A Century-Old Company’s Global Manufacturing Success: Story of a Harbor Tug

October 23, 2015

Melissa Blackledge is an International Trade Specialist at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

We’ve all heard sad stories like this: an American manufacturing company that has been around for decades closes because it can’t compete in today’s complex, global marketplace. It’s an unfortunate reality experienced by many local communities. However, a recent announcement from Cleveland-based Great Lakes Towing Company suggests its fate will be more favorable.


Great Lakes Towing Company will deliver a tugboat like this in early 2016 to the Port of Quetzal in Guatemala, marking the 116 year-old company’s latest expansion into Central America. The sale was supported by U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service staff in Cleveland and at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Recently, the 116-year-old company began construction on a tugboat destined for delivery in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, marking the company’s latest expansion into a Central American market. At the tugboat’s ceremonial “*keel laying”, local leaders gathered to celebrate Great Lakes’ ability to compete globally and highlighted the company’s role as a creator of highly paid manufacturing jobs in Northern Ohio.

*In ship-building, the keel laying marks the first stage of the joining together of a boat to officially mark its construction.

Once completed, this tugboat will have quite the story to tell. The deal between Great Lakes Towing Company and Regimen de Pensiones y Jubilaciones del Personal de la Empresa Portuaria took several years to complete and saw contributions from U.S. Commercial Service trade experts in the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, as well as within the United States.

Here are a few other tales this little tugboat could share:

  • Many manufacturing industries, competition in the ship-building business is fierce. Great Lakes Towing’s success in Guatemala is another sign that demonstrates that American workers and products are desirable – and that American companies can win in today’s worldwide, economic stage.
  • It can take a team for small- or medium-sized businesses to successfully export – Businesses with Made-in-America products or services have this team readily available within the U.S. Commercial Service. In the case of Great Lakes Towing, they worked with trade specialists at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to better understand the market and ensure a transparent negotiations process.

    Ron Rasmus, President and Director of Great Lakes Towing’s parent company, summarized the support from the U.S. Commercial Service by saying, “Working through the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala gave us legitimacy. There was a language barrier, there was a cultural barrier, so the company could have not done this without their help.”


Upon starting the tugboat’s construction, the buyers welded their signature to pieces that will be attached to the hull of the new boat.

The feel good story of the Great Lakes Towing company doesn’t have to end once they deliver the new tugboat. Companies who manufacture Made-in-America products can model their own success after Great Lakes’. The first step is to reach out to the team that’s ready to help American businesses compete in today’s global marketplace at the U.S. Commercial Service. With offices in U.S. Embassies around the globe, and 109 cities across the U.S., the U.S. Commercial Service can craft an export strategy tailored to your industry.

If your business is thinking about expanding into international markets, or if you’re looking to elevate your current export strategy to the next level, contact the U.S. Commercial Service trade experts in your state.

They are happy to help your team create its own exporting success story.


U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum: China’s Shale Gas Exploration

October 8, 2015

Julius Svoboda is in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries at the International Trade Administration

After a four hour bus ride through China’s Chongqing countryside, I came to China’s first and only commercially producing shale gas well at Fuling–not something a lot of foreigners get to see. The hillside roads were tight and windy. Our medium-sized tour bus had to stop a number of times and back up to let other cars or trucks squeeze by. When we reached the shale site, it was not only a marvel of technological development (China’s shale sits about three miles down while shale in the United States is a mile or less), but it was also a feat of logistics. How in the world the frack trucks, millions of gallons of water, hundreds of tons of sand were able to traverse the steep terrain, narrow roads, and hairpin turns in such a remote part of the country is a mystery! It’s certainly not the flat, straight, and vast countryside most Americans think of around Texas’ Eagleford or North Dakota’s Bakken shale formations.US & China Flags China holds the most shale gas of any country in the world, and the Chinese government wants to “usher in a golden age of shale gas.” After the bus ride, I was left wondering: how they were going to get it from such a remote part of China and delivered to market?

The site visit was part of the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum (OGIF)  — the most prominent and long-standing forum for the United States and China to talk about oil and gas regulatory and environmental issues. It’s a chance to talk with the Chinese government about what’s going well in their oil and gas sector and what might go better. Discussions focused on innovation, sustainability, and efficiency for shale development, but that’s only part of the story. The presentations also demonstrated some very cool technology coming out of the United States and how it can reduce costs and improve the economics of shale gas, even in challenging topographic and geologic areas like we saw around Fuling.

In addition to regulatory and environmental issues, OGIF is also a chance for the U.S. government to hear from U.S. companies working in China’s oil and gas sector. We heard that things, while improving in some ways, are still quite challenging. Companies have started to step away from developing shale in China because the regulations on foreign investment and operatorship are overly restrictive. Geological data below 1000 feet is a state secret. Companies are only able to buy spare capacity in natural gas transmission pipelines and foreign intellectual property is too often “localized” for the benefit of Chinese companies. From my standpoint working for the International Trade Administration, I thought it was ironic that the Chinese government is placing a priority on greater foreign investment in its shale sector while maintaining such heavy restrictions on foreign companies.
As the shale gas revolution on the other side of the Pacific begins to take off, and I’m certain it will, the speed to which it will be developed is uncertain. In the United States, we went from almost no shale gas production in 2007 to 50 percent of U.S. natural gas production coming from shale today. By contrast, China’s shale gas exploration started in 2010, and five years later, production levels are only equivalent to what the United States was producing in the late 1990s–which is to say, not much.

For China to succeed in “ushering in the golden age of shale”, the Chinese government will need to rethink its foreign investment policies. Because as it stands now, U.S. companies will be more inclined to keep their distance, and all that really cool technology that we saw at OGIF may be nothing more than presentation slides.


Export Assistance Center Director Honored for Helping Utah Firms Succeed Internationally

October 7, 2015

Thomas McGinty is the International Trade Administration’s National Director for U.S. Operations.

What does the director of the Salt Lake City U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) have in common with a former Utah governor and a former director general of the U.S. Commercial Service? They are all recipients of the annual Utah International Person of the Year Award.

Dave Fiscus accepts award

Director of the Salt Lake City U.S. Export Assistance Center, Dave Fiscus (2nd from right) accepts the Utah Person of the Year Award

I was thrilled to learn that Dave Fiscus, director of our Salt Lake City USEAC, recently received the 2015 Person of the Year Award for going beyond the call of duty to promote trade and help Utah companies succeed in international markets. The award was presented to Dave by KeyBank and the World Trade Association of Utah. This is a tremendous honor and professional achievement for him and the entire Commercial Service family. We challenge our employees to ‘Dare to Be Great’ in creating opportunities for U.S. businesses and promoting exports. I congratulate him for his outstanding work in Utah.

Terry Grant, president of KeyBank in Utah and member of the nominating committee, commended Dave for his deep engagement in the Utah business community, particularly his outreach to rural companies and the support he provides to state and World Trade Association events. This year, the governor led five trade missions and Dave played a major role in planning and executing each of them. Mr. Grant attended several of the missions and noted that the Gold Key meetings organized by Dave were extremely valuable in connecting Utah exporters with prospective overseas clients and partners.

Dave was also instrumental in recruiting 130 foreign buyers for the first time ever to attend this year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show in Salt Lake City—100 more foreign buyers than the show organizer expected.

Director Fiscus in Salt Lake City and our international trade specialists in more than 100 other domestic Export Assistance Centers are helping U.S. firms succeed internationally by providing a range of services including:

  • Counseling on export mechanics and the development of an export strategy;
  • Market intelligence on best export prospects, market conditions, legal and cultural issues and more;
  • Matchmaking services to identify qualified foreign distributors and arrange meetings with these pre-screened contacts in the target market; and
  • Background reports on potential distributors, agents and partners.

To find an Export Assistance Center near you, visit Export.gov.


Open for Business: Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing and Increasing Investment in the United States

October 6, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog

Post by Penny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce

The United States is the world’s best place to do business. Our country is home to a skilled and productive workforce, unmatched institutions of higher education, strong intellectual property protections, a commitment to innovation, an abundant and stable energy supply, and access to millions of global consumers through high-quality free trade agreements. For these reasons and more, CEOs from around the world have ranked the U.S. as the number one place to invest for three years in a row.

Save the date

The U.S. Department of Commerce will host the third SelectUSA Investment Summit on June 19-21, 2016 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit http://www.selectusa.gov/2016-summit.html

In 2015, we welcomed investments from businesses of all sizes, from budding entrepreneurs to major multinationals like Nissan, ABB Group, Novo Nordisk, and Daimler Chrysler.  These companies can choose to operate anywhere, but they chose the United States.  We remain home to more foreign direct investment (FDI) than any other country in the world.

FDI generates growth and creates jobs in many sectors of the American economy, including manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing is in the midst a real comeback, with companies adding nearly 900,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2010 and new factories opening their doors at the fastest rate in decades. Our most recent data demonstrates that foreign investors have played a critical role in this growth. FDI in the U.S. manufacturing sector reached $1.05 trillion (2014) and supports 2.2 million jobs (2012).  Furthermore, U.S. affiliates of international companies spend $48 billion annually on research and development, which drives both innovation and exports.

On Friday, we celebrated Manufacturing Day, but year-round, this Administration is focused on what it takes to keep American manufacturing strong, to attract job-creating global investment, and to build a competitive 21st century economy.

I am excited to announce that the U.S. Department of Commerce will host the third SelectUSA Investment Summit on June 19-21, 2016 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC.

Established by President Obama in 2011, SelectUSA promotes and facilitates business investment by working with companies that want to establish U.S. operations and by partnering with U.S. economic development organizations to attract them. In the past four years, SelectUSA has assisted in winning over $17 billion of deals across the country.

The SelectUSA Investment Summit, the initiative’s showcase event, is the premier venue for international investors of all sizes to find the right place, with the people, resources, and market they need to be successful. At the last Summit, investors from over 70 foreign markets and economic development representatives from all 50 U.S. states joined President Obama, six Cabinet Secretaries, three Governors, and dozens of leading CEOs from major international firms and SMEs to learn more about the U.S. investment climate and opportunities for investment.

To learn more, I hope you will consider joining us at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit. Please sign up for the SelectUSA email list by visiting www.SelectUSA.gov, and you will be the first to know when registration goes live.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Win for American Businesses and Workers

October 5, 2015

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Trans-Pacific Partnership logoWith the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) completed, today is an important day for American businesses and workers. I would like to commend our negotiators, the Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration professionals who assisted in the negotiations, and all other involved parties for their tireless efforts to find consensus on this historic agreement.

TPP is an historic agreement precisely because of the opportunity it represents for U.S. exporters. By reducing or eliminating tariffs as well as non-tariff barriers, TPP will give our businesses improved access to 11 Pacific Rim markets collectively representing 40% of global GDP. Additionally, the majority of middle class consumers over the next 15 years (3.2 billion people according to the OECD) will reside in the Asia-Pacific region, which is also estimated to generate nearly half of global economic growth over the next 20 years.

TPP will also remove market ambiguities, producing the transparency and predictability that facilitates global commerce. The agreement will commit partner nations to stronger intellectual property protections as well as clear rulemaking to prevent the rise of burdensome regulations. At the same time, TPP will protect the right of all partner nations to regulate their markets while ensuring that U.S. investors enjoy the same rights and protections as their competitors.

But trade agreements alone do not create business realities. And a historic agreement like TPP requires a first-class infrastructure that maximizes its potential. That infrastructure exists in the Department of Commerce generally, and more specifically in the services and programs provided by the 2,200 trade and investment experts of ITA; all of whom are committed to maximizing the benefits of TPP for American businesses and workers.

Our infrastructure begins with our Commercial Service. We already have a strong presence in all 11 TPP partner markets with 170 Foreign Commercial Service officers and staff in U.S. embassies and consulates. Our on-the-ground presence will connect U.S. businesses to TPP partner markets and help secure important connections with distributors, manufacturers, and other potential partners. That international infrastructure is complemented by our Commercial Service staff in more than 100 cities in the U.S., who will assist exporters throughout the country.

ITA is also committed to increasing opportunities to connect U.S. companies directly with potential business partners. Through our International Buyer Program, we will stand up domestic trade shows to create matchmaking opportunities with recruited delegations of qualified buyers and sales representatives from TPP countries. We will also work in coordination with administration officials to arrange and participate in trade missions focused on specific industry sectors. And through our Advocacy Center, we will work with senior administration officials to assist U.S. firms in winning government contracts.

But optimizing trade agreements also means enforcing them when necessary. That is why U.S. businesses can rely on the protection of our Enforcement and Compliance experts, who will monitor, investigate, and ensure TPP compliance among all of our partner markets.

With demand and growth exploding in the Pacific Rim, TPP is vital to ensuring that U.S. companies compete and win in the global marketplace. Both ITA and I stand ready to make sure that all businesses fully benefit from the historic opportunity this agreement provides.


Investor Roadshow Brings Together Capital & Opportunity

October 2, 2015

Stefan Selig, Under Secretary for the International Trade Administration. This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Last week, I was in New York City to launch the United States-Africa Institutional Investor Roadshow, an important move towards strengthening the United States’ commercial engagement with Africa. I felt honored to join Prime Minister Hailemariam, Prime Minister Jugnauth and President Kenyatta, not to mention the dozens of delegation members representing Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius,  Mozambique, Rwanda, Cote d’ Ivoire and the African Union. The presence and participation of these delegations was absolutely critical to the success of this inaugural roadshow.


U/S Selig joins delegation members in NYC to kick off the US-Africa Investor Roadshow

It is no secret that the United States and the nations of Africa are mutual stakeholders in each other’s commercial success.  But there is an enormous amount of untapped potential in our commercial engagement with Africa. It is the second fastest growing region in the world today. Some of the world’s fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa.  And this part of the world will feature a middle class of one billion people within the next 25 years, and a quarter of the global workforce in a generation. But despite this, only 0.01% of the roughly $79 trillion in assets managed by institutional investors in OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)  are allocated to investments in Africa.

One critical reason is, quite simply, a lack of good information according to the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) ,which is charged with advising the President through Secretary Pritzker on strengthening U.S.-Africa commercial engagement. A recent PAC-DBIA report stated that many of the challenges to investment and expanding access to credit in sub-Saharan Africa related to “misperceptions of risk and knowledge gaps of the Africa market opportunities” and “identifying and mitigating actual market risks.” So a critical force that is needed to attract capital to opportunity and to attract opportunity to capital is precisely what has been missing so far: good information. Having worked in the private sector for nearly 30 years, I keenly understand that for our businesses to maximize investment opportunities abroad, our information must be transparent, widely accessible and instill trust and confidence in the African market.

This roadshow represents a platform to bridge this information gap. During my visit, I was able to take part in several roundtable discussions with the American business community and African leaders on topics such as investor risk concerns. These types of discussions deepen our U.S.-Africa commercial partnerships on the basis of trust and shared values.

As this launch event leads to a series of high-level stops throughout Africa in the future, we will continue our efforts to bridge the information gap to spur new trade and investment opportunities. And In the long-term, this roadshow will forge a partnership between the U.S. and African public and private sectors, bringing together capital and opportunity. I am thrilled that we are one step closer to our long term goal of creating investment climates that attract capital.


Inspiring the Next Generation of Manufacturers

October 2, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog. This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Chandra Brown is  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing

This is my favorite time of year, when we recognize the importance of Manufacturing as thousands of companies open their doors to welcome in the public to see the amazing  products  being  made every day by our neighbors and friends in communities across the United States. Manufacturing Day is October 2, 2015 and I am excited to be one of the many Americans who will spend the day touring some of the best manufacturing facilities in the world.

Info-graphic on MFG Day

Celebrating the backbone of America

There are currently over 12 million Americans producing the most innovative and advanced products  in today’s marketplace and this is a time to showcase their inventive  talents, as well as, inspire the next generation of manufacturers.  Many companies will be  hosting  students of all ages so they can see for themselves the creativity that goes into producing everything from boats, to medical devices, to semiconductors in order to show that the manufacturing sector offers new and exciting career opportunities.

For every $1 in goods produced, the manufacturing industry returns $1.37 to the economy.  U.S. manufacturing industry is the 8th largest economy in the world.  I have the great privilege of traveling the world promoting U.S. manufactured products and with 95% of the world living outside our borders, I am also excited to see so many of our products made here and shipped everywhere, to countries all around the world, contributing not only to the world economy, but to the health and productivity of citizens everywhere.

In addition, manufacturing is the basis of a vibrant middle class. While manufacturing jobs continue to be high paying jobs, we are facing an upcoming shortage of skilled workers as 84% of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers. A recent Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute study estimates that by 2025, there will be 2 million jobs available in the U.S. Manufacturing sector.  Manufacturing Day was created to help call attention to the importance and critical nature of a maintaining a healthy manufacturing workforce.  We have always been a nation of   makers and we will continue leading the world as the best place to manufacture the most innovative and highest quality products, built by the best workers.

I encourage everyone to mark their calendar and use Manufacturing Day to tour one of your local manufacturers to see for yourself the unique products that are being made in your community. Thousands of open houses are listed on www.mfgday.com/events. Manufacturing is truly our future and we can all be a part of it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 574 other followers