As barriers to free trade overseas begin crumbling, the distance between Anne Arundel County and Europe seems to be shrinking.
At least that's how things appear to sponsors of an international business center headquartered at Anne Arundel Community College.
The Enterprise Center for International Education and Business has begun recruiting business people from small- to mid-sized companiesto join a delegation that will travel this spring to West Sussex County, England.
By December, the 12-nation European Community plans to unite and form the world's largest trading bloc, boasting 340 million consumers with $4 trillion in buying power. In 1985, the countries agreed to a campaign aimed at boosting European economies and allowing easier competition with American and Japanese companies by endingintra-European Community border controls and establishing a communitywide market for banking, insurance and securities.
The delegationis expected to get a jump on that new market.
The county group will spend a week in seminars and discussions, learning trade policies and business practices, making contacts and becoming immersed in another culture.
"It's an excellent way to expand your market," said Gary W. Thomas, the center's director and the assistant dean and chairman of the college's business division. "You can't simulate that witha seminar here. You've got to travel and be there."
The Enterprise Center, partially financed through a $95,000 U.S. Department of Education grant, opened last August to help local firms build business with European nations.
Besides the upcoming business exchange with Northbrook College in Worthing, England, and the West Sussex Federation of Industries, the center is working on a new international business degree to be offered through the college, has sponsored practical seminars on exporting and expects to become a countywide export-market clearinghouse.
"There's a need in Anne Arundel County and the state, to be more involved in exporting and importing," Thomas said. "It's been fascinating in the past year to see what's happening worldwide."
Some 32 local firms export goods or services, according to county Office of Economic Development statistics. That office is one ofthe Enterprise Center's sponsors, along with the community college, the Anne Arundel Trade Council, the Maryland International Division, the World Trade Center Institute and two British sponsors, NorthbrookCollege and the Federation of Sussex Industries.
The community college formed a partnership in 1985 with Northbrook College for student and faculty exchanges.
The center is looking for about a dozen business people to travel to England for the May 17-24 trip. The cost is approximately $2,000.