A trade mission to Asia led by Gov. Larry Hogan should be considered a long-term investment in Maryland’s economy and necessary to keep pace with other nearby states looking to increase outside investment, according to business and economic development experts.
Hogan and a delegation of about three dozen state and university officials and area business leaders leave Tuesday on a 12-day economic development trip to three Pacific Rim countries. The trip could result in announcements of new business for Maryland, which already exports about $1.5 billion in goods to China, Korea and Japan, but it is not just about the deals made in the near term.
“These trips are big deal and can elevate the level of attention you get,” said David S. Iannucci, senior economic development advisory to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III and a veteran of such trips.”It gives your state and business leaders access to (foreign) government officials and businesses. All of those are long-term investments.”
Iannucci said the trips are almost a requirement at a time when many governors are looking to woo foreign investors and lure companies to their states, including one neighbor along Maryland’s southern border.
“Virginia is very aggressive,” Iannucci said. “It’s about keeping up with the Joneses. If you don’t do it, you’re absolutely at a disadvantage.”
Hogan is scheduled to spend two working days in Seoul and another two working days in Tokyo. Hogan will attend 40 scheduled events and meetings during the trip, including meetings with heads of state and private companies including meetings with Asiana Airlines and Korea Air regarding adding service to Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Hogan, who will be joined by executives from The Northeast Maglev, will take a ride on a high-speed train in southern Japan.
The trip is the fourth time a Maryland governor or lieutenant governor has traveled to Asia in the last 12 years.
Don Fry, Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO, said the trips are about building relationships that can be important for a newly elected governor in a region of the world where personal connections are important.
“There are typically a lot of deals that are already in the making, but these trips can also open up opportunities,” Fry said.
Benjamin Wu, deputy secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, hinted that the governor could make announcements about deals during the trip but declined to elaborate. A Hogan spokesman was not available for comment.
Iannucci, a former secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, traveled to China in September with Baker and took similar trips with former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley.
O’Malley returned from a trip in 2011 with about $85 million in deals signed. In most cases, those deals are worked out in advance but returning without a deal signed isn’t necessarily a sign of failure.
“While it’s pretty typical to come back with a deal in hand, I would not be particularly troubled by coming back without an agreement,” Iannucci said. “From an economic development perspective, it’s sometimes a matter of planting seeds that take months or years to bear fruit.”