Export Development Canada (EDC) has opened its first US office to better service SME exporters, forge more links with regional partners and be a source for commercial financing to US corporations buying from Canadian suppliers.

The export credit agency (ECA) says the new office, in Atlanta, Georgia, comes in response to research showing that more than three-quarters of Canadian SMEs taking their first exporting steps do so in the US and would benefit from on-the-ground assistance.

A spokesperson for the ECA tells GTR that the southeastern location was highlighted by Canadian businesses as an area rich in opportunities for key Canadian sectors, including retail, aerospace, forestry and advanced manufacturing (including automotive) and technologies.

“We also chose the southeast because of the presence of strong regional banks for EDC to partner with, the well-connected Canadian trade commissioner service operating out of Atlanta, and the considerable number of Fortune 500 companies in the region,” the spokesperson explains.

A large part of EDC’s US activities will focus on partnering with these banks to provide financing to major US corporations either already buying from Canadian suppliers or with a strong potential to do so in the future.

Atlanta will serve as the ECA’s base of operations to boost exports and investment into the fast-growing economies of the US southeast, which includes Tennessee, Florida, North and South Carolina and Georgia.

A second US office in Chicago is due to open in May in order to access similar business potential further north.

EDC says it had previously been able to assist Canadian businesses in the US remotely and reserved on-the-ground offices for emerging markets as these posed the greatest barriers to entry, but that current demand for its services made a US base necessary.

“We want to be helping more companies than ever before, especially SMEs, and to do that we need to be where most Canadian companies want to go,” the spokesperson adds. “The US is also a landing spot for Canadian SMEs to springboard into additional global markets, either through the supply chains of major international companies based in the US or through foreign affiliate sales.”

The office will be headed by Michael Gonsalves (pictured, centre), who joined EDC as senior regional manager for the southeast in December. Before that, Gonsalves spent six years as vice-president in private banking at SunTrust Bank, where he led a team in Atlanta and Miami developing and managing private wealth relationships. Prior to that he was part of Wells Fargo’s wealth brokerage services team for four years.

“Success in international trade is about more than getting goods and services across the border. It’s about making connections with people and establishing quality relationships to open doors to new opportunities,” says Mairead Lavery (pictured, left), who took the helm at EDC in February as president and CEO. “We’re better placed to do that by being on the ground in Atlanta, helping Canadian SMEs grow internationally, expanding Canada’s global footprint, and strengthening the economy at home.”

Atlanta is EDC’s 19th international representation, with other offices already open in Mexico City, Monterrey, Bogotá, Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Düsseldorf, Istanbul, London, Johannesburg, Dubai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney.

In 2017, EDC opened its first overseas corporate branch in Singapore. Unlike EDC’s other locations, this office is able to negotiate and underwrite deals remotely to better service buyers of Canadian goods and services within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China and India.

Pictured left to right: Mairead Lavery, Michael Gonsalves and Christelle Shirandi, EDC coordinator in Atlanta.