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Man to share business ideas with Estonians

November 27, 2005|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - P. Chris Marschner reacted as many people might have when invited by telephone to take part in an all-expenses-paid business conference in Estonia with little more than a week's notice.

Stuart Dwyer, head of the political and economic section of the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, called Marschner Nov. 18 and asked if he would be willing to attend the conference to speak about Maryland's efforts to help start-up technology firms develop and blossom into large ones.

"Is this a joke? Actually, I did (ask that)," Marschner said. "What I did was I verified it."

Skeptical at first, Marschner researched the issue and determined the invitation was legitimate, prompting a second and just as natural reaction.

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"For me, it's probably the biggest thing I've ever done," said Marschner, director of the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College. "It's a great honor for me, personally."

Marschner, president of the Maryland Business Incubation Association, is scheduled to make the 10-hour flight through Amsterdam to Estonia on Monday to participate in the two-day U.S. Baltic Business Partnering Event in Tallinn starting Nov. 30. He is scheduled to return Friday.

Marschner said he believes his counterparts in Estonia can benefit from many of the business-incubation programs used in Maryland because their geographic and economic makeups are not all that different.

"Maryland is well-positioned to be talking about every aspect of business technology incubation," he said. "I've been quite busy trying to get prepared for this I want to fully represent everything that's going on in Maryland."

The Tehnopol Tallinn Technology Park in Estonia is coordinating the event with the U.S. Embassy in Estonia. Raivo Tamkivi, a member of the executive board of the technology park, said in an e-mail interview he is hoping to exchange information with the event's U.S. participants and learn ways to develop business-development programs in Estonia.

Tamkivi said in the e-mail that part of the event will focus on the methods that Marschner's TIC and other entities have used to develop and foster businesses.

In addition, he said, he is hoping to foster stronger ties between U.S. and Estonian business communities and to create an "initial 'contact foothold' for the interested Estonian companies in some regions of the U.S."

Other speakers include Marika Popp, of the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications; A. William Musgrave Jr., of The Enterprise Network of Silicon Valley in California; and Jeffrey C. Milanette, president of Innovative Partners Inc. in New Jersey. The event is being jointly coordinated by Estonian and U.S. Department of State officials.

Once a republic of the U.S.S.R., Estonia declared its sovereignty in 1988 and drafted its own constitution in 1992, according to information from the Web site of the Estonian Embassy in Washington. The Soviet Union disbanded in 1991.

The State Department has been working with the small country on the Baltic Sea since 1992. The member nations of NATO moved to accept Estonia into the alliance during a summit in Prague in 2002.

As director of the Technical Incubation Center at Hagerstown Community College, Marschner has helped several small technology firms develop into largely successful companies. AMERICOM Government Services, a satellite-based communications solutions firm started at the Technical Innovation Center in 1999, is among its most recent success stories.

Started as an independent firm, the subsidiary of SES Americom recently announced plans to move into a 30,300-square-foot facility being built at the Hunt Ridge Business Park. The firm, which does extensive business with the federal government, offers salaries of about $80,000 and plans to significantly increase its work force of about a dozen over the next several years, according to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

Marschner said the Technical Innovation Center is one of MBIA's 18 incubation centers. He said their efforts, complemented by other state programs including those offered by the Maryland Technology Development Corp., have helped to boost the state's economy and promote job creation.

While his emphasis will be on statewide efforts, Marschner said he feels the invitation is also a recognition of what officials in Washington County and Western Maryland have been able to accomplish over the past several years.

"Hagerstown is no longer a backwater of technology, they're recognizing us for our capabilities," he said. "I want to try to get rid of the perception that Maryland begins in Baltimore and ends in Frederick."

Phillip A. Singerman, executive director of the Maryland Technology Development Corp. that funds the state's incubation programs, said he suggested the State Department consider Marschner because of the successes the Technical Innovation Center has had.

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