HHC, Whiting-Turner Encourage
Minority Business Owner
Almost 200 representatives of minority, women, local, disabled and veteran-owned businesses recently attended a
Contractor Outreach Event hosted by the
Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.
Held in One Merriweather, the recent-
ly opened headquarters of MedStar Health
in Downtown Columbia, the event was
designed to highlight upcoming business
opportunities during the transformative re-
development now underway in Downtown
Greg Fitchett, vice president of
development for HHC, welcomed the
crowd and provided an overview of the
Downtown Columbia Plan guiding the
revitalization of 391 underdeveloped acres
adjacent to Merriweather Post Pavilion,
Symphony Woods, The Mall in Columbia
and Lake Kittamaqundi. At full build-out,
Downtown Columbia will include nearly
14 million square feet of new mixed-use
“We are committed to diversity and
inclusive workforce opportunities for
residents of Howard County and to supporting Howard County businesses and
entrepreneurship,” Fitchett told attendees.
Other speakers included County Ex-
ecutive Allan Kittleman, County Council
Vice Chair Calvin Ball and County Coun-
cil member Mary Kay Sigaty, as well as
representatives of the HHC design and
construction team and Whiting- Turner, the
general contractor/construction manager
“Most of the downside
to [remote observing] is on
the communication side,”
Dello Russo said, citing
difficulties in preparing
for observations with any
support astronomers who
are located on site. “The
biggest issue is the com-
munications link itself:
If the Internet connection
goes down, then you are observing in the
blind to a large extent. It’s rare, but it does
Dello Russo and his team used the new
USRA facility for two runs in mid-Febru-
ary to observe a comet, and were happy to
discover a modern facility, with a kitchen-
ette and lounge area.
“It’s a nice feature if you have some
down time due to weather or unexpected
problems,” he said. “The staff at USRA
were very helpful, and did all they could
to make our runs as successful as possible.
We will definitely be using the facility in
the future. In fact, there are several good
upcoming comet apparitions, so we hope
to use the facility at least a couple of times
a year for the next few years.”
According to White, the first obser-
vations supported by the facility were
made by a NASA postdoctoral student at
GSFC in support of NASA’s JUNO probe
On the Horizon
USRA moved into its new,
90,000-square-foot headquarters in 2013.
Since then, it has been using the space
as part of its mission to directly support
government and university research, as
well as related private sector needs.
The Remote Observation Center
joins USRA’s STEM Education Center,
dedicated in 2015, with the combined
spaces accounting for about one quarter
of USRA’s available capacity.
“We’re always looking for new ideas
for how we can continue to develop this
space to best serve the area’s scientific and
astronomy community,” White said.
One idea under consideration is the
installation of a satellite dish on the roof
that could downlink data from satellites or
swarms of CubeSats, miniature satellites
that typically have a much shorter mission
life than traditional satellites.
“We could use some of our space
as a mission control center, for building
CubeSats, or even as laboratories to de-
velop instrumentation to support these
missions,” White said. “There’s still a lot
of unused space, and so many directions
we could go.”
Whatever the usage, USRA adminis-
trators said they want to ensure it meets
a broad need, like the need met by the
Remote Observation Center.
“There’s a lot of unmet demand with
so many astronomers located just in this
area,” White said. “We’re very excited to
be part of it, and that it’s happening right
here in the middle of Howard County.”
from page 3
Howard County Council Vice Chair Calvin Ball spoke to attendees at a Minority
Contractors Outreach event hosted by the Howard Hughes Corp. and Whiting-Turner.
USRA Senior Vice President Nicholas White demonstrates
the Remote Operations Center’s equipment, which allows
users to control the Keck observatory’s telescopes or view
data in eavesdrop mode.
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The half-billion dollars of development
recently completed or under construction is
just the beginning of the project, attendees
were told; more than 25,000 construction
jobs and 31,000 new permanent full-time
jobs are anticipated. HHC, the master
developer for Downtown Columbia, has
signed an agreement with the Howard
County government to support a diversity
and inclusion contraction program, workshop opportunities and a hiring initiative.