From the March 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Ever dream of expanding your franchise into Egypt . . . Italy . . . everywhere? Or maybe you're a franchisee who needs to convince your franchisor the global marketplace is ripe for the taking?

Until recently, the costs of taking a franchise international were too high for many. Enter the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a government agency helping U.S. companies invest in the emerging markets of 140 countries.

"We're trying to help U.S. businesses, but by helping them, we're also helping the development of [other] countries," says Larry Spinelli, OPIC director of communications.

OPIC provides companies with political risk insurance and long-term loans. Insurance covers anything from damage sustained during civil unrest to government seizure of assets. OPIC loans of $250,000 to $200 million can be taken out to cover the cost of expansion projects. Any franchisor with annual sales of less than $250 million can apply.

To get started, Spinelli recommends first visiting www.opic.gov, where you can view the loan application and find out what information OPIC needs.

Interested franchisors can also discuss expansion projects with Abed Tarbush, a business development manager with OPIC (202-336-8632). OPIC is glad to lend a hand to many of these businesses. "Often big franchisors are in a situation to provide financing for local franchisees, whereas the small-business guys aren't always in a position to do that," Spinelli explains. "Now OPIC can help them play that role. We're very excited about that."


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