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Illinois SBDC International Trade Center
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Council Charged with Increasing Exports, Imports and International Investment

September 28, 2015

 SW IL TIC Board Meeting         Alan Dunsten                             

More than two dozen chief executives from public and private entities across the Metro East met on September 23 at the inaugural board meeting for the brand-new Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council. 

Silvia Torres Bowman, director of Southern Illinois University’s International Trade Center, credited a slate of individuals - including Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan, St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern and others - for their long-term dedication in planning and launching the council. The group’s mission is to raise awareness of global exporting and foreign direct trade investment as an opportunity for economic stability and growth in Southwestern Illinois.

“We are working to identify and form strategies to address barriers that may be preventing or limiting Southwestern Illinois companies from exporting,” said Torres Bowman, noting that the formal board will meet quarterly but work will take place throughout the year. The Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council’s goal is to encourage existing and potential global exporters in the region to participate in and support the programs developed by the council.

In attendance at the council’s first meeting were representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Office of Trade and Investment, all three of Southwestern Illinois’ regional airports, two regional ports, Madison and St. Clair counties, private-sector exporters, freight forwarders, bankers and others.

John Navin, dean of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Business, welcomed the council’s board members. The meeting was held on the campus of SIUE.

“When we look at businesses in Illinois, exporting is an extremely important part of what we do,” said Navin. “We are all partners in increasing exports in Illinois and in moving Illinois’ economy forward.”

SW IL TIC Board Meeting 1

Chairman Dunstan said the formation of this new council represents a commitment from Madison and St. Clair counties to provide help to private companies and public entities. “The council will help our two counties capitalize on the export of products produced or grown in our area and further strengthen our reputation as the finest distribution center in the country”.  Dunstan offered statistics that underscored the region’s prominence as a gateway to commerce, both nationally and internationally. “Fifty percent of the U.S. population lives within 750 miles of where we’re sitting here today,” he said.

Chairman Kern said the council will also have a key role in helping businesses and manufacturers in the two counties take advantage of the lucrative environment for foreign investments.  “St. Clair and Madison counties are poised for growth and investment. Our counties have an excellent infrastructure system, strong manufacturing and agricultural areas, and offer a highly skilled and educated work force.  The Trade and Investment Council will ensure the international business community is aware of the excellent opportunities that exist in southwestern Illinois.”

Kern also lauded the distribution capabilities of the two counties and cited the strength of the council.  “When identifying potential members of the Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council, we targeted successful professionals with substantial experience in dealing with every aspect of the export and import of products and commodities, in addition to experts in the area of international finance.”

During a roundtable discussion at the September 23 meeting, several common themes emerged as the crux of what the new council will seek to achieve in the months to come. One of these, according to Torres Bowman, is to advise area companies about specific international growth markets and to personally walk them through the hoops necessary to understand how to begin exporting in a timely fashion.

“We’re going to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors, and we’re going to institute a mentoring program wherein existing Southwestern Illinois exporters can educate other firms that are exploring the possibility of exporting but aren’t quite sure where to begin,” she said.

Chairmen Kern and Dunstan are confident the council will have a significant, positive impact for businesses, manufacturers and the agriculture community in southwestern Illinois.   

The International Trade Center at SIUE serves entrepreneurs and small businesses in southern Illinois by providing individualized, export consultation; identification of foreign buyers, agents and/or distributors through trade leads, international market analysis and more. The ITC is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and SIUE as a service to the region’s entrepreneurial and business community.

As a key member of the Illinois SBDC Network, the International Trade Center delivers these important services to its clients while supporting the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.

For more information on why your company should consider doing business globally – and how to get started exporting – contact the ITC at or (618) 650-3851.

Silvia and Nathan Regan         Mark Kern                           


Upper Left View of the council meeting held at the Morris Center

Upper Right Madison County Chairman Dunstan addressing the Council

Middle Right Silvia Torres Bowman, director of SIUE’s International Trade Center, introducing Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan. (L-R): Nathan Regan, SelectUSA-U.S. Department of Commerce; Alan Dunstan;  Silvia Torres Bowman; Edie Koch, former Southwest Regional Manager-DCEO; Mark Kern, St. Clair County Chairman; John Navin, Dean, SIUE’s School of Business

Lower Left Nathan Regan, Senior International Investment Representative of SelectUSA made a presentation to council members regarding foreign direct investment opportunities available for the Southwestern Illinois region

Lower Right  St. Clair County Chairman Kern welcoming council members as SIUE’s School of Business Dean, John Navin listens

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 Video: Strategies for Growth
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The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a service to Illinois small businesses

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