Exporting Frederick to the World

April 21, 1991

The recession is not without a silver lining. Hard economic times at home are forcing businesses to aggressively seek markets overseas. Yet though exports of Maryland-made goods rose 25 percent to $3.17 billion in 1990, much of the state's foreign trade potential is still untapped. Frederick County is a case in point. Only 63 out the county's 3,000 businesses are selling internationally, although many more could do so.

Up to now the county has not pushed exports in a coordinated fashion. But a state-sponsored survey of Frederick companies' foreign sales efforts has now led to discussion about forming an export council. Such a coordinating body could help small and mid-sized firms in particular to enter world markets.

A list of items Frederick County exports shows that the daring and the imaginative are rewarded. "Because Frederick has so many high-tech firms, many exports are electronic or computer technology," said James Graham of the county's Economic and Community Development Commission.

The helicopter public address systems used by allied forces in the Persian Gulf war were made in Frederick, as are many other types of military equipment. But Frederick also sells such low-tech items as dog food and flooring. And a local dairy rTC recently received a $22.5 million contract to operate a milk plant in Okinawa, Japan.

As domestic sales stall, exports to existing and new markets abroad become pivotal. They can diffuse the threats of layoffs and lower corporate profits. Exporters know by experience that when business is slack in one country, it's often booming in another. Frederick-based companies' main foreign clients are in Canada and Western Europe, with Eastern Europe and the Middle East as secondary markets. The self-interest of Frederick companies should compel them to take full advantage of the opportunities existing in those lucrative markets.

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