Connecting Local Companies with Global Markets

Michigan businesses are on the front line of the state's struggle to reinvent its economy for the 21st century. Now the Michigan Export Growth Program (MEGP) is available to help local companies make the transition to the new global market.

With grants from the Ford Motor Company Fund, the Eli Broad College of Business, and other University sources, MSU's International Business Center launched the MEGP in fall 2009 to assist small and medium sized businesses in Michigan while giving students an opportunity to build their leadership skills.

A number of other organizations assist companies with short-term or one-time consultations. However, sustainable growth often depends on the development of complex long-range plans and capabilities that are not easily addressed by a short-term relationship.

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Research and Business Plan Development

The MEGP offers ongoing pro bono consulting services that match the expertise of student consultants, working under close supervision by MSU faculty, with the exporting needs and opportunities of Michigan companies in the Lansing area. The students are responsible for diagnostic assessments as well as final recommendations for structuring, marketing, promoting, and implementing a development plan.

Patrick McHugh, a senior student in political theory, is enthusiastic about his encounter with the program. "My work with the MEGP has been a great learning experience. Every project that we have done with clients has been different," he said. "Performing the kind of research that we do for clients requires us to quickly become acclimated to the nature of their specific industry."

On one project, said McHugh, "We researched the market for telecommunication expense management services globally for a client. We helped them assess how adaptable their domestic services were internationally, and informed them on how the industry is similar and different in other countries. We advised them on potential regulatory barriers that they would have to overcome when performing audits of telephone bills in the European Union. They were surprised with the amount of detail and analysis we were able to provide on industry trends internationally. They used our findings to inform their board of directors on the potential in different international markets for their services."

"Our development timeline has moved forward by almost one year"

Robert Selig, Executive Director of the Capital Region Airport Authority and one of the clients who has worked with McHugh's student team, was equally positive about the experience. "The Michigan Export Growth Program has been instrumental in the launch of the Port Lansing Global Logistics Center by enabling us to identify Michigan companies and organizations who are actively involved in import and export activities," he said. "MEGP assistance has moved our development timeline forward by almost one year." The students created databases to help CRAA target potential businesses in the area for development.

Dr. Tomas Hult, director of the International Business Center, is pleased with the progress of the new program. "Developing the MEGP has given me a deeper respect for the diversity of businesses, especially small businesses, in the region as well as their interests in and prospects for internationalization," he said. "Working with participating companies has given me a number of concrete examples as to how businesses make sense of these opportunities. This learning enriches my research as well as my teaching." Dr. Hult sees "a number of potential research opportunities stemming from the MEGP, which we may undertake in the future."

Hult has also been "tremendously impressed by the top-notch quality" of his students' work for the program. "I have always known that MSU enrolls very high quality students," he said. "Seeing their work with this project and hearing such positive reviews from local business leaders has reinforced this belief."

The MEGP has committed to working with 50 firms (about 25 per semester) through May 2010. After that, according to Hult, they will be able to assist about 25 firms per year.

  • Written by Linda Chapel Jackson, University Outreach and Engagement

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