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OPIC Workshop for Minority and Women-owned Businesses Draws 140

September 24, 2009

BOSTON, Massachusetts – A workshop for minority-and women-owned businesses in the greater New England area organized by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) drew 140 participants from 18 states around the country today, educating small businesses about investment opportunities overseas and the OPIC products that can help companies take advantage of them.

The Expanding Horizons workshop, held at the Westin Hotel at Copley Place, was the latest in a series that has educated more than 900 small and medium-sized business owners across the United States about OPIC products and services. Participants at the Boston workshop represented all six New England states and came from as far afield as California and the United Kingdom. 

“Women- and minority-owned businesses are essential contributors to our economy and depend on the same opportunities to succeed as others. OPIC is uniquely positioned to enable New England businesses to make the most of investment opportunities in emerging markets – access to which could prove important to New England’s ability to pull out of the recession,” said OPIC Acting President Dr. Lawrence Spinelli. “We are extremely pleased to see such a large turnout today.”

Dr. Spinelli noted that a 2003 study by the Minority Business Development Agency suggested that minority-owned U.S. businesses enjoy ‘genuine competitive advantages’ for investing overseas – including flexibility, comfort and experience with diversity, and decision-making speed – but were not making sufficient use of them. Firms were reluctant to export because of perceived barriers and obstacles, the study reported – despite the fact that “smaller firms are typically innovative, fast-moving and accustomed to producing in limited volumes uniquely suited to marketing in both developed and developing countries.”

 The workshop began with a panel discussion on government programs featuring moderator Leslie Schweitzer, senior trade advisor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; James Cox, Northeast network director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service; John Joyce, New England export finance manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration; John Richter, senior vice president of small business for the Export-Import Bank of the U.S.; Susan Rittscher, president and CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise; and Richard Torborg, business development specialist for the Minority Business Development Agency’s Boston Regional Enterprise Center.

In an addition to customary workshop sessions on OPIC products such as political risk insurance and financing for SMEs, the Boston event featured a new session on OPIC support for renewable energy and clean energy technology projects, a new area of focus for the agency.

Elizabeth J. Weber, co-founder and director of Edge Development Group, Inc. (EDG), a business consulting firm based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, was keynote speaker.

Organizations supporting the Boston workshop were the Bankers' Association for Finance and Trade; Boston Mayor's Office of Small and Local Business Development; Dialogue on Diversity; Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Boston; Massachusetts Export Center; Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce; Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment; Massachusetts Small Business Development Centers; Massachusetts State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance; National Association of Women Business Owners - International Forum; National Association of Women Business Owners - Boston Chapter; National Women's Business Council; New England Clean Energy Council; New Hampshire International Trade Resource Center; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Vermont Economic Development Authority; and Women's Business Center

OPIC held Expanding Horizons workshops in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles during 2006, and in Miami, Newark, San Francisco and Houston in 2007. Combined attendance for the earlier workshops was 765 participants, representing 22 states. Sixty-seven organizations supported the workshops.