Diplomatic Pouch / November 2012
By Larry Luxner
Kuwait and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Germany and BWI. Belgium and StanleyBlack & Decker. The United Arab Emirates and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
These are just four of the dozen or so partnerships between Maryland-based institutions and foreign countries showcased Oct. 4 at “Embassy Night” — a lavish networking reception and dinner that attracted some 325 diplomats, business executives and other VIPs to Washington’s Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.
This year’s annual event was co-sponsored by the Baltimore-based World Trade Center Institute, Legg Mason and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, as well as by The Washington Diplomat.
Participants included 28 foreign embassies from Bangladesh to Vietnam, half a dozen universities and a number of businesses including Baltimore-based Ellicott Dredges, law firm Miles & Stockbridge and the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.
Welcoming remarks were offered by WTCI President Deborah Kielty and Eddie Resende, the institute’s Brazilian-born business development and strategic planning director.
Doug Guthrie, dean of George Washington University’s School of Business and a noted China scholar, spoke on the role of universities in the new global economy.
“We’re coming out of the economic crisis, and today we feel like it’s revving up again, though we still have unemployment of 8%,” said Guthrie. “The problem is that there’s tremendous dislocation. People don’t have the skills for today’s job market.”
The result, he said, is that employers want to hire — but they can’t find suitable candidates. For answers, Guthrie looks to Asia.
“At the GWU School of Business, we try to approach not only the global macroeconomic situation but also the local situation. We have to go deep. Superficial exchange programs won’t do the deal. It won’t help us as an economy or as a nation.”
This is why GWU is building a campus in Suzhou, a prefecture-level city of about four million in the Yangtze River Delta west of Shanghai. With a GDP of 679.8 billion yuan (about $103 billion), Suzhou ranks as China’s fourth most prosperous metropolitan area, behind only Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
“It’s taxing our university greatly, but it’s necessary to do this if we’re going to understand China,” Guthrie said, “not just the first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghi but second-tier cities like Xian, Suzhou, Dalian and Chengdu. These are the places driving economic growth in the global economy.”
He added: “There’s 50% unemployment in some parts of Washington, D.C. Wards 7 and 8 have massive unemployment. But if we can attract some of the $3 trillion that sits in the Bank of China, we can restart our economy. We’ve acted very aggressively with the D.C. government, and we have 17 students engaged in this process. We’ve helped broker deals for the government to attract equity investment back into the city. These are things a university can and should be doing.”
On a very practical level, Maryland institutions and companies have formed long-lasting partnerships with their overseas counterparts.
Among them is Annapolis-based ARINC, a division of The Carlyle Group. A leader in airport, maritime, rail transport and security technology industries, ARINC has invested heavily in Brazil.
“Historically known for runaway inflation and national debt, Brazil has finally turned the corner,” said Resende. “Inflation is down and Brazil is poised to show the world that it can and will be an economic powerhouse. Like many U.S. corporations, ARINC is making Brazil a top priority.”
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was also featured at WTCI’s Embassy Night for its rapidly evolving partnership with Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. In July, the airport handled a record 2.22 million passengers. That same month, Germany’s Condor Airlines chose BWI as its new mid-Atlantic hub, offering direct nonstop flights between Baltimore and Frankfurt.
Likewise, Alliance Biosciences has joined up with Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to construct that country’s first biocontainment lab. The Richmond company also works with Nyumbani, a Catholic charity that provides housing and care at a facility outside Nairobi for more than 3,000 HIV-infected children.
Turning to the Middle East, the small but extremely wealthy United Arab Emirates is the largest single export market in the Arab world. Last year, it bought $16 billion worth of U.S. goods. More than 800 American firms from Bechtel to Starbucks to ExxonMobil now have a presence in the oil-rich emirate.
In 1999, Johns Hopkins Medicine International opened an office in Abu Dhabi. Since then, Johns Hopkins University provided specialized care to thousands of Emiratis including Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan himself. Zayed himself. In April of this year, JHU dedicated the Sheikh Zayed Tower, a medical complex with 560 all-private patient rooms that covers five acres in downtown Baltimore.
Embassy Night honored three more partnerships: those between Charlotte-based RTI International; Linet Americas and the Czech Republic, and BD Diagnotics and the Netherlands.
Ireland ranks among the top 18 countries for innovative business culture, while RTI — established in 1958 as Research Triange Institute — supports projects in 40 countries. The University College Dublin recently opened the UCD-RTI Applied Research Center, which focuses on human health and behavioral sciences.
The Czech Republic, which boasts the 15th best education system in the world according to the OECD, is considered to be among the most stable of Europe’s post-communist states. Linet Ltd., founded near Prague in 1990, is a major manufacturer of hospital beds and today has revenues of €127 million and exports to 90 countries.
On Oct. 24, WTCI will host its “Taste of Vietnam” networking reception at its Baltimore headquarters. For more information, please visit www.wtci.org.