Bringing the world to Howard County

March 31, 1994

Now that the Baltimore Metropolitan Council has launched a long overdue campaign to lure national and international businesses to the Baltimore-Washington corridor, look for Howard County to be a key selling point and a main beneficiary of the effort. To be sure, companies looking to settle hereabouts will be told of the entire region and its sundry attractions, but Howard might be the area's easiest sell.

For starters, prospective settlers could read the recent issue of American Demographics magazine that ranked Howard County fourth among mid-sized U.S. localities with the highest concentrations of affluence. Howard offers a top-flight labor force and a consumer market with much disposable income.

A well-heeled populace isn't the only advantage the county enjoys. Its government is seen as being friendly to business. The county boasts a number of companies in burgeoning high-technology fields. And, perhaps most important of all, it possesses the crucial element of lucky geography. Major airports, interstate highways and the Port of Baltimore are within easy reach. So are foreign embassies in Washington, D.C. -- a strong selling point for overseas companies thinking of locating here.

Howard County has the second-highest concentration of foreign business investment among Maryland jurisdictions (Montgomery County is No. 1). These outlays by countries from France to Japan have already created 2,000 jobs in Howard County -- about 35 of them resulting from Icelandair's recent move from New York to Columbia. Those 2,000 are fewer than 2 percent of all jobs in the county. The BMC campaign aims to increase that number for Howard County, and for other local jurisdictions.

The "one-stop shop" that opened at Baltimore's World Trade Center last month to help small and medium-size businesses cut through export red tape should help toward that goal. The U.S. Export Assistance Center, one of four to open nationwide, arose from legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md.

Also, Howard County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray will go to Taiwan next month for the National Association of Counties' international trade task force. He first will poll county businesses to determine what exportable items they produce. These are the kinds of cooperative efforts the public and private sectors must mount if they are to build Maryland's foreign trade.

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