Friday, Feb. 9, 2007

Former DBED official joins Northrop Grumman

Deputy secretary helped Maryland’s exports grow

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After four years as a state official promoting Maryland technology companies overseas and around the nation, Christopher C. Foster now plies his promotional abilities for one of the state’s leading tech companies.

Northrop Grumman has hired the former deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development to do pretty much what he did for the state: build strategic partnerships.

Foster’s new job, which started Monday, is to identify business and technology partners for Northrop Grumman to expand its defense and commercial markets. He works in Northrop Grumman’s offices near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum. He lives in nearby Gambrills.

‘‘I am excited,” Foster said. ‘‘Northrop Grumman is a great company that is very deep in technology and has produced a lot of great leaders, including Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey.”

At DBED, Foster managed a $95 million annual budget for promoting the state. An engineer by trade and education, he became a marketing expert conversant in information technology, biotech and nanotechnology.

Foster said he took pride in ‘‘energizing international exports for businesses” at DBED.

‘‘That was really important for the state,” he said. ‘‘It is an area of growth and helped us get away from dependency on federal spending, which I believe has to be brought into line.”

Historically, reduced federal spending hurts Maryland’s economy, he said.

The federal government is ‘‘the greatest customer for Maryland businesses,” he said. ‘‘But at the same time, any smart business person is going to diversify.”

Under the leadership of Foster and his former boss, Secretary Aris T. Melissaratos, the department reported, Maryland’s exports increased from $4.2 billion in 2002 to $7.1 billion in 2005, with a projection of more than $7.4 billion in 2006.

Foster was also attracted to Northrop Grumman’s ‘‘long history of international leadership.” Last year, 30 percent of the company’s revenues were from international business, he said.

Foster’s duties at DBED also included shepherding technology bills through the General Assembly.

DBED relied ‘‘on me to go down and be the honest broker and give [lawmakers] my opinions and advise them. The behind-the-door stuff — I don’t see that as arm-twisting. I see it as educational,” he said in an October 2005 interview with The Business Gazette. ‘‘Most of our trade is technology. That’s where the dollar value is, and that’s Maryland’s core competency.

‘‘Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems ... we have all these high-tech companies that sell defense electronics, aviation electronics, communications, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, life sciences ... We need to be exporting that technology.”

Foster, 46, grew up in California the son of truck driver, then became a technology expert in the military and a successful executive in private industry.

Before joining DBED, Foster was president and CEO of Professional Development Solutions and an aviation logistics manager for the Marine Corps, and associate chairman, electrical engineering, for the U.S. Naval Academy.