NORFOLK, VA. -- A state-funded program begun last fall to help Virginia businesses target new export markets has already completed four projects, and officials say they are encouraged by the results.

The International Market Program involves teams of MBA students from Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and the College of William and Mary who work with a company for a semester and identify suitable overseas markets for their products.

Last semester, six companies participated in IMP, an initiative of the Virginia Center for World Trade in Norfolk. Four of the projects are complete, while the others should be finished within two weeks, said Warren Lind, IMP's coordinator.

This semester, 18 companies already have requested the services of the program, he said.

According to Lind, IMP was implemented primarily to help target new foreign markets for Virginia-produced and manufactured products but also to allow students to learn more about the international marketplace.

"Most of the companies have come to us and said, 'We'd like to know where there are world markets for our products and how can we enter the markets, where we can sell our product outside the United States,"' he said.

The program is "excellent for businesses trying to get some information about exporting," said Frank Blankemeyer, vice president for marketing at Valleydale Packers Inc. of Salem, one of the participating companies.

Though no new business has been generated yet from the results of the program, "we're going to try to move forward," Blankemeyer said.

Companies that enlist the services of IMP and pay only the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the teams. So far, project expenses have averaged around $300, said Lind.