ANNAPOLIS — Nearly $60 million in business deals were signed during Maryland’s recent trade mission to India, and deals worth millions more are in the works, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday.
The trip was aimed at creating more jobs and opportunities in Maryland by strengthening the state’s relationship with India and selling the state as the best place for Indian companies to get a foothold in the American market.
“Without any help at all, there will be jobs that go to other nations,” O’Malley said at a briefing on the recent trip. “That’s why we have to work in order to create jobs here at home from foreign direct investment into Maryland. That’s why we have to work hard in order to open up our markets.”
More than 100 business leaders, educators and state officials participated in the trip that included stops in Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. The delegation stopped in Qatar on the way and arrived in India on Nov. 28.
“Indian companies are going to expand toward the West and what we want to make sure of in Maryland is that we’re part of that expansion,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. “This is our chance to import some of those jobs to Maryland and Prince George’s County.”
Two Indian companies announced plans to invest in Maryland, and eight Maryland businesses signed deals with Indian partners during the trip, state officials said. Jasco Nutri Foods entered into an understanding with Bowie-based Chesapeake Investments Group as part of a plan to invest $10 million in a facility on 1,500 acres in Maryland that could generate up to 100 jobs. Jubilant Life Sciences, which already has a drug manufacturing facility in Salisbury, announced plans to spend $20 million to triple its Eastern Shore warehouse space and add new jobs.
The presence of state and county officials on the trip made a difference in the message the delegation was sending, showing that businesses have the backing of their local officials, said Manish Kothari, president of Rockville-based Sheladia Associates. His architectural engineering firm signed a $3.7 million contract to design 100 miles of highway in the state of Orissa during the trip.
“We always come across competition from Europeans and other folks who have elected officials coming supporting businesses. In spite of the United States being a leader … we’re running out of excuses why our elected officials aren’t supporting us,” Kothari said, thanking O’Malley for his participation.
Businesses from other countries can get a leg up on Americans because they often travel in big delegations with their government officials, O’Malley said.
“That’s not the way we do business here but is the way business is done in these huge emerging markets, which is why the recommendation was to travel,” he said.
It helps when the government officials can be right there to explain what incentives the state and local government can offer, Baker said.
Most delegation members paid their own way on the trip, but the trade mission cost Maryland about $140,000, state officials said. Baker said his county’s economic development corporation raised money to cover the travel costs of all but one county official. However, he expects the thousands of dollars spent on the trip to be repaid many times over in revenues the county stands to make from deals made possible through the visit.
During the trip, O’Malley met with top Indian companies and signed an agreement with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to create an India-Maryland Center in Maryland to boost trade between the two regions. The federation will lead a delegation to Maryland in April.
Maryland signed an agreement with the U.S. India Importers Council committing Maryland and India to boost imports and exports. The state also agreed to explore sister-state relationships with the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra.
The University of Maryland College Park’s delegation signed agreements with Indian universities, including one with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay that enables faculty and student exchanges and allows for joint competition for research grants.