Local business delegation travels to Middle EastWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A delegation of local business owners departed Feb. 24 on a cultural and educational exchange trip to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
The trip runs through March 16 and is hosted by the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development (GLC) and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The GLC received a grant for the exchange from the State Department through the WSOS Community Action Commission, acting as contract agent and manager. The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation and the Center for Family & Privately-Held Businesses are facilitating the bilateral exchange.
Delegations of business owners from Jordan and Lebanon visited Toledo in September and May to learn about entrepreneurial and family businesses in the U.S., said Thomas Gutteridge, dean of the College of Business and Innovation.
The group toured local companies, attended family business workshops and identified key issues for improving their businesses. The local delegation acted as hosts, mentors and speakers during the fall and spring visits, said Elizabeth Balint, coordinator of the exchanges.
Now, the GLC delegation is visiting the Middle East to learn how they operate and host workshops at local universities to continue consulting about issues of interest.
The U.S. delegation departed from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, flying to Paris and then to Amman, Jordan. It is scheduled to spend several days in Amman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Martin Nagy, executive director of the Arts Council Lake Erie West and volunteer with the GLC, is serving as leader of the delegation while making his first trip to the Middle East.
“Projects like these take on a life of their own and that’s why I look forward to this trip,” Nagy said. “I believe in success for everyone in these programs, including participants, faculty, students and alumni.”
Patti Skaff, an instructor of international business at Lourdes College, hosted the delegations that visited this area and was invited to make this trip.
Skaff said it is her first trip to the Middle East and will serve as an opportunity for her to experience what she teaches about how international business is conducted. It also applies to her work as international accounts manager for Impact Products of Toledo, which hosted the foreign delegations.
Karl Parker, president and CEO of Parker Enterprises, said he “hopes to establish relationships on green space and sustainability and bring back their best practices and some sources for exporting business in electrical construction products to the U.S.” Parker has some international business experience, working in a family business and for a large corporation in the Far East.
Tom and Annie Pipatjarasgit are a husband and wife team involved in a family business. Tom serves as president and Annie as vice president of marketing and product development for the chain of Magic Wok restaurants founded in Toledo by his father.
The Pipatjarasgits got to know the delegations from the Middle East and look forward to learning about the businesses there. They also have friends from the Middle East who own and operate restaurants in Toledo.
“We’re looking for opportunities to grow our business internationally,” Tom said.
Bill Darah, chairman and CEO of Superior Uniform Sales in Toledo, and his wife Amira served as hosts for the delegations from the Middle East. The couple is now visiting them in their countries.
Darah is from the third generation of a family dry-cleaning business founded in the mid-1920s. It evolved into the uniform business that provides embroidery and screen printing services to its customers.
Bill and Amira’s ancestors came from the Middle East so they look forward to returning to the area they have previously visited. She will serve as the delegation’s translator.
Ronald and Janice Overmyer of Oak Harbor have been involved in family businesses for many years. A retired agricultural extension agent, he grew up on a family farm that raised corn, soy beans, vegetables and wheat as well as pigs and milk cows.
Overmyer has helped establish several value-added agricultural businesses to assist farm families in wealth creation. He has served as a mentor for business development and entrepreneur programs of the GLC for international visitors.
James Hartung described himself as the “nontraditional delegate” since he is not an owner of a business. He believes he offers a unique perspective with 30 years in international business development with public and private partnerships, such as leading the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
Hartung is currently a management consultant with James A. Poure & Associates, which serves family-owned and small businesses. He also serves as chairman of the board for Enviro, a local environmental technology firm.
“It will be a very exciting and educational experience to see how the young business owners continue trying to effect change, growing and developing their businesses despite challenges they face in their countries,” Skaff said.
To follow the delegation’s trip, visit Skaff’s online blog at www.lourdes.edu/glc. For more information about the GLC, visit www.gl-consortium.org.