Starting this fall, you can let your fingers do the walking through the Maryland Fax Directory, the first directory of fax numbers for Maryland businesses.
The directory is the brainchild of Howard Shapiro of Baltimore, a former fuel executive who came up with the idea by accident. Mr. Shapiro said he stumbled across the idea when he asked his secretary to look up a fax number in the local fax directory -- only to be informed that no such directory existed.
"At that second I realized there was this huge need that hadn't been potentialized yet," said Mr. Shapiro,president of Baltimore-based Unified Systems Inc., a newly formed publishing company.
Mr. Shapiro said he initiated a feasibility study to find out if his hunch was right. He hired an outside firm to survey area businesses' fax habits and here's what it found: Out of the 150,000 businesses in the Greater Baltimore area, 88 percent (128,000) have fax machines. Most have two machines, each of which sends out an average of 10 pages of faxes a day.
"I had no idea the numbers were that big," said Mr. Shapiro. "I was flabbergasted."
Because there is no central listing of Maryland fax numbers, Mr. Sha
piro and his staff are having to collect them by calling businesses up one by one and asking for permission to list their fax numbers.
There is no charge to list fax numbers in the directory. There is, however, a charge to place ads.
Mr. Shapiro said he hopes to have about 80 percent of all area businesses in the first edition, to be printed this fall. About 100,000 copies will be distributed free of charge.
If the book is successful, Mr. Shapiro said he plans to produce similar directories in other cities.
Unified Systems has a copyright on the name and structure of the book, which will be arranged alphabetically by business names.