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(Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Md. Commerce Department launches program to boost exports

The Maryland Department of Commerce, seeking to help Maryland companies to export more, has launched an initiative to make that happen.

The Maryland Partners in International Trade program (MAPIT) will include representatives from local, state and federal government and academia to raise awareness about the state’s export programs, the Department of Commerce announced this week.

 “Last year, Maryland had record exports totaling $12.2 billion and this new program will only help to grow the state’s international footprint,” said Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement. “This means more jobs and more opportunities for Marylanders and Maryland businesses.”

The Department of Commerce will provide training on current programs, work with county economic development agencies and host a networking event to introduce counties to potential exporters. Maryland companies will also get to work with MBA students at University of Maryland, College Park’s Smith School of Business, through the school’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). The program also seeks to increase Maryland’s participation in overseas trade shows.

“Maryland has a wealth of international trade resources. This program will bring all those resources together and help ease of process for businesses who want to market products and services overseas,” said Commerce Secretary Mike Gill in a statement.

 This program comes after a report in October by  the Global Cities Initiative, a partnership between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, showed that Baltimore ranks 90th out of 100 among metros in percent of GDP in exports. Just under 7 percent of the city’s economy comes from exports, even though Baltimore and the surrounding metro area ranks 28th out of 100 of the country’s largest metro regions based on export value.

Increasing exports will let small and mid-sized businesses play a bigger role in the local economy, the report said.

The report also found a lack of awareness among small and mid-size business owners about their export potential, noting that they were reluctant to export due to challenges with regulations, finances and logistics. More than 75 percent of the 18,000 businesses surveyed said they did not know about export assistance programs run by the government or private sector.

The report said the region’s dependence on federal spending has made businesses less eager to enter the export market.

The Baltimore region’s top international markets for exports are in Europe, Asia and Canada in the health care, education and information technology sectors.

Upon the release of the Global Cities Initiative report, which was presented at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s economic outlook conference, the GBC said it would work with area stakeholders to address some of the problems highlighted. Officials see the Department of Commerce’s program as a step in that direction.

 “As the recent market assessment by the Global Cities Initiative indicated a disparity between Baltimore area’s export value versus actual exports, the region has a tremendous opportunity to expand global trade,” said William H. Cole, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation.  “MAPIT’s goal to increase awareness about this economic potential and connect businesses to global export opportunities, and programs will help close that gap.”