Exports program a cross-border success

Published December 13, 2012

Business, education and government leaders last month celebrated the success of the inaugural Exports to Canada program, a collaboration between the School of Management and the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA).

The Exports to Canada program is an economic development program that connects School of Management interns with local businesses to help them increase their level of exports across the border.

Carrie Gardner, director of the School of Management’s Credit-Bearing Internship Program (CBIP), and Maryann Stein, director of international programs for ECIDA, worked together to launch the program, which provides training to local businesses seeking to expand their customer base into Canada and then matches them with School of Management interns to help achieve that goal.

“We received strong support from our dean, Arjang Assad, and the UB Office of Economic Engagement, in getting the program under way,” Gardner says.

Stein brought MBA students Mark Bortz and Chris Courtney on board to help run program. Their internships were partially funded through Western New York Prosperity Scholarships.

Bortz and Courtney then matched MBA interns with participating companies, including Ascension Industries, Buffalo Newspress, Life Safety Engineered Systems, RJR Engineering, Secura Technologies and ValueCentric.

“While the anticipated benefit to the businesses is quite clear, this program has also provided our interns with access to some of Western New York’s most fascinating companies and has given them insight into the ECIDA’s mission,” Stein says.

Bortz notes that while he was “pretty green” at the beginning of the internship regarding IDAs and economic development, “this experience has given me an appreciation of how economic development entities directly benefit companies and the community.”

The Exports to Canada program will now be a recurring internship opportunity for MBA students, Gardner says, calling it “a valuable resource for students who wish to gain international business experience.”

John Dunbar Jr., an adjunct instructor in the School of Management, served as faculty mentor to the interns in the program. He is principal of Strategic Investments and Holdings Inc., a private equity firm specializing in growth capital, recapitalization, acquisitions, family businesses and management buyouts of middle market companies.

National Grid provided a grant to assist the program through an approved economic development plan from the New York State Public Service Commission.