for a week in August, have just been for clothing and footwear.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Business Day, when hundreds of members schmooze with legislators, on Thursday in Annapolis.

Baltimore sets cruise record in 2011

A record number of passengers set sail on a cruise from Baltimore last year.

The port reported a total of 251,889 people on 105 cruises, breaking the record of 210,549 passengers on 90 cruises set in 2010. The port’s cruise passenger count was the fifth highest on the East Coast and 12th highest in the U.S. in 2010.

“Cruising from Baltimore brings tens of millions of dollars to our state and generates hundreds of jobs,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in a statement. “We expect this strong momentum to continue in 2012 with 100 cruises scheduled.”

The annual economic impact of the cruise industry to Maryland is about $90 million, according to the state, generating about 220 direct jobs in the state.

Year-round cruising from the port started in 2009, when more than 167,000 passengers sailed on 81 cruises.

Millennial Media files for $75M IPO

Millennial Media, a Baltimore company that provides mobile advertising platforms, has filed for an initial public offering, seeking to raise $75 milllion.

Last month, the company’s platform reached about 200 million unique users worldwide, including about 100 million in the U.S., according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Millennial Media was ranked No. 74 on the Inc. 500/5000 list last year, with revenues of $47.8 million and three-year growth of 3,080 percent.

Founded in 2006, it has raised more than $65 million in venture capital and acquired two technology companies in the past three years, according to its website. Its customers include Patagonia and Jeep.

Online DBED tool tracks state grants, loans

The Department of Business and Economic Development has launched a new online tool to make it easier to track state grants, tax credits, investments and loans to businesses.

The creation of Finance Tracker was prompted by a negative report card that ranked DBED poorly for access to finance program information, according to an agency statement.

A second phase is to be unveiled in April, which will report data as deals are approved. The tool — part of Maryland Made Easy, a state initiative designed to streamline procedures and simplify regulations — is available at choosemaryland.org.

Frederick company fined in overbilling case

Engineering Systems Solutions of Frederick and its owner and CEO, Vishnampet Jayanthinathan, 64, of Ijamsville, have agreed to pay the government $702,000 to settle overbilling allegations in a federal government case.

Federal prosecutors alleged that under the False Claims Act that ESS overbilled the Army for work performed by employees who did not meet the qualifications for the labor rates billed.

ESS provides systems design and computer systems integration. From January 2004 through December 2007, ESS was the subcontractor that provided the Department of the Army with mobile communication systems. A former ESS employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that ESS violated the False Claims Act.

Former bank officer sentenced for fraud

Tommy L. Phillips, 55, of Frederick was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to 27 months in prison for bank fraud. Phillips pleaded guilty in August to embezzling $313,303 from customers at PNC Bank’s Frederick branch, where he was a trust officer.

The sentence also includes restitution of the embezzled money and three years of supervised release following his release from prison, according to prosecutors. Phillips used the stolen money to pay his and his wife’s personal debts and his household bills, and to buy jewelry for his wife.