Yousif Ghafari is a well-traveled and well-versed man. Born in Lebanon, Ghafari immigrated to the United States in the early '70s and founded his business, GHAFARI Companies, in 1982. What started as a small architecture and design firm in Dearborn has now expanded to an international giant with multiple offices throughout the world.
A highly successful company and numerous philanthropic awards is enough for most people to call it a career. Ghafari on the other hand, was just getting started. In 2008, former President George W. Bush appointed Ghafari as the United States Ambassador to Slovenia, where he spent the past two years improving diplomatic and business relations between the two companies.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Regional Chamber named Yousif Ghafari the 2009 World Trader of the Year for his significant contributions to the promotion of international trade and exceptional involvement in promoting Michigan as a great place to do business.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Ghafari about his thoughts on the global marketplace and the opportunities that exist for companies in Michigan.
Tell us about your role as U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia and how it helped spur economic growth.
Part of my objectives as Ambassador was to increase the United States' investments in Slovenia and improve the trade of goods between the two countries. We would often host American companies and service providers at our embassy to help answer their questions about the Slovenia; typically questions about laws, the country's investments and the current markets. Whatever we could do to help these companies, we would do it.
We also ran trade shows where franchisers from all over the world would exhibit to find partners and investors and help bring the franchise model into other parts of the world like Slovenia.
Can you give us an example of a company you worked with?
One that comes to mind happened during my last few weeks in Slovenia. The Westinghouse Company, who is doing a big push in nuclear energy, knew that Slovenia had a need for that type of energy and inquired about doing business in the country. Slovenia has had a great experience with their existing nuclear plant and would love recreate it.
With interest on both sides, our job at the American embassy was to help Westinghouse position their company in Slovenia and get acclimated to the country's surroundings. We were certainly happy to help. Projects like Westinghouse...