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Released April 15, 2005


HATTIESBURG --Mississippi’s small- and medium-sized businesses will soon have more help in selling their products and services in the international marketplace through a new project headquartered in the College of Business at The University of Southern Mississippi.

The project titled “From Local to Global: The Internationalization of Business in Mississippi” is a $450,000 two-year initiative with $180,000 in funding from a federal Title VI-B grant through the U.S. Department of Education.

The major thrust of the project will be the development of an information technology (IT) business incubator that can equip small- and medium-sized businesses in Mississippi with the know-how and skills for selling their products and services to customers in the international community.

“In Mississippi, there is a real need for education and training in the applications of the use of IT infrastructure to promote international business,” said Project Director Farhang Niroomand, professor of economics and associate dean for the College of Business (CoB).

“We have the ability to improve the exporting performance of these businesses through the IT incubator with the help of our nationally renowned faculty team in international business and information management.” Niroomand adds that education leads to more effective applications of e-business infrastructure, and technology is important for an export-promoting program.

Project manager is Dr. Linghui Tang, assistant professor of international business. Other CoB faculty members who will be involved with the project are those who teach international business, entrepreneurship, management information systems, international marketing and international finance.

According to the Small Business Administration, 97 percent of the firms in Mississippi are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 500 employees. However, in 2001, the state ranked number 46 in the nation in terms of export performance among its SMEs, said Niroomand.

Small- and medium-sized businesses do not have the capital that allows them to risk entering the international business arena with an overseas office and do not have the business connections that large companies have. “Therefore, e-business becomes a necessary avenue for them to successfully sell their products to international markets,” said Niroomand.

Another component of the project is the development of an International Business certificate program for long-term international business education in Mississippi. This component will provide a foundation for continuous improvement of international skills and knowledge necessary for competing in a global economy, likely through a series of workshops. Finally, it will help establish an internship program for international business students at Southern Miss. The internship component will provide opportunities for students to help companies create and manage Web sites, conduct market research and develop international business plans.

Niroomand said that his project team will also collaborate with other individuals and Mississippi organizations on various components of the project, including Barbara Travis at the Mississippi World Trade Center, Liz Cleveland at the Mississippi Development Authority, and Adam Murray at the Small Business Development Center and International Trade Center at Hinds Community College.

This is the fourth grant of its type to be funded for international business initiatives under Niroomand’s leadership in the College of Business. The most recent initiative, completed in 2003, was Project Outreach which provided faculty training and curriculum development in international business education for junior and community colleges.


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May 16, 2005 2:57 PM