Archive for the ‘Environment and Renewable Energy’ Category

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Exploring Top Markets for Renewable Energy Exporters

March 12, 2014

Cora Dickson and Ryan Mulholland are Renewable Energy Analysts in ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

Join the ITA Renewable Energy team on Twitter to ask questions and learn more about the report. Ask questions using #REtopmarkets.

We were glad to join the American Council on Renewable Energy for a Twitter chat about the top renewable energy export markets.

As demand for clean energy grows throughout the world, how does a renewable energy company develop its export strategy?

Renewable energy is a sector that is notoriously difficult to predict.  The rapidly changing technology and policy environment can make it challenging for businesses to explore new markets and create an export strategy.

Here at ITA, we are committed to supporting renewable energy exporters by providing the most timely, accurate, and valuable information necessary to compete effectively in international markets. We put together a new report – the 2014 Renewable Energy Top Markets for U.S. Exports Report – to help exporters determine which markets may yield the most near-term renewable energy opportunities.

Exporters can find information on potential U.S. exports of goods related to renewable energy by both market and sector through 2015. Information is included for the wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, ethanol, and wood pellet (biomass) sectors. Please note that the analysis does not describe investment opportunities or even the fastest growing markets – instead, it shows where ITA believes most U.S. renewable energy exports will go in the near-term.

To undertake the analysis, we gathered data on 75 markets, including:

  • Projected capacity installations by market and by subsector;
  • The projected capital cost of a market’s projected capacity growth;
  • Each market’s projected consumption of ethanol and biomass pellets;
  • Expected import market size based on historical imports, manufacturing capacity, etc.; and
  • Projected U.S. market share in each market.

The report highlights some interesting facts – some expected and others quite informative – to exporters looking to develop an effective renewable energy export strategy:

  • Ten markets will account for nearly three-fourths of U.S. renewable energy exports over the next two years;
  • The wind sector will overtake the solar sector as the leading U.S. exporter of renewable energy technologies during that time period; and
  • Renewable energy markets in Latin America generally support a greater market share for U.S. exporters than elsewhere around the world, but often are smaller and less developed.

Company-specific priorities vary, so we encourage exporters to visit their nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) to further develop or refine their export strategy.  Our USEACs can also put exporters in touch with ITA’s Foreign Commercial Service staff at 72 different embassies and consulates around the world for the most up-to-date and relevant market information.

For more information on exporting renewable energy, we recommend browsing the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency exporters portal, and sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, both of which contain a myriad of resources from ITA and across the federal government.

Please also join us on March 25, 2014 at 2 p.m. for a Twitter Town Hall (#REtopmarkets).  We’ll highlight key findings and answer questions about the Top Markets report. We are always looking to improve our programs and services, so we would also like to hear your ideas or suggestions on how to make the next Top Markets report more useful and effective. We look forward to chatting with you!

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Under Secretary Sánchez Highlights the Commerce Department’s Environmental Export Initiative in Spring Issue of World Water

April 8, 2013

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Maureen Hinman is an Environmental Technology Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

screenshot of environmental solutions exporter portal

ITA offers support to companies looking to export environmental technology.

The Water Environment Federation (WEF), a leading water industry association, recently interviewed Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez to discuss the Commerce Department’s ongoing Environmental Export Initiative (EEI). The interview is featured in the March/April issue of World Water- a leading water technology industry publication reaching 36,000 water quality professionals and 75 affiliated water industry associations around the world.

Sánchez highlighted the initiative’s new and enhanced programs that will help advance environmental exports in 2013. In particular, water technology companies can look forward to the launch of the fully mobile and interactive U.S. Environmental Solutions Toolkit. The Toolkit is an innovative online resource that provides foreign buyers with the U.S. model for solving environmental issues by marrying EPA research and regulatory guidance with a catalogue of U.S. technology providers. Sánchez emphasized the usefulness of the toolkit to water companies in particular noting that, “a second tranche of water modules will include solutions for arsenic in drinking water, biosolids treatment, and secondary wastewater treatment.”

The Under Secretary also relayed his enthusiasm for the Environmental Solutions Exporter Portal, which provides companies with a single window to access the full suite of U.S. government services in the environmental sector.

“It’s important to note that both the Portal and the Toolkit are demand-driven products that were conceived by industry,” said Sánchez, explaining that the tools will evolve as the government responds to needs of the private industry.

“The new Portal will offer options for real-time feedback on content and programs; it is designed to be both community- and results-oriented, offering a variety of avenues for information exchange and results tracking. The new platform will provide us with the ability to know what is working, what isn’t, and how best adjust to the changing needs of industry.”

You can read Under Secretary Sánchez’s full interview here.

Find out more about the Environmental Export Initiative here.

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ITA and EPA Launch Environmental Export Initiative at WEFTEC

October 1, 2012

Maureen Hinman is an Environmental Technology Trade Specialist in ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez speaks at WEFTEC launching the U.S. Enivronmental Export Initiative and web portal on Export.gov.

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez speaks at WEFTEC launching the U.S. Enivronmental Export Initiative and web portal on Export.gov.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Under Secretary Francisco J. Sánchez launched the Environmental Export Initiative today at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), the largest environmental industry event in North America and largest annual water exhibition in the world with more than 900 exhibitors and 18,000 water professionals in attendance.

The Environmental Export Initiative is the result of a renewed partnership between the International Trade Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to promote environmental exports by leveraging EPA’s unparalleled expertise in environmental management with ITA’s export promotion and market development skills.  The Trade Policy Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) initiative was announced on May 14, 2012 at American University by then Commerce Secretary Bryson, EPA Administrator Jackson, U.S. Trade Representative Kirk, and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak and signifies a government-wide effort to enhance environmental technology exports.  Today’s event gave the leading agencies a chance to formally launch the initiative and outline for environmental companies some of the key deliverables under the initiative that will help facilitate increased environmental technologies exports.

In addition to announcing the initiative, Under Secretary Sánchez took the opportunity to launch a deliverable: the Environmental Solutions Exporter Portal.  Among the first deliverables of the new initiative, the portal is a single window for environmental exporters to access a suite of U.S. government services.  It provides a direct line to U.S. trade and environmental protection specialists and includes information on tailored market research, export counseling, export finance, innovation and project development finance, feasibility studies, trade missions, commercial dialogues, and technical assistance for market development.

During the launch Administrator Jackson announced the roll-out of the U.S. Environmental Solutions Toolkit.  The Toolkit is an online and (soon to be) mobile resource for foreign consumers that combine U.S. EPA expertise on solving environmental challenges with a catalogue of U.S. producers of related technologies. Pilot solutions for the module include nutrient removal from municipal wastewater, ground water remediation, mercury pollution control, and emissions from large marine diesel engines.  The U.S. EPA and ITA will continue to add environmental issues to the toolkit in 2013, building a comprehensive interface to address environmental problems of all scope and size.  For more information on how to participate in the toolkit please contact us at envirotech@trade.gov.

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Export Green Brings Solar Small Business to Brazil

May 11, 2012

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Cora Dickson is a Senior International Trade Specialist in ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

At the end of April, I accompanied the certified trade mission “Export Green: Brazil – Energy and Environment” to Brazil. This was the second trade mission for Export Green, ITA’s partner under the Market Development Cooperator Program. Last year, participating companies went to São Paulo and Rio; this year, Export Green tried a different approach and offered more options to the 13 participating companies, based on their needs and prospects. As a result, we ended up with three distinct groups with overlapping itineraries: São Paulo/Rio/Recife, São Paulo/Recife, and São Paulo/Rio.

The Brazil-U.S. Business Council and the Export Green Initiative host a trade mission to Brazil (Photo Ian Wagreich/U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

The Brazil-U.S. Business Council and the Export Green Initiative host a trade mission to Brazil (Photo Ian Wagreich/U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Our Commercial Service presence in the northeast city of Recife has been augmented in recent months, due to increasing trade opportunities in the region, with growth between 4 and 4.5 percent. Our group was in fact the first “official” U.S. government-sponsored trade mission to Recife and the staff was determined to help the companies make business connections. Delegates met with Brazilian companies in a “speed dating” style, with as many as 12 meetings in four straight hours. All told, 102 meetings took place, and 46 local companies came to meet the U.S. delegation.

Another great feature of our trade mission was the “Solar Program” designed for the three participating companies from the solar sector. I accompanied them to Rio as we met with five Brazilian entities that are building, or are considering building, large-scale solar projects. Brazil is at a critical juncture in promoting solar energy. Despite the more than adequate supply of sun, solar is one of the few renewable energy sectors where Brazil lacks deployment and expertise. The country however is very strong in hydropower, biomass, and recently wind power.

Just the week before, Brazil’s electricity regulator ANEEL had announced two important new solar policies: “net metering,” making it possible to sell excess power back to the grid, and an 80% tax break for solar plants up to 30MW. These new regulations were frequently cited during meetings with these companies, giving us the strong impression that there could not have been a better time for the U.S. solar industry to be exploring opportunities in Brazil.

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Building Sustainable Cities in Asia: Presenting Opportunities for U.S. Companies

March 28, 2012

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting the information available to participants in the 2012 Asia Pacific Business Outlook (APBO)

Daniel Tien Simon is a sustainability program manager for Asia Society Northern California

Asia’s urban population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Between 1950 and 2010, the percentage of Asians living in urban areas nearly tripled from 15 percent to more than 40 percent. Over the coming decades, Asia’s urbanization will continue and by 2050, two out of every three Asians are expected to reside in urban centers. Within 40 years, the region will be home to more than half of the world’s entire population at a staggering 5.2 billion people – with the vast majority of them living in cities.

Solar panels installed in India

Solar power and renewable energy in India

The increasing proportion of populations living in Asian cities presents unique and exceptional challenges to sustainable development and urban growth. As cities become the center of economic, social, and cultural life in Asia, they will also continue to consume the lion’s share of scarce natural resources, such as water, food, and energy.

To address these challenges, the Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) was launched in 2009 as a partnership among the Asia Society, the Center for International Business Education and Research at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the University of California Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Management, and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities World Initiative. Since that time, PSCI has also developed a major global partnership with the Urban Land Institute.

PCSI aims to address urban sustainability challenges arising from the rapid urbanization of cities in Asia by bringing together business leaders, policy makers, and academics from across the Pacific to share common challenges, attempted solutions, and areas for assistance.

PCSI attracts businesses interested in seeking sustainable services or exporting them. Through seminars in California and in Asia on sustainable business opportunities, PCSI can build businesses through networking opportunities with companies and individuals in Asia or working in Asia. PCSI brings together businesses, not only with other businesses, but also with governments and academics from different metropolises throughout the U.S. and Asia, who can shed light on what products, services, and expertise are needed in their city.

A number of markets in the Asia Pacific region present vast business opportunities in the sustainability sector:

  • China’s remarkable economic growth has had severe negative environmental consequences. As a result, China has prioritized energy efficiency and green technology. China’s rapid urbanization will also require tremendous new building construction, and the country intends to enforce green building standards moving forward. These new policies in both sectors can open up opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • Vietnam is similarly suffering from the environmental degradation arising from rapid economic growth. American companies and products enjoy a positive reputation for quality, reliability, and safety in Vietnam, which can translate into multi-million dollar opportunities.
  • India is in dire need of assistance in all areas of sustainability from infrastructure development to energy efficiency, and numerous opportunities abound for U.S. suppliers and advisors.
  • Japan has always been a leader in sustainability policy and technology. Japan offers opportunities in leading-edge, cost-effective environmental technologies and services, particularly in light of the tragic disasters of March 2011.

PCSI founders, Bruce Pickering, Executive Director, Asia Society Northern California and Richard Drobnick, Director, Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), USC Marshall School of Business spoke over the weekend about on PCSI at the Asia/Pacific Business Outlook Conference.

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Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia

February 29, 2012

June 4-7, 2012

The U.S. Commercial Service is organizing an Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Russia to be led by a senior government official next June.  The trade mission is targeting a broad range of technologies including: electricity transmission infrastructure, smart grids, energy storage, road construction materials and green building, environmental goods and services, especially water treatment and water efficiency, which reduce the environmental impact of industrial processes and energy generation.

The trade mission fee, including lodging for one person per company is $2,650 for a small or medium-sized enterprise (fewer than 500 employees) or $3,200 for large firms.  The fee for each additional representative is $500.

New legislation and national goals addressing energy inefficiency and climate change, and the need to improve environmental services to the general public are generating a demand for energy efficient  products and services and environmental technologies in Russia. Russia presents lucrative opportunities for U.S. firms in these sectors.

The mission will include one-on-one business appointments with pre-screened potential buyers, agents, distributors and joint venture partners; meeting with national and regional government officials; and networking events in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Apply at: http://export.gov/trademissions/russiaenergy/.

For more information contact: Anne Novak at (202) 262-7764 or Anne.Novak@trade.gov.

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U.S. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia

February 7, 2012

April 14–18, 2012
U.S. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia
Riyadh and Dhahran (Eastern Province), Saudi Arabia

In April, Assistant Secretary Nicole Lamb-Hale will lead a Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia. The mission will include market briefings by industry experts, opportunities for U.S. firms to meet key Saudi Arabian government officials and decision-makers, hold one-on-one meetings with potential business partners, and enjoy networking events, with the goal of increasing U.S. exports in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.

SolarTAC test facility in Aurora, CO (Courtesy of DOE/NREL)

SolarTAC test facility in Aurora, CO (Courtesy of DOE/NREL)

The mission comes at a critical time for both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. clean energy and energy efficiency industry, and has the potential to create opportunities for U.S. exporters while helping Saudi Arabia to achieve its energy goals.

Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans to improve energy efficiency and reduce reliance on hydrocarbons for power generation.  These plans offer abundant opportunities for U.S. companies to export American technologies, products, and services.

While Saudi Arabia possesses one-fifth of global oil reserves, it meets almost 60% of its domestic power needs from petroleum.  The eight to nine percent annual growth in domestic electricity demand – and thus domestic petroleum consumption –  cuts deeply into exports.  The Saudi Government heavily subsidizes domestically-used oil, which causes not only  reduced export income, but also has enormous opportunity costs as there is less feedstock for development of downstream petrochemical industries and the jobs that go with them.

Saudi Arabia hopes to reduce by half the crude oil and natural gas it burns now to generate electricity, in part by developing solar power capacity, an area where it has clear climatological advantages. As part of its plan for reducing fossil fuel dependence, the Saudi Government aims to install 5 GW of solar power by 2020.

As Saudi Arabia expands its energy supply and integrates renewable energy, further investment will be required in grid modernization and smart grid technologies that enable utility management of variable energy sources. Firms participating in the trade mission will gain market insight, make industry contacts, solidify business strategies, and identify or advance specific projects, helping U.S. firms benefit from this growing market for their products as Saudi Arabia ramps up investment in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.

Both residential and industrial sectors contribute to increased electrical demand in Saudi Arabia.  Residential air conditioning consumes more than 50% of total power during Saudi Arabia’s long, hot summers.  Saudi Arabia plans to construct 1.65 million new homes over the next six years and will be looking closely at products, materials and technologies that reduce energy use and increase efficiency.

Saudi Arabia also relies on desalination plants to produce 70% of its potable water, using as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of oil equivalent to do so; Saudi Arabia hopes to start up its first solar-powered desalination plant in 2013.

This mission will target a variety of sectors that could reduce the impact of residential and industrial electricity demand, including solar power generation components and systems; smart grid systems, software and services; green building design/engineering, materials and technologies; and energy efficiency systems and solutions.

The mission will begin in Riyadh and will include site visits and consultations in Dhahran (Eastern Province), including the King Abdullah City of Atomic and Renewable Energy, the Saudi Electricity Company and Saudi Aramco. The cost to participate in the trade mission ranges from $3,020 to $3,502 per company for one representative, depending on firm size. There is a $500 fee for an additional company participant. Expenses for travel, lodging, most meals and incidentals will be the responsibility of each mission participant.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through March 1, 2012. Space is limited. For more information about the trade mission, visit the mission web site or contact Jen Derstine of Manufacturing and Services, tel.: (202) 482-3889; e-mail: jennifer.derstine@trade.gov, or James Fluker of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service, tel.: +966 (1) 488-3800; e-mail: james.fluker@trade.gov.

Useful resources:

ITA Saudi market research
Saudi Country Commercial Guide
Archive recording of Saudi solar webinar

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Participants in the Renewable Energy Trade Mission to Turkey Find Business Partnerships

January 9, 2012

Ryan Barnes is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of European Country Affairs within the Market Access and Compliance division of the International Trade Administration.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Delegation to Turkey, December 5-9, 2011

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Delegation to Turkey, December 5-9, 2011

Just last month, I accompanied Michael Camuñez, Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance as he led 16 U.S. Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency companies on a Trade Mission to Turkey. The delegation included U.S. energy firms as well as officials from Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) agencies: Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The delegation visited Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul, where numerous opportunities exist for these firms.

The staff of the International Trade Administration recruited a variety of companies for the mission.  The group included energy giants such as General Electric, Johnson Controls, and AES as well as nine small and medium-sized enterprises on the leading edge of renewable energy technology.  Of the sixteen firms, whose products range from solar panels to cooling systems, eleven had never before done business in Turkey.  One firm, World Business Capital, was also there to provide financing.

The mission’s main objective was to introduce the participants to potential Turkish business partners.  U.S. firms met with numerous Turkish counterparts in one-on-one meetings to discuss possible joint venture opportunities.  More than 340 of these business to business matchmaking meetings took place during the five-day mission.

The trade mission could not have come at a better time.  Bilateral trade between the U.S. and Turkey is set to break records in 2011, with projections of roughly $20 billion in total trade.  And the energy sector, in particular, is ripe for U.S. trade and investment.  Turkish energy demand is due to grow at a rate of seven to nine percent annually.  To help accommodate this growing demand, the Turkish government will invest roughly $130 billion by 2023, and has placed a great deal of emphasis on renewable energy.  Ankara has plans to achieve 30 percent renewable energy production by 2023, and has called for $40 billion in investment in this sector by 2020. Turkey also passed an updated renewable energy law in December 2010 to provide even further investment incentives.

The U.S. Government has worked to develop this burgeoning market.  In addition to the trade mission, there is a newly launched interagency project known as the “Near Zero Zone”.  This project, led by the U.S. Department of Energy, is helping industrial companies operating within the Izmir Ataturk Organized Industrial Zone (IAOSB) reduce their energy usage through a series of cost-effective efficiency upgrades.  One of key stops during the trade mission was to this Near Zero Zone site in Izmir.

The trade mission, along with the Near Zero Zone, helped with the formation of business partnerships and provided opportunities to match high quality U.S. supply with growing Turkish energy demand.  The potential for mutual gain in this arena is enormous.  Already, trade mission participants have reported a potential $40 million in business deals.   We hope this is just the beginning.

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Third Time is a Charm: Our Strong Relationship with India

November 8, 2011

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

By Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

I’ve arrived in New Delhi, India, with a Clean Technologies trade mission of seven U.S. companies eager to find partners in key sectors such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and environmental technologies. After New Delhi, we will travel to Hyderabad, a high-technology hub in the south; and then the companies will go on to Ahmedabad – an important “next tier” city in the western Indian state of Gujarat. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India offers enormous potential to U.S companies. It has critical infrastructure needs in energy, transportation, environment, and supply chain, to name a few – all areas where U.S. companies can offer cutting-edge technologies. I strongly believe that India’s needs are our companies’ potential opportunities.

This is my first trade mission to India, but my third visit as Under Secretary. A year ago, I came here with President Obama, and two months before that, I came to launch our GEMS initiative – Growth in Emerging Metropolitan Sectors.

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez presents the Peace through Commerce Award to Ms. Kiran Pasricha, former head of the Washington office of the Confederation of Indian Industry

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez presents the Peace through Commerce Award to Ms. Kiran Pasricha, former head of the Washington office of the Confederation of Indian Industry

Why the attention to India? The Administration accords great importance to our relationship with India. President Obama said in November 2010 before the Indian Parliament that the U.S.-India relationship “will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.” This trade mission advances President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, supporting economic and job growth. This should be an achievable goal with India – we already doubled exports between 2005 and 2010!

I am continually impressed by the vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of India’s private sector. In many ways our two business communities are ahead of the governments in expanding the relationship. That’s why I’m especially pleased that I was able to give a Peace through Commerce Award yesterday to a key private sector partner – and friend – Ms. Kiran Pasricha, former head of the Washington office of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The Peace through Commerce award was actually started by President Thomas Jefferson, but it had fallen into disuse. I brought it back because I wanted to recognize our partners abroad. Kiran has been a wonderful partner who has had the foresight to understand how trade can contribute to the broader relationship, and help bring prosperity to both our nations.

Today (Tuesday) India’s Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar and I co-chaired a public-private session of the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue. Through this Dialogue, the two governments and the two private sectors regularly work together to find solutions to nuts-and-bolts commercial issues. In today’s session, we talked about what conditions are necessary to build a modern, flourishing cold chain. A cold chain is the system for transportation of perishable products such as food, chemicals, and drugs along a supply chain, together with the logistical planning to ensure the integrity of such shipments. I very much appreciated the participation on the U.S. side of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the American Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-India Business Council; and on the Indian side, of CII. Secretary Khullar and I will be working with our business communities to set an agenda on a range of different topics for the coming year.

In 20 years, 68 cities in India are expected to have populations surpassing 1 million. And total annual income of households in urban areas is expected to reach $4 trillion in 2030. This is a huge market for both Indian and American companies. This is why India was the place where we started the GEMS initiative. I want to make sure we continue that effort. So yesterday I met with a number of officials from some of the states surrounding New Delhi. After our stop in Hyderabad, where I will inaugurate SOLARCON, a preeminent trade fair for solar technology, the companies will go on to Ahmedabad.

At the same time, India poses a number of serious market access barriers for our companies. In my talks with government officials this week, I have urged them to continue to become more open to the investments and the innovations of foreign companies. In this way, India will improve its chances of meeting the needs of its people – and together we can prove that trade and investment will be win-win for us both.

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Exporting: Where There’s a Will (and Solar Power), There’s a Way

November 1, 2011

By Doug Barry, a senior international trade specialist in the Trade Information Center.

Labcon, a U.S. exporter based in Petaluma, California, has found that such strategies as mechanization, increased productivity, green technology, and an unwavering willingness to go abroad have helped it to achieve export success.

This 800-kilowatt rooftop solar array, which came on line in July 2011, now provides about 30 percent of the energy needed to produce Labcon North America’s products. The California company is committed to green technology, and this year was presented with an E Award by the Department of Commerce for its export achievements. (photo courtesy Labcon North America)

This 800-kilowatt rooftop solar array, which came on line in July 2011, now provides about 30 percent of the energy needed to produce Labcon North America’s products. The California company is committed to green technology, and this year was presented with an E Award by the Department of Commerce for its export achievements. (photo courtesy Labcon North America)

Labcon North America, located in Petaluma, California, is a major supplier of disposable products to laboratories, which include pipets, centrifuge tubes, and other laboratory disposables. The company has been a leader in “eco-efficiency,” using less packaging, recycled plastics, and refillable packages in its product line. It has also been committed to sustainable manufacturing processes, most notably by installing an 800-kilowatt rooftop solar array that came on line in July 2011. This now provides about 30 percent of the energy needed to produce Labcon’s products.

In May, Labcon received an E Award from then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke in recognition of the company’s achievements in exporting. Labcon’s president, Jim Happ, spoke recently with Doug Barry of the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center about the company’s approach to exporting and the tools that they’ve used to grow their markets overseas.

Barry: Petaluma, California, was once known for its chicken eggs, right?

Happ: Yes, exactly. Petaluma was once a leading exporter of eggs. In the 1950s, there were container loads of eggs going down the Petaluma River, headed to Mexico and South America. It’s interesting that we’ve won this E Award, and that we’re from Petaluma. It will be fun going back home with this!

Barry: What does Labcon do?

Happ: We are a manufacturer of medical liquid handling products, primarily disposables that are used by clinics, drug discovery labs, hospitals, and universities. We make about 4 million pieces a day of such labware. And we’ve been in business for more than 50 years.

Barry: When did you come to the company?

Happ: I’ve been here 20 years. When I came to the company, it was doing about $1 million a year in exports. Now we are up to about $10 million a year.

Barry: How many employees do you have now?

Jim Happ, president of Labcon North America, at the company’s manufacturing facility in Petaluma, California. According to Happ, many U.S. businesses “are unaware that the rest of the world wants everything that we have, and that they really respect Americans and American products.” (photo courtesy Labcon North America)

Jim Happ, president of Labcon North America, at the company’s manufacturing facility in Petaluma, California. According to Happ, many U.S. businesses “are unaware that the rest of the world wants everything that we have, and that they really respect Americans and American products.” (photo courtesy Labcon North America)

Happ: About 240, from just a handful some years ago back. But the number doesn’t tell the whole story. We haven’t grown in quantity that much, but we have grown a lot in terms of the number of higher-paying jobs. I’d say the average salary at Labcon now is 40 percent higher than it was six years ago.

Barry: How do you account for that?

Happ: We’ve mechanized a lot to become more efficient, and that has made us more competitive in the world market. We can compete with the Chinese. We can compete with anybody.

Barry: What was the biggest challenge in increasing your exports?

Happ: Because we produce medical devices, the biggest challenge was getting our products certified—in Europe, for example, with the CE mark and ISO certification—and getting all of our documentation ready with multilingual labels, etc.

Barry: Did you make use of any U.S. government resources to help you in your efforts to expand overseas?

Happ: Yes. The staff of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) has been really helpful to us, especially with the Gold Key matchmaking service. We did a couple of Gold Keys, where we had the opportunity to meet with potential distributors. We also received counseling on where the better markets were likely to be for us. Elizabeth Krauth of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in the North Bay Area [California] is our liaison. We’ve been working with her for at least five years.

For More Information

Is your company thinking of expanding overseas? The network of more than 100 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) located around the country can help. To locate the one nearest you, visit Export.gov, the U.S. government’s export portal. Aside from links to USEACs, the Web site also includes online tutorials, listings of upcoming trade events, and much more. Visit www.export.gov or call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (1-800-872-8723).

Barry: Can you tell us a bit about a country where you did the Gold Key?

Happ: Well, in Singapore, for example, we had a distributor that wasn’t performing well for us. So, we went to the U.S. embassy where we met with several distributors and with the USFCS staff based there. We came away with a new distributor as well as a lot of literature on the market. We also got a lot of ideas on what we should be doing there as far as warehousing and how to make it easier for people to buy our products.

Barry: How did that work out in terms of new business?

Happ: I’d say we’ve quadrupled our business there in three years. We are now looking to hire someone in Singapore to manage our business. We think that if we had one person based there, we could exponentially grow our sales.

Barry: What other markets are you looking at?

Happ: Indonesia and Russia. We are looking at doing a Gold Key program in Russia because we have virtually no sales there. We’ve been unsuccessful in finding a good distributor in Russia. So I’ve already spoken to Elizabeth Krauth about using the Gold Key program to help us find one.

Barry: How about China?

Happ: In China, we have an arrangement with a distributor. We’re just in our first year with them, so we’re going to give them another year to see how they do. We gave them the first container of our product on 365-day terms. They have 130 salespeople spread throughout China.

Barry: What percentage of Labcon’s sales is international?

Happ: About 30 percent outside of North America. About 40 percent if you include Canada and Mexico.

Barry: What would your advice be to a U.S. businessperson contemplating exporting?

Happ: I’d advise them to visit those countries that they’re thinking of exporting to, do some research, talk to the Commerce Department’s export counselors, and so figure out where they should be. It’s important to physically go to those countries and meet the people there, and to go to trade shows and the embassies. If you have a competitive product in this country, you can be competitive overseas. We’ve completely gotten over thinking that the overseas part of our business is more difficult than the domestic part. It isn’t. In fact, it’s probably now easier for us to grow because overseas markets are expanding so much.

Barry: What do you think holds U.S. companies back from exporting?

Happ: I think many Americans are afraid, and don’t understand the world. It’s not a bad place! You’re not going to get ripped off, and you will get paid for your products. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware that the rest of the world wants everything that we have, and that they really respect Americans and American products.

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