Gov. William Donald Schaefer embarked yesterday on a two-week trip to Europe to explore new trade opportunities for Maryland firms.
The governor said he is traveling to Eastern Europe, Germany and the Netherlands to encourage companies to invest in Maryland and reinforce trade partnerships. He also wants to promote the state as a tourist destination.
"You don't just walk into a foreign country and expect to get contracts," Mr. Schaefer said at a news conference before departing from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "You have to build relationships."
He has gone on 11 similar trade missions as governor. Last year, Mr. Schaefer traveled to England, Italy, Germany and the new Republic of Slovenia, which he is visiting again this time.
Accompanying the governor are Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development; Scott Blacklin, who heads DEED's Maryland International Division; and Lt. Harry J. Spicer of the Maryland State Police. J. Owen Cole, former chairman of First National Bank of Maryland and a longtime confidant of Mr. Schaefer, also went on the trip.
The venture is expected to cost the state government no more than $90,000, said Page Boinest, spokeswoman for the governor.
Mr. Schaefer is traveling first to Slovenia, where he will meet with the prime minister and visit a refugee camp. Marylanders have donated supplies to the camp for families fleeing war-torn Bosnia, Mr. Schaefer said.
The governor will then travel to Slovakia to visit with President Roman Kovac and explore opportunities for Westinghouse to build a new airport. Slovakia is about the size of Maryland and ideal for future growth, Mr. Wasserman said.
For the Slovakian leg alone, Milan Svec of the Maryland International Division will join the governor. Audrey Theis, assistant secretary of the Division of Business Resources, is meeting the group in Germany.
Mr. Schaefer said yesterday that he sees opportunities in Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands to market the state's growing environmental technologies. He has taken along a directory of Maryland environmental firms.
In Germany, Mr. Schaefer will meet with officials of Daimler-Benz, which has a plant in Harford County, and the parent company of American Track Systems, a Halethorpe-based firm that specializes in high-speed railroad technology. He also wants to learn more about Germany's apprenticeship program for high school graduates who aren't pursuing college degrees.
The governor plans to promote the state to German travel writers before his final stop June 17 in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, he will meet with several companies with interests in Maryland.
Mr. Wasserman said 85,000 jobs in the state have been created by foreign investment. He and Mr. Blacklin emphasized with the governor that the trade mission would be "hard work -- not a joy trip."