By Catherine Doss
Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 14 - December 3, 1998
Virginia Tech's newly established World Trade Institute has begun its first round of training programs designed to increase export capabilities for companies in the Appalachian region of the state. Last week, representatives from 24 counties gathered in Marion for a two-day introductory session that covered topics such as the impact of international trade agreements, state and federal export-assistance programs, trade finance and logistics, international legal issues, and regulations and standards.
"This program is designed to give economic developers an understanding of international trade and the tools to support the export efforts of companies in their localities," said Chad Miller, economic-development specialist in international trade with Public Service Programs, a unit of the university's Outreach Division.
The program involves regular reading assignments, on-line tests of each section, working with actual companies, a market-research project, and a final classroom phase to be held on the Tech campus in March. Upon successful completion of the course, participants will receive certification as export-development specialists and will be qualified to identify companies with export potential, target companies' export needs, find answers to needs, and ultimately increase exports throughout the Appalachian region.
"This program is rich in depth and scope," said David Kleppinger, executive director of the Rockbridge Partnership and one of the participants. "The time I put in to it will be justified for companies here in Rockbridge County because I'll be providing a specialized service to existing industries."
Patrick Burton, regional planner with the New River Valley Planning District Commission, indicated the program will be especially valuable because the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance is leading an effort to establish a foreign-trade zone in the area.
"The training is valuable in acquainting economic developers with basic concepts and issues pertinent to international trade," Burton said. "Virginia Tech's program complements and enhances the New River Valley's commitment to develop international trade." Burton also said course work familiarized participants with the wealth of resources and services offered by the federal and state governments for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to sell their products overseas.
"Exports have been the primary driving force behind economic growth in the United States over the past six years," said Joe Adams, economic-development specialist with Public Service Programs, who along with George Hiller, international-marketing manager with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), developed the concept of training a cadre of export specialists in strategic locations throughout the Appalachian region. "Southwest Virginia is often referred to as the `export bread basket' of the commonwealth due to the fact that so much manufacturing takes place here."
The World Trade Institute was established last spring in collaboration with the VEDP. A $245,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will support the institute's activities during the first two years of operation.
"Both organizations recognized the strong history of collaboration between the VEDP and Virginia Tech," said J. Douglas McAlister, executive director of Public Service Programs.
For more information about the World Trade Institute, contact Mary Carney or Chad Miller by telephone at 1-4043 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.