Maryland's Export Boom

October 06, 1990

Exports of Maryland-made goods are booming. Shipments from the state's major producers to world markets rose 25 percent last year to $3.17 billion. This rise in exports, now the fastest growing sector of the state's economy, represents TC bright spot in an otherwise murky economic picture. As domestic sales stall, the ability to sell to existing and new markets abroad becomes paramount, diffusing the threat of layoffs and lower corporate profits.

Much of the credit for Maryland's export performance goes to the hard work of local executives. The efforts of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his international trade contingent have helped, too, providing access to the heads of state so critical to commerce in other parts of the world.

The good news in exports represents the flowering of strategic seeds planted in the mid-'80s. In recent years, state economic development officials have correctly pushed foreign trade as an opportunity for entrepreneurs, as well as a hedge against maturing, increasingly competitive domestic markets. Today, close to 4,000 Maryland firms export goods or services. There are another 2,000 more Maryland businesses whose products and services could successfully be marketed abroad.

The future for such activity looks bright. The opening of Eastern Europe and the stable, growing economies in Japan and Western Europe represent strong markets for Maryland-produced goods. The falling dollar is another plus that makes locally produced products attractive abroad.

This is especially true for such commodities as grain, timber, wheat and coal, which rank high on the list of Maryland exports. Fabricated metals used in transportation equipment are big in Western European markets. Eels from the Chesapeake Bay, once thrown away by fisherman, are big sellers in Japan.

Supplying foreigners with these and other products at attractive prices should remain a top priority with state economic development officials -- and the state's chief executive. At first blush, it is not easy to make the connection between the estimated $600,000 underwritten by taxpayers to bankroll the governor's first-class foreign economic development jaunts. But those excursions have generated $140 million in capital investment in Maryland, $21.5 million in trade and 814 new jobs. Not a bad return on investment.

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