Maryland will become the first state to use public funds to capitalize a specialized small business investment company, or SSBIC, that will invest in small and minority-owned businesses in the state through a new venture capital pool.

A new law privatizes the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Agency and authorizes its parent, the Department of Economic and Employment Development, to contract with the newly private management company to administer the financing agency's existing programs.

The law also authorizes the department to use part of its existing funds to form the specialized investment company, to be managed by the as-yet unnamed private company.

The funds would be used to leverage federal funds from the Small Business Administration, which would be added to the state funds and any private funding obtained by the private management company. The resulting fund pool would be used to invest in small and minorityowned ventures.

Meanwhile, another department agency, the Maryland International Division, released a report showing growth in international business throughout the state.

The report cites increased exports, more traffic through the Port of Baltimore, and expanding international service at Baltimore/Washington International Airport as factors in Maryland's continued economic growth.

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