As part of a campaign to make Maryland "the gateway to America," the state and the private sector will begin jointly promoting the port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
State officials announced the program yesterday to a group of foreign diplomats attending a World Trade Week conference in Baltimore.
Maryland's port, air, rail, highway and warehouse facilities, plus its location in the nation's fourth-largest consumer market, give the state advantages no other place on the East Coast can match, Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer told the diplomats, at Johns Hopkins University's Bayview Campus.
"We're going to do a better job of bringing those things together . . . and selling them to the world," he said.
A public-private group, the Maryland Distribution Council, has been created to coordinate that effort, a major part of which will be encouraging companies, foreign and domestic, to create distribution centers in Maryland that would use the port and airport to move their products in and out of the country.
No budget has been set for the distribution council, but the state expects to provide seed money to be supplemented by money raised by the private sector.
Mr. Lighthizer acknowledged that the product the state has to sell -- a transportation infrastructure and its proximity to markets -- is not new.
What is new, he said, is the realization by state officials and businesses of the potential benefits of a more concerted, better coordinated effort to sell the state as a distribution center.
The World Trade Week events are sponsored by the World Trade Center Institute and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Yesterday's events attracted 66 ambassadors, economic ministers and commercial attaches from more than 50 countries, said Suzanne H. O'Hatnick, president of the International Visitors Center, which helped coordinate the conference.
Leslie Walton, director of distribution for FILA Footware USA Inc., told the conference participants that his company was pleased with its recent decision to move its distribution center from New Jersey to Baltimore.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, while emphasizing the importance of international trade to the state, said he did not think the creation of the Maryland Distribution Council would work wonders overnight.
But it should play an important role as "one part of a total effort on international trade," he said.
S.A. "Skip" Brown III, president of Belt's Wharf Warehouses Inc. and a member of the distribution council's steering committee, said he expected the initiative to pay off by injecting "renewed vigor" into the state's international marketing efforts.