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Coming Soon to Louisiana: $8.1 Billion and Thousands of Jobs

October 31, 2014

Vinai Thummalapally is the Executive Director of the SelectUSA Program.

Under Secretary Hyatt (center) joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (left) and Sasol CEO David Constable to celebrate the announcement of Sasol's new facility in Louisiana.

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt (center) joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (left) and Sasol CEO David Constable to celebrate the announcement of Sasol’s new facility.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Charles, Louisiana to congratulate South African energy giant Sasol Limited on the firm’s final investment decision to build an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex. Sasol has also confirmed an additional $800 million investment in infrastructure, utility improvements, and land acquisition.

When making the announcement, Sasol President and CEO David Constable anticipated that the new complex will triple the company’s chemical production capacity in the United States and create 500 permanent jobs in the state of Louisiana, in addition to thousands of indirect jobs. Construction of the complex will employ an additional 5,000 people between now and 2018.

This decision represents an historic investment for the company, for the State of Louisiana, and possibly for the United States. This project was initially announced in 2012, along with a gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility. If the GTL project also moves forward, the entire complex would be one of the largest foreign direct investments (FDI) in manufacturing the United States.

I was also thrilled to congratulate the state and people of Louisiana for their efforts to attract and support this investment. Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) Economic Development Alliance and the Port of Lake Charles began to work with Sasol to identify sites back in 2011. Their hard work has continued throughout this venture.

Our team at the U.S. Department of Commerce has worked with Sasol and LED since 2012 to encourage Sasol to create these jobs in the United States. SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide investment-promotion program housed in the International Trade Administration, coordinated within Commerce and with other federal agencies to identify resources and address questions or issues related to federal regulations. President Obama established SelectUSA in 2011 to serve precisely this purpose: to act as a single point of contact for investors, as well as for state and local governments, to facilitate job-creating investment.

For example, SelectUSA brought the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency to the table to assist with workforce development information and resources. Every day we hear from companies about the importance of workforce development, and we have been impressed by the innovation we’ve seen in the Lake Charles community.

Sasol, the State of Louisiana, and several local partners cooperated to develop tools to support both Sasol’s investment success as well as the long-term economic vitality of the region. In December 2013, the Southwest Louisiana Workforce Resource Guide and a corresponding mentoring program were launched as part of a collaborative community effort. This fall, Sasol and the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana unveiled the next step: a pilot scholarship fund for job training. The SWLA Economic Development Alliance leads the Resource Guide Steering Committee, which will continue to collaborate with the Foundation to extend the program to support other key industries in the region.

Sasol has demonstrated its strong commitment to the U.S. market, to this project, and to the people of Louisiana. Their investment is also a testament to our strong economic climate, and shows the opportunities for companies from around the world to operate, grow, and succeed in the United States.

For more information on how SelectUSA can assist investors or economic development organizations, please visit www.selectusa.gov and follow @SelectUSA on Twitter! Make sure to mark your calendar for the SelectUSA Investment Summit on March 23-24, 2015 and sign up on our website for updates.

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Exporting Might Be the Only Thing Better Than College Basketball

October 30, 2014

The ACC is to college basketball what the Americas are to global export markets.

Chris Higginbotham is a Public Affairs Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs, and a proud UNC alumnus.

Imagine my surprise yesterday…

There I am, walking around the venue for our DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: The Americas business forum, when I walk upstairs and am all-of-a-sudden surrounded by an ESPN crew.

There’s a row of radio reporters on the wall next to me. Bright lights, video cameras, and lots of tall kids.

Our forum shared a venue with the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) college basketball media day. Players, coaches, and staff from some of the nation’s top college basketball programs were right above us.

And the appropriateness of the coincidence struck me last night, because the ACC is to college basketball what the Americas are to global export markets.

I’m an East Coast guy – a North Carolina native – so I don’t say that lightly.

Every year, the ACC is among the top conferences in basketball. Just like how every year, markets throughout the Western Hemisphere present some of the best global opportunities for U.S. exporters.

And as the basketball teams of the ACC compete through the fall and spring, I think that many of the companies here at DISCOVER will be increasing their sales by competing and winning in markets throughout the Americas.

During the next two days, we’ll be helping businesses from 31 states learn about free trade agreements, tariff rates, market opportunities, trade financing, industry trends, e-commerce, and more. We’ll give them the tools they need to gain every advantage when competing in growing markets in the region.

We’re connecting companies directly to a delegation of energy industry buyers from Mexico – a delegation of leaders who know that the quality of U.S. products and services is unmatched in the global market.

If you couldn’t make it to this event, I hope you’ll follow the action and the updates on Twitter using #DGMCharlotte.

You should also look into upcoming DISCOVER events in Atlanta Nov. 5-6, and Minneapolis Nov. 17-18.

Being a U.S. exporter won’t get you drafted in the NBA. There’s no uniform, no conference rivalries, and no fight songs.

But there is opportunity, and that opportunity can take your business to the next level of success.

I hope we’ll see you at an upcoming event, and that we’ll see your business growing through exports very soon.

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Foreign Commercial Service Officers: Assignments

October 29, 2014

Barbara Farrar is the Assignments Officer for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Note: The International Trade Administration plans to hold an assessment in 2015 through which it will hire a new class of Foreign Commercial Service Officers. We’ll publish a series of articles about ITA’s foreign commercial service to answer questions from people who may be interested in this career opportunity.

Barbara Farrar

Barbara Farrar is the Assignments Officer for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Some of the first questions Foreign Commercial Service Officer candidates ask are about the assignments process.

How does it work? Do I get to choose where I go? What options are there? What if I don’t like where I am sent?

The first thing that needs to be said is that when you become a Foreign Service Officer with any foreign service agency, you are signing up for worldwide assignment.  (If that phrase makes you smile and your heart beat a little faster, you may be the right kind of person for this job).

Technically, you can be sent just about anywhere. The Commercial Service has 75 offices around the globe, with the largest number of officers in the countries where U.S. companies do the most business and face the greatest challenges: China, India, and Brazil to name a few.

We are also present in many smaller markets, and we recently opened five new offices in Africa and Asia. Our ideal candidate is someone who will not be reluctant to serve in these new emerging markets. 

First Assignments: New officers come into the Foreign Commercial Service through a six-week New Commercial Officer Training program held in Washington, DC. At the outset of the program, we give officers a list of vacancies and an opportunity to express preferences based on their qualifications, language skills, and other considerations. All Foreign Commercial Service Officers are encouraged to serve in a domestic U.S. position for their first or second tours. During the training program, we hold a Flag Day ceremony when officers learn where they will serve their first assignment.

Other Assignments and Bidding: Following that first direct assignment, officers are able to bid on the jobs they want during an open assignments cycle that starts in the fall of each year. Using our electronic bidding system, we announce the vacancies that will open the following year. Many of these will include up to a year of language training prior to the assignment. Officers must bid on four positions at their grade, and are also allowed to bid on some positions above or below their grade.

Assignments Process: In the fall through the winter of each year, a panel meets four to five times to assign officers to their next assignment. The panel starts with the highest ranking officer and works its way through the team, carefully considering the candidates interested in each position and making assignments based on qualifications, experience, language skills, and additional considerations (family circumstances, medical clearance, etc.).

As the assignments officer, I have the fun job of working with the officers to help them realize their career development aspirations, and the important task of keeping the trains running on time, metaphorically, during our assignments process. 

Do you have further questions about our assignments process? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Ohio Preps to Support the Next Generation of Exporters

October 20, 2014

Todd Hiser is a Senior International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Small map of U.S. Midwest with Ohio highlightedCall it a trend. For three straight years, Ohio has set records for annual state exports.

In 2013, the state exported $50.8 billion in goods, with transportation making up 32 percent of the export total.

It’s certainly something to celebrate, as those exports support more than 259,000 jobs. But rather than spend  time celebrating, Ohio is moving to prepare the next generation of exporters.

The Ohio Export Internship Program, a collaboration between the Ohio Development Services Agency and Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration, is a special track for students looking to contribute to the future of global businesses in Ohio. The program features a specially-designed exporting course in the spring, followed by an export-related internship in the summer.

What does this mean for Ohio? It means we are helping create a global fluency among tomorrow’s business leaders. It means we are giving tomorrow’s workforce the skills necessary to succeed in tomorrow’s business environment – a global business environment. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has called for trade to become part of the DNA of our economy. This is how we make that happen.

There’s still time for students to apply for the internship, and any students interested in global business should apply.

As the world continues to seek out the quality products we make here in Ohio, I’m excited to see how the interns who graduate from this program enable more companies to meet that demand.

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ITA Hosts 7th Annual U.S. Industry Program At the International Atomic Energy Agency for U.S. Civil Nuclear Industry Delegation

October 16, 2014
DAS for Manufacturing Chandra Brown and other U.S. Government officials with the U.S. industry delegation at the 7th annual IAEA U.S. Industry Program

DAS for Manufacturing Chandra Brown and other U.S. Government officials with the U.S. industry delegation at the 7th annual IAEA U.S. Industry Program

Chandra Brown is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing.

The Department of Commerce estimates the global civil nuclear market to be worth $500-740 billion over the next ten years, meaning there are significant export opportunities for U.S. companies.

That’s why our team at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) organized the 7th Annual U.S. Industry Program at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna, Austria.

This program helps U.S. civil nuclear companies and organizations from across the supply chain to showcase their world-class technology to key foreign government decision makers and energy policymakers from around the world. U.S. companies are the global leaders in the field, and this event gives them the chance to prove it.

Chandra Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing in ITA’s Industry & Analysis (I&A) unit, led the U.S. industry delegation for the second consecutive year.

The event featured a delegation of 47 representatives from 25 leading U.S. civil nuclear technology and service providers. The program received strong support from the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Some of the program highlights included:

  • Fifteen meetings with foreign government delegations from top target markets, including China, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Japan;
  • A Roundtable dialogue with U.S. policymakers, led by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, and White House Director for Nuclear Energy Policy Joyce Connery;
  • A U.S. exhibit where foreign delegates could learn more about the participating U.S. companies;
  • Over 90 one-on-one meetings with CS staff from ten top markets brought to Vienna specifically for the event.

The event occurred just before a recently announced milestone in U.S. civil nuclear trade – the October 3rd announcement that the U.S.-Vietnam agreement on civilian nuclear energy cooperation (123 Agreement) has entered into force. This agreement enables bilateral commercial nuclear trade between the U.S. and Vietnam and will help U.S. industry to gain greater access to a market worth as much as $20 billion dollars.

The U.S. Industry Program at the IAEA has become a flagship ITA event and enables the U.S. Government and U.S. industry to engage in a coordinated manner with potential foreign buyers from both emerging markets and mature markets.

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More Mini Babybel, Made in South Dakota

October 10, 2014

Felicia Pullam is the Director of Outreach for the SelectUSA Program, part of the International Trade Administration.

Leaders from Bel Brands USA and the Brookings, SD community joined to cut the ribbon on a new facility that will support an estimated 250 new jobs.

Leaders from Bel Brands USA joined South Dakota state officials and leaders from the Brookings community to cut the ribbon on a new facility that will support an estimated 250 new jobs.

SelectUSA has about 250 reasons to congratulate Bel Brands USA and Brookings, SD, for their new investment agreement!

Why 250? Because that’s the estimated number of jobs supported by a $144 million, 170,000 square-foot Mini Babybel facility that just opened in Brookings.

Bel Brands USA is a subsidiary of the Paris-based Bel Group, and currently employs nearly 1,000 people in Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. In fact, the company has been named one of Chicago’s “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” six years in a row.

This new facility is a great example of how foreign direct investment (FDI) creates U.S. jobs, builds skills, and links markets. Companies from France employed nearly 525,000 U.S. workers in 2011. The total stock of FDI from France in the United States was $239 billion in 2013 – the fifth highest of any country.

Bel Brands USA decided to invest in the United States because it is now the top market for Mini Babybel cheese. In fact, sales volumes of Mini Babybel increased by 24 percent in 2013 – that’s roughly 10,000 tons of cheese last year.

They researched several locations across the country, and their decision to set up shop in Brookings was driven by three key factors:

  • Access to raw materials – More specifically, access to competitively priced milk. They will be processing a whopping 500,000 pounds of milk per day, purchased through two dairy co-ops in the region.
  • Business-friendly environment – The state and local governments worked closely with the company. For example, the South Dakota Department of Labor has been helping with recruitment efforts to ensure Bel Brands USA finds the talent they need. They had great turnout at a “walk-in” interview event in August, and they’re still moving full steam ahead on hiring.
  • Collaboration opportunities – The company was impressed by what South Dakota State University has to offer. Graduates of the Dairy Science program will help build a strong and lasting workforce. Bel Brands USA partnered with the biochemistry program in creating a lab in the new facility, and they are exploring other ways to cooperate.

What does this case study mean for other companies investing in the United States? Businesses all have particular factors that are critical to their competitiveness, varying by industry, business model, and strategy. Given the size and incredible diversity of the U.S. market – most companies can find exactly what they need in this country to be successful. With creativity and communication, local communities across the United States can be partners in this success.

How can SelectUSA assist? SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide program to facilitate investment housed within the International Trade Administration, stands ready to assist investors to understand the U.S. market, gather data, and connect with the right people. If there are questions or issues related to federal rules and regulations, SelectUSA serves as an ombudsman to help companies find clarity. SelectUSA also works with state and local economic development organizations to provide counseling and information, a platform for promotion, and investment advocacy.

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Discovering Greater China Through Long-Term Plans, Serious Relationship-Building, Finding Good Partners

October 9, 2014

Jim Cox is the Regional Director of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Northeast Network, which is part of the International Trade Administration.

Image of three people meeting at a table and having a discussion at Discover Global Markets in New York

Our DISCOVER forums feature individual counseling sessions between your business and U.S. commercial diplomats who can help develop export strategies for specific markets.

When it comes to exporting to China, there is a world of opportunities for U.S. companies.

But there are also many hurdles to overcome.

That’s why our Commercial Service team brought together dozens of industry experts, U.S. commercial diplomats, and successful exporters for the DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: Greater China event in New York City this week.

With more than 300 innovative and ambitious U.S. business representatives in attendance, we discussed market intelligence, best practices, and strategies to compete and win in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

Through one-on-one counseling sessions, we helped more than 90 individual companies develop their strategy for entering new markets.

And we learned some great information from business leaders that are already doing business in the region.

Like that when you’re vetting a potential partner in China, a great way to find information about them is to do a web search for their fax number.

Or that Chinese people are very guarded about trusting potential business partners, so you’ll have to put a lot of work into developing a trusting personal relationship in order to create a successful business relationship.

Our District Export Council told us some great information about etiquette, like that Chinese business leaders see a business meal as a place to relax and break the ice, so working through meals can actually harm your chances of striking a deal.

Bottom line: The markets of Greater China aren’t always the easiest to enter, but they do offer a return that could be well worth the investment of time your business will have to make.

To the panel members, marketing partners, and attendees who made our event the success that it was, I give many thanks. I am certain that we will see some great success stories about businesses creating new business in Greater China.

If you couldn’t make this event, trust me – you need to check out the upcoming DISCOVER events. Register for them. And succeed because of them.

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