Mason Enterprise Center to Assist British Companies’ Expansion into U.S. Market

Posted: February 9, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

The School of Public Policy’s (SPP) Mason Enterprise Center (MEC) has entered into a strategic partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC) for Greater Merseyside to assist 12 companies in the Liverpool region, United Kingdom, as they expand into the U.S. market and work with Virginia-based technology firms.

The partnership was the end result of MEC’s market research into European areas that have economic development groups looking to help businesses begin operations in Virginia. MEC, an economic development unit, has previously worked with companies in countries around the world, including Japan, Israel, Romania, Finland, Sweden, Brazil and Chile, and it works with approximately 2,000 clients per year.

“For the first time, MEC has a partner in the United Kingdom that is especially small business-friendly, technology-savvy and very proactive in working with us to create more international business partnerships with our local companies,” says Marshall Ferrin, director of international business development for MEC.

“We are proud of our new partnership with the Greater Merseyside/Liverpool region, as it will give our Virginia companies direct access to native English-speaking technology companies they can partner with for business in both the United States and the European Union,” he adds.

ITC acts as a representative of UK Trade and Investment, the UK’s official lead body on international trade, and actively assists and advises businesses to develop trade relationships in North America. With the United States currently the largest export market for British goods and services, the ITC is particularly dedicated to its relationships with U.S.-based firms and organizations.

After meeting with Ferrin last October, Colin Gardner, ITC international trade director, says he knew he had found someone he could work with to achieve his group’s goals.

“Originally, we talked to a wide range of such organizations on the East Coast of the USA to try and establish a number of key partnerships,” he says. “When I met Marshall, it was very clear that the MEC’s requirements plus the similar industrial base in Virginia matched very closely with our situation and needs in Liverpool.”

Steve Smith, chief executive of Merseyside ICT, one of the companies working with ITC, agrees that the new strategic partnership with MEC will benefit companies in both the United States and the UK.

MEC meeting
Representatives from United Kingdom companies visited George Mason as part of a new partnership with the Mason Enterprise Center (MEC). Right, from rear, Robert Sheretta, CEO, the International Investor; Marshall Ferrin, director, international business development, MEC; Mark Basnett, director of investment, the Mersey Partnership; Steve Smith, director, Merseyside ICT. Left, from rear, Fred Bassnett, North American advisor, International Trade Center (ITC) for Greater Merseyside; Colin Gardner, international trade director, ITC for Greater Merseyside; Kingsley Haynes, dean, George Mason School of Public Policy.

“I see this coming year’s activities as merely the first stage in what I hope will be a long-lasting trading relationship that will allow Merseyside to participate on an international stage,” he says. “The George Mason network of associations has partner agencies across the globe, and it is this ‘United Nations’ of trading bodies that we wish to join.”

In late January, representatives from ITC and its partners came to the United States for several days of meetings with George Mason officials, including Ferrin and SPP Dean Kingsley Haynes, and Virginia-based businesses that are also working with MEC.

This year, two trade delegations from Merseyside/Liverpool will come to Virginia to work in the technology and biotech sectors and to participate in large trade exhibitions. The British companies will work with the MEC and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a branch of the commonwealth’s government, to facilitate similar visits by Virginia-based business representatives to the U.K.

“[Our] hope is that our local companies can use the services and contacts provided by MEC to get a foothold in the U.S. market, initially to find a customer or customers to sell to, but ultimately, if the business progresses, to consider investing in Virginia,” says Gardner. “Likewise for Virginia companies visiting the northwest of England through the resources available through ITC, Mersey Partnership and Merseyside ICT organizations.”

Through its International Business Accelerator (IBA) program, MEC is able to provide business development services to companies that want to expand into the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. In the past, MEC has found U.S. partners for 16 international companies.

“We can provide an effective ‘soft landing’ for international companies that wish to connect with Virginia companies for U.S. market expansion,” says Ferrin.

For more information on the Mason Enterprise Center, see its web site.

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