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The Global Appeal of Alabama’s Southern Charm

May 19, 2014

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

Robert Stackpole is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Birmingham, Ala.

Alabama Department of Commerce SealIn a business sense, Alabama can’t be pointed out in one location on a map. As the Alabama Department of Commerce is proud to point out, Alabama is everywhere.

Our Southern state is a global leader, exporting goods to about 200 foreign markets and attracting international business investment in high tech industries like aviation and automobile manufacturing. Our exports are up more than 50 percent since 2009, reaching $19.3 billion in 2013. Our transportation equipment exports have more than doubled in that time frame, reaching $8.3 billion.

There are plenty of reasons why Alabama is helping lead the way in global business. My favorite reason is this: teamwork.

The Export Alabama Alliance is a coalition of state and federal agencies, trade associations, and private organizations that have one mission in mind: helping Alabama grow through trade. We work hand-in-hand to support Alabama’s manufacturers, chemical companies, agriculture producers, and any other business looking to succeed in international markets.

We work with the ports for shipping intelligence, we contact our specialists overseas to understand market regulations, and we keep in touch with the chambers of commerce to understand the needs of Alabama’s businesses.

It’s an extraordinary level of cooperation, and it’s working. Of the eight companies recognized by Governor Bentley this year for export excellence, every one of them worked with the Alliance on some aspect of their international business plan.

As Alabama recognizes World Trade Week this week, we’re excited to celebrate the successes of our exporters and our subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. We’ll toast to the thousands of jobs supported by global business throughout the state.

We’re also looking forward to bringing more of our small businesses into the global marketplace. If you’re ready to get started, we’re here to help!

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NOAA Provides Environmental Intelligence to Keep Goods Moving Along Our Marine Highways

May 14, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

A cargo ship loaded with storage containers navigates through a port. NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

By weight, 75 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. Those ports support, directly and indirectly, more than 13 million American jobs.

NOAA provides environmental intelligence to support safe, efficient, and environmentally sound navigation through U.S. ports. NOAA produces the nation’s nautical charts, which provide essential navigation information such as water depths; locations of dangers to navigation; locations and characteristics of aids to navigation; anchorages; and other features.

NOAA also integrates ocean and coastal observations, data, science, and services to provide actionable information, thereby improving informed choices. Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.

The agency monitors, assesses, and distributes tide, current, and water level products and services. Positioning information from NOAA provides a highly accurate, precise, and consistent  framework to help mariners safely navigate around obstructions in our nation’s busy waterways.

NOAA’s role warning coastal areas of hurricane threats is well known, but the agency also plays a significant role after the storm. NOAA moves quickly to help reopen ports. Navigation response teams survey ports and channels, searching for submerged debris and other dangers to navigation. NOAA aerial photography helps the public, decision makers, and insurance adjusters assess the extent of storm damage.

In addition, NOAA’s Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (PORTS®) provides accurate real-time oceanographic information, tailored to the specific needs of local maritime communities. Knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds, and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. For example, an economic study showed that the Tampa Bay economy receives more than $7 million a year in savings and direct income from PORTS®. A second study calculated $16 million a year in savings for the Houston-Galveston region.

Learn more at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/navigation/marinenav/

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Secretary Pritzker Announces Next Phase of the National Export Initiative — NEI/NEXT

May 13, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

NEI Next emblemToday, Secretary Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world. Through five core objectives, NEI/NEXT will build on Administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI), to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States.

Under the NEI, the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports – hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year – up $700 billion from 2009. The NEI has been instrumental in strengthening high-level commercial advocacy on behalf of U.S. companies, increasing small business participation in trade events, partnering with regions to develop export plans, expanding strategic partnerships to promote exports,  implementing our trade agreements, enforcing U.S. trade rights, and driving the most ambitious trade agenda in a generation.

In a new economic report released today by the Department of Commerce, data shows that nearly one-third of the country’s economic growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports. Nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time. And most importantly, since 2009, the number of jobs supported by exports has grown by 1.6 million to more than 11.3 million – the highest in 20 years.

Yet still, too many American firms remain focused on domestic markets.  Less than 5 percent of U.S. companies export, and more than half of those exporters sell to only one market. To help bridge that gap, and look for new opportunities to help U.S. businesses export, the Department of Commerce, along with 20 federal agency partners last year began to take a fresh look at the NEI and develop strategies that would help make trade a central part of America’s economic DNA.  The end product of that interagency review resulted in five key strategies to help more U.S. companies reach more markets. The five objectives of NEI/NEXT include:

  1. Connecting more U.S. businesses to their NEXT global customer with tailored industry-specific information and assistance.
  2. Making the NEXT international shipment easier and less expensive, through efforts to streamline U.S. government export-related services, reporting requirements and processes, and speeding American goods to more markets through domestic infrastructure improvements.
  3. Expanding access to finance for U.S. businesses’ NEXT export transaction, helping more exporters obtain financing to meet international demand, and ensuring more companies know what products and services are available to reduce risk and export to new markets with confidence.
  4. Promoting exports and foreign direct investment attraction as the NEXT economic development priority in communities and regions across the country by enhancing partnerships with local and state leaders and by coordinating with SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide program housed within the Department of Commerce to facilitate foreign direct investment.
  5. Creating, fostering and ensuring U.S. business’ NEXT global opportunity by helping developed and developing economies improve their business environments, by opening new markets, and by establishing conditions and addressing barriers to allow more American exporters to compete and win abroad.

Underlying this entire strategy will be an effort to support the creation of improved data to help companies make decisions, to help communities integrate exports into their economic development plans, and to help us – as a government – gather feedback and continuously improve our efforts.

Read Secretary Pritzker’s complete remarks at The Atlantic about NEI/NEXT.

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Cash Flow Strategies to Make Your Exports More Competitive

May 13, 2014

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

Jonathan Rees is the Managing Director of Western Union Business Solutions in North America. Western Union Business Solutions is an International Trade Administration Strategic Partner.

U.S. exports have increased dramatically since 2009 but have begun to plateau since 2013.A healthy U.S. economy includes strong exports. In an age of ever-increasing global trade, these exports indicate the demand for U.S. products and services, particularly in countries with an expanding middle class.Since 2010, the government has committed to help U.S. businesses find buyers worldwide, win more contracts, and learn new ways to sell products and services overseas. This commitment highlights the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in propelling the American economy.

However, after a sharp appreciation, over the last two years U.S. exports have been showing signs of hitting a plateau.

The good news is this: U.S. exports have abundant room to grow. In fact, compared to other industrialized countries, there are signs that the United States is only beginning to tap into its export potential.

According to the World Bank, exports accounted for only 14 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2012, while other Western industrialized nations, such as Germany, the United Kingdom and France, export between 30 to 52 percent of their GDPs. According to the  U.S. Small Business Administration, SMEs in the United States generate more than 46 percent of the country’s nonfarm private gross domestic product. They also comprise 98 percent of America’s exporters and produce 33 percent of all export value – clear drivers of economic growth.

So what can American SMEs do to expand this export potential? Simply put, make it easy for the buyer.

Successful exporters try to make their goods and services as attractive as possible, regardless of the buyer’s location. American exporters can take some easy steps to do this and protect profits at the same time. By using the right combination of payment and cash management strategies,  SMEs can improve their cash flow and increase overseas demand.

Here are three tips to help:

  1. Plan ahead and create a cross-border payment strategy that supports your company’s cash flow while hedging foreign exchange risk. Most foreign buyers generally prefer to trade in their local currencies to avoid foreign exchange (FX) exposure.  As such, selling in foreign currencies can be a viable option for SMEs who wish to enter and remain competitive in global markets.   It’s important for SMEs to take a critical look at their business needs and build a cross-border payment strategy that can hedge FX risk. Find a partner that can help you determine what your cross-border payment needs are and set your actions accordingly.  One of the possible solutions to hedge FX risk is a forward contract, which enables the exporter to sell at a set amount of foreign currency at a pre-agreed exchange rate with a delivery date from three days to one year into the future.  Forward contracts can be ideal for protecting against FX fluctuations and are useful for budgeting.
  2. Use a budgeting tool that gives visibility to FX exposures and simplify foreign accounts payable. If you are doing business in multiple countries and receiving payment in multiple currencies and from different time zones, it’s helpful to use a payment solution product that will help you keep track of your invoices. Some providers also offer budgeting products that automatically calculate total currency exposure for multiple invoices. This allows businesses to use a single platform to track cross-border incoming and outgoing cash flows so that businesses can make more informed decisions.  Such international budgeting and cash management products are offered by many reputable global financial services firms, including Western Union Business Solutions.
  3. Settle invoices with overseas vendors in their local currency. Setting prices in vendors’ local currency as a practice hasn’t been widely adopted in the  United States., but it’s worth considering. If your company does a high volume of trade in a certain country or currency, it makes sense to bill your customers in that currency. Overseas vendors often charge extra fees for paying companies in U.S. dollars in order to mitigate against currency risk. For example, research from Western Union Business Solutions shows that one in five Chinese suppliers adds roughly 3-4 per-cent to  U.S. dollar invoices to cover FX fluctuations. Making deals with overseas vendors using their local currency also gives business owners the opportunity to negotiate a discount.

This last step represents a simple change in foreign exchange strategy that can send a signal that you, the exporter, understand your overseas customers and want to make it easy for them to do business with you. It is just a matter of thinking about what the customer wants and acting on it – a good strategy for any business.

To learn more about how to manage FX risk and how to export in foreign currencies, you may wish to read the U.S. Commerce Department’s Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters.

Happy World Trade Month!

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Our Global City Celebrates Global Business

May 12, 2014

World Trade Week New York City is May 12 through 23, 2014This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

KL Fredericks and David Roman are International Trade Specialists at the Harlem Export Assistance Center in New York.

Only in New York…

That’s the slogan so commonly used to describe our one-of-a-kind city. We New Yorkers covet all the wonderful things about our town that make it what it is, from our accents to our sports.

We also love the quality goods and services that come from our entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and businesspeople. But this week, during World Trade Week NYC, we want to make sure that these products aren’t found only in New York.

This week, all of us at the U.S. Commercial Service in New York and throughout the region are excited to partner with the state, the city, local companies, and many business organizations to help get more of our businesses competing in the global marketplace.

Our network of more than 40 organizations throughout the region will host a number of events, workshops, panels, and information sessions to connect local businesses with the best opportunities to compete overseas and help share the best practices for finding success in global markets.

From understanding copyright strategies, to working with startups in Africa, to competing in Mexico, to evaluating free trade agreements, the events going on this week and throughout the month will provide a comprehensive learning experience for any business that wants to expand its exports.

Of course it’s fitting that World Trade Week NYC coincides with Small Business Week, and we’ll be showing New York’s small businesses how important it is to compete in the global marketplace.

World Trade Week is officially only one week here in NYC, but this city is a global city 52 weeks a year! Our network of trade specialists downtown, in Harlem, on Long Island and throughout the region are here to help any company that’s ready to get started exporting. We hope we’ll see many of you at events throughout the week, and we hope to see many of your businesses finding more success overseas.

Happy World Trade Week!

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College Looks South for Students

May 11, 2014

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

Moshtayeen Ahmad recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office for Export Policy, Promotion, and Strategy.

Like many other American higher education institutions, Michigan-based College for Creative Studies (CCS) has an important corps of foreign students contributing to the school’s cultural and educational experience.

Those international students are also making an important contribution to the American economy.

When a student comes to the United States from overseas to study, it is a service export. Foreign students accounted for $24.7 billion of U.S. exports in 2013.

At CCS, international students represent 6 percent of the student body and come from 17 different countries.

In an effort to recruit more qualified students from overseas, the International Trade Administration’s Michigan Export Assistant Center helped the College sign an agreement with Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico to foster both student and faculty exchanges between the schools.

This exchange supports more than just increased exports; it also supports cultural exchange between students of the United States and Mexico. These exchanges help further develop our overall relationship with other nations.

Thanks to their positive experience with this initial agreement, CCS has scheduled two additional Gold Key matchmaking services to find new potential partners in Mexico, and intends to recruit students from additional international markets.

Helping American exporters find new partners in Latin America is what the Department of Commerce’s Look South campaign is all about!

We want to help U.S. businesses, as well as colleges and universities, that are already exporting to Mexico to use their experience as a springboard to pursue other markets in the Latin American region.  The markets featured in the Look South campaign all have growing middle classes which increasingly desire high-quality American goods, including an American education.

Universities or educational institutions interested in developing partnerships or recruiting students from the region can find support from the International Trade Administration and our partner institutions.  Start by visiting www.export.gov/looksouth to learn more about the available resources and consider the many opportunities ahead.

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NC Company Keeps its Ducks in A Row, Finds Global Success

May 8, 2014

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

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center. 

Making a good product isn’t the only key to succeeding in the global market. For North Carolina-based medical device manufacturer Rhythmlink International, one major hurdle is navigating important regulations for target markets.

The company has been operating from more than 10 years, and is bringing its products to several international markets with the goal of exports making up 10 percent of its business by the end of 2014.

The company currently exports to Canada, Israel, and Australia, and has made contacts in new markets with help from the U.S. Commercial Service and the DISCOVER Global Markets Business Forum.

Doug Barry of the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center caught up with Rhythmlink’s international marketing manager Christy Ashkettle to see how the journey is going.

Barry: What is your number one exporting challenge?

Ashkettle: For us at this point it’s the regulatory issues with foreign governments and their version of the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]. We must register our products and ensure that we are allowed to bring those medical devices into the country.

Barry: Is there one that you’re tackling now, or have tackled in the past?

Ashkettle: We have tackled Canada. It wasn’t really much of a tackle; it was more just dealing with what they needed done, getting the certificate, and ensuring that all our ducks are in a row. We’ve done that.

Barry: Are you facing challenges in any markets?

Ashkettle: There is just a lot of legwork in the back end, in making sure that you’ve got files with the proper documentation that are going to be registered with their governments, and there is someone working on that side in your best interest, as well as distributors who are going to be selling your products for you.

Barry: How has the U.S. government helped your company?

Ashkettle: They have been really great. We have come to the DISCOVER Global Markets conferences and we’ve met a lot of people. We’ve made some good contacts. The U.S. Commercial Service and our Export Assistance Center have been a huge help, and they’re going to help us in Germany at the international healthcare products trade show Medica.

Barry: We keep hearing that exporters face many challenges and experience myriad concerns and fears. Why did that not stop you?

Ashkettle: Because you have got to start somewhere. It’s a global village and you have got to be involved if you want to get somewhere. You need a strong belief in your product. We honestly do have great quality products, a superior company, and we’ve had the help of the Commercial Service and we just know that people need our products in other countries and we’ll be glad to sell them to them.

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