Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett returned recently from a 10-day business development mission to Korea and China and called the trip a success. Joining Leggett on the mission was a delegation comprised of nearly twenty county business owners and executives, as well as County and state economic development staff. The purpose of the mission was to strengthen existing investment and collaborating opportunities forged over the past six years with Korea, and lay the groundwork for similar, strategic business growth opportunities in China. “During these times of economic uncertainty, Montgomery County must work even harder to assist our local companies in maintaining and expanding their global reach and success, and the business development missions to Korea and China were very important in this regard,” said Leggett. “Equally, as a County government competing with jurisdictions across the region, nation and world for business and job growth, we must also work harder than ever to ensure we retain and help grow our existing business base amidst growing global competition for quality businesses and jobs.”
The mission was an extension of the County’s international economic development strategy to build and leverage partnerships with existing local businesses, trade organizations, and government agencies to help forge global linkages that promote international investments in Montgomery County and facilitate business opportunities abroad.
- Encourage Korean and Chinese investment in the county’s life sciences, bio/pharma, advanced technology, hospitality and finance sectors;
- Tap into strategic commercial and partnering opportunities available in both countries for existing Montgomery County companies; and
- Strengthen government and commercial ties with Korea and China.
“Amarex Clinical Research experienced a very successful mission to Korea in conjunction with Montgomery County and our affiliation with the County delegation gave us instant credibility that we would not have otherwise,” said Dr. Kazem Kazempour, President and CEO, Amarex Clinical Research. “Participating on this mission helped us establish beneficial contacts with key Korean agencies that will benefit Amarex in obtaining new business from Korean biopharmaceutical companies, and we were also able to arrange meetings with several Korean companies that have resulted in near term business opportunities. Kudos to County Executive Leggett and his economic development team for a job well done.”
“ZaraCom was very glad to participate with Montgomery County on its first China mission,” said Lisa Chan, EVP for Business Development, ZaraCom Technologies Inc. “Montgomery County is a dynamic county with a large population with overseas business links, and this trip allowed us to take greater advantage of these links, promoting our local business and the County. We truly hope to see more foreign missions like this in the future.”
“I was honored to help County Executive Leggett represent the County on this important business mission,” said Jack Hollerbach, President and CEO of HarVest Bank of Maryland.” The reputation of Montgomery County as a center of innovation and business energy was apparent as we were greeted with ceremony and respect by important government and business leaders across China and Korea. For HarVest Bank of Maryland. I look forward to applying my renewed and profound respect for the cultures of these countries in our dealings with existing and prospective East Asian customers.”
“The mission was profoundly important -- both in terms of introducing potential China businesses who will establish offices in the US to Montgomery County and to delegation members who are doing business or planning to do business in China,” said Juanita Boyd Hardy, Managing Principal, Tiger Management Consulting Group, LLC. “The exchange opportunities and benefits to both countries were high, andI gained deep insights that will be important to my company and its business strategies relative to the China market. I was honored and deeply grateful to be part of the delegation.”
A significant result of the Korea mission was a commitment to further economic partnership between Montgomery County and Chungcheongbuk Province (Chungbuk), made by Dr. Woo-Taik Chung, Governor of Chungbuk, during a meeting with Leggett and members of the delegation. Chungbuk has pledged $2 million in investment support for the incubator facility to be built as part of the County’s development of Site II, along Route 29 in eastern Montgomery County, into a major, new science and technology park.
Similar to Montgomery County, Chungbuk has an ambitious plan to become a leading biotechnology hub in Asia. With an infusion of $3.5 billion from the central government, Chungbuk is in the process of constructing Korea’s first biotechnology cluster in Osong, known as Osong Biotechnopolis, which will be home to Korea’s top regulatory agencies such as the Korean-FDA and the Korean-CDC. Korea’s bio/pharmaceutical giants such as CJ Corporation and LG Life Science have pledged to relocate to the Osong Biotechnopolis.
In 2002, the County’s Department of Economic Development led its first business development mission to Korea, recognizing the large number of Korean scientists working for NIH and FDA and the growing potential for targeted economic development partnerships. During that mission, the County delegation met with Chungbuk to discuss potential collaboration and, as a result of the trip, successfully attracted Bioneer Life Science to the County.
In June 2003, Chungbuk’s Vice Governor visited Montgomery County during his participation in Bio 2003 and further discussion regarding potential economic development collaboration opportunities between the two regions continued.
During Montgomery County’s follow-up business development mission to Korea in 2004, the two sides signed an official MOU and agreed to develop and implement economic development programs with an emphasis on advanced technology. As a result, a staff member from Chungbuk Province has been working at the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development on a temporary assignment to promote the continued exchange of business and cultural information, develop a more formal business partnering program and help facilitate future business development missions to Korea, like the one just concluded.
The growth in these relationships has resulted in nearly $10 million in direct investment by Korean capital in Montgomery County-based firms over the past several years.
“The County has built an ongoing relationship with Korea over the past several years, and we were able to reaffirm and expand our partnership with Chungbuk Province during this most recent visit,” said Leggett. “Our two jurisdictions share many strategic economic and business development philosophies and Chungbuk is poised to be a very valuable partner with us in terms of significant investment to help further expand the County’s life sciences industry,” said Leggett.
Other highlights from the Korea trip include:
- Leggett met with the president of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) and signed a memorandum of understanding which entails exchanging scientific and business information, conducting educational seminars for businesses on regulatory compliance issues and related topics, and promoting business exchange; the Institute is responsible for developing strategy for Korea's life science policy, and providing technical assistance to biopharmaceutical companies to facilitating commercialization, technology transfer, and regulatory compliance.
- Montgomery County also held a seminar on technology transfer and regulatory compliance in partnership with the KHIDI; featured speakers included Ms. Claire Driscoll of NIH, Dr. Chang Ahn of Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, and Dr. Kazem Kazempour of Amarex Clinical Research. This seminar was attended by 130 Korean biopharmaceutical companies.
- Leggett and members of the delegation toured RNL Bio's lab in Seoul; RNL Bio’s U.S. subsidiary, RNL Biostar, is a tenant of the Maryland Technology Development Center; RNL Bio expressed interest in building a GMP manufacturing facility in Montgomery County and the County delegation pledged assistance with RNL's efforts to locate and build the manufacturing facility here in the County.
- Leggett led a presentation on the biotechnology assets of Montgomery County during Bio Korea 2008; other featured speakers included Ms. Claire Driscoll of NIH, Mr. Patrick Burke of Amarex Clinical Research, and Dr. Larry Mahan of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. The presentation was attended by thirty Korean biopharmaceutical businesses.
- Leggett also met with several large biopharmaceutical companies such as SK Chemicals and Green Cross, Corporation to discuss short-term and long-term projects.
An increasing number of Korean biotechnology companies have established a presence in Montgomery County over the past few years. Bioneer Life Science was the first Korean company admitted to the County’s incubator program, and there are currently three Korean
companies – Macrogen, RNL Biostar, and Seegene– located in the County’s MTDC/Shady
Grove Innovation Center. In addition, HPI Inc., and Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, two other Korean-based companies, are located in the County.
This was the County’s first visit to China, an important and rapidly growing global economy. The goal was to lay the groundwork for similar relationships as those built over the years with Korea. The six-day visit included stops in Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing. During the mission, the county delegation met with several key Chinese bio/pharma companies seeking a presence in the U.S., and visited and promoted several Montgomery County businesses operating in China, including Marriott, Discovery, United States Pharmacopeias and Sirnaomics.
“During our visit to China, I met with Governor Li Yiping of Pudong New Area, one of the fastest growing local economies in China contributing a quarter of the total GDP of Shanghai in 2007,” said Leggett. “I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen economic cooperation between Montgomery County and Pudong New Area, and this was a very important first step to duplicating the success of our relationship with Korea here in China.
“In my meetings with the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and with the China Investment Promotion Agency, I explored with them how China and Montgomery County can benefit from the Chinese government’s recent policy encouraging outbound investment by Chinese companies.”
Highlights from the China mission include:
- Leggett met with Governor Li Yiping of Pudong New Area, one of the fastest growing local economies in China and home to the Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, a special area for technology-oriented businesses; Leggett signed an MOU with Pudong New Area to strengthen economic cooperation and increase prosperity for both Montgomery County and Pudong, specifically in the field of biotechnology – an industry where both regions have established leadership positions;
- Leggett and the delegation visited the headquarters of Beijing-based JOINN Laboratories, which just announced the opening of its first U.S subsidiary -- JOINN USA – at the County’s new Germantown Innovation Center; Leggett congratulated top executives of JOINN China for their decision to locate in Montgomery County and welcomed them to the county;
- Leggett visited several of China’s large Science and Technology Parks to promote the business benefits of Montgomery County to top officials at each location:
- Zizhu Science Park
- Suzhou Industrial Park
- Beijing Economic Technological Development Area
- Tianjin Economic Development Area
- Lujiazui Financial District
The Department also facilitated several high level public and private sector meetings with Chinese entities for selected members of the delegation. The delegation included the following Montgomery County businesses:
- Amarex Clinical Research (Korea)
- Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development (Korea)
- NIH/NHGRI - Office of Tech Transfer (Korea)
- TissueGene, Inc. (Korea)
- RNL Biostar, Inc. (Korea)
- Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Korea)
- Teras & Wilde, PLLC (Korea)
- Keller Williams Realty (Korea)
- Law Office of Mark A. Smith, LLC (Korea)
- Harvest Bank of Maryland (China & Korea)
- Rafagen, Inc (China & Korea)
- Tiger Management LLC (China)
- Zaracom Technologies, Inc.( (China)
- K & Y American Investment Properties (China)
- United States Pharmacopeias/Shanghai (China)
- Sirnaomics, Inc. (China)
- Law Offices of Yu & Associates (China)
- Marriott/Beijing (China)
- Qiagen/Shanghai (China)
Montgomery County’s longstanding base of leading international companies includes Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals of Japan, German-based Qiagen and UK-based Astra-Zeneca/MedImmune. More recently, international companies including Hesperion of Switzerland, Xceleron and Levelheaded of the U.K. and Matrix International of London, have also opened offices in Montgomery County.
The Korea and China business development missions follow other recent initiatives by the Leggett administration to bolster and globally expand the County’s diverse, knowledge-based industries. Among these are: the Smart Growth Initiative, which relocates the County’s public safety and related agency facilities within the County to free-up their existing sites to advance transit-oriented, mixed-use and biotech development projects; creation of a Biosciences Task Force to help guide the County in becoming a global leader in the industry; Bioscience 101 seminar to educate County public officials on the science, technology, terminology and importance of the biotech industry; successful County business development missions to Israel and India in 2007, and the County’s commitment to build another major science and technology park in the eastern part of the county, at Site II, to replicate and surpass the success of the County’s world-renowned Shady Grove Life Sciences Center.
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