Business Resources / International Business
Maryland pivots to virtual missions to increase exports during pandemic
By Jessica Reynolds /
September 13, 2021
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To address the challenges exporters in Maryland face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel restrictions, the Maryland Department of Commerce transformed its usual trade show and mission schedule to a series of virtual opportunities for companies.

In October 2020, the state of Maryland conducted its first ever virtual international trade mission in conjunction with the BioJapan trade show, which was also offered virtually due to the pandemic. Not only did Maryland Commerce offer companies virtual participation in the show, but it also customized matchmaking and interpretation services through the state’s foreign office in Japan.

In this very first virtual show, the demand for virtual events was evident, as eight companies participated and are now actively working on leads and follow up from the show.

Following the success with BioJapan, and with travel restrictions still in place, Maryland Commerce quickly began converting its original show schedule to a range of virtual opportunities. In November, the state supported eight companies with a virtual trade mission to Colombia, and in December and January, Commerce engaged with 11 Maryland exporters focused on healthcare export opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Maryland Commerce is currently working with nine companies in the U.K. to support their exports in the cybersecurity sector, and the department recently wrapped up three missions in Mexico, Australia, and South Korea, focused on security, space, and satellite technology. The state is also preparing to virtually return to BioJapan again in October 2021.

In total, the state expects to have supported nearly 60 companies across a wide range of industries over the course of 2020-2021 before resuming in-person trade shows and missions in the fall of 2021.

Virtual missions have allowed Maryland exporters to continue taking advantage of opportunities to sell their products and services in new markets, even during the pandemic emergency. The development of the virtual mission model also helps prepare the state and exporters for future emergencies or travel disruptions, reducing the negative impact on the economy. All of the virtual trade missions have been supported through funding by Maryland Commerce’s Office of International Investment and Trade, which received a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program.

For more information on virtual missions, please contact Jessica Reynolds at jessica.reynolds@maryland.gov.

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