Written by The Business Journal Staff
Alicia Rios, Director
California Centers for International Trade Development (CITD)
State Center Community College District
What we do:
The California Centers for International Trade Development (CITD), a division of State Center Community College District, works year-round to fulfill its mission to promote the state’s international trade competitiveness, assist exporters and importers, and advance economic and job growth.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in International Business (1999) from California State University, Fresno.
Many nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 4 months to 22 years.
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Alicia?
I’m proud to say I was born and raised in Hanford and earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis on International Business from California State University, Fresno. As a Valley resident, I am very familiar with the many agricultural assets located within the Central Valley and as such, I’m constantly working with our CITD team to involve and engage the rural areas within the Valley in new and exciting exporting opportunities.
Tell us a little about your career in international trade development, Alicia.
International Trade has always been my passion. One of my first projects with CITD 15 years ago was researching and developing new international trade related training programs for our clients. From that initial project, CITD has grown to become the premier international export center on the West Coast. It was also during that same time-frame that I was able to assist 150 women and minority-owned agricultural and food companies with export expansion and development into the Central America and Mexico markets; one of my most rewarding career experiences.
What are your goals in your new job as director of the California Centers for International Trade Development, Alicia?
My major goals are to increase brand awareness of CITD’s export services and the resources that are available to California companies at little to no cost. Additionally, I would like to drive more economic development activities to the Central Valley by encouraging foreign buying groups to visit the Valley to meet with the many agricultural producers that have made California the number one agricultural exporting region in the country.
How has international trade activity grown in the Central Valley, Alicia?
By successfully facilitating 12-15 agricultural trade missions to California each year, CITD has become a primary point of contact for many overseas agencies that bring buying groups to the United States. This success has lead more and more regional companies to participate in training programs like the California Agricultural Export Training Program (CalAgX) so that they too can become export ready and expand their business even further within new international markets.
How would you gauge the impact of the Fresno Food Expo on your mission, Alicia?
CITD and the Fresno Food Expo continue to enjoy a mutually successful collaboration. Through this partnership, CITD has provided customized export training for Fresno Food Expo exhibitors to prepare them to meet with qualified international buyers, resulting in new opportunities to significantly expand business growth for Valley food producers. In 2013, CITD welcomed qualified buyers from the Pacific Rim, Canada and Latin America to the Fresno Food Expo. In 2014, qualified international buyers are expected to come from China, Taiwan, Mexico and Canada, ultimately increasing existing export activity and developing new exporting opportunities. We describe our partnership as—the perfect match!
Does your job afford you the opportunity to travel? What are some of your favorite places, Alicia?
Every year, CITD coordinates one or two outbound missions, in addition to our inbound missions. I have personally escorted agribusiness groups to India, China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Canada, Mexico and Central America. These have all been rewarding experiences, but my favorite destination would have to be Thailand because of the people, food, history and architecture.
Tell us a little about some of the inbound buying missions you’ve coordinated, Alicia.
I coordinated and lead the California State Export Program (STEP) Agricultural Mission to China and Vietnam in partnership with CDFA in September of 2013. The mission supported 12 California companies, which resulted in the following impressive outcomes:
• $2 million in export sales.
• Mission delegates participated in the California Week Opening Ceremony in Shanghai.
• Mission delegation met with over 132 buyers in Shanghai and 120 buyers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
What was the best advice you ever received, Alicia?
My grandmother, who will be 100 years old in 2015, came here from Mexico at the age 20 and always told us “el que trabaja duro buenas cosas seguirán”, which means work hard and good things will follow. This very basic advice is completely true, as we’ve all followed her words and feel blessed with the results of our hard work.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Alicia?
My very first job was in high school. I worked at a drugstore in Hanford, which has long since closed, where I gained wonderful customer service skills, including a keen understanding of the value of treating all customers with respect and courtesy.
What is your message to Central Valley businesses looking to export their goods, Alicia?
You can do it! That’s why the California Centers for International Trade Development exists. There are so many export possibilities through CITD and we welcome Valley businesses to contact us directly to see how we can help them expand their operations internationally. Our international buyers are constantly looking to be matched with Central Valley growers and manufacturers. Since 1990, the CITD has documented success of more than $750 million in ongoing export sales.