The Chester County Economic Development Council has announced the formation of Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors — a private-sector advisory board that will support regional and international companies looking to expand imports, exports, foreign direct investment and international partnerships.
In making the announcement Wednesday, the Chester County Economic Development Council said it has gotten the commitment of 25 international business experts from across seven Pennsylvania counties — Berks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York — to serve on the board.
The advisory board has two main goals, according to information on the organization’s website: expand global markets for Pennsylvania companies and assist international businesses with investing in the state.
Wilfred Muskens has been named program director for the initiative. He is honorary consul in Philadelphia for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and former deputy secretary for the Office of International Business Development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
“What makes Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors truly unique — with nothing else like it in Pennsylvania — is that its members are almost entirely from the private sector, we receive zero government funding and focus exclusively on international trade and investment,” Muskens said in a statement. “We’ve also expanded our reach to include not only the greater Philadelphia area but the entire state of Pennsylvania.”
Muskens added that Global Business Advisors’ goal is to be a complementary, business-to-business source of international information and expertise, leveraging but not replacing free and low-cost assistance available from federal, state and regional trade organizations. The advisory board will refer companies to those organizations as well as offering Global Business Advisors member services where appropriate and useful.
Pennsylvania Global Business Advisors is the next step for the economic development council’s global business initiatives, which are mobilizing for the first time since the pandemic, the release stated. The Chester County Economic Development Council’s International Business Council has, for more than 20 years, worked with international business leaders, bankers and attorneys in the region to support local businesses in global business ventures. So while the concept of such a group is not new, the reach is expanding to include not just the greater Philadelphia area, but the entire state of Pennsylvania, according to an emailed response to questions.
Among the Pennsylvania businesses and universities that will support Global Business Advisors are Fox Rothschild; Fulton Bank; Littus; Siemens, White & Williams; NAI Commercial Partners; UPS; Prepay Nation; Brandywine M&A; Green and Spiegel; Pennex Aluminum; Villanova University; West Chester University and Elizabethtown College. Other active partners include the U.S. Commercial Service (Philadelphia office), the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, the German-American Chamber and the Mid-Atlantic Eurasia Business Council.
According to information on the website, members include:
Ed Auble, Auble Financial (Paoli); F. William Bogle, founder, Global Market Management (greater Philadelphia); Joe Flaim, Fulton Bank (Lancaster); Michael Grigalonis, Chester County Economic Development Council (Exton); Anurag Jain, Prepay Nation, (Berwyn); Val Koganm, Mid-Atlantic – Eurasia Business Council (Philadelphia); Rajesh Kumarm, Global Strategic Advisory (Philadelphia); Rick Merluzzi, Metal Exchange Corp. (greater St. Louis); Nasim Sadr-Fala, US Commercial Service (Wilmington, Del.); Gary Smith, Chester County Economic Development Council (Exton); Shawn Standen, Fulton Bank (West Chester).
Additional members will be added over the next few weeks and months, according to a press release.
Global Business Advisors will also collaborate with other international organizations in Pennsylvania, including the commonwealth’s Office of International Business Development (Department of Community and Economic Development), the state Department of Agriculture, World Trade Centers in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, World Affairs Councils, bilateral Chambers, and Small Business Development Centers. Industries served include agriculture, finance, health care, life sciences, energy, tourism, logistics and higher education.
Areas of expertise for the advisory board range from strategic planning and market research to international logistics, law, real estate, education and banking — in addition to individual country, cultural and language expertise, according to the release.
Muskens said global priorities have changed dramatically since COVID, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and related supply chain disruptions. Members of the Global Business Advisors have done business in more than 60 counties and speak more than 20 languages.
“This exceptional partnership ensures that local businesses can draw on the region’s greatest international minds to build their presence in global markets, and international businesses get easy access to a full range of foreign investment support services,” Michael Grigalonis, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Chester County Economic Development Council, said in a statement.
He added the council has several projects already underway, including an“upcoming trade mission to Ireland, a partnership opportunity with India, a Dutch urban farming endeavor, support of a Canadian manufacturer and services for underrepresented communities including Hispanic-owned businesses.
In addition, the Chester County China Initiative (CCCI), a pre-pandemic partnership between Chester County and the economic development council to promote business relationships in China, resulted in a number of business partnerships and formal cooperation agreements that continue today, the organization said Wednesday.