Top Takeaways: East Asia Business Development Trip

In Conversation with David Petr, President & CEO, MCEDC

Our CEO David Petr and Director of Business Recruitment Spiros Balntas returned last week from a productive business development trip to South Korea and China. Accompanying them was Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Councilmember Craig Rice, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lily Qi, and select County business leaders.

Welcome back! Please share with us some top takeaways from your business development trip.

One of the real strengths of the trip was noting how similar the areas we visited were to our location here in Montgomery County, from population size and infrastructure to physical assets. The parallel industries of concentration were also similar with our mutual focus on BioHealth, cyber and technology. Other assets are the great talent pool and strong connectivity which were all very much aligned to what we do here in Montgomery County.

As you met with numerous business and government officials in both countries, what resonated with them about Montgomery County?

One thing that really stood out is the strength of Montgomery County’s talent pool and workforce pipeline. We have the highest educated people in the U.S. right here in our County, with 57% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, 31% having a post-graduate degree and a strong interest in the coveted STEM fields. That’s our pipeline for company success. Our proximity to Federal agencies like NIH, NIST and FDA was also a very strong asset in our discussions, especially with the U.S. Federal government being the world’s largest customer.  And then – very important – the strength of our diversity. We have such a welcoming international community with 20,000 Korean and almost 45,000 Chinese residents.

Share with us a few highlights from business meetings and networking events you attended during your visit.

In South Korea and China, we held numerous face-to-face meetings with business and government officials which were very productive. In Daejeon, we met with 43 private companies and economic developers and 29 different groups in Shanghai. The meetings covered partnership opportunities in top industries including Biohealth, professional services and technology.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in Xian gave us great insight to the 100-person, 24-hour operation. From their Free Trade Zone, companies can import products duty free and re-export to other countries. Our delegates were very impressed with the work being conducted and MCEDC will continue to engage in dialogue with CCPIT.

Local companies attended our one-to-one meetings representing a variety of industries including Biohealth, technology and professional services. In Shanghai, several investment firms attended to understand investment opportunities in biohealth and real estate in our County.

What surprised you?

One thing that surprised me was the strength of their economic development programs and the high level of customer service they offer to businesses they interact with. They value immediate response, with many offices open 24 hours a day. We learned about some best practices of their economic development offices that we can incorporate here in our region.  As we continue to recruit global business, we need to find new communication pathways that work for our foreign companies on different time schedules – whether it be online chats, or phones manned 24 hours – so we can be very responsive and timely.

How did the trip help to strengthen MCEDC’s relationships with Montgomery County officials?

Our goal was to build new relationships and learn more about the people and companies we visited. An added benefit was continuing to strengthen our personal relationships with County Executive Leggett, Councilmember Craig Rice and some of our business leaders in the County. Sometimes you have to travel 7,000 miles to build stronger relationships back home.

Moving forward, what’s next for collaboration between Montgomery County and East Asia?

We had the incredible opportunity to meet with nearly one hundred business professionals, district and government officials. Everyone felt this was a great chance to start a long-term dialogue for collaboration between our host countries and Montgomery County. We are already engaging through email and phone communication to continue conveying the great story of Montgomery County and sharing the value proposition of our strength in global tech, bio and cybersecurity. We also plan to host a delegation of East Asia business and government officials here in Montgomery County, hopefully within the next 6 months for a familiarization tour and to make new introductions right here. 

I’m hopeful that the introductions we made on behalf of Montgomery County businesses will lead to exciting new global opportunities in the coming months and years.