By Jonathan A. Ruff
Why would someone study international business in Portland, Oregon? If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have told you major companies like Intel, Nike, Adidas, Vesta and Daimler have large offices located here. However, ever since I started my new internship this summer, my understanding of Portland’s connection to international commerce has expanded. Starting in June, I began working for a company called U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). USW is an export market development organization that actively promotes the sale of American-grown wheat to more than 100 countries around the world. The company has offices in fifteen different countries and two in the U.S.
As it turns out, the Port of Portland is the largest export port for wheat in the country. In fact, 90% of the wheat grown in Oregon is exported. The variety of wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest, soft white wheat, is unique to the world. Soft white wheat is a type of wheat ideally suited for Asian style noodles and primarily imported by Asian counties. Historically, Japan has been the largest consumer of U.S. wheat and remains a major customer. Interestingly enough, there are a number of Japanese-owned grain elevators and laboratories that assist in exporting and verifying wheat quality located in Portland. It should come as no surprise that Portland exports a lot of wheat to Asia. Take a look at a map; it is one of the closest U.S. ports to the Pacific Rim and has a highly developed infrastructure for wheat exports.
It’s been an exciting and busy summer for me. Besides taking a full load of classes, I have been dedicating a lot of time to my internship. During the harvest, which takes place in the summer, a number of international buyers come to Portland and the Northwest to learn about the year’s crop. The USW office in Portland hosts many of those international trade teams, and I have had the opportunity to assist in hosting duties. So far we have met with teams of flour millers and food producers from Panama, Japan and Taiwan. Still to come this summer are representatives from China, Korea, and the Philippines.
Not only has the internship opened up new horizons, but it has also given me the opportunity to use many of the skills I have developed during my studies in the MIM program. The intercultural and language skills learned in the daily language classes have proven to be invaluable, as have some of the hard skills acquired in the accounting, finance, and supply chain classes. All in all, I am very happy I decided to study international business in Portland, and I am continuing to learn about our region’s connection to the rest of the world.