Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan (center, left), St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern (right) and members of the Southwestern Illinois Trade & Investment Council meet at America’s Central Port Wednesday.
EDWARDSVILLE — The Southwest Illinois Trade & Investment Council, established in 2015 by Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, recently elected its first slate of officers.
Elected to the board of the Trade and Investment Council are David Kniepkamp, Smart Controls LLC, board president; Herbert Roach, SW IL SCORE, board vice president; Paul Toskin, Commerce Bank, board treasurer; and Erick Dahl, St. Louis Downtown Airport, board secretary.
“Chairman Dunstan and I were early organizers and supporters of the council,” Kern said. “I am pleased the council continues to organize and move forward with its vital mission.”
The council was established to raise awareness of global exporting and foreign direct investment as an opportunity for economic stability and growth in Southwestern Illinois. Identifying and forming strategies to address barriers that discourage or limit exports from the region and/or foreign direct investment are additional objectives of the council, as is encouraging existing and potential global exporting support regionally.
Dunstan said Madison and St. Clair counties are increasingly recognized as two of the country’s premier locations for logistics and intermodal distribution capabilities.
“The efforts of the Southwestern Illinois Trade & Investment Council ensure those capabilities are known in the international business community,” he said.
Kniepkamp, president of Smart Controls LLC in Fairview Heights, said the council is an important resource to connect the overwhelming opportunities that already exist in Southwestern Illinois.
“This council will serve as an important advocate to reach out and help expand the foundation that has already been created in so many areas related to international trade,” he said. “Our region is poised to become a ‘game changer’ in the international market.”
Overseeing his firm’s international sales is Kniepkamp’s responsibility.
“Smart Controls provides commercial building automation controls to a global market,” he said. “We have been involved in international trade since the beginning of our company and currently sell into Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and Japan markets, and our current efforts are to expand into Latin America.
“The timing for establishing this council could not have been better,” Kniepkamp added. “Opportunities for international trade are tremendous, and the best part is they’re open to both large and small businesses, established companies and even start-up firms.”
An overriding goal of the council, according to its first board president, is to guide and support companies of all sizes that want to begin exporting.
“The hardest part for a company is just asking the right questions to get started, and then dedicating the resources and efforts to make it happen,” Kniepkamp said. “It is the goal of the Southwest Illinois Trade and Investment Council to be there for the success of these companies.”
A total of 25 members — including eight ex-officio members — already are participating in the trade organization. Subgroups including a research directory team, a website development team and an outreach team, are also part of the trade council’s makeup.
Dahl, who works as director of St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, said he is happy to serve as the new trade council’s board secretary.
“As an airport director, I add another piece to the infrastructure puzzle, adding expertise in airport logistics, leases, operational rules and regulations, and how one mile of runway can take you anywhere in the world,” he said.