War Hurts Md. Exporters

January 26, 1991|By Graeme Browning

At this time of year Richard Terlep normally would be spending long hours on the telephone and on trans-Atlantic flights submitting bids for one of his largest clients to the Jordanian government.

The war in the Persian Gulf has changed all that.

Since Jan. 17, "business in Jordan has come to a screeching halt," said Mr. Terlep, whose Towson-based export-management company, Exito International Inc., helps small and medium-sized companies develop sales worldwide.

Like Mr. Terlep, other Marylanders selling products or providing services in the Middle East felt the impact of war almost as soon as the first bombs were dropped.

The longer the fighting goes on, they say, the greater that impact is likely to become.

The outbreak of hostilities "affected our business outright because one of the countries where we're active is Sudan, which took Saddam Hussein's side," said Morris Tischler, president of Overseas Marketing Group Co., a Baltimore-based company that provides job training programs for developing countries in Africa and the Middle East.

"Since we only work with governments, when there's a problem we feel it," Mr. Tischler said. The war in the gulf "didn't cancel our contracts, but just about everything's on hold. It's really depressing, after we've worked so hard."

In Dickerson, executives at Neutron Products Inc., which makes radioactive sources for devices used in the treatment of cancer, are trying to figure out how to make shipments to a client in Thailand now that many ships are laden with war material.

"All the vessels that go our way are full of things for Desert Storm," said Marvin Turkanis, vice president of the 90-employee company. "I just hope it's all over soon."

For now, U.S. trade in the Middle East appears to have slackened. Mr. Terlep estimates, for example, that purchasing by governments in the region has dropped as much as 40 percent.

In the past few years, Exito has worked extensively in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as Jordan, where Mr. Terlep's client -- a maker of X-ray processing equipment and chemicals that he declines to name -- sells supplies to Jordan's government-owned hospitals.

Like other Jordanian agencies, the hospital system usually solicits bids from January to March, "but I think they're kind of paralyzed at the moment," Mr. Terlep said. Even in Saudi Arabia, tightly regimented government bidding "has slowed to a crawl."

Exito also has an office in Istanbul, Turkey, and Mr. Terlep worries about his employees there in the wake of recent anti-war protests and bombings of U.S. corporate offices in Turkey. "I had a distributor in Kuwait, but I haven't heard from him since August," he said.

Because of the time they have spent in the Middle East, however, some of the business people predict a relatively short war.

Mr. Tischler, who worked in Iran before the rule of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said he watched the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s with interest.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, he said, "I thought to myself, 'Iraq can't be that great if it couldn't beat the Iranians in eight years of war.' I think Saddam's threats are more braggadocio than performance."

When the fighting does end, Mr. Terlep predicts, Americans will benefit from reconstruction efforts. "There will be a certain amount of gratitude officially directed by the Kuwaiti government toward the United States, since we'll generally be seen as the liberators," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.