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Duquesne SBDC to Lead Trade Mission to Colombia, Panama

Duquesne's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will travel to South America with 11 Pennsylvania companies from Sunday, June 23, through Saturday, June 29, in an effort to find opportunities for exporting their products in Colombia and Panama.

Both countries recently have signed free trade agreements with the United States, eliminating tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports. "This has opened up a great opportunity to tap into these two emerging trade economies," said Brent Rondon, manager of the SBDC's global business program and organizer of the trip.

Funding for the trip is provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration, which will reimburse participating companies for transportation inside Colombia and Panama, translator fees, registration fees and hotel costs.

Because of its expertise in Latin America and in helping small businesses trade to the region, the SBDC was chosen from among all 18 Pennsylvania centers to lead the trip.

"I'm very excited that we were chosen to take the lead on this," said Dr. Mary McKinney, director of the SBDC. "We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with the state of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Commerce and other SBDCs to recruit clients, produce trade manuals for these countries and complete training seminars across the state."

The planning involved in setting up a trade mission of this nature is extensive. Of the 30 Pennsylvania companies that applied to participate, only 11 were selected as the best-qualified candidates for doing business in Colombia and Panama. They represent the life sciences, oil and gas, manufacturing and construction industries.

To ensure that the trip benefits these companies, the SBDC has been working with the U.S. Embassies in Colombia and Panama to find potential customer companies that would be best matches, and one-on-one meetings have been set up between the pairs.

"It's a really impressive service to the U.S. companies that want to do business in these countries," Rondon said. "It's sure to be worthwhile for participants."

Other activities planned for the mission include networking receptions hosted by the American Chambers of Commerce Abroad, a business round table hosted by the University of the Andes in Colombia and a trip to the Panama Canal to see the expansion of the canal and understand the operations.

"We hope this is just the beginning of our leadership in the region for trade missions to our southern neighbors," McKinney said.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.