Foreign trade is called key to Baltimore Bank chief sees bright long term

September 18, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Baltimore's economy will tie itself ever more closely to foreign investment and trade, and disinflation and deflation likely will persist further into the 1990s, panelists told a forum at the Hyatt Inner Harbor Hotel yesterday.

"There's more disinflation and more deflation out there," said Charles W. Cole Jr., president of First Maryland Bancorp, which owns First National Bank of Maryland.

Mr. Cole said the trend began as early as 1983, when the inflation of the 1970s began to wane.

A slower rate of inflation, known as disinflation, is typically a sign of a slowing economy and hits the real estate industry particularly hard. Mr. Cole added that the region has had good times as well as bad under the recent disinflation.

He said he is fairly pessimistic about short-term economic trends but confident of Maryland's longer-term economic strength.

"More restructuring has to be done," he said, especially in state government, hit by a recessionary slowdown in tax-revenue growth. "The lack of job growth in Maryland is apparent."

But he said the recession hasn't changed longer-term regional assets, like the research capabilities of Johns Hopkins University and other institutions. "Maryland is a diversified economy," he said. "The future is quite bright.

Mr. Cole was the featured speaker at the forum, sponsored by local real estate brokerage W.C. Pinkard & Co. and Colliers International Property Consultants, a worldwide real estate network.

Panelists told the business executives, mostly real estate professionals, about business opportunities in Europe and Latin America, as well as the impact of international trade on the regional economy.

Pinkard Vice President Jeffrey B. Samet said hundreds of firms with Maryland operations have at least 10 percent foreign

ownership, including Amstar Corp., Genstar Corp. and Irish-owned First Maryland.

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