Feldmann quits as head of agency that promotes foreign trade with state Maryland International Division faces audit, funding change


Eric Feldmann, the official who started the trade-promoting Maryland International Division in 1988, resigned yesterday.

The division, which has 55 employees and a budget of $4.2 million, cuts across existing bureaucratic boundaries in state government to bring foreign investment into the state and to provide Maryland businesses with help in selling abroad.

Mr. Feldmann could not be reached for comment.

The division is part of the Department of Economic and Employment Development, and Mr. Feldmann submitted his resignation to the man who has headed DEED for the last month or so, Mark Wasserman.

After meeting with Mr. Wasserman Friday afternoon, "it was clear he was going to be submitting his resignation Monday," said DEED spokeswoman Jane Howard.

While the Maryland International Division gets credit for raising the state's visibility abroad, lawmakers two weeks ago ordered an audit of its performance, questioning whether the state is getting $4.2 million worth of benefits per year from the division.

And, in a report dated Aug. 26, the Joint Expenditure Study Group called for re-funding of the division to make it more dependent on the private sector.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Wasserman said: "We appreciate Eric Feldmann's contribution to the birth and early development of the International Division and his enthusiasm for that considerable task. His departure offers us an opportunity for a leadership change which will allow us to re-evaluate our direction. MID has done a credible job of establishing Maryland as a major player on the world stage. Now it's time to take a look at where we go from here."

Mr. Wasserman named as acting director Kathleen Bond, whose job within the division has been marketing director for international trade.

In addition to answering to DEED, the director of MID reports to two other department heads involved in international issues: the secretaries of transportation and agriculture. Like DEED, their top leadership is in the midst of change. O. James Lighthizer took over as Secretary of Transportation eight months ago, and Agriculture Secretary Wayne A. Cawley Jr. will retire in November. His deputy, Robert Walker, has been named to fill that spot.

In picking a replacement for Mr. Feldmann, the Cabinet officers are expected to get recommendations from a 17-member Private Sector Advisory Council.

Maryland has sizable interactions with foreign business. Direct foreign investment in the state totaled $4 billion in 1990, provided 60,000 jobs in the state, and generated $150 million in state and local taxes. Meanwhile, Maryland businesses exported goods and services worth $3.22 billion in 1990, the latest year for which figures were available.

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