Developing personal relationships is crucial for success when doing business in the Asian region, and that means spending quality face-to-face time on the ground.  In an effort to encourage foreign investment, stimulate economic development, strengthen commercial ties, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley led a trade mission to Asia May 31-June 11.  Towson University Interim President Marcia Welsh, Asia Studies Director Stephen Phillips, and I were privileged to be among the 68 people chosen to represent the State on this productive trip through China, South Korea and Vietnam.

This 11-day trip was the perfect opportunity, not only to improve existing relationships, but to showcase what Maryland and Towson University have to offer and how our ties can benefit all parties.

During our travels through Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Seoul, and Hanoi, we attended some key events like the 13th Shanghai Bio-Forum, BioCapital Leadership’s Luncheon, the Maryland-Jiangsu Partnership Banquet, and the Vietnam-Maryland Cooperation Ceremony and Luncheon. Shanghai’s Tasly Group announced a $40 million investment in Maryland, the largest direct investment ever in our state by a Chinese company.

Additionally, Marlin Steel Wire, a Baltimore steel wire basket manufacturer, signed a collaboration agreement in Vietnam with a state-owned steel production firm.  AmeriSure Pharmaceuticals, a Rockville based company, signed an agreement to collaborate with one of Vietnam’s largest state-owned pharmaceutical firms. In addition, the Vietnam Natural Resources and Environmental Corporation agreed to promote Ellicott City’sBlue Wing Environmental Solutions & Technologies floating island products.

Towson University representatives (Steve Phillips, Clay Hickson, Ohoe Kim, and Marcia Welsh, 2nd – 5th from left, respectively) and Inha University representatives, Incheon, South Korea

Not to be left out, Towson University also signed three MOUs in Shanghai to provide faculty training and school management services programs in the Pudong area.  Two other Towson representatives also joined us for parts of the trip.  Alexandria Liu, a Towson University student interning at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, participated in the China leg of the trip, and Mathematics Professor Ohoe Kim was in Korea helping to arrange meetings with various partner universities there.

To develop opportunities for TowsonGlobal Business Incubator and its member companies I met up with representatives of Shanghai Juke Biotech Park, an incubator specializing in helping biotech SMEs.  I also met with Ningxia Yinxing Energy Co., which focuses on green technologies and is exploring expansion to the US.  In Beijing, I met with Xin Feng Zhuoqun Technology Co., a professional circuit board processor that may be able to support current members.   These meetings were important steps to open doors for future collaborations between Asian enterprises and TowsonGlobal.

Despite a few hurdles – our bus got stuck on a mound of dirt and broken asphalt – we also had the opportunity to visit historic landmarks like the Presidential Palace in Nanjing and the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, to go hiking in Seoul, and to tour around the city of Hanoi.

Clay Hickson (center) and delegation members at the Presidential Palace, Nanjing, China

Clay Hickson and Marcia Welsh at the Great Wall, Beijing, China

I was honored to be a part of such significant efforts to bring Asia and Maryland together.  Being a part of the Governor’s delegation offered business and educational professionals opportunities to expand their networks and strengthen existing ties while gaining credibility.  The mission brought many opportunities for technology development and economic growth to our state.  Maryland’s future in these foreign markets looks bright, but success will all depend on the efforts we make to continue building ties in the region.