SAN FRANCISCO — An Obama administration official implores reluctant African American entrepreneurs to reach over the international waters and immerse themselves in the vast economic opportunities available across the globe.
Teresa Cox, a trade advisor with the U.S. Department of Commerce, broached the top while educating proprietors and aspiring business owners at the Small Business Workshop of the 100 Black Men of America annual conference. Cox said the floodgates are about to blast open in this arena, and blacks need to bring their buckets to scoop up the plethora of options washing ashore.
“President Obama has an international export initiative over the next three years that we’re going to pass $1.3 trillion in international business,” she said.
“We need to get involved in international trade. [Think] How do we get our products overseas,” Cox continued. “You need to make sure you get your share of that business and know how to drive that.”
She also drove the point home succinctly when she quoted economic pundits who believe the multiplicity of jobs that would be created if every business would venture outside of America’s borders.
“We are putting in tools [to do overseas business] throughout the whole United States. The whole Department of Commerce and every SBA [Small Business Administration], we are all are partners — even with the banks — trying to get every business to export. If every company did one export, we’d be creating 500,000 jobs. That’s how big the impact would be. That is the importance of being educated.”
Cox’s sentiments and business theory were authenticated, unbeknownst to her, by General Motors VP Eric Peterson during another panel discussion later that day. Peterson detailed GM’s vast international expansion, elucidating to college students how the auto manufacturer now sells more cars in China than in the U.S. The next “beach heads” for their operational expansion, Peterson said, would be in India and then Africa.
It is therefore incumbent upon black businesses and executives to get prepared to deal in the international marketplace as the borders separating countries and cultures have blurred since the advent of the Internet.
“When we interview for executive positions at GM, some people tell us that they want to remain centrally located, or ‘I want to stay in Southeast Michigan or Detroit.’ They essentially disqualify themselves. I can tell you that right now,” Peterson explained. “The world is so big, and we’re looking for people who are fluid or are interested or willing to take that assignment to go to China, or to go wherever, to bring back some of their learning to us or take some of ours to them, from that aspect. It’s ‘How can I help the company?’ and if you help the company, you will be rewarded. I can tell you that.”
Cox urged black business owners to go onto www.trade.gov and www.doc.gov as starting points to learn how they can begin to enhance and expand their business via international relations.
“I just came back from the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation where we met with the ministers of trade. And that’s another point: Get your foot in the door with these ministers of trade of these foreign countries so that they know your product, so that, when government officials travel to those countries, we take a shopping list of businesses who can do business in [those countries].”