An international delegation of entrepreneurs and leaders from 18 different countries was in town this week as part of a professional development program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State called the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The goal of the IVLP is to strengthen U.S. engagement with countries around the world and cultivate lasting relationships by connecting current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the United States. The Department of State’s local partner, the San Diego Diplomacy Council, arranges professional, educational, and cultural exchanges for incoming delegations based on their areas of interest. This delegation—which included entrepreneurs and professionals from Bahrain, Bulgaria, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Hungary, India, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Moldova, Mongolia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Tunisia, and West Bank and Gaza—was particularly interested in learning about how entrepreneurship and small businesses are nurtured and supported in the U.S., as well as the role of the CITDs and how they are linked to community colleges.

During the meeting, which took place at Southwestern College’s Higher Education Center in National City, the San Diego CITD team delivered presentations tailored to the interests of the group and objectives for the visit. CITD Director and DSN for Global Trade and Logistics, Victor Castillo discussed the impact of small businesses on the U.S. economy as well as the programs available to help support their growth. Additionally, Mr. Castillo discussed the Economic and Workforce Development initiatives of the California Community College system and efforts to address skills gaps in priority and emerging industry sectors. CITD Business Advisor and Program Coordinator, Gabriel Reyes, presented on how the U.S. nurtures entrepreneurship through various policies and programs at the federal, state, and local levels, as well how the San Diego CITD developed an online model for self-employment training through its Youth Entrepreneurship Program. San Diego CITD International Trade Specialist, Monica Rosas, provided an overview of the CITD and how it supports small business exporters.

Throughout the meeting, the delegates were engaged and asked excellent questions about the programs being presented. The group will be visiting other economic development organizations, business associations, and local businesses in San Diego, as well as travel to Denver, Colorado and Detroit, Michigan during their trip.