Short Takes: News from the International Trade Administration
New Business Assistance Center Opens in Michigan
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke opened the Department of Commerce’s first one-stop shop on October 5, 2009, in Plymouth, Michigan. The facility, CommerceConnect, brings together all of the department’s services to make it easier for local businesses and entrepreneurs to access them. Locke announced the opening at the Midwestern Governors Association Jobs and Energy Forum and later participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center.
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|On October 5, 2009, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the first CommerceConnect in Plymouth, Michigan. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
“The Commerce Department offers tremendous resources for businesses, but too few businesses take advantage of these and other government services because there is no [global positioning system] for navigating the bureaucracy,” said Locke. “CommerceConnect will provide a single point of contact where businesses can access the full array of [Department of] Commerce programs available to them.”
Specialists who are trained on the broad range of programs the department offers will staff the facility. CommerceConnect is focused on integrating programs to help businesses at every point of their life cycle, and the specialists will act as case workers for individual businesses that seek assistance. Experts will be responsible for assessing a business’s full spectrum of needs, whether it is access to capital, intellectual property rights protection, export promotion, or guidance on how to make operations more efficient.
“I’m very excited about this program,” said Locke in his remarks in Michigan. “If it succeeds, we plan to roll it out in cities across the country.”
Five Groups Awarded $1.5 Million to Enhance U.S. Competitiveness
Five non-profit industry groups that have programs designed to support and enhance the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and services industries were awarded more that $1.5 million in October 2009 under the Department of Commerce’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP). The MDCP enters into cooperative agreements between the International Trade Administration and recipients who foster global competitiveness.
Since the program’s inception in 1993, 97 awards have been given. In an average year, projects funded by the program generate $238 million in exports. On average, MDCP projects generate $106,000 in exports for every $1,000 awarded.
“The Market Development Cooperator Program spurs innovation [and] exports and facilitates private-sector projects that create jobs and provide economic opportunity for Americans,” said Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke when he announced the awards on October 26. “The MDCP is a good example of how public–private sector partnerships leverage limited public resources to increase U.S. exports from small and medium-sized businesses.”
The five recipients are the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (Arlington, Virginia); the National Tour Association (Lexington, Kentucky); Capital Region USA (Washington, D.C.); the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (Denver, Colorado); and the Center for International Trade Development at El Camino Community College (Torrance, California).
The Department of Commerce’s outlay for the 2009 awards will be matched by investments by the awardees totaling $3.4 million. As part of the program, they have pledged to pay a minimum of two-thirds of each project’s cost and to sustain the projects after the MDCP award period ends in 2012.
For more information about the Market Development Cooperator Program, visit the program’s Web page at www.trade.gov/mdcp.
Iraq Investment Conference Draws Many to Washington, D.C.
More than 1,000 businesspeople, government officials, and trade specialists came together in Washington, D.C., on October 20–21, 2009, to attend the first-ever U.S.–Iraq Business and Investment Conference. The Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State, as well as the embassy of Iraq, organized the conference. It was a unique opportunity for U.S. businesses to learn about the business climate in Iraq and to meet senior Iraqi government officials and representatives of Iraqi firms.
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Attendees at the U.S.–Iraq Business and Investment Conference, held in Washington, D.C., on October 21–22, 2009, had an opportunity to meet with representatives of more than 150 Iraqi firms. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
The two-day conference featured four panel discussions on numerous aspects of doing business in Iraq, including the banking sector, the legal and regulatory framework, and the U.S. business experience. Twelve breakout sessions focused on individual industry sectors, with numerous presentations by senior Iraqi officials. The sessions were offered in conjunction with several matchmaking events that allowed U.S. business representatives to meet their Iraqi counterparts. Keynote speakers at the conference included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Additional speakers included Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Tim Holz.
“The conference was a great tool for improving business relations between the United States and Iraq,” said conference attendee Kyle McEneaney, vice president of Northern Gulf Partners LLC. “[And] it was a great event to meet existing business partners as well as form new relationships that we expect to lead into productive business ventures.”
Through its Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force, the Department of Commerce has a long-standing commitment to Iraq. It maintains a commercial office in Baghdad that helps to link U.S. firms with Iraqi partners, and it is pursuing several technical assistance programs. For example, the department’s Commercial Law Development Program has trained the Petroleum Licensing and Contracting Department of Iraq’s Ministry of Oil in negotiating and implementing durable contracts with international oil companies.
Other federal agencies involved in organizing the conference included the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business Stability Operations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
For more information about the U.S.–Iraq Business and Investment Conference, visit the Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force’s Web site at www.trade.gov/iraq.
Contributors to this section include Brad Hess of the International Trade Administration’s Manufacturing and Services unit and Tanya Cheguer, Susan Hamrock Mann, and Ariana Monti of the Department of Commerce’s Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force.