"It's the first time we've been invited. You need to be invited," said Iribarren, who said he never expected the beautiful farm country was home to so much commercial activity.
"I think this is a good opportunity to have person-to-person contact," he said.
Dignitaries from 11 foreign countries mingled with Quad-State business people at the afternoon event, held in conjunction with the Quad State Business Exposition going on across campus.
Bangladesh, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Peru, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and Venezuela were represented at the reception, a mix of networking and short speeches touting the benefits of international trade and the Quad-State region.
The turnout was amazing, said Ann Marie Brigido, chairwoman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's International Trade Council.
The council came up with the idea after its similar reception for South American officials over the summer proved successful, Brigido said.
It made sense, she said, given the proximity of the embassies and the regional drawing power of the business expo, she said.
The thought at the time was that if three or four embassies sent representatives to the reception it would be a success, Brigido said.
Thanks to U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who sent out invitations on his letterhead, they got positive responses from 18 embassies, 11 of which ended up sending one or more trade-oriented representatives, she said.
The intention of the event was threefold: to build foreign exports from the region, to market the area for foreign investment and to allow foreign companies to promote an import relationship with local companies, Brigido said.
"Everything is in Baltimore. Nobody ever thinks of Western Maryland. We're like the outback," she said.
A similar event is staged in Baltimore every year, said Brigido, who said promoting personal contacts is key to building international trade relationships.
"In international business, introductions are everything. Once you know someone, then you have an opportunity," said Brigido, a supervisor in the international credit department at C.M. Offray & Son.
It was an eye-opening experience for Marianne Gerber, a commercial attache with the Swiss embassy, who was making her first visit to Washington County after two years in the capital.
Gerber said she was pleasantly surprised by the high turnout of area business people.
She said she hadn't realized there was such a strong interest in international trade in the region
"It's wonderful and very beneficial for both sides," Gerber said.
The event provided a convenient networking opportunity for Washington County businessman Paresh Shah, whose company, P & D Creative Co., manufactures household and industrial cleaners.
The company has started exporting to Taiwan and Peru and is trying to expand into other countries, including Morocco, which had a representative at the event, Shah said.