UB MBA Students Help WNY Firms Investigate Trade Opportunities

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: October 20, 1993 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Several Western New York companies are trying to gain toe-holds in Eastern European markets with the help of University at Buffalo MBA students.

Five students spent the summer in either Poland or Hungary conducting marketing and industry studies that assessed each company's potential for trade and/or investment in the countries.

The participating companies were Dunkirk Radiator Corp.; Graphic Controls Corp.; The Mentholatum Co., Inc.; Rich Products Corp., and Columbus McKinnon Corp.

The studies were done as part of the Global Export Market Service (GEMS) program run by the offices of research and economic development of the State University of New York, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Economic Development.

"This program represents a unique opportunity for a select group of New York companies to focus on opportunities in the Hungarian and Polish markets, and contribute to the learning experience of highly qualified MBA students in international business," said John M. Thomas, associate dean for international programs in the UB School of Management.

The students were matched with their respective companies in the spring, and spent the last two months of the school year working with the companies to define a concrete project. The summer months were spent in either Poland or Hungary, gathering information of interest to the assigned company.

Each student represented the interests of his sponsoring company, and was responsible for implementing a project that met the needs and objectives of that firm, Thomas emphasized.

The students received translation and other assistance in their respective countries through School of Management ties with Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and the Technical University of Budapest.

The students conducted a variety of projects, interviewing government officials, potential distributors and possible joint-venture partners, and researching privatization and labor and tax law.

For instance, Robert Wrobel spent eight weeks in Warsaw conducting basic market research for Dunkirk Radiator. His task: to try to determine the steps Dunkirk must take to export its hot-water boilers to Poland.

Roger Duryea, who also worked in Poland, conducted studies for Mentholatum. He followed up on the registration process that Mentholatum previously had initiated in order to export to Poland some of its core products. He also explored the market potential of some products of Mentholatum's parent company, Rhoto Pharmaceuticals, and offered some suggestions for distribution strategies.

David Miller, whose original task for Columbus McKinnon was to re-establish contact with a potential joint-venture partner, researched other options for the company in addition to the joint-venture. He recommended the company pass on the joint venture and instead make its own "green-field" investment in the company.

If Columbus McKinnon follows his recommendation, "I know I will have been a part of that," Miller said.

All three students praised the program, saying it had been a tremendous learning experience.

"I got to apply in a real situation some of the things I've learned in class," said Wrobel. "It gave me a chance to dive in and see how things really are."

The students' employers were equally impressed.

"I found it to be a very effective way to get some very detailed information about a specific project or country that it would otherwise take the company a lot longer to do," said Craig Johnston, general manager of the international division of Columbus McKinnon. "The ability to have a single individual concentrating full-time on something in the international marketplace was valuable for us."

Johnston said Miller produced for the company a 100-page report covering all facets of areas such as distribution, joint ventures and new factory development, as well as legislation and political climate, subjects a company "could only find out about first-hand."