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VAGTC receives presidential award for export service

May 23, 2019

VAGTC receives presidential award for export service

The Van Andel Global Trade Center in the Seidman College of Business has received the President's "E" Award, the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented the award to Sonja Johnson, executive director of VAGTC, and Mark Bleckley, associate director of VAGTC, during a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. May 23.

Ross said the Van Andel Global Trade Center has demonstrated a sustained commitment to export expansion. 

"The awards committee was very impressed with the organization's number and variety of seminars and workshops to educate exporters," said Ross. "The organization's collaboration with partners in the community was also particularly notable. The Van Andel Global Trade Center's achievements have undoubtedly contributed to national export expansion efforts that support the U.S. economy and create American jobs." 

The Van Andel Global Trade Center was founded in 1999 as an outreach unit of Grand Valley to provide the community with international consulting, training and resources. The center seeks to strengthen the community by helping companies increase their international business and become more competitive in the global marketplace. 

VAGTC has helped thousands of businesses achieve their goals of going global. The center is also the grantee-administrator for the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon Foreign Trade Zone. 

"Receiving the 'E' Award is an extremely proud moment for our entire staff," said Johnson. "We are here today to celebrate the recognition of our impact on the community and the companies that use our services and our talented staff. The award also celebrates our commitment to providing students with hands-on applied international experience before graduation."

Johnson thanked Grand Valley, the Seidman College of Business and the VAGTC global advisory board for their continued support.

"Most important is our extensive partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Commercial Service network that leverages each organization's resources to best assist businesses across the state," said Johnson. "We look forward to continuing to help Michigan businesses grow their exports, creating jobs for our community and future GVSU graduates."

In 2018, U.S. exports were the highest on record with U.S. services at $821.1 billion and U.S. exports of goods reaching $1.7 trillion, demonstrating how American private enterprise can not only survive, but thrive, in the international market.

"Exporting can be a significant challenge for small and mid-sized businesses, but there are great resources in our community that can help companies tap into foreign markets," said Kendra Kuo, director, U.S. Commercial Service – Grand Rapids. "The Van Andel Global Trade Center is one of our region's leaders in promoting international trade through their trade education events and services. They have a wealth of knowledge on their staff and have consistently succeeded in their efforts to grow West Michigan's visibility in international markets, which exemplifies the spirit of the Department of Commerce 'E' Award."

American companies are nominated for "E" Awards through the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service office network, located within the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. Record years of successive export growth and an applicant's demonstration of an innovative international marketing plan that led to an increase in exports is a significant factor in selecting the overall winners.

For more information about the "E" Awards and the benefits of exporting, visit

To learn more about the VAGTC, visit

For More Information Contact: Dottie Barnes in University Communications - (616) 331-2221

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Page last modified May 23, 2019