By: Tim Harwood
OPIC kicked off its 2013 Expanding Horizons series in Cleveland yesterday by educating 100 Ohio small business owners about how OPIC products can help them take advantage of investment opportunities in emerging markets – the very markets where a majority of the world’s economic growth will take place in coming years.
Co-hosted with the Minority Business Development Agency Business Center-Cleveland, the half-day seminar was a hands-on tutorial in the innovative financial tools – among them financing and political risk insurance – that OPIC has used for four decades to help Ohio businesses successfully invest in those markets.
[Click here for a profile of DLZ Corporation, a Columbus engineering firm that used an OPIC loan for a hydro power project in India as a springboard to subsequent growth.]
“Ohio has a long tradition of innovation, particularly as an incubator for small businesses and new technologies. We believed Cleveland was an important place to come to as its SMEs consider engaging in the global marketplace,” said OPIC Director of Outreach and Public Affairs Dr. Larry Spinelli, who led the seminar.
“And our message is this: there are a lot of opportunities in emerging markets, but also challenges. OPIC is here to help Ohio small businesses to take advantage of those opportunities by managing those challenges in an effective way,” Dr. Spinelli said. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner in getting this message across than the MBDA.”
Raland Hatchett, Executive Director of MBDA Business Center-Cleveland, said, “The information provided in the seminar was impactful, insightful and well-received – a fact supported by the number of questions from the minority-owned business owners in the audience. I highly recommend that others use the seminar to disseminate information about OPIC.”
For Srini Kalicheti of AIM-IT, a consulting company looking to establishing a water bottling operation in Africa, the seminar was worth every bit of his seven-hour drive from Chicago: “I was very grateful to be here. I was hoping to learn about the OPIC loan application process, and I did. I got what I wanted.”
Emerging markets: where investment opportunities, Ohio strengths and OPIC experience meet
OPIC’s goal at the seminar was to create an opportunity triangle in attendees’ minds: investment opportunities exist in emerging markets; Ohio small businesses are well-suited to those opportunities; OPIC support can help bring those opportunities to realization.
Make no mistake, the opportunities are real. Franklin Templeton Associates reported in January that growth rates in many emerging markets exceeded those of developed markets by a wide margin in 2012 – and that trend is likely to continue. The International Monetary Fund has projected that during the next five years, ten of the 20 fastest-growing economies will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, and two in North Africa.
Equally true is Ohio’s knack for staying at the cutting edge of new business sectors, such as renewable energy and the sciences. Ohio has the largest bioscience sector in the Midwest and is recognized internationally as the ‘Fuel Cell Corridor;’ Toledo is recognized as a national solar center, Cleveland a regenerative medicine research hub, Dayton an aerospace and defense hub, Akron the rubber capital of the world, Columbus a technological research and development hub, and Cincinnati a mercantile hub.
Against that backdrop, OPIC is uniquely equipped to align Ohio small businesses with opportunities overseas. The agency has zeroed in on renewable energy as its principal focus the past two years, with impressive results. From a starting point of $10 million in Fiscal Year 2008, OPIC’s support for renewable energy projects tripled to $1.1 billion from FY2010 to FY2011, and grew to $1.55 billion in FY2012. Such exponential growth speaks to the vast scale of opportunity in the sector.
Perhaps most importantly, OPIC knows Ohio. Over its 42-year history, the agency has provided $1.4 billion in financing and political risk insurance to projects sponsored by Ohio companies, which in turn have generated an additional 1.4 billion in exports and more than 12,500 U.S. jobs. Ohio suppliers for OPIC-supported projects run the gamut from Alcan Aluminum Corporation, Applied Industrial Technologies and Fluid Mechanics, Inc. to Master Builders, Inc., Merian Instrument Co. and National Fuse Products, to name only a few.
Next stop on the Expanding Horizons schedule is Charleston, South Carolina, on May 7.