ANNAPOLIS -- As Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the Kuwaiti ambassador put their signatures on an agreement yesterday giving Maryland companies preferential treatment in supplying goods and services for the reconstruction of war-torn Kuwait, businesses around the state were already negotiating to cash in on the accord.
One of them is McNamara Fabricators Inc., a Baltimore plate and structural steel company. Charles W. Thomas Jr., McNamara's president, said that the company is bidding on a $30 million order that would be its largest contract in 10 or 15 years.
Mr. Thomas said that the order would be so large that the company could not handle it alone and would have to find Maryland subcontractors to help.
Other deals being processed by local companies include supplying 60 railroad cars of wallboard for housing construction and an order for $5 million in lumber.
Under terms of the agreement signed by the governor and Kuwaiti Ambassador Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Maryland will be a primary procurement agent and will serve as a clearing house in processing Kuwait's purchasing orders.
Assuming their prices are competitive, Kuwait has agreed to give Maryland companies the first chance to fill orders for a wide variety of equipment needed for its vast rebuilding program.
During the State House signing ceremony, Mr. al-Sabah said he "was really touched" by the state's offer earlier this year of humanitarian medical aid to the Kuwaiti people, who were deprived of medical services during the Iraqi occupation of their country.
He said that was the reason his country is opening the door for Maryland companies to cash in on his country's rebuilding process. "We wish to give as much work as we can to companies in Maryland in rebuilding Kuwait," he said before signing the agreement.
Mr. al-Sabah said that no other state has established a similar business relationship with the government of Kuwait. The ambassador could not put a dollar figure on the amount of business expected to come to the state. Others have estimated that it will cost more than $150 billion to return Kuwait to its pre-war status.
Maryland's medical offer to Kuwait consists of more more than 200 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who are ready to leave for Kuwait on 24-hour notice. The team is headed by Dr. James A. D'Orta of Franklin Square Hospital.
Governor Schaefer said yesterday that part of the team will be leaving for Kuwait within the next seven days.
The day-to-day handling of the procurement activities resulting from the pact signed yesterday will be the responsibility of the Kuwait-Maryland Partnership, an organization formed earlier this year by a group of business leaders seeking to coordinate state businesses into a one-stop shopping service for a wide variety of goods and services that the Kuwaiti government could tap.
William Parsons, president of the Partnership and of Parsons Co., an architectural and engineering company in Monkton, said yesterday that the organization expects to open an office in Kuwait City within the next few weeks.
Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, said that the state's agreement with Kuwait "is a long-term deal" and that business opportunities will be coming over a span of five to 10 years.
Louis J. Grasmick, president Grasmick Lumber Co. and one of the
founders of the Kuwait-Maryland Partnership, said four companies are bidding on the $700,000 wallboard contract, including two Baltimore companies: United States Gypsum and National Gypsum Co.
Mr. Grasmick said that orders processed through the partnership will give Maryland companies the right of last refusal in the bidding process.
This means that if a out-of-state company's bid can be undercut by a Maryland company, the contract would go the the state firm, he explained.
"We hope all the business comes from Maryland," he said. "We're very selfish about this."
Milton F. Borkowski, a vice president with the locally based Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group, emerged from a luncheon meeting with the ambassador saying the Mr. al-Sabah encouraged him to go to Kuwait as fast as he could get there.
The ambassador said his country needed power generators and air-traffic control equipment that could be supplied by Westinghouse.