As the Director of Public Affairs for OPIC, Dr. Larry Spinelli spearheads the Expanding Horizons seminars and workshops, which help educate American small- and medium-sized businesses about the benefits of entering emerging markets abroad, and the ways that OPIC’s finance and political risk insurance products can help.
With the first seminar of 2012 completed and another four Expanding Horizons events scheduled before October, we got a chance to catch up with Larry and ask him a few questions about the program.
Q: You just hosted the first Expanding Horizons seminar in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 14. How did it go?
A: The seminar was a huge success. We expected a few dozen attendees and were blown away when we had 65 participants. People came from all across North Carolina. This really underscores the fact that there is a great hunger for finding out what programs there are to help businesses expand overseas and reach new customers.
Q: What regions of the world and industries were people most interested in hearing about at this seminar?
A: Africa was the most asked-about region. There were actually several Nigerian-Americans in attendance. Renewable energy and clean technology, which are OPIC priority sectors, were the topics most people were interested in. This wasn’t a surprise given the proximity of the Raleigh seminar to the so-called Research Triangle, where many tech companies have been founded.
Q: What questions do you get most often at the Expanding Horizons events?
A: Because access to capital is still very difficult in the general marketplace, the question I hear most is, “Can I get a loan from OPIC?” The answer is many cases is, “Yes.” We get more questions about financing because of the lingering credit crunch domestically and internationally.
Q: What’s the most important piece of information you try to get across to small and medium-sized businesses at the workshops?
A: Because OPIC is a small agency, I try very hard to let people know who we are, what we do, and how we can help small and medium-sized businesses. The credit crisis is a very real challenge for businesses and OPIC is here to help them.
Q: Where will the Expanding Horizons series be traveling to next?
A: On May 10 we are hosting an event for the U.S. Gulf region in New Orleans. And then on June 27 we will be hosting an event for the New York Region in Manhattan. We are expecting that we will have a lot of interest for both.