UT helps to find global clients

Program teaches local firms how to expand reach overseas

8/21/2013
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Walkways connect the Savage & Associates Complex for Business Learning & Engagement at the University of Toledo, right, with the Stranahan Building at left.
Walkways connect the Savage & Associates Complex for Business Learning & Engagement at the University of Toledo, right, with the Stranahan Building at left.

A two-year-old program at the University of Toledo aimed at helping local firms develop skills for doing business globally is gaining traction, officials say.

About a dozen companies have gone through the College of Business and Innovation’s Global Business Development Institute. A new class is enrolling now, and response has been the best yet, program coordinator Debbe Skutch said this week.

OBJECTOfficials hope to both educate companies that are new to doing business outside U.S. borders as well as hone the skills of those that already do.

“International commerce is constantly changing,” she said. “The technology and all kinds of new laws and regulations are being put in."

The program, which starts in October, meets once a month for eight months. Participants get advice from a variety of experts, including some UT professors.

Generally, the course covers supply chain issues, export financing, business cultures, and developing strategies to enter new markets. But it goes much deeper than that into specific issues companies really deal with.

“This program is different and unique because we customize it to those going through,” Ms. Skutch said. “We might have the same general topics, but we talk about the issues the companies going through the program are dealing with."

Because of that, UT tries to keep the number of companies in each class low. Ms. Skutch said it would like to keep the number under nine.

Though a range of business sectors have been represented in the first two years of the program, most of the companies have been in manufacturing.

Global trade was an important component for many Toledo-area businesses as they weathered the recession. It also has been growing in the recovery. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Commerce said metro Toledo’s exports rose 12 percent in 2012 to a record $2.7 billion.

Though it can be difficult and at times risky, experts say it is important for companies to at least look for ways to diversify their business into other global markets.

And sometimes, customers find them.

“We get many companies saying, ‘We never thought of this before, but we got a hit and someone in Belgium [or another country] is interested in our product. What do I do?’ ” Ms. Skutch said.

UT’s program partners with the U.S. Department of Commerce and is mirrored after a Cleveland State University initiative. The program costs businesses $1,595 to send two representatives. At completion, attendees also are admitted into the Commerce Department’s Gold Key service that finds overseas business opportunities, with United Parcel Service partnering to cover the cost.

Ms. Skutch said applications will be accepted for six weeks. Those interested can download an application form at utoledo.edu/​business/​global/​target, or call the Global Business Development Institute at 419-530-2068.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.