SBDC selected to promote international connections

October 1, 2014

Harper College's Small Business Development Center in Schaumburg is one of eight in the country – and the only one in Illinois – chosen for a new federal program aimed at building relationships and increasing trade with Central and South American businesses.

Led by the U.S. State Department, the Small Business Network of the Americas Fellows Program is essentially a foreign exchange program for small business advisers.

The leader of the Guatemalan SBDC Network was recently in Schaumburg learning best practices, observing workshops and meeting the center's clients to explore potential partnerships. In the spring, Small Business Development Manager Tom Cassell will visit Guatemala to engage in a similar exchange of best practices and hands-on learning.

"The U.S. centers are really serving as mentors, showing our counterparts how to run a center, counsel clients, implement assessment tools and build workshop content," Cassell said. "The other aspect of the program is promoting trade between the two centers' clients and look for any synergy between the two bases."

Cassell said that during his Guatemalan counterpart's visit, the pair has identified some potential partnerships. For example, Cassell said a client of the Harper SBDC is a flower distributor and that Guatemala is a leading producer of orchids.

"The idea is to identify those potential relationships and foster them," Cassell said.

Other SBDC business advisers and center directors from the U.S. are visiting small business service centers in Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela.

The exchange is sponsored by the Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and coordinated by World Learning, an international non-profit organization that partners with the ECA on a wide range of professional exchange programs.

Media contact: Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159