The value added to imports by Maryland workers demands more attention from state and regional economic strategists, according to a report issued by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.
"In light of the large volumes of import traffic moving through our international gateways, we felt it would be useful to look more closely at their economic impact," said Marsha Schachtel, a senior fellow at IPS, who led the import study. "We found that imports add significant income and jobs to the Maryland economy."
It was the second IPS report sponsored by the Committee for Logistics and the Economy, a group of companies in the transportation and distribution industries and related agencies of state government that are concerned about the state's economic growth.
"We need to obtain unbiased, objectively researched information, to use for decision making," said Peggy Chaplin, an attorney with Sandler, Ravis & Rosenberg, who chairs the committee. Chaplin addressed the group of business leaders and state officials who gathered at Levering Hall on the Homewood campus for a recent briefing. "The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies is providing us with that. We are blessed to have [its] attention."
In looking at the influence of imports on Maryland's economy, Schachtel and her colleagues brought together data from other reports, surveyed 83 computer and electronics companies in Maryland and conducted in-depth case studies of a number of firms engaged in importing.
More than 16 million tons of goods and raw materials flow into the Port of Baltimore and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport each year. Their value is $12.7 billion, twice that of goods and materials exported, Schachtel noted.
The report's case studies reveal added values in imported goods ranging from scientific instruments to sugar. Maryland workers customize orders, process everything from steel to fish and provide customer service for imported goods. Mercedes Benz USA of Belcamp, Md., for example, employs 67 workers to customize 68,000 vehicles before they are trucked to their final destinations.
The state Department of Business and Economic Development, one of the study's sponsors, plans to use the information to exploit the opportunities presented by the import trade, said James Hughes, director of the Office of International Business with the Department of Business and Economic Development. "There are two sides to the issue," he said. "One, we need to try to make imports stick and create more opportunities for jobs and income. The other side is to help Maryland companies be more effective in global sourcing."
Walter Mitchell, business development associate for Terminal Corporation, said the report will be a valuable tool as the 107-year-old company looks to developing its warehousing business. "For any company exporting or importing out of this area, this report is of keen interest. There is a lot of warehouse space in town. With this kind of information, we can take it to a higher level."
IPS has highlighted the importance of imports and made the information available to the industry, said James Hobson, manager of market analysis for the Maryland Port Administration. "At the port, we're not focusing on imports vs. exports. We look at each commodity and the opportunity it represents. We are aggressively going after the noncontainerized cargo so significant for job creation, like automobiles."