County Executive Isiah Leggett will pitch Montgomery County as the place for biotechnology when he accompanies a Maryland delegation to India on a six-day trade mission beginning Saturday.
“The objective here is to try to make certain, in this global, competitive arena, that people understand what Maryland has to offer and what Montgomery County has to offer,” Leggett (D) said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
The delegation also will include Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and first lady Judge Katie O’Malley, state Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian S. Johansson, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and about 100 business leaders, educators and state government officials. Nongovernment members of the delegation include officials from state universities and Montgomery College and executives from Gaithersburg biotechnology company MedImmune.
The mission will include stops in Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. The governor and first lady, along with Johansson and Secretary of State John McDonough also will make a brief stop in Doha, Qatar to discuss direct investment opportunities in the Free State.
Leggett will join the rest of the delegation on portions of the trip and break off for other appointments aimed at attracting business for the county, especially in the biotechnology sector.
The trip will cost the county $6,000, including $1,800 for airfare, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said.
India’s thriving economy, its population of 1.2 billion people—the second largest behind China, and the large number of Indian-American entrepreneurs residing in Maryland, make India “a natural” destination for a trade mission, Leggett said.
“You simply cannot be excluded from that type of market,” he said.
Other government leaders seem to share that sentiment. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) just returned from a trade mission to India and Israel.
Maryland officials and businesses will look for opportunities “to conduct business in India and sell their wares” and to lure companies interested in research and development opportunities “to set up shop and hire people here in Montgomery County,” Leggett said.
County business leaders have traveled to India in recent years and are looking to foster collaboration with Indian companies, The Gazette reported.
O’Malley will pitch Maryland to Indian companies looking for a U.S. presence, particularly in the biotechnology, cyber security, information technology, aerospace and defense industries.
Maryland, and Montgomery County in particular, has stiff competition from other regions of the country when it comes to attracting biotechnology business, Leggett said. The county is positioning itself against the likes of California’s Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’s Route 128 corridor, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Leggett said.
A combination of private sector investment, education and research institutions and the federal government’s presence “gives us a leg up in this area,” Leggett said.
The county’s biotechnology portfolio includes a life science park founded more than three decades ago and federal facilities such as the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda and the newly expanded Food and Drug Administration campus in White Oak and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
Delegation members will meet with business associations, allowing them to address several hundred companies at once.
“That way you can maximize your time,” Leggett said.
O’Malley will address three of India’s largest business organizations—the Confederation of Indian Industries, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the All India Biotech Association.
O’Malley also will visit the Indian School of Business and Delhi University and attend a ribbon cutting for Women in Bio Mumbai. It will be the first international chapter of the women life sciences group that was founded in Maryland a decade ago.
Maryland opened a trade office in India in 2009.
Indian companies made eight Maryland acquisitions between 2004 and 2009, totaling $564 million. There are six Indian companies in Maryland, including Gene Logic in Gaithersburg.
Click here for more statistics about Maryland’s trade relations with India.
Leggett’s only other trade mission of his administration, a 2008 trip to South Korea and China led to a $2 million investment from the Korea’s Chungbuk Province toward the East County Science Center.
Kumar P. Barve, the majority leader of the House of Delegates, will be paying his own way on next week’s mission.
“This historic trip will help deepen the close relationship between Maryland and India,” Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville said in an email to supporters. “Already, India is Maryland’s 12th largest export market and our 13th largest import market.”
O’Malley will sign two “sister state” agreements— the first between Maryland and India—to foster collaboration on matters of business and industry, culture and arts and education and health. One will be with Maharashtra, where Barve’s grandfather emigrated from more than a century ago.
O’Malley also will sign several memorandums of understanding to increase two-way trade and investment between Maryland and India.
Follow Maryland’s delegation to India
Delegation members will be using the Twitter hashtag #MDINdia to post updates on the trade mission.