Imagine: You’re off on a weeklong business trip to two of the most important new markets for your business. Back-to-back meetings have been organized with some of the most influential government and business leaders in the region, including the prime minister, ministers of Health and Economy, and heads of top local companies in your field. You will have unparalleled access to key decisionmakers and business leaders, and an opportunity to gain invaluable market insights in real time. 

Sounds like an incredible opportunity, right? 

What if I told you all of this was organized by a government agency? 

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Skeptical? I was. A government agency that actually drives real, long-term value for business? 

It is, in fact, possible. I recently returned from Japan and South Korea where I took part in a five-day trade mission organized by the Department of Commerce, led by Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerTrump transportation chief to join Biden for jobs event DeVos should ‘persist’ despite liberal opposition Indiana teachers hold sit-in to demand Young recuse himself from DeVos vote MORE. Just as soldiers protect our freedom, the Department of Commerce is on the front lines supporting American businesses, making valuable connections that enable expansion into new markets that drive growth at home and abroad. They focus on facilitating job creation, economic growth, and sustainable development in the U.S., while encouraging global trade in new markets: a herculean task similar to what is known in the business world as the position of chief commercial officer. 

But does all this really make a difference for American businesses? I left the trip with a resounding “YES” to that question. Here’s why: 

They “get” what businesses need. Pritzker and every member of her staff impressed me not only with their deep understanding of our specialized health IT business, but also with their ability to organize relevant opportunities in foreign markets that will build important relationships and drive future opportunities for growth. For instance, we are working in partnership with the Department of Commerce to put together a conference in Japan on big data in healthcare, which would bring together important players in the growing Japanese marketplace. We’re also discussing with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy ways we can support the Japanese government’s efforts to get more women in the workforce, given that 40 percent of our employees in Japan are female. 

They connect your business with important decision makers, enabling you to obtain invaluable market insights first hand. This trade mission provided so many valuable insights for my business through unparalleled access to key decision makers. The Department organized one-on-one meetings with high-level foreign industry executives and government officials, including Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. These meetings provided market insights far more valuable than anything a consultant could provide (and without the price tag). Hearing about market conditions, opportunities and challenges direct from the people we want to work with has provided real business opportunity that would have taken years to cultivate on our own. 

They want my business to succeed as much as I do. As a relatively new company in an industry in its infancy, Medidata is working to bring our digital solutions to clinical research in scientific hot spots around the globe. We see the value our services provide to society by speeding up clinical trials, thus bringing new medicines to patients faster, and the Department of Commerce sees that too. Initially, I assumed access to this type of trade mission would be reserved for more established industries with deep connections (and pockets), but that’s not the case. The Department’s passion and commitment to helping our business succeed was inspiring, and we are initiating the process of working with the Department in other markets beyond Asia. 

In today’s somewhat acrimonious political environment, it is refreshing to see a government agency devoted to supporting the growth and long-term success of American businesses in a real, meaningful way. Politics aside, I returned home with a different feeling for government than I’ve ever had before. The application process was relatively simple and the Department does not favor bigger, more established companies. In fact, Pritzker told me the department needs more diverse companies to participate, particularly companies in emerging industries such as technology. 

In this day and age, where we can no longer operate with a one-size-fits all model, the role of government in helping us develop shared visions across companies and across countries has become even more important.  This is not a zero sum game and we need to all work together to reinforce growth and prosperity. 

Spielman is executive vice president of Medidata, global provider of cloud-based solutions for clinical research in life sciences.