ANNAPOLIS -- Citing budgetary reasons, Maryland has decided to close its $500,000-a-year office in Tokyo, a state official said yesterday.
Because the office had not been producing enough Japanese investment in Maryland, and because the state's budget problems were worsening, the Department of Economic and Employment Development decided to consolidate its Far East presence in Honk Kong, said Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the department.
The Maryland International Division's foreign operations have drawn fire from state legislators and auditors, who have criticized the expense and questioned the return on Maryland's investment.
Michael Grose, who was paid $146,000 a year under a contract with DEED's International Division to run the office, was informed last week by the acting director of the division that his services would no longer be needed, Mr. Wasserman said.
"We have reached a mutual parting of the ways with Michael Grose, and in the course of making that move, it seemed appropriate to take a longer look at the way we conduct business in Japan," the secretary said.
Mr. Grose's removal was effective immediately. Helen Peterson, who runs the International Division's Hong Kong office, will oversee all Far East operations, Mr. Wasserman said.
The state also has an office in Brussels, Belgium, which is unaffected by last week's move.
The 10-year-old Tokyo office has been devoted almost exclusively to what Mr. Wasserman called "reverse investment," the effort to interest Japanese investors in Maryland products and services.
Mr. Wasserman said his department decided to close the office because of its half-million-dollar annual cost and the continuing decline in investment from Japan.
Mr. Grose, interviewed in Tokyo, declined to discuss the situation, except to say, "I am deeply grateful for my years of state service, but budgetary constraints required the state to make some difficult choices."