Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog

 

An Open Letter to Northern Virginians: We Need to Talk About Mental Health

by Admin 29. June 2016 08:57

By Dr. Sunil Budhrani, Chief Medical Officer, Innovation Health

Even for a medical expert, mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about.

I know the terminology, proper treatment plans and resources. But as a society (even among health providers), we often don't know how to talk to those in need of mental health support - sometimes including ourselves. It's uncomfortable. It's emotional. It's personal. So we don't share. Don't ask. Don't act. And suicide rates across our nation skyrocket.

We need to talk about mental health.

When I joined Innovation Health as Chief Medical Officer last month, I sat down with my team and we made a collective decision. We decided to speak from our own personal experiences with mental health, however imperfectly. Because talking about mental health is the best way to truly help remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Working as an ER doctor, I frequently saw patients whose anxiety and depression had gone unmanaged and ultimately led them to attempt suicide. Some I was able to help. For others there was nothing I could do. I realized that many times these patients weren't getting the help they needed because they feared being labeled or misunderstood. Time and again, I saw that the cost of not treating these symptoms could be fatal.

Now, after so many years, so many news reports, and seeing so many of my colleagues and friends struggle, it is clear to me that we must confront the topic of mental health head-on if we are truly going to make a difference. I hope you'll join me in becoming the catalyst for change in how we talk about mental health; our willingness to start the conversation can impact so many Americans.

The proof is in the numbers: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in four adults and one in five children in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health condition. In Virginia, more than 230,000 adults - roughly 3.8 percent of the population - have experienced a serious mental illness. These facts tell me one thing; we are not alone. We all know someone, work with someone, or love someone who struggles with mental illness. We may struggle with it ourselves. The fact is that anxiety, depression and substance abuse touch every community. The time to accept this is now. The time to speak up and reach out is now.

Many people don't get the services they need because they don't know where to start. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can start the healing process by following these three steps:

 

  1. Talk to a primary care physician (PCP) about your mental health. They can help connect you with the right mental health support. If you do not have a PCP, I highly recommend you select one for your general health care needs.
  2. Educate yourself. Visit the Innovation Health website to take a depression or anxiety assessment or call 703-289-7560 to schedule an in-person assessment with a trained counselor.
  3. Be proactive about mental well-being. If you know someone who may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, encourage them to get the help they need.

 

It is never easy or comfortable to approach situations like this, but as a community we can't let our fear or doubts stop us from helping others or ourselves dealing with mental illness. Talk about mental health with your family, friends, and colleagues, you may not realize it now but having the courage to speak up may help someone you care about.

Together we can work to build a healthier world. But first, we have to start the conversation. 

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3 Things You Can Do to Help Protect your Business

by Admin 22. June 2016 06:42

By Indy Zakaryte, Supporting Strategies - Northern Virginia

Your accounting service provider is in a position of trust - he or she works with the finances of your company. Ideally, your bookkeeper is your trusted advisor, a valuable member of your team who works to help achieve your company's vision and goals. That's why it's disheartening to hear stories about bookkeeping service providers abusing this position of trust. It's not a common occurrence, but it does happen and every now and again a news story crops up about a bookkeeper slowly embezzling thousands of dollars.

Here are a few things you can do to help protect your business from embezzlement:

1) Do Your Homework 

If someone you know refers a bookkeeper to you, ask how long he or she has worked for them. Financial deception can go on for a very long period of time without the business owner knowing that a problem exists; therefore, look for a candidate who worked for the company for more than a year. Be sure to do a background check as well.

2) Be Involved 

If you are doing your own bookkeeping, it will save you a lot of time to hire a bookkeeper or outsourcing to an accounting firm.  However, as a business owner, you need to stay involved and oversee the bookkeeper's work. Looking at the financial statements routinely is not enough - it is important to review the details as well. For example, one way that a bookkeeper can embezzle funds is to create a vendor that doesn't exist and pay themselves through the fake vendor. Over time, even small payments will add up to significant loses. Make sure that all accounts (payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable) are reconciled every month so that you don't miss any important details. 

3) Work with a Firm that Values Security 

If you're working with a bookkeeping services firm, make sure you choose one that puts a high premium on your security. Ask the company about its hiring process and whether or not they do background checks. Find out what systems and protocols are in place to prevent fraud. You want to choose a firm that relies on a system of checks and balances. It shouldn't be the case that only one person oversees your business' finances - there should be a team involved checking and overseeing each other's work.

Outsourcing accounting services is an important step for a growing business. It will enable you to put more of your energy into your core business. Just take the time to do your homework when choosing a bookkeeper, stay involved by reviewing the details, and choose an account services firm with secure systems and protocols in place. 

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"You're Fired!" - Or "I Quit!" - Remains Good Law in Virginia

by Admin 17. June 2016 10:40

 By Doug Taylor, Bean, Kinney, & Korman

It is still the law in Virginia that “You’re fired!” or words to that effect, is all that is needed in the way of advance notice of termination by an employer to an at-will employee. From the employee’s perspective, “I quit!” works equally well as advance termination notice to an at-will employer. “Reasonable notice” in the context of at-will employment does not mean that an employee is entitled to advance notice of termination, the Supreme Court of Virginia confirmed last week in Johnston v. William E. Wood & Associates.

You Know About “At-Will” Employment, Right?

At-will employment is a bedrock principle of Virginia’s employment law. An at-will employee is “at liberty to leave his employment for any reason or for no reason.” Likewise, an employer is free to terminate its relationship with an at-will employee “without the need to articulate a reason.” At-will employment has been recognized in Virginia for more than 100 years. In Stonega Coal & Coke Co. v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co., the Court decided:

[W]hen an employment contract does not specify a ... duration, ‘either party is ordinarily at liberty to terminate it at will on giving reasonable notice of his intention to do so.’

In the century since Stonega, courts have echoed the phrase “reasonable notice,” but Virginia’s highest court has never decided what “reasonable notice” actually means. In Johnston, the issue was “whether reasonable notice means “advance notice.”

Johnston Claims “Reasonable Notice” Means “Advance Notice”

Brenda Johnston, a seventeen year at-will employee of William E. Wood & Associates, sued for wrongful discharge when Wood terminated her employment without advance notice. Her claim? Reasonable notice has a “temporal requirement,” i.e., it must be provided at a reasonable time before the termination of employment. Johnston noted that Virginia courts were split on this issue, although a number of them had concluded that “reasonable notice” did not equate to advance notice.

Wood Argues That Notice is Reasonable if It Conveys That Employment Has Ended

Wood claimed that notice “means nothing more than communication of termination by the terminating party.” The concept of at-will employment completely loses its meaning, Wood argued, unless it is interpreted to mean that the employee should be free to walk away from an undesirable job without giving advance notice, just as an employer should not be tethered by an advance notice requirement to an at-will employee it does not want or need.

Wood Has It Right, the Court Concludes

The Court rejected Johnston’s theory that there is an advance notice requirement to “reasonable notice.” Rather, in a Virginia at-will employment relationship, notice is deemed reasonable if it coveys to the other party “that the employment relationship has ended.”

Definitive notice has a tangible benefit for both employees and employers, the Court wrote. Without effective notice that the employment relationship has been terminated, an employee could continue to work, learning only later that she was no longer an employee and would not be paid for time worked. An employer, in contrast, faces the prospect of compensating an employee who no longer works there in the absence of definitive notice.

The Court was concerned that substantial uncertainty in employment relations would result if it adopted Johnston’s advance notice requirement to at-will employment. “Reasonable notice” is not objectively quantifiable. It would vary based on each employment situation, with the effect that:

[E]very employer would have to gauge what is reasonable advance notice under the circumstances, and if the employer guesses wrong, face the prospect of an expensive trial with an uncertain outcome. Conversely, employees could be sued by their employers for failing to provide sufficient advance notice before leaving, thus deterring employees from seeking better prospects elsewhere.

The Takeaway from Johnston

Johnston confirmed that at-will employment remains a fundamental legal doctrine in Virginia; one that does not require either employers or employees to provide advance notice of an intention to end the employment relationship. However, Johnston does not alter fundamental principles of Virginia contract law.  Employment agreements or employee policies that graft an advance notice period onto the employment relationship can create enforceable contract rights for both employers and employees and must be honored.

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Celebrate With Pride in Arlington!

by Admin 9. June 2016 04:04

By Jim Byers, Arlington Economic Development  

Stock Photo: La Cage Aux Folles 

Each year, Arlington plays host to thousands of visitors who come to explore our nation's historic and cultural treasures and to celebrate Capital Pride! The monumental views and five bridges connecting to the District of Columbia certainly make for easy access to the festivities downtown. The presence of more than 40 hotels with rates averaging up to 20 percent less than those in downtown D.C. certainly doesn’t hurt. But the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) observes that the underlying reasons are much more basic: a rich tradition of diversity and inclusion.

Arlington ranked first in Virginia on the Human Rights Campaign's 2015 Municipal Equality Index. In 2014, Arlington placed #10 on the list of the Gayest Cities in America by The Advocate, the nation’s leading LGBT periodical. Of course, the magazine cited gay-friendly venues such Galaxy Hut and Freddie's Beach Bar and Restaurant, Crystal City’s tiki-themed gay bar with popular drag shows and karaoke.

On a deeper level, The Advocate also noted the presence of multiple LGBT elected officials, and a long-established and active Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance (AGLA). Beyond the bars, social outlets run the gamut from associations for gay rodeo riders and crew clubs on the Potomac River, to LGBT vintage automobile enthusiasts.

The point is, Arlington offers a plethora of opportunities for the LGBT community to engage at every level – from the civic to the cultural – during Capital Pride and all year around. Here are a few more ways to celebrate Pride in Arlington:  

Cultural
Called a hotbed of cultural abandon by The Washington Post, Arlington has nationally acclaimed companies including Tony Award®-winning Signature Theatre (which happens to be staging the hit musical La Cage Aux Folles thru July 10)! Signature, along with other highly acclaimed companies such as Synetic Theater and WSC Avant Bard, offer LGBT-nights during the run of each show. Add to the mix an award-winning collection of public art, visual arts and more.

Exciting
Combining the best of big-city amenities with the warmth of lively neighborhoods, our urban villages offer fun by day and by night, including events, live-music venues, cocktail and hookah lounges, wine bars, coffee houses, sports pubs, dancing, comedy and much more.

Indulgent
From international culinary experiences, to sumptuous spa treatments, to adventures in shopping on a big or boutique scale, you're sure to leave Arlington feeling better than when you arrived! Whether you prefer luxe, laid-back or funky, you'll find your fit here.

Historical
A source of pride for all, American treasures such as Arlington National Cemetery, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima), and the Air Force Memorial are here, and Arlington is just minutes from the National Mall, monuments and Smithsonian Museums.

Of course, convenience is an amenity appreciated by all and getting to and from Arlington is a breeze. Home to Reagan National Airport (DCA), Arlington is also within easy reach of Dulles International (IAD), Baltimore/Washington International (BWI), and Washington's Union Station. With 11 Metrorail stations just minutes from the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums and other D.C. attractions, Arlington has plenty of reason to be Proud during Pride! 

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Arlington Community

SafeTrack is Here

by Admin 7. June 2016 10:43
By Brendan Casey, Arlington Transportation Partners 

On Saturday, June 4, Metro started its year-long initiative to address safety and repair issues for the Metrorail system. The repair work will be spread across 15 separate Safety Surges of intensive maintenance and repairs with the goal of compressing three years of work into one year. (See the surge schedule here) Fortunately for Arlington, many of the surges that directly affect the county are earlier in the schedule so we can get them over and done with sooner. Unfortunately though, just because a surge may not be affecting your particular commute route, does not mean you won't feel the impact of the reduced rail service elsewhere. Similar to how a single tracking event can reverberate throughout the whole Metro system, SafeTrack will only amplify this effect.

The proposition of prolonged maintenance across Metrorail and the service delays it will bring along with it, has many people re-evaluating how they will get to work. It is crucial that people throughout the region learn about and try their commute options so that they are able to adapt to the changes SafeTrack will bring. It may seem like a good idea to switch to driving alone to work if Metro is no longer an option during SafeTrack, but the roads will not be able to function if everyone switches to driving alone. Some good news is that there are a lot of transportation options that could work for your commute until Metrorail gets back to a state of good repair. Keep in mind that flexibility is key with SafeTrack; just because one commute option worked well for you during one surge does not mean it will work equally well for other surges. Here is a short list of options that are always available to businesses and their employees.

If any of these options are not currently available for your business; contact ATP. We can help formalize, set up or establish a sustainable program for your employees during SafeTrack and beyond.

Photo Credit: Sam Kittner for ATP

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Arlington Community | Travel | Workforce

Virginia Attorney General Says Virginia Law Prohibits Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Perhaps Sexual Orientation

by Admin 1. June 2016 10:21

by Douglas Taylor, Jr., Esq., Bean, Kinney, & Korman

Are you one of those Virginia employers who has not updated your EEO policies to include prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation? If you are, then the time may have come to make those changes. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently issued an advisory opinion regarding the Virginia Human Rights Act ("VHRA"). In the opinion, he concluded that the VHRA bans discrimination on the basis of "sex" and also prohibits discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" and, possibly, "sexual orientation."

The advisory opinion partly relies on last month's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. There, the Court ruled that a school board regulation limiting the use of student restrooms and locker facilities to a student's "biological or birth gender" violated Title IX, which has been interpreted by the federal government to require schools to treat transgender students consistent with their "gender identity."

The VHRA and the Issue of the Definition of "Sex"

While the VHRA forbids discrimination on the basis of "sex," it does not actually define "sex." However, there are indications that the Virginia legislature intended it to prohibit discriminatroy behavior to the same extent as federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title IX and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Therefore, Attorney General Herring looked to federal authority to answer the question of what the term "sex" means under the VHRA.

What Does Federal Authority Say About Gender Identity and the Definition of "Sex"?

Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the 4th Circuit have squarely decided whether federal law bars discrimination based on gender identity. Still, Attorney General Herring found that there have been federal cases related to the issue, including Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, a case in which the Supreme Court concluded that federal law prohibited discrimination that relied on impermissible sex-stereotyping based on gender identity.

Subsequent to Price Waterhouse, a number of federal courts nationwide have allowed sex discrimination claims brought by transgender plantiffs to move forward on the theory of sex stereotyping. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has gone even further, deciding in 2012 that "intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination 'based on sex,' and such discrimination therefore violates Title VII."With the combined weight of these federal authorities, Attorney General Herring concluded that under Virginia law, "sex" encompasses "gender identity." It is not clear whether the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender identity and, perhaps, sexual orientation, will extend to state anti-discrimination statutes other than the VHRA. 

What About Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation?

It remains an open question whether discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited by Virginia law. Attorney General Herring found it significant that an increasing number of federal courts across the country have begun to apply the sex-stereotyping theory from Price Waterhouse to find discriminatory treatment in cases involving gays and lesbians - decisions that are in accord with the position taken by the EEOC.

Ultimately, Attorney General Herring concluded that Virginia law would remain unchanged the issue of sexual orientation, because no federal court has yet to adopt the view that "sex" equates to "sexual orientation." However, he made clear his belief that a Virginia court faced with the issue of sexual orientation discrimination "would likely find that discriminatory conduct against gay and lesbian Virginians based on sex-stereotyping or treating them less favorably on account of their sex violates the Commonwealth's anti-discrimination statutes."

Final Thoughts

While the scope of Virginia's anti-discrimination law has yet to be determined with finality, momentum clearly seems to favor expanding the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of "sex" to also include a ban on discrimination because of "gender identify" and "sexual orientation." Therefore, with the issuance of Attorney General Herring's advisory opinion, it may be prudent for Virginia employers to expand their EEO policies to prohibit job discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, despite some continuing uncertainty.   

 

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DOL Announces Final Rule Updating FLSA Overtime Regulations: Now is the Time for Employers to Reassess Compliance

by Admin 25. May 2016 08:51

by Rachelle Hill, Littler Mendelson

The Department of Labor (DOL) published its long-awaited Final Rule to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations regarding "white collar" overtime exemptions.  The final rule:

  • Sets the minimum salary level for administrative, executive, and professional overtime expemtion at $913 per week ($47,476 annualized) - up from the current $455 per week ($23,660 annualized);
  • Sets the total compensation level for highly-compensated employees at $134,004 annually - up from the current $100,000;
  • Provides for automatic increases in the salary level every three years (beginning January 1, 2020) - with the minimum salary level indexed to the 40th percentile of full-time salary workers in the lowest wage Cenus region (the Southeast region), and the highly-compensated employees level indexed to the 90th percentile of national full time salary workers;
  • Allows employers to count nondiscretionary bonuses and other incentive payments, including commissions, paid on at least a quarterly basis, for up to 10% of the minimum salary level;
  • Allows for a quarterly make-up payment, although the details on the make-up payment are not yet available;
  • Does not change any of the duties-based requirements (or the concurrent duties test) in the white-collar exemptions; and
  • Does not change the salary basis test, other than increasing the salary level.
The Final Rule will not become effective until December 1, 2016, giving employers approximately 200 days to prepare for and implement changes to comply with the new regulations.
 
What options does an employer have for ensuring compliance with the changes? 
 
There are four primary options for compliance:
  1. Raise individual employee's salaries;
  2. Maintain current salaries, with overtime after 40 hours;
  3. Maintain current salaries and limit time to 40 hours; or
  4. Adjust employee wages 
Option 1: Raise Salaries
 
Employers may consider raising salaries to at or above the $47,476 level for employees whose salaries are close to the level, who regularly work overtime, and who otherwise meet the primary duties test (See WHD Fact Sheet # 17A: Exemption for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer & Outside Sale Employees under the FLSA). This is an option for employees currently properly classified as exempt, meaning they previously hit the salary level and they meet the primary duties test.
 
Option 2: Maintain Current Salaries and Pay Overtime 
 
An employer may keep in place current salaries and pay overtime for hours above 40 per week. While the FLSA requires that employers pay time and a half for overtime, an employer is not required to pay employees on an hourly basis and can continue paying on a salary basis provided the overtime pay is paid and appropriately documented in records (See WHD Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
 
Option 3: Maintain Current Salaries and Limit Hours to 40
 
Employers may continue with current salaries and limit employees to working 40 hours per week by readjusting work load or hiring new employees.  Employers choosing this option must be careful to avoid any "off the clock" issues, i.e. an employee at home at night responding to work e-mails on his/her phone.
 
Option 4: Adjust Employee Wages
 
Employers may adjust employees' wages to reallocate the total amount between regular wages and overtime so the amount paid remains the same.  The hourly rate would have to be a set rate paid according to time worked each week and cannot fluctuate.  To determine this, an employer can use the following formula:
 
Weekly Salary/(40 + (OT hours * 1.5))
 
For example, an employee works 45 hours per week at a salary of $37,000 ($711.54 per week).  Using this formula ($711.54/ (40+ (5 * 1.5)), an employer may pay an hour rate of $15 and overtime rate of $22.50, making his/her weekly rate $712.50.  Another option is to pay the employee a weekly salary of $600 per week and pay overtime for hours above 40.
 
What should an employer do now?
 
Employers should reassess their FLSA compliance now, determine what changes they will need to make, and determine how they will message the changes to employees. Employers should take advantage of this rare opportunity to correct classification issues with reduced risk of triggering litigation.  However, litigation may occur because of failing to act or failing to put in place proper systems to track hours, therefore it is critical for employers to start assessing compliance now and ensure that they properly message and document the changes.
 
FLSA & Final Rule Background
 
The FLSA is a federal statute that requires most employees to be paid, at least, the federal minimum wage and overtime pay at time and a half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40.
 
The statute also provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, computer, or highly compensated employees, the "white collar" exemptions.  To qualify for these exemptions an employee must meet the salary minimum and the "primary duties" test.
 
The Final Rule is in response to a 2014 directive from President Obama to "modernize and streamline the existing overtime regulations." The Obama Administration indicated that the current FLSA exemptions for overtime requirements had not kept up with inflation (the current salary level of $23,660 is below the poverty line level for a family of four).  The regulations haven't been updated since 2004 under the Bush Administration.
 
The entire final rule and preamble is available in PDF form (a lengthy 508 pages) on the Federal Register's website. The Department of Labor has published a summary guidance on its website including guidance aimed at private employers and higher education institutions.  

 

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Chamber Intern Meets VA Governor

by Admin 18. May 2016 09:24

by Iyuram Ghebrekristos - Arlington Chamber of Commerce

On May 12, 2016 Governor McAuliffe of Virginia visited one of Arlington's public high schools, Wakefield High School, where he signed three education bills into law. It was impressive watching the Governor arrive in his helicopter and land next to Wakefield. I even had the opportunity to shake the Governor's hand. After being introduced by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, Governor McAuliffe explained that the traditional method of education hasn't changed much since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. The purpose of the three bills was to redesign Virginia's public school system by changing the typical classroom environment currently in existence. The idea behind these bills is the realization that not all students want, need, or should go to college. By 2018, construction of career and technical education centers will be completed where high school students will have the opportunity to receive a technical certificate in high demand occupations such as cyber security or other STEM fields, or if they choose a college track will have the opportunity to take courses to prepare them for post-secondary education. Students will be exposed to all post-graduation opportunities whether they decide to enter the workforce after high school or attend a post-secondary institution. These opportunities such as career and technical education and dual enrollment courses are designed to prepare students to tackle whichever track they pursue after high school. Having a strong education system and a talented workforce makes the Commonwealth a more desireable place to do business and to live. Meeting the Governor was an opportunity of a lifetime, and a great supplement to the government class I'm currently taking.

 

Phote courtesy of Wakefield High School Principal, Dr. Christian Willmore

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The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

by Admin 13. May 2016 09:23

by Alex Held - Arlington Chamber of Commerce

Seven months ago, the students participating in the Arlington Chamber's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) began as just that, students. Throughout the course of seven months these students transformed into CEOs of their own companies, creating nine different unique businesses representing a variety of industries such as lawn care, retail, and technology.


Many of the students began YEA!, a unique program that takes middle and high school students on an entrepreneurial journey, without any business idea at all; however, with the help of their enthusiastic instructors, Charlie Sibbald of Marymount Unversity and Barbara Nicastro, founder of her own law practice, the students soon realized they could turn their hobby into a business, or come up with unique solutions to problems in their everyday lives. One student who was a shining example of turning a hobby into a business was Rose McGough who before moving to the United States enjoyed making beaded jewelry and custom made t-shirts for her friends and family. With the help of her business savvy Co-Founder & Classmate Dylan Cunningham, along with their resourceful business mentor, Rebecca Dunn of Neoniche StrategiesAvvo Apparel was formed which designs and sells custom made t-shirts and jewelry.

Other students such as Michael Freeman took a different approach to brainstorming a business idea thus solving a problem. To Michael, the current high school yearbook lacked the customization and affordability that many high school students in the 21st Century demanded. With every problem comes a solution and thus Pivloo was born which is a customizable digital yearbook app designed for high school and college students. Not only was Michael able to prove to a panel of investors that his idea was good enough for them to invest $1,000, but the investors also selected Michael to represent the YEA! Arlington program at the YEA! Saunders Scholars Semi-finals in Rochester, NY where he competed among the top student businesses from YEA! chapters across the country. "While I wasn't selected to compete at America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. in June, participating in YEA! has allowed me the opportunity not only to improve my skills, but also provided me with the opportunity to make valuable connections with local business leaders all while learning from their experiences as entrepreneurs," said Michael when asked about his experience in the YEA! Program.

Now that the YEA! 2015-2016 program has come to a close, many of the studets have already leveraged their connections made throughout the seven month program. Some have even gone so far as to incorporate their business as an LLC. Whatever the next stage for these students is, we know that they will go on to do many great things, and we look forward to see what's in store for them next. 

For more information about getting involved in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy please contact Membership Engagement Manager Alex Held at aheld@arlingtonchamber.org or (703) 525-2400. 

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RANSOMWARE

by Admin 4. May 2016 11:02

 By Larry Trotter II - SOTERIA

The truth is Ransomware can be the demise of any business. If the proper security measures aren't put in place to reduce the risk of a compromise, businesses can end up paying in terms of money, customer rentention, data loss, and reputation. Ransomware malware has not gained momentum in recent news because it is new, but because of its reputation when it comes to businesses. Its ease of distribution and success rates in terms of extortion and compromise makes it attractive to hackers.

Recent attacks are primarily seen in the healthcare industry because of their lack of security controls. Hospitals' abundance of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) also makes it an attractive target. The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid 40 Bitcoins which is about $17,000 for the release of their files earlier this year. Medstar Washington Hospital, a more recent victim, experienced systemwide downtime for one week because the malware encrypted the hospital's EPHI systems.

Small businesses are cut no slack either. Houston based firm Advantage Benefits Solutions faced the terror of Ransomware and paid a fee to return its systems to normal functionality. Small businesses are low hanging fruit for attackers and they know that these businesses don't spend the money to properly secure its infrastructure making them an easy target. Law enforcement agencies are overworked with these incidents, so paying the ransom is not frowned upon. In June of 2015 the FBI estimated CryptoWall, a Ransomware variant, cost US organizations $18 million over the previous year. Researchers have seen an uptick in the malware as 4 million samples were discovered in the third quarter of 2013. 

Ransomware is a family of malware also called malicious code that is used to encrypt the data on your computer and/or mobile device. The data is held hostage for a ransom fee usually paid in Bitcoin. Once the money is received from the victim, the hacker provides a key to unencrypt the data on the device. Extortion is another technique used by Ransomware where hackers demand money in exchange for not releasing sensitive documents that they have obtained from the computers taken hostage. The malware continuously evolves into improved versions including updates to evade detection mechanisms and can also be distributed with other exploits. Security companies are only recently developing 'ideal' solutions to truly detect and prevent full hard drive encryption by the malware.

To reduce the risk of your computers becoming infected with the malware you must take a layered approach. The malware is often distributed by phishing email campaigns, removable media such as USB devices and visiting malicious websites. End-user training is by far the most effective measure of defense. Routine simulations to test your employee's ability to identify suspicious emails and or rogue media are critical to prevention. Reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate IT personnel is important as well. From a network security standpoint, implementing Anti-Virus, DLP and other detection platforms all help reduce the risk of compromise. 

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Arlington Community | Business Owners | Legal

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