International business professionals from the Greater Lansing region and other parts of the U.S. met on November 10 at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center to discuss the global efforts of Greater Lansing’s business organizations and also to highlight the financial and professional resources available in the region.
The daylong event attracted local businesspeople, professionals in the shipping industry, financiers, MSU business professors and senior officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration, who all shared their expertise and experiences in the various aspects of global business.
“Each day we must focus our organizations for short-term growth as we position for future expansion,” said John Sztykiel, the keynote speaker and the president and CEO of Spartan Motors.
Sztykiel urged the participating businesspeople to use the local international business research resources and consultancy services provided by MSU’s International Business Center, the Global Business Club of Mid-Michigan, and the U.S. Commercial Services, among others, to position their companies for international growth. He also said that the U.S. enjoys certain unique strengths in the world market which business leaders need to take advantage of.
“The world cannot get enough of U.S. products; 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S. and we have major currency strength against most of our trade partners,” he said.
Developing Port Lansing as a vibrant regional supply chain hub also featured as one of the overarching discussions at the conference. Dr. Dave Closs, chair of the Broad School’s Department of Supply Chain Management, highlighted the various ways through which Port Lansing could be developed to stimulate economic growth and job creation in Michigan. He said that Port Lansing’s development as a regional hub has the potential to create 66,000 new jobs in the state.
“Port Lansing is a good potential for cross border distribution away from the congestion of the Chicago-Toronto hubs,” he said. “We also have a good airport and excellent highway infrastructure with limited congestion; we have a great opportunity here.”
He said that an expanded Port Lansing would also benefit from the locally skilled workforce from MSU’s Supply Chain Management program.
The conference, which attracted financiers from various financial institutions in the country, benefited from advice from different financial sectors in the country.
Charles Tansey, senior vice president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, was present to discuss the role of the Ex-Im bank in supporting small businesses. He said that his bank allocates $5 billion each year to support small businesses and that five percent of that amount is loaned out for export trade.
Among other features of the Ex-Im bank that support businesspeople is trade credit insurance, which Tansey said protects U.S. traders against default payment by foreign buyers.
“Our focus is on providing senior secured credit on export transactions that generally involve higher risks,” he said.
Tansey underscored the importance of small businesses in the U.S. He said that 75 percent of U.S. employers are small businesses with 25 employees or less.
He urged small business owners in the Greater Lansing region to find out more information on loans that would help them increase their cash flows and revenues.
“Countries overseas do not get enough of what we produce,” he said. “There is a large market out there; come to us, talk to your banks about your options and get to business.”
John O’Gara from the Small Business Administration was also present to talk about the supportive programs and services available through the SBA.
“We believe that a business should not miss a viable sale for lack of credit,” he said.
He said that the SBA provides credit for most business activities including pre-shipment financing, market development costs, acquisition of the manufacturing of goods and performance bonds.
Thomas Zernick, vice president of SBA lending at Citizens Bank, gave a presentation on “Borrowing Money in Today’s Credit Jungle…What’s New at the SBA.” He discussed the international sales and the exporter challenges that influence U.S. exporters’ need for certain types of credit and what the exporters need to do to access the credit to finance their trade activities.
Bob Selig, executive director of the Capital Region Airport Authority, discussed the creation of a forum for Port Lansing Global Shippers Association. He said that this kind of association would provide international shippers with options to reduce logistics expenses by consolidating freight. He also said that through a Web-based portal, shippers would be able to post information about their incoming and outgoing international freight and view other schedules for available space and matching destinations for possible sharing of shipment containers.
Senator Debbie Stabenow made remarks to close the conference. The Senator discussed the National Export Initiative and commented that Port Lansing is a key asset that will help facilitate global trade for our region.
Port Lansing was able to organize this conference with support from the conference sponsor, Citizens Bank, along with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors including MSU’s Center for International Business Education & Research (MSU-CIBER), Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, PC, Global Business Club, the U.S. Commercial Service, Global Image Network, Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport and LEAP, Inc.
By Emma Ogutu