Just about every major industry is served by a trade mart -- from furniture and apparel to computers and gifts.
But the developers of the $600 million medical mart planned for Baltimore say there is nothing like the 2.5 million-square-foot complex they are planning for the medical and health-care industry -- and that is why they believe it will be a success.
According to developers Richard Swirnow and Tom Marudas of the Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd., the medical industry has three kinds of meetings, generally held in convention and conference centers and exhibit halls around the country.
They are association meetings for the thousands of different medical groups in this country; temporary exhibits for the latest medical products and supplies; and seminars for professionals who need continuing education credits.
A dentist, for example, may go to the dental convention in Minneapolis one month, browse through the trade show set up in part of the convention center, and then go to a seminar in Dallas later for continuing-education credits.
The idea behind Baltimore's medical mart, the developers say, is that it would be a permanent, centralized facility where all three kinds of meetings could be held under one roof.
By linking products, educational activities and services, they say, the project would save time and money for global companies, while also providing a competitive marketplace for small to medium-size domestic manufacturers that want to expand nationally and internationally.
"What we're talking about is centralization and combination," Mr. Marudas said. "We're talking about putting together a program where, if I'm a dentist, I can come in for my dental convention for three days, I get to see the latest in dental equipment that's in the marketplace and do comparative analysis, and I can take 10 to 15 hours of certification courses, all in a short period of time."
According to the proposal submitted to the state, the medical mart would include:
* An exhibition hall specifically designed for merchandising advanced medical technology, equipment and services, including the introduction of new products.
* Extensive office and marketing space for providers of life science services, products and technology.
* Meeting space in a wide range of configurations, including hospitality suites, and a 1,000-room convention headquarters hotel.
* A state-of-the-art conference facility, complete with a 1,100-seat auditorium and served by satellite communications systems, that would allow the medical mart to host international conferences.
Once the medical mart opens, planners say, delegates to a three-day conference who find they don't have enough time to survey all the products they want could come back at any time to visit the permanent displays in Baltimore.
And for companies marketing supplies, leasing permanent display space at the medical mart could be a cost-effective supplement to staging two or three roads shows a year, as they do now.
For the cost of going on three roads shows and reaching perhaps 30,000 people -- 10,000 per event -- a company could have a permanent exhibit in Baltimore and reach 350,000 to 400,000 a year, Mr. Marudas said. The medical mart developers, in turn, would make money by leasing space to vendors, holding seminars and hosting various association meetings.
They say the proximity of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the University of Maryland Medical System, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration make the city a highly desirable location for a medical mart.
And with its easy access to interstate highways, the MARC train line and the Baltimore Convention Center, Camden Yards is an )) ideal location for the project, they say.
"If we don't do this, somebody relatively soon, in a major city, will do it," Mr. Marudas said. "A Philadelphia will do it, or an Atlanta will do it, or a Chicago will do it. It's too big of an industry for it not to be done at some point."
One key to the medical mart's success, Mr. Swirnow said, will be to develop a center large enough that it can't easily be duplicated -- because only then will it be considered "the place to be" for anyone providing goods or services in the medical or health care fields.
"It could rent up and be very profitable at 200,000 to 300,000 square feet," Mr. Swirnow said. "But it would also be easily duplicated. And if it became duplicated, it would lose its importance as being, quote, The Place. . . . It would not be what it needs to be to the seller and buyer."