Thoughts from a global perspective; Yousif B. Ghafari reflects on term as U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia.
Yousif Ghafari is a well-traveled and well-versed man. Born in Lebanon, Ghafari immigrated to the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. in the early '70s and founded his business, GHAFARI Companies, in 1982. What started as a small architecture and design firm in Dearborn has now expanded to an international giant with multiple offices throughout the world.
A highly successful company and numerous philanthropic awards is enough for most people to call it a career. Ghafari on the other hand, was just getting started. In 2008, former President George W. Bush appointed Ghafari as the United States Ambassador to Slovenia, where he spent the past two years improving diplomatic and business relations between the two companies.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Regional Chamber named Yousif Ghafari the 2009 World Trader of the Year for his significant contributions to the promotion of international trade and exceptional involvement in promoting Michigan as a great place to do business.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Ghafari about his thoughts on the global marketplace and the opportunities that exist for companies in Michigan.
Tell us about your role as U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia and how it helped spur economic growth.
Part of my objectives as Ambassador was to increase the United States' investments in Slovenia and improve the trade of goods between the two countries. We would often host American companies and service providers at our embassy to help answer their questions about the Slovenia; typically questions about laws, the country's investments and the current markets. Whatever we could do to help these companies, we would do it.
We also ran trade shows where franchisers from all over the world would exhibit to find partners and investors and help bring the franchise model into other parts of the world like Slovenia.
Can you give us an example of a company you worked with?
One that comes to mind happened during my last few weeks in Slovenia. The Westinghouse Company, who is doing a big push in nuclear energy, knew that Slovenia had a need for that type of energy and inquired about doing business in the country. Slovenia has had a great experience with their existing nuclear plant and would love recreate it.
With interest on both sides, our job at the American embassy was to help Westinghouse position their company in Slovenia and get acclimated to the country's surroundings. We were certainly happy to help. Projects like Westinghouse are typically long term investments and can take 10 to 15 years to complete from the time it's first talked about it until the plant is built.
What do American companies need to know when investing abroad?
It is important for American companies to not only consider the size of the country, but they also need to look at the entire region as a whole and make sure they understand the culture, laws and other determining factors that influence investment.
My advice for American companies is that if you want to do business in Slovenia, you better have something to offer and be able to differentiate your product. Slovenians are very smart and sophisticated buyers who know what they want and you have to be able to fit their needs.
Many common brands throughout the world like Coca Cola Noun 1. Coca Cola - Coca Cola is a trademarked cola
cola, dope - carbonated drink flavored with extract from kola nuts (`dope' is a southernism in the United States) and high tech companies like HP and IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) arc already in Slovenia and doing quite well because they offer quality products and good service.
What are the differences you see in the American economy compared to the rest of the world?
The size of the U.S. economy is 13 trillion dollars, which can sometimes be intimidating in·tim·i·date
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates
1. To make timid; fill with fear.
2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats. for small countries whose purchasing power Purchasing Power
1. The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing power is important because, all else being equal, inflation decreases the amount of goods or services you'd be able to purchase.
2. is less than a third of ours. However, I believe all of our economies are interconnected and when we go through an economic crisis like we are now, it is felt throughout the entire world; not just here in the states.
When I left Slovenia, they were just beginning to feel the pinch we've been feeling here for quite some time. Their main trading partners are Austria and Germany and their automotive sector is beginning to suffer as well. Mercedes and BMW BMW
in full Bayerische Motoren Werke AG
German automaker. Founded as an aircraft engine manufacturer in 1916, the company assumed the name Bayerische Motoren Werke and became known for its high-speed motorcycles in the 1920s. are not producing the volumes they used to. That hurts their suppliers, which than affects the local economy in Slovenia.
So as you can see, the world's economies are very much interconnected. There is even more evidence in Japan where Toyota just announced its first profit loss in 50 years.
The economy is creating a lot of challenges throughout the world. Do you see any opportunities arising from these challenges?
Absolutely, where there is a challenge there is an opportunity. My company, GHAFARI, is a good example. Traditionally, 65 to 70 percent of our business originally came from the automotive sector.
Over the past few years we have been able to diversify our client base and move into the international market. We now have offices throughout the world and are receiving a substantial amount of work in growth regions like the Middle Eastern Gulf and India. It is really helping us weather the slow down of the economy in Michigan and the United States. As a result of this business, we have recently opened offices in the Doha, Qatar; Baroda, India and have plans to open another office in Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi (ä`b thä`bē, zä–, dä–), Arab. Abu Zabi, sheikhdom (1995 pop. 928,360), c. .
What specific industries do you think have growth opportunities in Michigan?
Michigan has many opportunities in health care. We have excellent health care systems, hospitals and doctors, which we can use to our advantage and export our knowledge in these services to other areas of the world. There are also great opportunities for foreign companies to invest in Michigan with our strong education and technology base. The traditional economy of Detroit no longer exists. The old story of three generations of family all working for one of the automakers is a thing of the past. Today's youth need to learn a high level of scientific and mathematical skills as these are the skills the world is looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. . We now live in a global marketplace and now compete with the Chinese, the Indians and other growing countries.
Enrollment in engineering programs at Michigan universities increased substantially over last year's numbers. Why? These are the jobs that are in demand for the future. There is a tremendous need to make our country energy efficient and many excellent opportunities exist in the development of alternatives fuels and energy. Michigan's universities are some of the best in the country and can play a major role in developing and retaining talent to do work in these areas.
What makes Michigan attractive to foreign companies looking to invest in the United States?
Michigan has long tradition of leading the automotive industry The automotive industry is the industry involved in the design, development, manufacture, marketing, and sale of motor vehicles. In 2006, more than 69 million motor vehicles, including cars and commercial vehicles were produced worldwide. , which is attractive to investors. Our location, great universities and work ethic work ethic
A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.
a belief in the moral value of work all work in our favor. When I tell people overseas that Americans often work long days, they look at me like I am out of my mind. In Europe, people do not work 12 to 14 hour shifts like many of us do here. Europeans place great value on having personal time for themselves and with their family. The American work ethic is definitely something many countries find impressive.
Michigan also has some of the best universities in the world. The more students we can graduate in engineering fields, the more companies will invest here. Logistics is also a key factor for our success. Great airports, water ways and available land for development are all assets that make it easy to export goods, which is a major contributor to our success and a selling point selling point
An aspect of a product or service that is stressed in advertising or marketing.
Noun 1. selling point - a characteristic of something that is up for sale that makes it attractive to potential customers for foreign companies who want to manufacture goods in the region.
Steve Poole is marketing manager for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
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