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Michigan companies urged to consider emerging overseas markets

Michigan Radio

There's a big, untapped market in emerging countries for services and products made by Michigan companies.

That's the message of OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  OPIC steps in where private banks are loathe to tread, offering market-rate loans to small and medium-sized businesses that want to expand into emerging markets overseas.

The loans range from $500,000 to $250 million - with the average loan for a small company being $3 million to $4 million.

"Close to 90% of the world's consumers live outside the United States, so the potential market is just vast," says Larry Spinelli, OPIC's Director of Outreach and Public Affairs.  "Without the opportunity to expand in the global marketplace, businesses will have a difficult time competing with those that are doing that."

OPIC also offers  a product called political risk insurance. "It insures your business against any kind of political uncertainty," says Spinelli.  "You want to make sure you have a safety net in case something goes wrong, because you can't look into the future and see what's going to happen."

Spinelli says he's often asked if OPIC loans help companies offshore U.S. jobs, and the answer is a flat "No.  We do not support projects that have any kind of negative effect on the U.S. economy or cause job loss in the U.S."

Spinelli says there's a huge appetite for all things American, from brands to services.  He says OPIC is particularly interested in helping American renewable energy companies expand to emerging markets.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.