- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

OCEAN CITY — In the business of local government, the Maryland Municipal League conference is the statewide trade show each year — even though most of the purchasing happens after the vendors and municipal leaders head home.

Local leaders finished their annual conference in Ocean City last week, and vendors of municipal services from parking-ticket equipment to hydraulic ladder racks are hoping their sales pitches make it from the mayors and town administrators in attendance to the purchasing directors back home who decide who gets awarded government contracts.

The conference is usually marked by appearances and announcements from the state’s top politicians, but just off the center stage, vendors spend their time pitching services and wares to the local mayors, aldermen, administrators and council members.

Vendors peddle newly designed road signs, sleek parking-ticket technology, street lights and a slew of services.

Alec Hajimihalis, with Alternative Environmental Systems, even promised to turn city garbage into gold — or just sanitized “fluff,” which can be mixed with mulch and resold.

“Make no mistake, everybody is here to sell,” Mr. Hajimihalis said as he grabbed a handful of garbage-turned-mulch, which he hopes will catch on with Maryland localities.

Municipal leaders say they are approached routinely by vendors making a sales pitch, but that they attend the conference to network with colleagues.

“It’s about meeting people and trading war stories,” said Frank Biba, environmental division chief for the city of Annapolis.

Other city leaders said they will pursue contacts they made at the conference.

“It’s very helpful to have them all in one place,” said Vijay K. Manjani, treasurer for the town of Mount Rainier.

Mr. Manjani said he would follow up with local financial providers he met from Commerce Bank and the Local Government Investment Pool.

Vendors said they don’t look to close deals at the conference but ask municipal leaders to take information back to their public works directors and purchasing directors.

“The first question I ask is ‘Do you have a public works director?’ ” said Gerald Del Valle, president of Prime Design Racks, which sells hydraulic ladder racks that can be mounted on city vehicles. “You have to create the need for this info for them.”