Montgomery County signs nondisclosure agreement with Amazon

Don’t expect to hear much more from county officials about ongoing negotiations with Amazon to land the company’s second headquarters. County spokesman Patrick Lacefield told WAMU the county signed a nondisclosure agreement with Amazon that largely bars local officials from revealing details about negotiations as the company vets its shortlist of 20 jurisdictions that remain in competition for the headquarters. WAMU reported that  officials in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., two other locations that made the list, also signed nondisclosure agreements, while reporters in Newark and Pittsburgh reported those shortlisted jurisdictions signed agreements as well.

The county has not revealed the specific financial incentives offered to woo Amazon nor revealed the site it pitched, although government officials with knowledge of the bid have said the county pitched the White Flint area. Earlier this month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan detailed a $5 billion incentive package the state plans to offer the company that includes about $3 billion in tax incentives and an additional $2 billion in unspecified transportation improvements.

The requested silence is a change from Amazon’s initial open policy when it solicited bids from jurisdictions across North America and detailed the infrastructure, amenities and workforce it sought from potential headquarters locations.

The company is expected to announce its choice of location by the end of this year.



SANS Institute offers free cybersecurity training

The Bethesda-based training company SANS Institute secured an EARN grant from Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to provide 80 state residents with full scholarships to study cybersecurity.

The company is accepting applications to the program through March 8 on its website. The three- to four-month program will train students how to handle cybersecurity incidents with training geared toward the skills sought by employers in the state. The company will focus on recruiting women and veterans, which the state has encouraged, according to the SANS Institute.


The program first began in 2015 and since then the SANS Institute has trained about 200 students in cybersecurity.

The state offers a variety of EARN workforce grants to employers in the state, with the grants averaging about $180,000, according to the labor department.

John O’Keefe, chief information security officer at Chevy Chase-based insurance company Geico, said in a statement the program will help train employees in a sector that’s growing in the regional economy.


“We expect a significant shortage of cybersecurity talent in the future, so this is excellent news,” O’Keefe said in the statement.


Activity Rocket acquired by Thrively



Activity Rocket, a local startup founded in 2011 by two Bethesda residents that offers an online platform designed to connect parents with kids’ activities in the Washington metropolitan area, announced this week it has been acquired by Thrively.

Thrively is an internet service that provides an opportunity for kids to take a “strength assessment” to determine activities and content that align with their personalities and then allows parents and teachers to connect to those resources. Thrively says on its website it has about 600,000 users on its platform. The company was started by experienced tech talent including Girish Venkat, who was the chief architect of, and Jon Kraft, who was the founding CEO of the music streaming platform Pandora.


Terms of the deal were not included in an announcement Activity Rocket distributed to its users. Lisa Friedlander and Ilene Miller founded Activity Rocket in 2011.