Doing Business in a Foreign Tongue

January 24, 1995

Item: Perlarom Technologies Inc. of Belgium selects Howard County as the location of its second facility in the United States. The Brussels-based flavor company will occupy a 15,000-square-foot building in Columbia this spring, with plans to use the facility for research and development at first and later for manufacturing.

Item: The Brick House Farm Spring Water Co. of Clarksville makes its initial forays into international markets. Deals to sell Brick House bottled water in Mexico and South Korea could reap sales of up to $18 million.

Add these two items to Howard County's thickening portfolio of foreign business involvement.

The Perlarom story is another example of how foreign-owned companies have taken a strong interest in Howard County. Overseas firms, many of them involved in high-tech industries, can't help but see a lot they like when they look at Howard: a well-educated and skilled work force, a local government that has a reputation for being friendly to business, consumers with disposable income and the willingness to spend it, and proximity to major airports, interstate highways, the Port of Baltimore, telecommunications centers and foreign embassies in Washington, D.C.

The combination of these and other factors has made Howard County the Maryland jurisdiction with the second-highest concentration of foreign business investment. The 70 foreign-owned firms in Howard -- Montgomery County has 100 -- have created 2,000 jobs locally. These are lucrative positions, too, the kind that produce various benefits for Howard County, the Baltimore metro area and the state.

Brick House's success story is evidence that Howard County business people can go global as readily as their foreign counterparts. Indeed, the purpose of the Columbia firm called Translingua is to guide local firms as they take their first steps toward competing overseas. Similar aid has just become available from Howard Community College's new International Trade Assistance Center. There is even a Columbia man who has undertaken to help local companies and government agencies learn the languages of former Soviet republics where they aim to do business.

That seems to be the way more and more people are talking business these days in Howard County -- in a foreign tongue.

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