The Port of Baltimore is a hub for exporting in Maryland.
A growing number of products and services are traveling the world through Maryland’s borders, and several programs are available to help continue that trend.
In 2012, Maryland’s exports reached a record $11.8 billion. It was one of few states to increase its number of goods and services launched into the international market. Still, according to Deputy Secretary Bob Walker of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, just 3 percent of Maryland companies are involved in exporting.
“You can imagine, if we were to adjust that needle to 4 percent, how many more dollars we could bring into this economy, how many more jobs we would create and how many more companies could improve their bottom line through revenue and sales and so forth,” Walker said.
Krissa, a fifth-grader at Bollman Bridge Elementary School, was chosen from among over 4,000 other children with business plans. Cupcakes for Literacy is a spin-off of the website her mother started six years ago that catalogs YouTube videos of Krissa reading books to children. Since February, Krissa and her board of classmates regularly bake and sell cupcakes to raise funds for schools, libraries and literacy, art and music programs.
Sugarloaf Alpaca Co. in Frederick County received a Maryland Value-Added Producer Matching Grant from MARBIDCO.
Farming in Maryland can be sustainable and profitable. Just ask Kilby Cream in Cecil County, which is expanding its gourmet dairy home delivery selection, or Sugarloaf Alpaca Co. in Frederick County, which is raising more alpacas for their fiber than ever.
Maryland Resource-Based Industry Financing Fund Loan (MRBIFF), through MARBIDCO, offers low-interest loans to established agriculture industry firms for the purchase of land and capital equipment for production and processing activities. Monies may also be used to help finance environmental or water-quality enhancement projects.
Registration for the Celebration of International Trade has reached 70 percent and will remain open online until the day of the event. Admission, including breakfast and lunch, is free for government employees and $99 for others.
The world market is a “surprisingly small place,” according to Carl Livesay, chairman of the DEC.
“Businesses perceive that there are overwhelming barriers to exporting goods and services, and that’s just not the case. It is confusing and it can be cumbersome, but if you align yourself with businesses and people who have traveled that path before, they will help light the way,” he said.
The region benefits from transportation systems that easily support trade, including the top-ranking Port of Baltimore and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Livesay also described the area as a “hotbed and innovation and technology.”
“There’s no other area in the country that is better suited, better qualified or has access to stronger resources than we do here in Maryland,” he said.
Ultimately, as more companies in Maryland and Washington, D.C. trade internationally, the more the overall economy will grow and the national trade balance will improve. He said, ”We do not seek to help companies import foreign goods or services into the United States. To put it bluntly, this is about creating permanent, sustainable jobs right here in Maryland.”
Whether you prefer them sunny side up or whipped into an elaborate souffle—eggs play a major role in Maryland’s agriculture economy.
As May is National Egg Month, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is celebrating the Maryland farms that produce nearly 71 million dozen eggs a year. According to the department, Maryland’s combined poultry and egg industry accounts for the state’s largest farm revenue category, measured at $784,237,000 in 2011.
“Eggs are a commodity that can work for both large and small scale producers,” MDA Secretary Buddy Hance said in a statement. “Only nine Maryland egg producers have flocks larger than 3,000 birds. We have another 500 small-flock producers. Together, they produce about 71 million dozen eggs a year while Maryland consumers purchase 72 million dozen a year. We’re very proud of our farmers, large and small, who produce nutritious eggs to help meet the demand in our state.”
Maryland’s Best, a website managed by the MDA, recently produced a behind-the-scenes video at Sauder’s Eggs and Sunnyside Farm in Carroll County, that both produce and process eggs in Maryland.
Find more information, recipes and a prize drawing through Maryland’s Best.
Marylanders celebrated the new super post-Panamax 400-foot cranes at the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal.
Soaring above the Baltimore skyline, four new 400-foot cranes stand ready to move containers from some of the world’s largest ships.
A widened Panama Canal, expected to be completed by 2015, will allow super post-Panamax ships to travel through Central America. The recent crane installation at the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal makes it one of just two East Coast ports able to accept and load these container ships, capable of carrying at least 8,000 20-foot containers, at a width of 22 containers or more.
Super post-Panamax ships are already widely used throughout Asia, although access to the East Coast has been stifled by the Panama Canal’s current restrictive width and a scarcity of updated crane and port systems. Improvements in both Panama and American ports are expected to lead to a boom in international trade.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined private investment partner Christopher Lee, chairman of Ports America Chesapeake and founder and manager of Highstar Capital, and others during a celebration of the cranes on Wednesday morning.
The governor focused on the port’s role as a job creator.
“When it comes to job creation, Maryland is a net winner in trade and that’s why we make this investment. That’s why we crow about the fact that these men and women smoke the competition at 37 lifts an hour. We had the best year on record last year in the Port of Baltimore. More cars, farm machinery and construction equipment came through the Port of Baltimore than any other port in our country, thanks to these men and women. And more imported sugar, aluminum and forest products arrived here than any other port. And out of the 60 ports across the country, we were No. 2 in terms of the amount of coal and iron ore that came through our port. These rankings are important for one reason, and one reason only, and that is jobs—jobs, jobs, jobs,” O’Malley said.
Find video of a portion of the governor’s speech below.
The use of a public-private partnership to facilitate port expansion is historically uncommon, but Baltimore will likely become an example to other states and cities, Lee said.
“This success occurred because this governor didn’t just talk about it. He didn’t just wail and moan and lament the lack of public money. He mobilized the public sector to partner with the government to provide the investment dollars to open this great port to more ships, more economic development and most importantly, more jobs. It was a win for workers, a win for investors and a win for the tax payers and citizens of Maryland,” he said.
Lee said his firm was attracted to investment in the port because it represents long-term stability. ”A port, by definition, is a key strategic asset. We’re the principal port to Washington, D.C., so the revenues here are pretty stable. We also have a 50-year concession from the state, so it’s perfect for what our investors are looking for,” he said.
His interest in the project is personal, as well. Lee, a longtime Baltimore resident and community activist, spoke extensively about the port’s historical significance. He also dedicated one of the cranes to his wife, Susan Ginkel.
“We’ve had some forward thinking people who have attracted some great businesses to our county. We were always known for agriculture, but we now have four industrial parks. We’ve been very successful,” Whaley said.
In recent decades, the county on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with a population just under 33,000, has attracted major manufacturers like Solo Cup Company, Maryland Plastics, Hanover Foods, Pillsbury and Tri-Gas & Oil. Several privately owned flower farms have been incorporated into Bell Nursery’s network of growers, which supplies Home Depot stores. The number of smaller technology start-ups is also expected to grow within the expanding Caroline Technology Park. The county’s roughly 710 businesses employ 7,310 workers, according to county government reports.
The Caroline Economic Development Commission, a non-profit organization closely associated with county and state government, is currently seeking a qualified individual to continue its legacy of growth. The Director of Economic Development position recently opened and will remain active until June 7. Caroline County government is conducting the hiring process that is scheduled to be completed by July 15.
The job description emphasizes the ability to forge partnerships. It states:
The successful candidate must have the ability to market Caroline County, promote its strengths, and identify weaknesses through the development of a strategic economic development planning process. The ideal candidate must be able to develop and establish partnerships with municipal, county, regional, state, and federal organizations to identify and achieve goals and to collaborate with the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce, the MidShore Regional Council, and the Caroline County Association of Municipalities.
The position also includes assisting businesses, whether they be small businesses or major corporations, through the process of procuring tax incentives. These incentives have played a major role in preventing businesses from migrating to Virginia and North Carolina, according to Whaley.
Maryland’s nurseries and farmers markets are stocked for Mother’s Day.
Flowers not only make popular Mother’s Day gifts, they’re also an easy way to stimulate the local economy.
If you’re shopping for a mom with a green thumb, master gardener Katie Dott of the University of Maryland Extension’s Baltimore County office suggests picking up your gift at a nursery or the closest farmers market—it’s a simple way to support Maryland agriculture, she said.
The latest data on Maryland’s horticulture industry, from 2010, indicates a growing demand for locally produced plant items. The state’s burgeoning industry employs more than 18,500 people and was most recently valued at nearly $2 billion.
“As a mother, I can tell you how much I love receiving flowers on Mother’s Day. Just be sure to buy local,” Dott said.
Because Mother’s Day is about giving mom a rest, the flowers you gift should be easy to maintain, like those prepared in hanging baskets or pre-planted containers, generally priced between $15 and $35, Dott said. While they cost about the same as cut flowers, planted items can last through the summer.
“Make sure they’re beautiful without much hard work required,” she said, suggesting petunias, begonias, geraniums and flowering vines like black-eyed susan vine. Just be sure not to mix plants that prefer shade with plants that require full sun.
MDBIZ News features weekly expert advice to assist you in running your small business. Follow Maryland small business posts here.
Andy Malis is the president of Baltimore-based MGH, Inc., one of the region’s largest integrated marketing firms and the brains behind the creative promotion of Maryland mainstays, ranging from Old Bay seasoning to Ocean City.
MDBIZ News asked him about low-cost ideas for Maryland’s small business owners. Malis contributed the following:
Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to get your company off the ground or a veteran businessperson looking to be as efficient as possible with your marketing spend, here are ten strategies that can help boost your business and maximize your advertising dollars.
1) Be the customer
Audit every piece of customer communication from your customers’ point of view. Today’s marketplace is cluttered like never before — from radio and TV, to direct mail and endless Web advertisements. Not to mention, shorter attention spans and time pressures add to the distraction. BUT, if your message is simple, focused and pertinent to your target audience, you will reach them.
2) Measure as much as possible
Most advertisers have no idea if their advertising is working. You may experience increased traffic and sales, but is it from your advertising? And if so, from what specifically? Develop ways to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by using targeted promotion codes, unique website addresses and different phone numbers — which all allow you to track customer response.
3) Ignore your competitors. Know your audience
Just because a company in your area — or even a competitor — is running a lot of radio advertising, for example, it doesn’t mean you should do the same. What if your core customer is a television viewer? Does your product need to be seen to be appreciated? What time of day is your customer watching TV, or what magazines are they reading? Are they a busy professional or a retiree? Know whom you’re talking to, and that will tell you how to reach them.
4) Be easily found
Seventy-seven percent of all Internet searches are just looking for your address, business hours or other basic contact information. Don’t hide it. Not everyone enters your website from your homepage, so make sure that information is on every page.
5) Don’t forget mobile
According to a recent study by Google, 61 percent of consumers say they’ll abandon your site immediately if it’s not mobile-friendly. Look at your website on your smartphone. Can you read it? If not, your potential customers can’t either. You could be losing out on revenue if you’re not creating a great mobile experience for users.
6) Relentlessly pursue the interested
Anyone who contacts you is gold. How are you following up? Use technology to stay in front of them. For example, you should be retargeting your website visitors. Retargeting is a form of online advertising that keeps your brand in front of bounced traffic after users leave your website. After a visitor has left your page, he or she will be served up your ads later on—keeping your business top of mind.
7) Actively manage your online reputation
A recent survey found that 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google your business name followed by the word “reviews.” Read what comes up. Is it good? Bad? You must monitor what’s being said about your company and respond to complaints. First, make sure you company is registered with online directories such as Yelp, Google Places, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, and BBB. Second, start a program that asks your customers to post reviews. A one-star increase in Yelp reviews has been associated with a 4 to 9 percent increase in sales.
8) Get noticed
Implement high-impact tactics to get famous fast. Bigger and fewer is always better than lots of smaller. For example, one full-page ad will get you more than four quarter page ads. Most buying decisions are emotional, not rational. Don’t get lost in facts. Facts support the need your product or service is fulfilling.
9) Create happy customers and they’ll do your advertising for you
Play to the front row and make your raving fans “lunatics.” Go above and beyond in customer service and make sure that it permeates every touch point of the customer experience. Mystery shop your store to uncover any potential problems and create an environment that customers want to return to — and have their friends experience.
10) Smaller = Faster
If you’re competing with larger or national competitors, use your size to your advantage. Most national companies are notoriously bad at local marketing. Most large companies are slow to act. You can quickly respond to local market conditions and change your plans fast. You can OWN the local market and leave them in the dust.
Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. And above all, it shouldn’t break the bank. Successful advertising, whether on a big or small scale, is simply about reaching your customers with the right message in the right medium, and sometimes at the right time. Before implementing your next advertising campaign, take a step back and review which of these cost-effective advertising methods may make the most sense for your business.