British political leader Harold Wilson memorably uttered “export or die” when he headed the Board of Trade in the post-war era. Wilson would go on to serve as prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Serving that post, he worked to encourage the development of foreign markets for goods made in the British Isles.
Another political leader who was committed to encouraging exports was Congressman Wes Watkins of Oklahoma, who believed that the Sooner State’s agricultural products and manufactured goods should be sold to foreign nations.
Watkins’ vision inspired the creation of the Center for International Trade and Development that is known by the acronym CITD and is now part of the Small Business Development Center at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
The Small Business Development Center has offices in various locations throughout the state, including one at the University of Central Oklahoma and provides assistance to small businesses. As documented on its website, during the past five years the center has provided more than 70,000 hours of business counseling that resulted in more than 1,200 business starts and the creation of more than 5,400 new jobs.
Since June of last year, CITD has been headed by Anthony Cambas, whose education and work experience make him uniquely qualified to head that organization.
Cambas, who is the descendant of Cuban and Spanish cigar makers who migrated to Florida in the early years of the last century, has an undergraduate degree from Florida Atlantic University in international relations and a certificate in Latin American and Caribbean studies and a master’s degree in International Customs Law and administration from Canberra University in Australia.
Cambas possesses a quarter century of experience working in customs in both the private and public sectors and was head of a U.S. Customs team in Miami for several years. Cambas, who is fluent in Spanish and Portugese and has a limited command of French and Italian, has also served as an advisor to several African and Latin American nations that were seeking to improve their exporting process.
He has lived in Angola and El Salvador, where he worked with officials to modernize their international trade procedures.
Before he assumed his current post, Cambas served as an international trade specialist at the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University in Peoria. He recently explained that his office provides free counseling to Oklahoma businesses in areas such as international trade and export assistance, marketing, logistics, international finance and payments and customs compliance.
There are also two international trade specialists on the CTD staff, Kate Arroyo and Justin Hazzard as well as a financial coordinator, Rebekah Kidanemariam.
Cambas reports that he has been impressed with the Oklahoma business men and women whom he has dealt with since he assumed his post and looks forward to working with them to develop an international market for the state’s goods.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is a retired attorney.