Middle Ground

In The Lead

A new trade lead program puts you on course.

Entrepreneurs know finding leads is tough. But it's particularly hard abroad. An improved tool, however, may make it a breeze.

Last fall, the SBA joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to enhance the Global Technology Network (GTN), a trade lead program designed to match U.S. companies with opportunities in more than 40 countries within Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The GTN's focus is on technology in several sectors: agriculture, communications, information, environment, energy and health. By the time 1998 numbers are tabulated, USAID expects the program to have generated approximately $100 million in new contracts for U.S. firms.

Trade leads generated by USAID are placed into a database entrepreneurs can access at the SBA's 19 Export Assistance Centers, by phone (800-872-4348) or on the Web (http://www.usgtn.org). "When we can't [help], we refer companies to someone who can provide assistance," says Hank Merrill, director of the Office of Business Development at USAID.

Tips often come from countries seeking companies to serve their development needs. "In many respects, business is more important than humanitarian aid for these countries," Merrill says. "Privately financed projects help long after aid money runs out."

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Middle Ground.

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