For today’s college graduates who are entering America’s competitive workforce, “real-world” experience is critical. When students join the UTSA Institute for Economic Development’s International Trade Center, they engage in a multitude of institute operations that contribute to the success of business advisors and clients, locally and internationally.
The International Trade Center is one of the largest and most successful trade assistance organizations in Texas. In more than 20 countries across the Western Hemisphere, UTSA business advisers are strengthening economies by training foreign governments on how to start their own Small Business Development Center networks.
The International Trade Center leads the SBDC international expansion initiative through their SBDCGlobal program. SBDCGlobal directly stems from President Barack Obama’s 2012 vision for a Small Business Network of the Americas. The effort would create a hemisphere-wide network of SBDC programs to assist millions of foreign small businesses start and grow their operations, while also serving as a potential market for the U.S.
“We are proud of the groundbreaking work of the International Trade Center, leading the way for Texas companies to go global,” said Robert McKinley, UTSA senior associate vice president for economic development. “International Trade Center Director Cliff Paredes and his team are also leading the expansion of the SBDC Network throughout much of Latin America and the Caribbean for the U.S. Department of State, growing a valuable distribution network of trading partners.”
In the Northern Triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, 30 Small Business Development Centers are currently operational. Because of the services offered by those SBDCs, a total of $9.7 million in sales was generated in those three countries in 2015. During the same year, SBDCs in the Northern Triangle, Belize and the Dominican Republic created 11,536 new jobs and SBDCs in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras formalized 1,986 small businesses.
“Latin American SBDCs are results- oriented, with a goal of creating economic impact through job creation, productivity, capital infusion and more,” said Minerva Garcia, SBDCGlobal senior international project manager.
In Chile alone, 35 SBDC’s are fully operational with 16 more to open by the beginning of 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined Chilean President Michelle Bachelet for the October 2015 opening of Chile’s first SBDC in the city of Valparaiso.
“One of our very best centers is operated by The University of Texas at San Antonio; It is going to be working directly with our Chilean friends in helping to ensure that your centers do exactly the same,” said Kerry.
Experiential learning at the International Trade Center goes by many names. Students are the “international market research specialists” and “foreign investment specialists” who provide business advisors with critical information.
Senior international business advisor Alberto Rodriguez-Baez oversees a team of international market research specialists. The team gathers data and produces in-depth market research and analysis for small to medium-size companies. Companies include manufacturers, distributors in the industrial, retail, and food industries and others. Under Rodriguez-Baez's guidance, students who assume this role participate in site visits and meetings, and present research results to clients. Rodriguez-Baez’s team has presented directly to company owners, sales departments, and trade promotion agencies. In 2016, the team conducted a webinar-based training on international trade advising for advisors in Latin America.
“Students work on market research that has ‘real life’ impact," said Rodriguez-Baez. "Clients will typically base many of their international trade decisions on the market. As the International Trade Center opens new SBDC networks in Latin America, the research team provides our clients with the information required for them to succeed in those markets.”
The International Trade Center also runs the Texas International Business Accelerator program, overseen by Senior Project Manager Jaime A. Martinez. Students in this program serve as foreign investment specialists who assist TIBA advisers with developing investment business plans that include a business model, industry analysis, marketing and sales strategies, management, and financial projection. The program assists foreign entrepreneurs and companies start or expand their operations to Texas. Since its inception in 2011, TIBA has helped create 2,175 new jobs and generate more than $167 million in foreign investment to Texas.
The vast majority of TIBA clients have historically been from Mexico, attributed to its close proximity to the U.S., but TIBA has worked with clients from Norway, Brazil, China, Colombia, and Venezuela, among others.
“TIBA is the most valuable tool to invest in the United States,” said Martinez.
Maria Jose Buendia, a former TIBA student researcher, returned to the International Trade Center in 2016 as an international business advisor. She knows TIBA pushes students to test their skills by understanding their clients’ background, vision and needs.
“I was once an intern in the program three years ago and this job is what most students at UTSA need," said Buendia. " This job puts your skills into practice and pushes you. It exposes you to the real world because you get to connect with clients in the ‘real-life’ business world.”
Beyond the emphasis placed on experiential learning, the institute fosters career opportunities. International Business Advisor Jorge Sanchez, who joined the International Trade Center in 2014 as part of Rodriguez-Baez’s research team, quickly earned a promotion to advisor.
“The institute and the International Trade Center take great lengths to make sure that our interns and students have the resources to succeed,” said Sanchez. “Over the past two years, Alberto Rodriguez-Baez and the rest of the staff gave me the opportunity to continually improve and obtain the hands-on international trade experience that I could not have learned in a textbook or classroom.”VISIT WEBSITE
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Community Connect magazine is an annual publication produced by the Office of the Vice President for Community Services (VPCS). The mission of Community Services is to extend UTSA beyond its campuses into San Antonio and South Texas through public service, extension, outreach and community education. This mission is accomplished through a variety of programs and initiatives, some of which are showcased on this website.