Each State and Province recognizes the economic growth and job creation fueled by exports, yet faces resource constraints in supporting small to mid-size exporters. To overcome this challenge, in 1990 the Conference created a voluntary, non-competitive partnership to advance and enhance the States’ and Provinces' international trade initiatives. The Conference has used a unique and innovative approach to maximize results.
The Conference has created a network of fourteen shared international trade offices around the world. Each member State and Province has the opportunity to participate on a fee for service basis. The mission of the shared trade offices is to offer responsive and comprehensive services to small and medium sized companies from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region seeking to expand product and service sales. These offices are located in some of the world's most dynamic and fastest growing business centers:
The greatest benefit to participating in the Conference’s shared trade offices is their cost-effectiveness. By sharing fixed overhead costs as well as the salaries of foreign trade officers, a State or Province has the opportunity to maintain a presence in an established or emerging market that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive to enter. The States and Provinces also benefit from an ongoing forum to share information as well as the administrative assistance of the Conference staff.
The shared trade office model has proven to be a great success for the Conference and its member States and Provinces. The common Midwestern culture and strong working relationship among the Governors and their international trade teams has been instrumental to this success. Similar product and service portfolios have also allowed the foreign trade offices to promote each State and Province individually while under the umbrella of the Conference.