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Indian-origin entrepreneur in US Trade Committee

By Aziz Haniffa In Washington, DC
August 02, 2010 17:47 IST
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Close on the heels of his appointment three months ago as a member of the Advisory Board of the Export-Import Bank, Indian American entrepreneur and investor Frank F Islam has been appointed as a member of the Obama Administration's Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Small and Minority Business.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in a jointly-signed letter said his appointment would be for four years, said, "We look forward to working with you in developing and implementing trade policies that serve your industry and the national interest."

The ITAC jointly administered by the Commerce Department and USTR- provides a public-private forum "to ensure that industry has a voice in formulating the trade policy of the United States."

Islam told that "I am just elated, honoured and humbled to serve on this Committee because it is a great opportunity for an Indian American in the private sector to offer advice on and be a part in helping to shape trade policies of the Obama administration."

He said that "as with my appointment as a member of the advisory committee of the Ex-Im Bank, in this position as a member of ITAC, I will be passionate about helping to double exports of US products and services in the next five years as President Obama said in his state of the union address to Congress."

Islam said "I am particularly excited to be part of this committee because I believe in a small way, I too can make a difference in helping to provide valuable inputs toward the administration goal to improve economic opportunities for America's businesses, workers and consumers through trade."

He said he would bring to the table at ITAC "the same intensity that I do as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Ex-Im Bank on behalf of small business and medium-size enterprises to export goods and services and help to generate employment and economic recovery throughout the US."

Islam said "on behalf of the industry, I will bring to the table the problems and concerns of small business and SMEs in terms of trade barriers and high tariffs they face in overseas markets which will sensitise the administration negotiators to keep the industry in mind when negotiating in bilateral, multilateral and regional for a so that we can get the best deal."

"And, of course, I will bring to the table my years of experience and expertise in terms of advice on key objectives and bargaining positions on other trade­-related matters as well," he added.

Islam said, "My top priority will be to make sure that small business has a voice in the formulating of trade policy of the United States."

Earlier, the Ex-Im Bank had appointed Islam to serve on its Advisory Committee, to provide expert guidance on small business.

The Advisory Committee of the Ex-Im Bank - an independent, self-sustaining federal agency that helps to create and maintain US jobs by financing the sales of US exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, by providing loan guarantees, export-credit insurance and direct loans - provides the Bank with expert guidance from various sectors of the economy to strengthen its support of US exports.

The Azamgarh, (Uttar Pradesh) born Islam, who was raised in Varanasi and Aligarh, is the chairman and CEO of FI Investment Group LLC, an investment firm he founded in 2007, which focuses on providing growth capital to emerging companies, as well as managing specialised and branded funds.

Previously, Islam was the founder and CEO of QSS Group, an information technology company based in Lanham, Maryland, which in 2007 was acquired by Perot Systems for $250 million in an all cash transaction. The company had revenues of approximately $260 million.

When he was appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Ex-Im Bank, Islam said, "With my background as a small business owner and a highly successful entrepreneur who built his government contracting business from one employee to over 2,000 employees and with an annual revenue of over $260 million when I owned QSS Group, I bring to the table a remarkable success story which can be invaluable to the Ex-Im Bank's effort to promote small business and through them exports to meet the President's agenda."

He said that "in 12 years I grew QSS from the ground up from what was just a small support services company in information technology and aerospace engineering firm and grew it to unbelievable heights that made it possible to sell it to Perot Systems for $250 million in an all-cash deal."

Islam said, "This is the kind of business acumen and perspective I bring particularly to an administration which is very interested in expanding US products and services to emerging markets like India, and of course, since I was born in India and am now an Indian American, and understand India's culture and its history and I am very much aware what clicks in terms of doing business with India."

"This is an invaluable value-add I bring to the table, especially in my specific small business expert guidance I have been tasked with."

During the time Islam was running QSS, in 1999, he was recognized as Ernst & Young as Maryland Entrepreneurs of the Year, and in 2001, the US Small Business Administration selected him as the Small Business Person of the Year of the Washington, DC Metropolitan area and the Governor's Volunteer Service Award in 2009.

For a period of six to eight consecutive years respectively, while he was at the helm of QSS, it was featured in INC 500, Washington Technology Fast 50, Deloitte & Touche Tech Fast 500 and Washington Technology Top 100 Federal Prime Contractors.

Islam is also a long-time and well known philanthropist whose private foundation supports educational, cultural and artistic causes in the DC area and India.

He has funded scholarship programs for deserving students with financial hardship at his alma mater Aligarh University and the George Washington University through the Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Charitable Foundation named after him and his wife.

Islam has also funded broad institutional support programs at GWU, the Robert H Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the Smithsonian Institution also through is charitable foundation.

His funding has also extended to public policy research as leading Washington, DC think tanks like the Brookings Institution and the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council, and currently services as a member of the board of directors of The Indus Entrepreneurs, Washington, DC chapter and the Strathmore Centre for the Arts in Montgomery County, Maryland and is the founding chairman of the board of directors of Potomac Charities, Inc, also in Maryland, which is a broad purpose charitable organization with an emphasis on education and the arts.

A staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, including the Obama-Biden campaign, Islam, who serves as a member of the Democratic National Committee's National Advisory Board has contributed over $200,000 to Democratic Party causes and candidates and PACs since 2007.

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