Over the past 30 years, an idea from former Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer has grown into one of the state’s most influential organizations for businesses looking to go global.
The World Trade Center Institute, also known as WTCI, helps connect local business leaders with ideas and connections to help grow their organizations in Maryland and around the world. Each year, WTCI serves thousands of professionals from companies, universities, and government agencies from across the state, WTCI is considered the Mid Atlantic’s largest network of its kind and the “who’s who” of the region’s top global business executives.
By providing its members with a network that spans 100 countries and 300 World Trade Centers across the globe, WTCI is dedicated to growing Maryland’s economy here at home and helping local businesses succeed in the international market.
We recently sat down with the World Trade Center Institute team to learn more about its impact on Maryland’s business community and its milestone anniversary celebration.
How was WTCI formed? What was the organization’s mission 30 years ago?
WTCI originally formed when former Governor Schaefer went on a trade mission to Taiwan and visited their World Trade Center. Realizing that facilitating international trade was harder than he thought, he famously said, “I want one.” Schaefer recruited Harold Adams, our chairman emeritus and best known for building RTKL (now CallisonRTKL), to set up a board to create the World Trade Center Institute in Baltimore to help Maryland companies expand internationally through education, connections, and the sharing of knowledge.
How has the organization changed over the years?
Our mission, to empower globally-minded leaders with new ideas and valuable connections, has not radically changed over the years—but the size, scope, and services we offer certainly has. Over the years, WTCI has changed to meet the needs of its members and respond to market demand for the kind of services we offer members.
Over the last 30 years, as business practices and technology evolved, so have our events and services. From our AGILE series to the Albrecht Fellowships, we incorporate events and educational programs that can be helpful to anyone from high school students to C-suite executives. Our events, which range from panel discussions to networking happy hours to full day conferences, bring people together to learn more about the topics that matter to them.
What are a few ways that your organization benefits businesses throughout the state?
WTCI creates a network of diverse corporations, universities, government agencies, and top local business executives that gives member companies the ability to gain valuable insights into best global business practices, professional development opportunities, international leadership fellowships, and international business services. Our events, programs, services, and network can serve multiple purposes whether a company needs to learn more about professional development, business development, strategic marketing, and/or global business expansion.
How can WTCI help local businesses looking to expand on a global level?
Our programs and events offer best practices and insights from top companies and professionals in the area who have already excelled. WTCI’s network is full of global business expansion resources such as the U.S. Export Assistance Center, the Maryland Department of Commerce, embassy contacts, trade association connections, World Bank procurement opportunities, country-specific intelligence packages, country-specific events, and a vast network of over 300 World Trade Centers around the world.
But our real strength lies in our knowledge of our members, their needs, and our ability to connect them to opportunities. It could be something as simple as a strategic introduction or highlighting their work at one of our events, to getting them involved in one of our professional development programs or connecting them to a key resource. For example, we recently connected a small technology company to one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, netting them one of the largest contracts they have received to date.
WTCI has grown to include some of the state’s top companies and advanced universities. What are some of the most recognizable members of our readers may be familiar with?
Our members are diverse in company size and industry, but some of the most notable members include McCormick Corporation, Under Armour, Northrop Grumman, USAID, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Stanley Black & Decker, and Johns Hopkins Medicine International. For a full list of members, visit our website.
How will you be celebrating the 30th anniversary this year?
Beyond launching a few new events and programs, this year, WTCI will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in conjunction with the annual State of the Ports event on November 13 in Baltimore. Following two educational breakout sessions, we will be hosting a celebratory reception featuring food from the area’s top international restaurants, embassy-hosted wine and spirit tastings, and cultural performances. The event is open to the public, sponsorships are available, and registration is open here. We also created a video that tells the story of our founding and highlights our 30 years of service to Maryland’s international business community.
What would you suggest to companies looking to get involved with WTCI?
Just because your company might not be involved with international business does not mean that you won’t gain immense knowledge from becoming involved in our network or programming. It’s never too early or too late to start think globally, and it never hurts to connect and network with globally minded professionals.
Additionally, we love questions! Our team is friendly and would be happy to help answer any questions a business may have, even if it’s not something we directly offer. We’re here to help and can work with any budget or strategy. If you have questions, please contact Lydia Yodie.