By John Ward, a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.
A conference last month in San Diego, California, brought together more than 1,300 business counselors from around the country. With help from several Department of Commerce bureaus, including the International Trade Administration, participants sharpened their export counseling skills.
Thanks to detailed training sessions that featured export specialists from the International Trade Administration (ITA), other federal agencies, and public and private partners in the trade community, more than 1,300 business counselors from Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) recently updated their knowledge and skills in how to best help U.S. companies export.
The sessions were part of the annual convention for the Association of Small Business Development Centers, which was held in San Diego, California, on September 6–9, 2011. The SBDCs are a nationwide network of business counseling centers that are hosted by universities, colleges, and state economic development agencies. They are funded in part through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and many work closely with ITA’s U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs). There are approximately 1,000 SBDCs located throughout the country.
For More Information
To find the location of the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center, visit the U.S. government export portal at www.export.gov or contact the Trade Information Center, tel.: 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (1-800-872-8723). More information about Small Business Development Centers, including links to local offices, is available at www.sba.gov. Click on “Small Business Development Centers” under “Counseling and Training.”
By taking the training at the convention, SBDC staff members can qualify for certification as export counselors. The impetus for this training comes from the National Export Initiative (NEI) and the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.
President Barack Obama announced the NEI in the State of the Union Address in January 2010. It calls for doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The Small Business Jobs Act requires that no less than five individuals or 10 percent of the staff from each of the 63 “lead” SBDCs be qualified as international trade counselors. (A “lead” SBDC is the institution that holds a contract with the SBA. It is responsible for administering and operating the SBDC program within a given jurisdiction, usually a state or territory.)
Introductory and Intermediate Topics
ITA was directly involved in more than 10 exporting sessions at the conference through the work of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which is a federal interagency body that coordinates federal export promotion efforts.
The sessions included introductory and intermediate tracks and covered topics such as export marketing and sales, global logistics and supply chain, export regulations, and international trade payments. Presenters included representatives from the Census Bureau and the TPCC.
The sessions focused on the basics of exporting because SBDC business counselors will be focusing their efforts on the needs of first-time exporters. Companies that are already exporting will be referred to the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service staff at the local USEAC.
Fulfilling a Mandate for Export Growth
The training sessions come at a propitious moment as the goal date set by the NEI comes closer. This cooperative approach also underscores how small and medium-sized enterprises can benefit when government agencies, along with public–private partnerships, join their complementary skills to more effectively promote U.S. exports.