The American Institute of Architects and the Commerce Dept. are gearing up for a trade mission, which will begin on Oct. 14, to major cities in India. The aim is to promote the services of U.S. design and architecture firms in India and Sri Lanka.

The trip, which comprises Chennai, Calcutta and Bangalore, is the first of three such missions planned over the next three years. All of the trips will be financed by a recently announced Commerce Dept. grant to AIA as well as the institute’s own funds.

In announcing the $299,139 grant to AIA on Aug. 31, Commerce said the funds will help U.S. design firms land foreign projects, particularly large buildings, infrastructure and multi-building campus-type developments in the two South Asian countries.

AIA will match the federal aid with about $900,000 of its own funds. Commerce said AIA pledged to provide at least two-thirds of the project’s total cost and keep it going after the federal grant award period ends.

Jessica Salmoiraghi, AIA director of federal relations and counsel, says the market opportunities for U.S. design firms in India and Sri Lanka are substantial and span a wide range of facility types.

She points to prospects for airport projects and new towns along a corridor between Mumbai and Delhi.

She also sees opportunities in K-12 and higher-education facilities and in health care, a sector in which India has “a huge push” under way. Salmoiraghi says, “This is all being driven by a huge development of the middle class in India,” as people move from villages to urban areas.

She says Sri Lanka presents opportunities for architecture firms as the country seeks to rebuild after a long civil war. “They’re really trying to push a tourism industry,” Salmoiraghi says. “And they’ve got a lot of plans to do a significant amount of hospitality and other development there.”

Salmoiraghi says 21 firms have signed up for the first trade trip as of Sept. 25. “When the max is 25, that’s a huge success,” she notes.

The Commerce and AIA funds also will support training programs, including one held recently in New York City, to educate AIA members about how to do business in India and other foreign countries and let members know about assistance programs available from agencies such as Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Small Business Administration.

AIA is one of nine organizations that will share a total of about $2.4 million from Commerce’s Market Development Cooperator program, which is managed by the department’s International Trade Administration.

Commerce said AIA estimates the federal assistance will help generate $49.4 million in exports over three years.