Barry Bogage is the director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes trade and investment between Maryland and businesses and research institutions in Israel. The organization is a public–private partnership of the Maryland Department of Commerce, Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Trade, and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. On levels local and international, the MIDC works with companies based both in Israel and the US, providing funding, strategic business development, and networking opportunities during entries into and exports from the US market. Barry has been with the MIDC since its creation in 1992.
This month, the MIDC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For information about the celebration event this Sunday, May 7th, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, click here or visit marylandisrael.org.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What drew you to your work with the MIDC?
BARRY BOGAGE:My career’s always been in economic development. I’ve always wanted to help people, and felt that creating jobs was the best way to help people. Right out of college, I actually started the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, in an entry-level position. Parris Glendening, who was the county executive at the time, happened to be my advisor at the University of Maryland. I got that job and then, from there, moved to Howard County and eventually got promoted to be the Director of the Howard County Economic Development Office. From there, I went over to the Welsh Development Agency, which was to help attract American companies to set up facilities in Wales—which was a fun opportunity for me to get involved internationally. I would travel to Wales a couple of times a year and so forth.
Governor Schaefer had signed a declaration of cooperation with the Israeli ambassador in 1988. A friend of mine was the Director of International Trade for the State of Maryland and was heavily involved in that. He involved me because he knew of my interest. I was an exchange student in Israel during college and lived on a kibbutz for a couple of years right after college and so forth. He knew my interest in Israel, knew my interest in economic development—and Maryland economic development. He involved me in a lot of the public functions, the signing ceremony—just invited me to participate.
At that time, I kind of eyeballed it, and I said “if there’s a job that’s coming out of this, it’s mine.” I tracked it for several years, and when they finally raised the money, incorporated it as a nonprofit, decided to hire somebody, I was the lucky guy who got the job.
Q. You were at the MIDC from the very beginning. Can you tell us more about the organization got started? What was happening internationally at the time?
A.The Soviet Union was falling apart—that was one major thing happening internationally. Unrelated to that, Governor Schaefer was making a big push for expanding Maryland’s international trade activities. Being next to Washington, DC, he thought: “Let’s cultivate relationship with the embassies and that will help us attract new companies; work with commercial attaches and get a direct line into the companies.” In cooperation with the Jewish community at the time, some business executives in the Jewish community: namely, Marvin Shapiro from Continental Realty; and Hanan Sibel, who had a food brokerage firm; Roger Lipitz who was heavily involved—he was in the nursing home business. When the Soviet Union fell apart, there was mass immigration of the Russian-Jewish community to Israel, which sent the unemployment rate in Israel skyrocketing—like 25%. We were in business, we knew how to create jobs, [so we thought] “let’s set up a program to help Israel create jobs.” They talked to Governor Schaefer about it, since he was getting so active in international trade, they said, “this will be good for Maryland too,” kind of like a rising tide lifts all ships—you know, no two companies are going to sign a deal unless it is good for both of them.
That’s how it got started. They involved the Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore and set up kind of a three organizational structure of founding partners with the Associated Jewish Federation, the Maryland Department of Economic Development at the time—now the Department of Commerce—and their counterpart in Israel, which is the Ministry of Industry and Trade. They all got together. Governor Schaefer took a trade mission to Israel—the outcome of that was “let’s establish an organization to actually put the deals together.” That’s when the MIDC formally got started, rather than just the volunteers, and that’s when they hired me.
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