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.