Relationship with the state of Maryland

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The U.S. – Montenegro Business Council and Charles T. Dillon, Esq. ( were instrumental in arranging for a Friendship Agreement between the State of Maryland and Capitol City - Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, to be signed on September 8, 2008. The Friendship Agreement between the State of Maryland and Capitol - City Podgorica is the first time any region of Montenegro and any state of the United States have formally agreed to work together to develop and promote trade and investment relations. On December 18, 2008, the State of Maryland established a trade office in Montenegro, making this the first trade office of any state in the United States in the Western Balkans. The U.S. - Montenegro Business Council manages the Maryland trade office in Montenegro and numerous Maryland businesses are now exploring business opportunities in Montenegro and the Western Balkans.

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In 2008, after a visit to Maryland by Montenegro’s Minister of Economic Development, Branimir Gvozdenovic, the Capitol City of Montenegro – Podgorica - entered into a Friendship Agreement with Maryland. The agreement was entered into on behalf of Podgorica by Mayor Miomir Mugosa and on behalf of Maryland by Secretary of State John McDonough. This event laid the foundation for Maryland to establish a trade office in Montenegro – which is the first Western Balkan trade office of any state in the United States.

Podgorica is by far the largest city in Montenegro: almost one third of Montenegrin citizens live there. It is not only the administrative centre of Montenegro but also its main economic engine. Most of Montenegro's industrial, financial and commercial base is in Podgorica.

To better understand Maryland’s relationship with Montenegro, we met with key leaders from Maryland’s Office of Secretary of State, the Department of Business and Economic Development, Maryland’s World Trade Center Institute, and private business.

Mendy Nitsch:
The signing of the Friendship Agreement was a very positive experience, and I was particularly impressed at the level of involvement on the side of the Montenegrins. The Ambassador was there. The Mayor of the Capitol City was there. Both had staff members there. And then on our side I was also impressed because we had Maryland citizenry, Maryland constituents who were very passionate, who were there who took time from their workdays to participate in this. So that was a very positive experience.

Now the key role that we took in and we of course still work towards is having had the State officially recognize the relationship between Maryland and the Capital City, and once that is made official I think that that really “greases the wheels” for any other partnerships or relationships, whether it be business or culture or education.

Christian Johansson:
My name is Christian Johansson. I’m the Secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development. The Department is charged with promoting business and investment in the State of Maryland. And when I say “investment” that is not just limited to traditional industries, it includes things like tourism as well. We have offices all around the world to help foreign companies invest in Maryland and consequently do business in the United States. And so we have one in Montenegro and we have delegations from Montenegro come here and we help them navigate the United States. We show them how to do business here. We make sure that Maryland is the most welcoming place for them to come to open up an office and for them to be a part of our community.

In March 2008 the World Trade Center Institute, one of Maryland’s top international trade centers hosted an awards ceremony in which the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, met with a visiting delegation from Montenegro. This event also marked the first public announcement to Maryland citizenry of its trade office in Podgorica. The delegation’s attendance at this event offered Montenegro great exposure to over 300 international businesses located or doing business in Maryland.

[Governor Martin O’Malley’s Speech]

Eddie Resende:
We also have a great international visitor’s program where we host delegations from all over the world and schedule business meetings for them and cultural activities in a wide array of topics. It could be related to security, public transportation, health administration, health insurance policies in the United States. So that is a service that we offer and we are doing a lot of work with Eastern European countries that are coming to the United States to learn about topics such as public acquisition, public transportation safety, healthcare and so on.

George Perdikakis, Sr.:
I’m George Perdikakis. I’m Vice President with KCI Technologies and we are an engineering firm with multiple disciplines and we employ about 1,400 uh 1,200 people. We are in 13 states. We have offices in 13 states in the United States of America.

Well as a young engineer I was a project manager on several projects. We built some marinas. We built… we did protection of the shore lines. We worked on the aquarium and the convention center. We constructed the entire road network of the Inner Harbor Development.

Well I remember when I first came to the City of Baltimore. It was an area where you went and bought watermelons because they came through vessels from the Eastern Shores. The buildings were all dilapidated and they needed improvements. Look what it is today. I think that the vision for the Inner Harbor was just a great one.

Well, I’m very, very interested on the Port areas of Montenegro. I’m very interested for us to make a contribution to something like that. What I’m saying is a professional contribution. And then I’m very interested on the wastewater issues and the solid waste issues that they want to address.

Christian Johansson:
I think that Montenegro could be the gateway to the Western Balkans for Marylanders, and I hope that Maryland could be the gateway for folks from Montenegro to the Eastern sea board to the United States. So there’s way we can work together.

And so if you take a look at our educational level we are the second most educated state in the United States. And so the industries here- the key and core ones – take bio and life sciences, you may not know that apart from having many great companies here, the national institutes of health, the Food and Drug Administration – many of the key federal agencies which regulate the bio and life sciences are right here within the State of Maryland. You have a huge strength in aviation and national security related businesses as well, and so a lot of the key federal agencies that deal with security are here and so a lot of the companies that support them are here. We’re very strong in heath care.

Some of the best hospitals in the world are located in Maryland. For example, both Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and the University of Maryland Medical System are two of the top medical centers in the United States. The University of Maryland Medical System is comprised of 9 hospitals and is also home to one of most highly acclaimed shock trauma centers in the world – the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

We had the opportunity to speak with Mark Wasserman, Senior Vice President of the University of Maryland Medical System about what he thought Maryland’s relationship with Podgorica, Montenegro meant for the medical center and if the University of Maryland Medical System was receptive to exploring opportunities with Montenegro?

Mark Wasserman:
I think our friends in the Balkans would want to know that the University of Maryland Medical System is among the very finest academic centers in the world. That it is growing in reputation, that it is open to international exchange, that it is close to the nation’s Capitol, which I think makes for all kind of opportunity, and that we would be exploring a relationship together. I’m sure that there are many things that we should understand and learn from our friends at the other end.