The Business of Trade
Sometimes business owners need a little nudge to step outside of their comfort zone and try a new venture.
Angelo State’s International Trade Office (ITO), an extension of the university’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), serves just that purpose.
“We provide the technical how-to expertise for exporting and importing, but we focus more on exporting,” said Dave Erickson, SBDC director. “It can be very complex.”
Founded in 1995 with funding from the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, the ITO is staffed each semester by two international graduate students in the ASU Master of Business Administration program. The university pays the graduate assistant salaries while the SBDC seeks donations to cover operating expenses, travel and professional development. The ITO also receives office space from the SBDC.
The majority of the graduate assistants who work in the ITO come to ASU from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Chihuahua, Mexico. Their input about trade with Mexico and other Latin-American countries is invaluable for small businesses in the Concho Valley. This past academic year, Monterrey Tech grad David Rodriguez shared his knowledge with ITO clients in the SBDC.
“Because my work experience is in Mexico, I know how they do business,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the best advantage I can give the SBDC here.”
In addition to students from Mexico, the ITO has also been staffed by students from several other countries, including Russia and Germany. The graduate assistants work to make connections and relationships with business owners in the local community to help generate interest in exporting and importing. No matter what business owners are interested in, the graduate assistants have knowledge to help.
Rodriguez said his role in the ITO complements his student experience at ASU. He frequently pulls from his statistical knowledge when he is helping clients to research ventures. His ITO experience will also be beneficial to him when he is searching for a job because he is planning a career in international trade.
“Exporting is always better because you’re producing here and getting money overseas,” Rodriguez said.
When helping a client, the specific product for importing or exporting must be taken into account.