Neschen AG is added to foreign companies operating in Howard

German manufacturer will move next month into U.S. headquarters

January 28, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

With the announcement that yet another foreign company has decided to put its U.S. headquarters in Howard County, it seems the county has been working overtime overseas to persuade foreign executives to do their North American business here.

When Neschen AG, a German laminates manufacturer, moves into its 100,000-square-foot building next month, it will join more than 70 foreign companies that have offices in Howard, according to the county's Economic Development Authority.

Howard's success in luring international companies comes from its location and the state's marketing efforts abroad, said Dan Gundersen, assistant secretary for business development with the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

He said the state's offices in Rotterdam, Netherlands; Shanghai, China; and Tokyo are focused on courting the types of businesses Maryland wants - biotechnology, information technology, manufacturing, transportation and financial services. Most of those companies land in the Baltimore-Washington corridor to be with similar businesses and take advantage of proximity to both cities, Gundersen said.

Neschen, which makes self-adhesive products, display systems, lamination systems and printable textiles, had been expecting to expand its offices in the Midwest when Maryland representatives met with company executives two years ago, Gundersen said.

Neschen ended up in Howard County because of its location and labor force, he said.

"The company recognized they needed a mid-Atlantic presence," Gundersen said. "Howard County had the skilled labor - that was very important."

Other international deals

In the past year, Howard County has closed deals with two other international companies.

Bookham Technology PLC, a British photonics company, opened its plant about a year ago and has hired about 50 employees. The company is expected to employ up to 1,000 in its 150,000- square-foot U.S. headquarters.

Over the summer, Fiducial, a French financial services company, moved its regional headquarters to Howard County. Since then, it has doubled the number of employees to 67, officials at the Economic Development Authority said. They expect to grow to about 145 employees within a year, spokeswoman Amy Mininger said.

The dozens of other international companies in Howard range from large, well-known entities - such as U.S. Foodservice, whose Dutch parent company is Royal Ahold, and the Swiss company Nestle S.A., which has an ice cream plant in Jessup and a sales office in Columbia for its foods corporation - to smaller companies such as Italian Iea Systems in Ellicott City, which processes compact discs.

Recruiting efforts

According to Richard W. Story, executive director of the authority, attracting businesses to Howard County has become easier because of the core of international businesses here.

"You get to a certain point where some of these businesses come to you," he said. "Companies will make an evaluation of a new location based on a lot of criteria. One of them is that others have done this before."

To help with recruiting, the authority has a group of foreign business executives who will talk with clients interested in the county, Story said.

Howard County's location and quality of life - including its public schools - are also factors that help attract companies to it, said James B. Smith, vice president for corporate relations with the Greater Baltimore Alliance, a regional marketing group that often works with the authority to lure businesses to the area.

`Quality of life'

"Howard County really offers the quality of life that a company wants," Smith said. "It's close to Baltimore, yet close to Washington, with quick access to BWI."

The planning behind Columbia, both in the layout of the town and in its vision of racial inclusion, are factors that help foreigners feel at home, Story said.

And the county also can offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to sweeten the deal, he said. In the end, though, it is the county's responsibility to make sure potential employers are happy.

"It's a people business," Story said. "You want to work with people you're comfortable with."

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