Maryland's International Marketing Efforts Get Boost

by Alice Cherbonnier

ECONOMIC CHANGE is pervasive in the world economy, but too often we're only aware of it when it hits home, and that could be too late. Businesses and industries are learning, sometimes belatedly, that their survival-let alone prosperity-depends on expanding markets for goods and services. If the local economy is weak, it makes sense to look farther afield.
In Maryland and Baltimore City, there's an ongoing effort to establish international trade connections. Increasingly, governmental entities and related non-profits have been setting up meetings between officials and business leaders, offering seminars to educate businesses of the perils and potential of international trade, and, often with the help of volunteers, entertaining international visitors.
Most of the international juggernaut, as might be expected, is headquartered at Baltimore's World Trade Center, which serves the entire Mid-Atlantic region.
At the same time that these international outreach efforts need to expand, however, there have been budget cuts and reorganizations within these support organizations. Some of these changes are also intended to eliminate duplications of effort.
On June 1, the Maryland International Center (MIC, formerly named the Baltimore Council for International Visitors) and the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) announced their merger.
Harold L. Adams, an architect who heads RTKL Associates, Inc. and serves as chairman of the board of WTCI, said the consolidation "opens up new possibilities for two-way international exchange and training."
Services formerly provided through MIC, such as its Guide to Interpreters and Translators, will now be available through WTCI. Collaboration, in fact, is the key to the region's international marketing effort. An attractive free monthly newsletter, WorldViews, is published jointly by the Maryland International Trade Association, the Office of International Business (formerly the Maryland Office of International Trade; the new name became effective July 1) of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and the WCTI.
WCTI is the organization that brings the private sector into the picture. Its 25-member board includes representatives from several large law firms, corporations ranging from McCormick & Company, Inc. to Crown Central Petroleum Corp. to Westinghouse Electronic Systems Co., large accounting and investment firms, a publisher (Waverly, Inc.), food purveyors (GiantFood, Inc. and Phillips Foods), a travel company, and the non-profit International Youth Foundation, among others. WCTI's executive director is Penelope W. Menzies.
WCTI's board and staff represent nearly 300 members. Most of them, as might be expected, represent major corporate interests; but others are smaller local companies that have already established, or are seeking to start up, ventures linking them with overseas markets.
WCTI, which has counterparts in most World Trade Centers throughout the world, has established specialized business networks in two targeted regions, Latin America and Asia.
On May 3, the World Trade Resource Center (WTRC) opened in the World Trade Center. It offers an international trade reference library and can provide inquirers with details on emerging markets and export trends, investment reports, international product sources, upcoming trade shows, and international contacts. Initial consultations are free for Maryland companies.
Founding partners of WTRC include Advance Business Systems, BGE, Signet Bank, the Maryland Port Administration, and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Another recent development is a partnership between the boards of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center, so that members of each can share benefits of the other. This fall the two organizations plan joint membership programs.
Those with good ideas but insufficient capital may qualify for assistance from the Maryland Trade Assistance Program (MTAP). For example, Jet-Blast Products Corp., a local producer of environmentally sound cleaning instruments, qualified for a $5,000 grant to allow its representative to attend a trade show in Germany, which resulted in a $30,000 sales opportunity.
Until the Civil War, Baltimore was a major hub of world commerce. Now it looks as if this history may well be repeated, and that will be good news indeed for the local economy.

For information about the WCTI or the WTRC, call 576-0022; request a copy of the WorldView newsletter. Call 333-8180 for the Office of International Business, or 256-2580 for the MD International Trade Association.

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This story was published on July 3, 1996.