By Philippa Olsen, a marketing and communications specialist with the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.
In their business counseling efforts, the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) often work closely with the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) through the network of U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs). There are more than 100 USEACs located across the country that are staffed by trade specialists who can provide market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy support. The USEACs can also call on the knowledge and expertise of the USFCS’s overseas staff members, who are located in more than 75 U.S. embassies and consulates.
Lyn Doverspike, director of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USEAC noted, “SBDCs are a perfect partner for us because they provide trade counseling for new exporters, as our complementary focus is on companies already exporting.” She added that “companies exporting for the first time have a longer timeline before they begin, and SBDCs offer foundational counseling for them before the U.S. Commercial Service steps in and offers them specific exporting assistance.”
This collaboration is especially beneficial in rural areas, commented Vickie Gyenes, a global trade manager who assists small businesses in the Appalachian region of western Pennsylvania through the St. Vincent College SBDC in Latrobe and the St. Francis University SBDC in Ebensburg. “Our clients are all small to medium-sized enterprises and may have experimented with exports in the past, but now see exporting as a vital part of their business,” she said. “SBDCs provide secondary market research; organize educational seminars—from basic training to more complicated topics, such as export controls; and work with the USEACs who have overseas presence and expertise. It’s a joint effort and a great relationship.”
In 2010, the St. Vincent College SBDC’s Center for Global Competitiveness received the President’s E Award for Export Service. This annual award recognizes U.S. companies and organizations that facilitate export trade and contribute to U.S. job growth and competitiveness. From late 2009 through 2010, the center’s efforts directly generated more than $8.9 million in increased export sales for Pennsylvania companies, accounting for more than 150 new or retained jobs