An expanded alliance between Michigan State University and Michigan Economic Development Corporation will go a long way toward taking the guesswork out of the intricacies of global trade for small and medium-size companies in nearly a third of Michigan counties.
“Our task is to assist Michigan businesses efficiently and cost-effectively connect to international markets,” said Tomas Hult, professor of international businesses and director of the International Business Center (IBC) at MSU’s Broad College of Business. “We are leveraging our knowledge and expertise in identifying opportunities and market strategies for Michigan businesses in the 176 countries where MSU currently has a presence.”
More than 1,400 MSU faculty and staff work in countries around the world. Specific knowledge of cultures, customs, laws, regulations and international supply chains are invaluable for local businesses that deliver products to meet the expectations of a particular market, said Hult. IBC is one of 17 centers designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a country-level resource in international business and trade.
“Having the top-rated supply chain program in the U.S. has attracted international businesses to MSU to hire graduates and tap into the expertise of business scholars and researchers at the university,” said Jeanne Broad, director of MEDC’s international trade program.
MEDC’s export office offers export consulting, organizes overseas trade missions and provides financial assistance for international marketing.
“Our collaboration with MSU provides Michigan businesses with a decided advantage and knowledge of how to master the supply chain of their businesses, which, for many enterprises, is the difference between simply maintaining and creating a thriving endeavor," said Broad.
The extended reach abroad provided by MSU faculty and interns translates into helping businesses develop specific market strategies to grow their businesses in the Michigan’s Regional Export Network (REN) that spans 24 counties in mid-Michigan, the Thumb, Lansing, Jackson and southward to the Ohio border, excluding the metro Detroit region.
The three other export network regions in Michigan include Traverse City, Grand Rapids and metro Detroit. The networks are part of MEDC’s International Trade Program, and outreach to Michigan-based businesses engaged in international trade.
Last fiscal year, companies assisted by MEDC’s trade program reported $342.1 million in sales, a 49 percent increase over the previous year. In the first quarter of this, companies reported $129.8 million in sales, about 38 percent of the annual target. At the current rate, about $500 million in sales is projected for the current fiscal. If that holds, it’s estimated that the increase in sales would create 2,500 Michigan jobs.
Businesses in the expanded REN represent a range of industries, including advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, auto-related, biosciences, food processing machining and medical device development.
Last year, more than 14,000 Michigan-based companies were involved in international trade. Michigan ranks above the national average with 91 percent of state-based companies participating in some form of exporting. The national average is 82 percent.
“We aim to get companies over the hump of risk-reward,” said MSU’s Hult. “It’s essential for businesses to understand the viability of their product beyond Michigan and the Midwest. Ultimately, successful businesses face a choice: Where should we focus our sales and manufacturing?’ The question could come down to Indiana or India.”
“We’re here to help them make that decision,” he said.