by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia
Business leaders, government officials and dignitaries from Maryland, DC and the Western Balkan region convened today at the University of Baltimore for the U.S. Balkans Business Summit. The two-day event includes panels on energy, transportation, tourism, defense, manufacturing, and information and technology. The first business summit of its kind, the event aims to promote bilateral trade and investment opportunities between American and Western Balkan governments and businesses, and exchange information and views relevant to strengthening economic relations.
“We are very pleased to be hosting the U.S. Balkans Business Summit here in Maryland, the first of what we hope will be many more to come,” said Christian Johansson, DBED Secretary. “Maryland is home to more than 400 foreign-owned companies from 30 countries, with approximately 3.5 percent of our workforce employed by foreign owned-firms. Even in these tough times, we have attracted 40 foreign-owned companies since 2007. We hope to continue our growth and expand on our partnerships with growing regions like the Western Balkans.”
Representatives from the Western Balkans countries including Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, were present. The region is home to six of the pan-European transport corridors that have been specifically designated as such by the European Union, linking northern and Western Europe to the rest of the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine. In December of last year, heads of state and government were invited personally by Governor O’Malley to attend this event, and to encourage dialogue on business opportunities.
“Two years ago our company went to Montenegro to talk about doing business there,” George G. Perdikakis, Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications, Marketing and Special Projects for KCI Technologies, said. “We are an engineering business and we do transportation and environmental type of projects. We went to Montenegro to explore what our opportunities in transportation and solid waste might be.”
In 2010, Maryland exports were up 10 percent, from $9.2 billion in 2009 to $10.2 billion. Top exports from Maryland to the Western Balkans from 2008 to 2009 included electrical machinery, machinery, iron and steel products, and miscellaneous chemical products, totaling over $53 billion.
“I work for Jadroagent Bar, a shipping and freight agency and I am here seeking opportunities with American companies that have interest in investing in Montenegro or have an interest in developing business relationships with us,” Nikola Banovic’ of Montenegro’s Jadroagent International Shipping and Freight Agency, Ltd said. “Our company is a shipping company so we act like a freight forwarder. We do logistics and act as a port agent, so there are several aspects in which we are interested in doing business with American companies.”