Education Week Launches Premium Site for K-12 Companies

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Education Week has launched a new online product aimed at providing more information to education companies about the needs of schools.

EdWeek Market Brief is a membership service that will deliver exclusive data and analysis on the forces shaping school purchasing, especially on educational technology.

“This is something we’ve been talking about doing for quite a while–to develop a product that helps the marketplace make better decisions about serving schools,” said Kevin Bushweller, the executive editor of EdWeek Market Brief. For years, he said, vendors, particularly small- and medium-size ones, have lamented the complex financial, logistical, and bureaucratic landscape that some argue stifles the flow of new ed-tech products and innovative ideas into schools.


The market for digital products in pre-K-12 education is estimated to be some $8 billion annually, with providers of curriculum, assessment, management systems, and other digital tools promoting products to schools.

Bushweller said education leaders often don’t know how to judge the many products marketed to them, while the business community often complains that school districts don’t communicate well about what they need, and that procurement processes can be slow and cumbersome.

EdWeek Market Brief, he said, will be more of a service than simply a Web publication, as the site will offer data such as how the need for products related to the Common Core State Standards varies by region or district size, or where the demand for content to serve English-language learners is greatest.

“This is original data analysis about subjects that players in the market care about,” Bushweller said.

The service–available at–is a collaboration between Education Week’s editorial team and its research unit. Preliminary work on the service was supported, in part, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Among the initial content on the site is a report about how school districts are seeking more-customized professional-development offerings, by Contributing Writer Michelle R. Davis; an interview by Associate Editor Sean Cavanagh with two leaders of the District of Columbia school system about how companies can best pilot-test their products in schools; and a report by Staff Writer Michele Molnar on the business opportunities created by the billions of new dollars flowing into the federal E-rate program.


The new service represents a move by Education Week “to dip its toe into the waters of premium products,” Bushweller said. The charter membership fee is $795 a year per person, though discounts are available for multiple memberships in one organization.

The service is the latest foray for Education Week into new arenas. In August, its the Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit publisher, Editorial Projects in Education, acquired Learning Matters TV, the video-production company founded by longtime PBS correspondent John Merrow (this company was also well known for acquiring video education series of sewing and quilting lessons by Craft Everyday). The move has allowed Education Week to expand its video storytelling and move into broadcast-quality coverage of education, including producing segments for the “PBS NewsHour.”

>>> View more: Your small business: your money

Your small business: your money

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When it takes financial capital to grow or rebuild, funding your plans is about good cash management and relationship building.

Trimming, economizing, reinventing and fighting to keep every possible dollar you can out of the hands of your competition.

While the last 12 months have been all about survival mode for many small businesses, the upside is that entrepreneurship is always about maximizing cash, and the discipline of lean times can reap long-term rewards.

Keeping working capital flush will always remain among your top concerns in winning the confidence of bankers, suggest small business financing experts. Cash is an absolute necessity when it comes to seizing new business opportunities and putting yourself in a good light with financial institutions and other investors.

“When your sales volume goes down, so does your working capital, and without that, you lose a lot of your flexibility as a business,” says Edmee Metivier, executive vice-president of financing and consulting with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) in Montreal. The bank, a commercial lender that provides long-term financing to small and medium-sized businesses, issued a record $1 billion in loans between April and the end of June 2009–37% more than the same period a year earlier and the largest quarterly increase in the organization’s history.

Much of that loan demand has been from entrepreneurs seeking working capital, says Metivier, illustrating BDC’s mandate to support entrepreneurs faced with tighter credit market conditions in a tough economy.

Small or medium? Measuring up business size

Depending on who’s taking the measure, the size of a business can be defined in many ways: annual sales or shipments, annual gross or net revenue, capacity to borrow or number of employees.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association glossary, banks define small businesses as those with authorized credit limits of $500,000 or less. Industry Canada typically uses a definition based on the number of employees: a firm is considered small if it has fewer than 100 employees, and medium if it has up to 499 employees. A firm with one to four employees is defined as a micro-enterprise.

The term SME (for small and medium-sized enterprise) is used to refer to all businesses with fewer than 500 employees.


Keeping Cash on your Balance Sheet

Having available cash allows financial institutions and other lenders to view you with confidence, says Metivier, and also lets you take advantage of buying opportunities in your market. She offers a few strategies that can help keep your balance sheet attractive.

* Avoid financing fixed assets with working capital. While it can seem intuitive to pay off purchases with cash to own them “free and clear”, long-term loans or leasing is often a better way to pay for fixed assets. With cash in hand, you can use it to your advantage today, and do things like negotiate volume discounts with suppliers–which ultimately can help cover off your longer-term interest costs.

* Borrow to increase your working capital. You can’t generate revenue if you can’t afford the inventory, innovation or staffing to supply your clients and grow your market share. Set your increased revenue targets to pay off the loan.

* Refinance your fixed assets. “Use your assets as a lever,” says Metivier. Business owners can benefit from the extra working capital to improve their plant layout, pursue new export markets or align their HR strategies.

* Win friends and influence bankers. Whether you’re looking for help from traditional financial institutions, other lenders or angel investors, success lies in the strength of your business plan, your ability to pay your bills, and your efforts to foster a good relationship.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of small and medium-sized enterprises use a bank as their main financial institution, according to the Canadian Bankers Association, and about two-thirds (65%) use the same financial institution for both personal and business banking. The defining factors for satisfaction: access to credit and a face-to-face relationship.

* Trust your banker as an advisor. It undoubtedly helps to have a commercial bank manager who understands your business and works with similar types of companies. Most banks have invested in their knowledge of certain sectors or business specialties.

* Always be prepared. When you’re asking for advice or credit, carry a summary of your business plan, organizational chart and most recent financial statements, and know your numbers off by heart.

* Don’t give up. Lenders have different criteria for how they score the risk they are willing to take. If you’re turned down, ask why, make adjustments if you can, but move on and keep trying.

Just the Facts

* 98% of businesses in Canada employ fewer than 100 people.

* Between 2002 and 2006, 130,000 new small businesses. on average, were created in Canada each year.

* Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees account for about 26% of Canada’s GDP.

Source: Industry Canada.


So, they’re not handing out toasters, but Canada’s major banks are wooing small businesses by offering new tools and business basics. Here’s a sampling of help and advice you can get–mostly free–to build your business.


Unlimited transactions. This fall, the bank launches a new lineup of business bank accounts, including an operating account with unlimited monthly transactions. “Business owners have told us they want the certainty of a single, low monthly fee to cover all of their day-to-day banking,” says Colette Delaney, senior vice-president, CIBC Retail Markets. For a monthly fee of $35, it includes withdrawals, account transfers, bill payments, no additional handling fees for up to 100 cheques, among other features.

BMO Bank of Montreal

Business coach podcast: In collaboration with PROFIT magazine, this series draws on experts in a number of fields to provide the information and advice to run your small business better. Now also available in French.

Contingency planning guide: Get your backup plan ready, and search the website for the BMO Guide to Business Continuity Planning to download this handy reference. The bank’s research suggests that 82% of Canadian small businesses do not have a health-related contingency plan in place, for example, to respond to spread of an influenza outbreak.

RBC Financial Group

Risk-assessment guide. The RBC Insurance Business Risk Management Guide helps you identify nine key business risks in four categories, providing financial and insurance strategies you can use to protect your organization. Quick assessment tools help you see where your business could be most vulnerable. risk-management-guide.html

Online advice centre. RBC Royal Bank’s recently launched Advice Centre for business owners adds new features each month, on topics like managing debt, making business plans for retail/franchise, and other practical measures. resources

National Bank of Canada

SME awards. Some $750,000 in prizes and publicity are doled out each year to recognize the successes of business banking customers in Quebec through National Bank’s SME Awards. While this year’s contest has closed, pick up business tips from the case studies of winners, to be announced Nov. 6. Entrepreneurs’ survey. This fall, results of an entrepreneurs’ survey on the challenges of the future will be shared in a cross-province venture with the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce (FCCQ).

Seeing angels: The real-life dragons’ den

While the well of institutional venture capital dried up significantly through the recession, the rise of angel investors–wealthy individuals who put up their own money for a stake in a startup–has been one of the emerging “good news” stories in small-business finance. And now, an increasing number of angel investors are organizing themselves into networks or groups to find deals, share research and pool investment capital.

“It’s a phenomena we’ve seen grow over the last six or seven years, where you see any number of angel investors get together to look at opportunities, sharing their knowledge and expertise,” says Bryan Watson, executive director of the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) in Toronto. “People think of that television show, Dragons’ Den. In principle, it’s similar–although without the drama.”


Watson cites 2006 estimates that angels funded some $2.2 billion of small-business investments in Canada. But, to get start up money, you need to show initial sales or commitments or collaboration with a major customer. “Angels look for a product in development, or the physical thing–that has initial traction with customers, or ideas that have proven that somebody is willing to pay.”

Brilliant leadership, alone is not enough, says Watson. “They’ll want to see an experienced team built around a company that is compelling.”

Research the investors you are presenting to. Know their preferences and choose ones who understand your business and whose experience and contacts will be able to help you. “If you’re going to approach someone to invest their own after-tax dollars,” says Watson, “you’d better get your head around what motivates them.”

Inspired Entrepreneurs

When choosing a financial institution, 31% of small and medium-sized companies base their choice on credit services; 62% chose their institution for non-credit banking services.

Source: Canadian Bankers Association

TD Canada

New webinar series: You don’t have to be a current client to log on and join experts in live interactive sessions and receive practical advice on managing a small business. You can ask questions, answer real-time polls, and download resource guides and reference material. Upcoming topics include protecting your business against fraud and honing your unique selling proposition. Or view archives on how to improve cash flow, get government grants, and secure innovative financing options,


Get growing tools. Register to use the online business tools at:, which includes a cash flow analyzer and a step-by-step business planning tool that lets you save and download reports.

Book smarts. Scotia Small Business Banking executives Kyle McNamara and David Wilton co-authored Get Growing: Keys to Unlocking the Potential of Your Small Business, featuring best practices from a number of entrepreneurs they met during a five-month cross-country tour.

Credit Unions

Main street wisdom. Canada’s credit unions pooled resources to highlight their small business banking services and build a content-filled website with expert advice, webinars and chat areas. Look for their publication called What Would Harold Do?, described as “the business book by business owners for business owners.” It offers main street wisdom from the experiences of 102 owner-operators. Ask for it at any participating credit union: there’s a ‘CU Locator’ on the website.

Attracting angels for growth

Company:, Guelph, Ont. Business: E-commerce

The recession has been pretty good to Ali Asaria, founder and chief executive officer of, which has grown to become Canada’s largest online health and beauty store since he launched the company in 2007. In July, closed a $1.1-million private financing round led by an angel investing group–the second such infusion of private equity since its inception.

“We have a great relationship with our local bank but, in reality, it’s very hard to get that kind of financing for a company that hasn’t existed for at least two years, so we couldn’t really look to them as a source of capital,” says Asaria, a computer engineer who has worked with RIM. And it’s not just about money: gaining the expertise and connections of experienced angels, including eBay Canada managing director Jordan Banks, is part of the plan.

Aside from a customer-focused marketing model that offers free shipping within Canada on any size order (“We’ll deliver a tube of toothpaste to Nunavut,” says Asaria), hand-written thank-you notes (“We love hand-written stuff,” he adds) and more product selection than any physical pharmacy (19,000 items and counting), the company’s business model has always focused on cash flow. Says Asaria: “We had revenue from day one: we were selling things.”

In a fast ride, the business plan has morphed along the way. “When we started, we thought our target audience was going to be young males,” says Asaria, taking a cue from the Grocery Gateway model to serve bachelors who don’t shop. “It turns out that 65% of our orders were coming from women age 30 to 45, including young office morns, the Chatelaine readers. I spend a lot of my time now just learning about what people want.”

Sources of Financing

Small and medium-sized businesses go where the money is,
by tapping into a wide range of financing sources.

Angel investment                   15.1%
Government lending agencies        20.9%
Loans from friends and relatives   24.2%
Personal loans                     33.2%
Teasing                            30.4%
Personal lines of credit           45.2%
Business credit cards              48.4%
Retained earnings                  53.7%
Personal credit cards              50.0%
Personal savings                   56.9%
Supplier credit                    51.9%

Source: SMF Survey Results: Assessments of Relationship with
Financial Institutions. Strategic Counsel, Canadian Bankers
Association, 2008.

>>> Vire more: Voting on economics

Voting on economics

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THE SUPPLY-SIDE coup in the United States and Britain has now been test-proven in at least two dozen other countries, from Bolivia to Botswana, from Singapore to Turkey, from Australia to Colombia. Socialism is now in rapid retreat, thanks to an aggressively implemented alternative of lower tax rates, deregulation, and privatization. That program has unleashed individual initiative wherever it has been tried, already lifting a billion citizens of the Asian NICs (newly industrialized countries) to a reasonable level of prosperity in a single generation. The future success or failure of economic policy in the United States, the leader of this vigorous worldwide revival of free enterprise, will have an enormous influence on the direction of both politics and economics throughout the world well into the next century.

Governor Dukakis advocates substantial government tinkering with the voluntary arrangements between employers and employees. He would impose a hidden payroll tax on employers to finance medical insurance, even though young employees might prefer to work for more cash and buy their own benefits. If mandatory charges are added to the cost of hiring inexperienced labor, either wages or employment would have to fall. But wages could not adjust, because the governor also favors a steep increase in the minimum wage, which would mean that millions of young people would simply not find jobs. All of Mr. Dukakis’s rhetoric about “good jobs at good wages” turns out to mean making it illegal to offer “bad jobs”-the sort of jobs most of us had when we first left school.


Manufacturers are also apprehensive about the governor’s enthusiastic support for advance notification of plant closings, viewing it as a first step toward making employers as reluctant to hire as they are in Europe, because lay-offs become as difficult and costly as a divorce. Mr. Dukakis’s support for prohibiting “hostile” takeovers would add yet another rigidity, since the risk of losing their high-salaried jobs is the only thing that keeps some managers alert to new business opportunities.

The first result of all such “microeconomic” meddling is sure to be a loss of jobs. And the orthodox Democratic response to unemployment is to lean on the Federal Reserve to print money, in order to push interest rates below the inflation rate. Part of this Carteresque strategy is to collapse the dollar, in the hope of exploiting foreign and domestic bond-holders. As one of Dukakis’s advisors, Lawrence Summers, wrote in The New Republic in January, “the sooner the dollar falls, the less debt we will have to pay.” The basic idea is to cut a deal with the Fed to print more money if the government would add new taxes. As Governor Dukakis put it, “I’d like to see tighter fiscal policy in this country and more liberal monetary policy.” Yet we have tried tha”policy mix” beforein 1969, 1973, and 1979-and all we got was “stagflation.”

What kind of new taxes would a Dukakis Administration favor? The top Democratic advisors, such as Summers, James Tobin, and Felix Rohatyn, have advocated taxing stock-exchange trades, taxing shortterm capital gains at a much higher rate, and taxing interest payments to foreigners. This is, of course, a proven method of causing a crash in the market for U.S. stocks and bonds, and therefore a collapsing dollar. Allan Blinder of Princeton, another Dukakis advisor, favors a surtax on higher incomes, while Mr. Summers and others want a big value-added tax. Although such taxes would weaken the economy and thus raise little or no money, Governor Dukakis has many plans to spend more. He speaks o”seed money” for this project or that, but seeds have a way of growing into big trees.

On foreign trade and investment, as T. R. Reid of the Washington Post observes, “Dukakis has been echoing the populist, nationalistic message . . . that Gephardt used last spring.” Such thinly veiled protectionism is particularly risky now that U.S. exports are growing at a hectic pace, partly thanks to new American factories co-financed by Japanese and European investors. The push to unite Europe economically by 1992 could easily lead to protectionism visa-vis U.S. exports, with the excuse that the Europeans were merely emulating our policies, and Australian officials have likewise been citing our trade policies as a reason for creating another insular trade bloc with Asia.

A consistent theme emerges from all these particulars. Dukakis would protect union workers from competition with young people, protect established business managers from competition with those willing to offer stockholders more money, and protect high-cost producers from foreign rivals. The “seed money” he wants to use to subsidize enterprises that could not stand on their own would come from higher taxes on productive workers and investments. If it is impossible to achieve egalitarian results by raising everyone to the same level, Governor Dukakis has no qualms about trying to lower everyone to the same level.


The obvious advantage of a Bush Administration is that it would not be a Dukakis Administration. There are other predictable advantages as well. Mr. Bush has proposed a cut in the capital-gains tax rate to 15 per cent, and defended it sturdily, on solid supply-side grounds, in his debate with Governor Dukakis. Protectionism was raised as an issue in the South Carolina primary by both Bob Dole and Pat Robertson; George Bush resisted it then, and presumably would continue to do so, in the spirit of the Reagan Administration’s Canadian trade pact.

But how much better a Bush Administration would be depends very much on which of his advisors Mr. Bush pays most heed to. Martin Feldstein-who left the Reagan Administration because he was convinced the sky was falling-has been close to Bush for years; the 71 -month-long economic recovery will, one hopes, incline Mr. Bush to listen to more sanguine advisors. The dollar started its fall during Jim Baker’s tenure at Treasury, though his G-7 initiatives toward international monetary stability were promising.

The men closest to Bush (and Bush himself) are pragmatists. This has caused them to look favorably on what has worked over the last seven years-Reaganism. So long as they continue in that course, the choice next month will be between prosperity without inflation in a Bush Administration, and inflation without jobs in a Dukakis Administration.

>>> Click here: It,’s the Economy, Egypt

It,’s the Economy, Egypt

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Byline: Bruce Stokes

The fate of the Egyptian government remains unclear, but one thing is certain: The country’s economy is the immediate casualty of the turmoil in the streets of Cairo. Commerce has ground to a halt, and tourists, who provide much of Egypt’s revenue, are fleeing en masse.

Reviving economic activity will be one of the first orders of business for any new government. In his televised remarks on February 1, President Obama pledged that the United States stands “ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.C[yen]

To that end, Washington can boost trade and investment with Egypt by negotiating a free-trade agreement, an idea shelved by George W. Bush’s administration because of the government’s record of human-rights abuses under President Hosni Mubarak.


Before the onset of the unrest, the $500 billion Egyptian economy had been faring relatively well in recent years. It averaged 7 percent growth from 2006 to 2008, before the global recession, a much stronger showing than the Middle East region’s as a whole.

Nevertheless, one in five of Egypt’s 80 million people live in poverty. Three-fifths of the unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 24, which helps to explain the predominance of young people among the protesters. Inflation rose to 16.2 percent in 2009 but had begun to come down. Now, prices are rising again as food and fuel shortages mount. Before the upheaval, the International Monetary Fund was hopeful that Egypt’s economy would grow by a healthy 5.3 percent this year and 5.5 percent next year, but those expectations have been dashed.

To reverse course and return the economy to its pre-protest trajectory requires new business opportunities that will revive investor confidence.

Restoration of tourism will be the first priority. Two million Egyptians work in jobs related to the industry, and the IMF had expected tourist receipts to total $14.2 billion this year.

Expanding tourism will require investment to develop beach resorts in the north along the Mediterranean Sea and in the Sinai that are still underutilized compared with cultural attractions such as Luxor and Giza. But investment demands stability.

The second priority is to grow merchandise exports. The IMF anticipated a merchandise trade deficit of $30.5 billion this year. To create jobs and fuel growth, Egypt needs to run a surplus.

Washington and Cairo talked about a free-trade agreement a decade ago. The pact was seen by the Bush administration as a complement to existing U.S. deals with Jordan and Israel. The White House hoped that it would boost regional economic integration as well as trade with America–and help deter terrorism in the process.

But in June 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a speech in Cairo, spelled out the democratic price that Egypt would have to pay for a deal with the United States: free elections.

Now, assuming that the impending Egyptian elections are democratic and the political transition is peaceful, it may be time to revive the free-trade proposal. The United States is already Egypt’s largest trading partner. Americans bought $2.4 billion worth of Egyptian merchandise each year from 2006 to 2008. Imports fell to $2.1 billion in 2009, thanks to the recession, but revived to about $2.2 billion last year. The challenge is to grow that trade further.

Because a free-trade agreement between Washington and Cairo has been a nonstarter since 2005, estimates of its potential impact on the Egyptian economy are somewhat dated. But the payoff would almost certainly be positive for the country. Economist Dean DeRosa, in a 2003 paper for the Peterson Institute for International Economics, estimated that a trade deal between the United States and Egypt would increase annual exports to America by about $1 billion. In a 2005 study for the same think tank, Robert Lawrence and Ahmed Galal concluded that a U.S.-Egyptian deal would increase economic output in Egypt by 2.8 percent, raise household income by 1.6 percent, and cause prices to fall by 1.6 percent as the cost of imports declines.


Those are not overwhelming benefits, but they are significant. Nevertheless, a trade agreement would also create economic challenges. Any accord would be a two-way affair, and a likely influx of agricultural goods from the United States could spell trouble for Egypt’s peasant farmers. So the agreement would need to be politically sensitive.

Moreover, trade will be no panacea for Egypt’s political challenges. Jordan signed a free-trade agreement with the United States in 2000, for example, and over the next decade, exports to America rose a staggering fifteenfold. That hasn’t stopped Jordanians from taking to the streets of Amman to demand democratic reforms.

But even with these caveats, if the chaos gives rise to a new, more representative government, a healthy Egyptian economy would go a long way toward ensuring its stability and success.

South of two borders: the election of a conservative president in Mexico promises new business opportunities for Canadians

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For weeks, they crowded Mexico City’s central Zocalo Square, angered by the results of July’s presidential election. Ringed by the stately National Palace, City Hall, and massive baroque Metropolitan Cathedral, thousands of protestors erected a tent city to dispute the election of a president intent on creating what many need: jobs. Even government tanks wouldn’t dissuade the protestors, enraged by the narrow loss of socialist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, to conservative Felipe Calderon. Yet in mid-September, the demonstration finally ended, as Mexicans confronted the inevitability of economic reform.

With the restructuring promised by Calderon’s National Action Party–including fighting corruption and the commercial black market–Canadian investors may soon be able to help the disadvantaged in a land where, the World Bank says, 48 per cent live in poverty. Despite the mini-rebellion, investing in Mexico looks more attractive than it has in some time. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the new business-friendly president-elect, even before a recount and court decision confirmed his victory.


Mexico is a US$200-billion market for exporters, of which Canada now garners just one per cent. So International Trade Canada is planning a five-year Mexico trade strategy–and at a good time. Former president Vicente Fox’s administration ended with some of the best economic indicators ever seen in Mexico.

As a sign of continental integration, a who’s who of Mexican, U.S. and Canadian business and political leaders met in Banff, Alta., in September to discuss “Continental Prosperity in the New Security Environment.” The low-profile conference had high-profile participants: Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day and National Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor were joined by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, Geronimo Gutierrez, at a meeting co-chaired by former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed. Heralding further economic co-operation, business leaders abounded. And for good reason: economists dismiss the political turmoil of the most southern partner as mere pangs of democratization.

“It’s democracy in action,” says Gilbert Cardenas, a Mexican-born economist now living in Texas. “When people see it in Mexico, they see it as instability. I see it as part of the democratic process.” Cardenas sees a bright side to Mexican society, masked to outsiders: “Mexico is a very entrepreneurial country. Free enterprise is very strong.”

The World Bank agrees. Its recent ranking of business-friendly economies shows Mexico on the ascent. Overall, it now ranks 43rd (up from 62nd) out of 175 economies in the bank’s “Doing Business” report. It ranks third among countries reforming their business practices. Major gains were made in “starting businesses” (up 32 places) and “protecting investors” (up 100 places), vital in attracting small and medium-sized investors.


That has Ottawa taking notice. In April, International Trade Canada released its report, “Mexico, A Full Continental Partner,” outlining business opportunities there. It highlights oil and gas, construction, IT, agri-food trade, environment, manufacturing and forestry as areas where Canadian companies may find new markets. “Canada values Mexico as a NAFTA partner, and the government of Canada looks forward to working with the new administration,” says International Trade Canada spokeswoman Valerie Noftle.

The report singles out Ontario’s Halton Region for its mentorship program, led by export consultant Javier Lopez. Halton “exports over $5 billion a year,” says Lopez, but “750 out of these 1,100 companies are exporting only to the U.S., and that is … happening all over Canada. So our focus is on helping companies to diversify export markets.”

Ottawa is negotiating free trade with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, hoping to build on the $850 million in goods and services already exchanged annually with Central America. Lopez calls Mexico “the first logical step” for Canada to expand its trading power south of the U.S. Leftist Obrador vowed to “rule Mexico from the streets,” but if Calderon’s reforms take, Mexico could be ruled by an entrepreneurial culture.