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Best Week, Worst Week: McCormick upgrades forecast; transportation secretary hit with BPW road rage

best-mccormick-rahnMcCormick & Co. Inc. kept moving along this week with reports of increased sales and profit, unlike motorists crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as the state’s transportation secretary was the target of a different kind of road rage for frustrated motorists.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Tuesday that McCormick officials said the Hunt Valley-based spice maker enjoyed a strong third quarter as a result of the company’s successful execution of its growth strategies and strong fundamentals.

The company now expects adjusted earnings per share to be between $5.30 and $5.35 for the year, up from previous forecasts of between $5.25 and $5.30. The stock market reacted positively to the earnings, with the price of McCormick shares rising more than 6.9% on Tuesday.

Sales grew in McCormick’s consumer segment, up $175.5 million from last year’s third quarter and up nearly $450 million for the first nine months of the year, compared to the same period last year. The consumer growth was driven by sales in the Americas and Asia, with the company attributing the growth to new products, marketing and a strong product mix along with higher prices in Asia.

As they have in its past earnings calls this quarter, McCormick executives also said they are looking into new acquisitions. Two years ago the company made a significant acquisition when it acquired RB Foods, which included Frank’s Red Hot and French’s. It has been paying down the debt from that deal faster than necessary, opening the balance sheet for the potential of a new deal.

Meanwhile, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn was taken to task Wednesday for lengthy traffic jams resulting from maintenance work on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge during a sometimes terse exchange with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Comptroller Peter Franchot during the Board of Public Works’ meeting.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears reported Wednesday the recent problems began last week when the Maryland Transportation Authority began work on a $27 million maintenance project on westbound lanes of the bridge. The work resulted in what Franchot described as anger and frustration as motorists were trapped in a traffic jam that he estimated stretched for 14 miles and lasted for more than 10 hours.

Rahn said the project, approved in 2014, included numerous warnings of potential delays including notices sent over the summer. He said the start of the project last week was “no surprise to hardly anyone,” but admitted the resulting backup, which resulted in the state suspending tolls for nearly three hours, resulted from both unseasonably warm weather that spurred people to get in one more trip to the beach and some traffic incidents that impaired the flow of the traffic.

Rahn apologized for MDOT’s lack of having a response planned in advance for such an occurrence and reassured the BPW members the department is doing everything it can to avoid future problems.

Rahn said more seasonal temperatures will also likely mean less traffic headed to the Eastern Shore. He said that will allow the agency to get through the planned construction season until late April, when all lanes re-open for the summer.

The secretary attempted to reassure the board that the project included a heightened public awareness campaign, but took exception to criticisms in a brief exchange with BPW members that the whole project would have received more scrutiny had the contract been vetted by the three-member panel.