Posts Tagged ‘CS’

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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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Build it…and They Will Export!

March 23, 2011
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Andrew Wylegala is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Hong Kong.

San Francisco’s economy is tourists, bankers, Craigslist and, of course, Twitter.  Wrong spot to send a government export promoter looking for more Made in the USA material to help reach the President’s National Export goal of saving or creating some two million jobs by 2015.

Maybe not.

I’ve opted to stop in the services city by the bay en route to the annual Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference held at the University of Southern California’s business school, where this year 180 US firms will come for updates on Asian markets and export tips, and to hear from Secretary Gary Locke.  The Commercial Service, part of the International Trade Administration, an operating unit in Mr. Locke’s Department, assigned me to Hong Kong to work on behalf of U.S. companies and economic interests about three years ago.  I’ll be joined at the conference by a dozen of my colleagues similarly positioned in other Asian capitals to do the same export enhancing work.  This year I’ve opted to stop in San Francisco to meet with current and future U.S. exporters, in addition to those meeting us in LA for the seminars and one-on-one counseling sessions.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

I am standing in the middle of Nikolas Weinstein’s glass sculpture studio located improbably enough behind a Mission District laundromat.  And I am trying to decide which is more shocking — the 30′ undulation of helix-shaped glass tubes of a work in progress, suspended above the furnace, forklift and flat-panel displays of this compact factory, or the discovery that precision manufacture on an industrial scale can still be carried out in San Francisco.  Downtown San Francisco!  We ARE  talking export manufacture.  The vast majority of Nick’s work is destined for grand residences and luxury hotels overseas, mostly in Asian cities such as Singapore and Shanghai.  And we are talking BIG exports.   I learn that — at over 250′ unfurled — the glass “fabric” of a work now soaring above the lobbies of a Shanghai luxury hotel (looking in the glossy photos like one of those Chinese acrobat’s ribbons) and comprised of some 35,000 hand-worked glass tubes, would not have fit in the 747 that brought me here from Hong Kong overnight.  And we are talking innovation.  To execute the unique forms of a Weinstein chandelier I now recall visiting at a Gehry-designed bank headquarters next to the re-constructed American Embassy in Berlin, Nick’s team even had to invent a special matrix bed for the in situ kiln.

But Nick is explaining that it is not finding more projects in booming Asia, nor the glass- and mind-bending technical complexity of his shapes, nor even the delivery headaches of the fragile works that keep him up at night.  It turns out that the chain of glass blowers, metal formers and ceramic suppliers needed to execute these fantasies in glass is nearly as long as some of his installations.  And the nature of this work — one-off, site-specific projects whose execution requires endless iteration of tweak and turn — is such that relative proximity is a must.

So this preview stop of my Business Outlook Conference tour reveals a snapshot as complex and organic as a Weinstein: the offering of conceived- and fabricated-in-the U.S. product remains as rich as ever, but the challenge of keeping U.S. production chains short enough that they remain linked is a daunting one.  I am thinking that U.S. export growth can be part of the solution to this challenge, by providing Nick’s manufacturer partners with sufficient scale and income to stay in business and in Nick’s “neighborhood.”  Should this prove to be the case, we will not only reach that National Export goal but also prove to the world that, “yeah, we DO still make stuff in the U.S.”  The best stuff.

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Potential Matches Made in CES Heaven

January 7, 2011

 

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Vidya Desai is an International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service International Buyer Program.

The Consumer Electronics Association and the U.S. Commercial Service International Buyer Program joined forces last night to provide U.S. companies with a dynamic opportunity to meet hundreds of international buyers at the Global Matchmaking and International Reception (GMIR).  ITA’s Deputy Under Secretary Michelle O’Neill joined us for the first ever GMIR at CES where five U.S. companies (Earthquake Sound Corporation, ZREISS, Meridrew Enterprises, Livio Radio, and Freelinc) connected their tabletop product or service displays with hundreds of foreign buyers in a reception setting off the show floor. Among the hundreds of attendees at this event were several foreign buyer delegations recruited by the International Buyer Program.  The reception was a great way to meet with prospective new customers; network with foreign buyers and industry professionals; and entertain new contacts in a hospitable and professional venue!

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How do U.S. Companies Benefit from Attending Trade Shows Selected by the U.S. Commercial Service?

January 5, 2011

Philippa Olsen is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at the U.S. Commercial Service.

Did you know that a U.S. company can jumpstart its international sales by attending a domestic trade show? Here are some of the benefits:

  • Participate in face-to-face meetings with pre-screened international buyers
  • Save time and money by meeting international partners domestically
  • Get tips from International U.S. Commercial Service trade specialists on doing business abroad
  • Learn about trends and recent development in key industries

The U.S. Commercial Service’s International Buyer Program (IBP) recruits thousands of qualified foreign buyers, sales representatives, and business partners to U.S. trade shows each year, giving exhibitors excellent opportunities to expand business globally.  Check out the International Buyer Program Trade Show Schedule to learn more about individual shows.

A U.S. Commercial Service client who recently attended an IBP show states “There’s really no substitute for the face-to-face meetings you can get at trade show venues, where you have all these potential buyers under one room.  As a result, I’ve been able to meet potential partners and negotiate several deals in a matter of several months.”

To find out more, visit the International Buyer Program page.

Get updates from IBP on the upcoming 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, by following our social media.

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Shssssssh! Don’t Tell Anyone How You Increased Your International Sales

December 9, 2010

Doug Barry is a senior international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service.

A best-kept secret is that domestic trade shows are great places to meet and sell to international buyers.  U.S. businesses that have discovered this relatively low-cost channel for drumming up new sales claim that exhibiting at the “right” shows can fill their order books for the entire year.


Download full video .mp4 (47 MB)
View more from the Trade Show Video Series

It may sound counter intuitive to make international sales without leaving the U.S., but the fact is that international buyers are attracted to large trade shows in the U.S.  And let’s not forget the draw of Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami and other big trade show venues.

So what are the “right” shows out of the hundreds held annually across the country?  It depends on the industry you are in, but the first tier of shows to consider is those that offer the International Buyer Program (IBP), a service that facilitates buyer-seller matchmaking and made possible by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service.  IBP is an important part of the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

Shows are competitively selected each year based on their attractiveness to buyers in industries and countries that are considered best prospects for U.S. suppliers.  The range of industries this year is broad and includes obvious ones such as construction, power generation and restaurant equipment, as well as less obvious ones like dental hardware and funeral supplies.  Come to think of it death has always been a growth industry, and although post-life practices may vary by culture and country the market is enduringly global.

With almost 40 International Buyer Program shows to choose from many U.S. businesses will find one that’s suited to them.  Ideally, the process begins by contacting your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, part of the worldwide network operated by the Commerce Department.

Export experts will help prepare you to use services at the show to meet the international buyers that are recruited by U.S. embassies.  Preliminary contact and information exchanges are arrange beforehand, but the real business is done on the show floor and in a special area called the International Business Centers, which feature conference rooms for conducting negotiations.

Billions of dollars in sales are registered each year, and most of the U.S. companies making the sales are smaller companies.  So now that we’ve pulled the cover off this formerly best-kept secret, watch the four videos on the IBP (so far) and see for yourself how companies like yours are selling globally without going far from home.

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Secretary Locke and U.S. Postmaster General Potter Sign Agreement to Boost Exports

July 12, 2010

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

Adam Wilczewski is the Director of Strategic Partnerships in the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service.  Stephanie Smedile is the Strategic Partnership Manager overseeing the U.S. Postal Service relationship.

The National Export Initiative is already driving broad government coordination – just take a look at www.trade.gov/nei to see what’s happening – but now the private sector is engaging in new ways, too.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Postmaster General John Potter shake hands after signing agreement.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Postmaster General John Potter shake hands after signing agreement to boost Exports in a ceremony on July 12, 2010.

Today Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the U.S. Postal Service’s Postmaster General & CEO, John Potter, announced the launch of a new effort, the New Market Exporter Initiative (NMEI), to help boost U.S. exporters.  The NMEI will identify current U.S. Postal Service customers who are exporting their goods and services abroad, and working with ITA, help them expand their reach to additional international markets.  This initiative builds on an already successful relationship between the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Commercial Service’s Strategic Partnership Program.

With less than one percent of America’s 30 million companies exporting, and of those companies exporting, only 58 percent selling to one international market, we know there is potential for American companies to expand export sales.  The NMEI’s goal is to educate U.S. exporters, particularly small and medium-sized companies, about the benefits of expanding their exports to additional markets.  In addition, we want to inform them of the public and private sector resources to assist them.  To reach our goal, we are engaging partners like the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS to provide assistance to targeted exporting customers.

The buzz is already starting – take a look at Bloomberg’s Businessweek or PR Newswire to learn more about today’s event.

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Trade Mission to the Emerging Market of Saudi Arabia

June 7, 2010

Francisco J. Sánchez is the Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade

Wow.  Saudi Arabia is giving new meaning to the term “emerging market”.  I have just arrived to lead a public health trade mission here and in Qatar, and the trade and investment opportunities are incredible.  Saudi Arabia has plans to invest over 500 billion dollars in new infrastructure, health care, and education projects in the coming years, including many opportunities for the medical and water technology companies that are here with me.  Saudi Arabia not only has a friendly business climate, but the warm hospitality towards us and Americans in general has been deeply appreciated and noted by all.  I want to thank the exceptional Commercial Service team here on the ground for their efforts in developing what is clearly going to be a very successful trade mission.

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