Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

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Supporting Manufacturers on Manufacturing Day and Every Day

September 25, 2014

Greg Sizemore is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service team in North Carolina.

Robots In a Car Factory

Manufacturing is a crucial contributor to the economy of North Carolina and the entire United States.

Manufacturing is more than just a cornerstone of the U.S. economy; it’s a cornerstone of modern life.

The screen you’re reading this on is a manufactured commodity. The radio you’re listening to, the car you drove to work, the smartphone your kids keep staring at – your refrigerator, your TV, your medicine – all manufactured goods.

Many headlines about U.S. manufacturing are negative, focusing on increased global competition in the sector, but the fact is that the U.S. manufacturing industry is growing, it’s supporting jobs, and it is supporting higher quality of life here in the U.S. and around the world.

Manufacturing is also a major source of U.S. exports, and the International Trade Administration estimates that one in four U.S. manufacturing jobs is supported by exports. That’s huge for our economy and I’m glad that we’ll celebrate the industry on Manufacturing Day on October 3.

Here in North Carolina, our manufacturers are creating and exporting billions of dollars’ worth of transportation equipment, chemicals, electronics products plastics, and more. I’m glad that my office in Charlotte and our other Export Assistance Centers in the state get to work with local manufacturers to find opportunities to sell their quality products in foreign markets.

If you’re a manufacturer looking to do business overseas, here are some of the services an Export Assistance Center can provide for you:

  • Market Research: Find out you product’s potential in a given market. Learn about specific regulations that could affect your business model. This kind of information is crucial for your export strategy.
  • Gold Key Matchmaking: Who are the best distributors in a market? What potential joint venture partners exist? What are the best government contacts for you to have? We can find those contacts, make introductions, and make sure you spend your time doing what’s most important: managing your company.
  • Trade Missions: Imagine you could go on a trip to a target market, surrounded by market and industry experts, and meet the foreign government and industry leaders most relevant to your business. That is a trade mission. We connect you to the most relevant opportunities and contacts to make sure you have every advantage to being successful in a market.
  • Trade Leads: We have commercial diplomats on the ground in more than 70 global markets and they have their fingers on the pulse of the business environment. Let us tell you the most current and relevant opportunities for your business around the globe.

You should also consider attending an event in our DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS Business Forum Series. We have export-promotion events coming up in New York, Georgia, Minnesota, and – of course – North Carolina, to support your business in competing abroad. There’s no better event to give your company a leg up in the global marketplace.

There are many other ways the Commercial Service can support your manufacturing business, so contact your nearest Export Assistance Center for assistance.

As Manufacturing Day approaches, I want to thank the 50-plus North Carolina-based manufacturers who are opening their doors to the public on October 3. I hope many of you in the Tar Heel State, and around the country, will participate in Manufacturing Day this year!

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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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Handy Men and Women Keep the World’s Machinery Humming

January 7, 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. 

ERD Limited is a North Carolina-based company that has seen its number of export markets more than quintuple in less than three years. In that time span, its revenues from global sales went from four percent of total revenue to 25 percent.

Tom Robinson of ERD Limited sat down with ITA’s Doug Barry to discuss how his company expanded to so many export markets with support from the International Trade Administration and other government partners.

Barry: Describe your company. How did it start?

Robinson: ERD Limited is an electronic repair facility. It is engineer-owned and operated. We have been in business for about 20 years in Kernersville, NC. We’re different from our competitors in that we do what we call high-level electronic repairs, of all types and varieties, on basic boards to sophisticated robotics. We deal in what’s called “legacy electronics.”

Barry: Is that a fancy way of saying that you fix used stuff?

Robinson: Yes. Most people don’t realize it, but 85 percent of what’s made or moved in the world today is done so by equipment that is almost 14 years old. Although this is a technology and whizz-bang kind of society, and we think everything is new, it’s really not that way. Those pieces of equipment are breaking down, the manufacturers may be long gone or bought up by another company, and what is needed to support those electronics is no longer available. That’s where we come in.

Barry: Where do you do business?

Robinson: About two and a half years ago we were doing business in 10 countries, and because of our connection with the U.S. Commercial Service [part of ITA], the State of North Carolina Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Technical Development Center, we have gone from 10 countries to 65. Revenue from international business is about 25 percent for 2013, which is up from four percent just a few years ago.

Barry: How did you expand to so many markets in such a short time, especially since the majority of U.S. exporters sell to only one market?

Robinson: One of the things about our company that’s very unusual is we did this expansion and growth without having any salespeople in country. We developed a Web presence that is probably second to none right now, using YouTube and all the latest social networking. When there is a problem and someone needs equipment repaired, we pop up very high in search engines.

Second, the U.S. Commercial Service has been very instrumental in identifying places that we need to look at, and we have used their Gold Key Service. We just recently came back from China, and that was partially done through a Gold Key, in which we met two of the major manufacturers of cell phones in China and the world. And we had very successful one-on-one meetings with them, to the point where a relationship is forming.

Barry: What’s your advice for small companies that are interested in exporting in a more strategic way?

Robinson: My advice would be to take a look at yourself. Make sure that you’re ready to do these things and that you have an understanding of who you are, what your marketplace is, and the cultures that you will be dealing with, because they are different. If you walk into it blindly you may be thinking you’re winning when you’re actually losing, and actually winning when you think you’re losing. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth doing.

Barry: Are you a better company as a result of your international experience?

Robinson: Oh, we are more refined and defined than we ever were prior to starting the process. We have weekly meetings on what we can do better, how we can do it, and the igniter was the international marketplace and what it offered and the fact that there is so much business out there outside of the United States.

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“Squeezing In” to New International Markets

December 2, 2013
Rep. David Price and ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin recognize Urban Planet Mobile with an Export Achievement Certificate at the 2013 Discover Forum.

Rep. David Price, D-NC, (left) and ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin (right) recognize Urban Planet Mobile with an Export Achievement Certificate at the 2013 Discover Forum.

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. 

Urban Planet Mobile (UPM), based in Durham, N.C., specializes in education applications that can be used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to teach users to speak English. The company started in 2008, and has used services from the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Commercial Service to develop a customer base in 38 countries. Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center sat down with UPM founder Brian Oliversmith during a recent conference to discuss the company and how government support has helped UPM succeed overseas.

Barry: What’s your product and where are you selling it?

Oliversmith: When we told people we were doing mobile education they thought we would be training our mothers how to use their cell phone. What we do is develop education products we can deliver over the mobile networks.

Our best-selling product is Urban English. We’re selling it from Burma to Malaysia and Indonesia in the Southeast Asia region to Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Our latest effort has been a large launch in Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and we are now going into Nicaragua.

I would say about 85-90 percent of our business is export.

Barry: Are you growing and adding jobs?

Oliversmith: We are growing and adding. We have about 28 employees, and we’re growing both globally and here locally. I’m proud to say we just hired a recent intern yesterday who is going to be running a user interface design, and she came from the Durham Design School. We’re interviewing another fellow from Duke this summer.

Barry: Any humorous stories about different kinds of English and how they’re learned?

Oliversmith: It’s interesting, when I went to Indonesia, one of the Indonesian guys said something about “Let me squeeze back in” because we were in a very, very narrow hallway. He said: “Squeeze in. I know that phrase. I learned that yesterday on Urban English.” We teach a more relaxed, casual communication. We even have a line called Urban English Hip Hop, which uses Hip Hop to teach conversation.

Barry: Is your company a better company as a result of its international experience?

Oliversmith: I absolutely think our company is a better and stronger company because of our international exposure and the reason why is because it has caused us to diversify our workforce from day one. In our little team, we have people from Santiago, Chile, and Lithuania to people who are from Russia and Korea, and Japan. And many of them have been with us three or four years. It gives us a global perspective. It’s very hard to do business worldwide from a very American-centric perspective.

Barry: Do you mentor non-exporting companies in the area and what do you say to them?

Oliversmith: We actually do. We have a strategic relationship and a partnership with a large education company, Measurement Incorporated, here in Durham that employs about 400 people but doesn’t do any exporting. They’ve started an alliance with us, and are seeing what demand is for some of their products in an external market.I think it’s started to really open up their eyes to the opportunity they have internationally.

What I tell people is there is a great big world out there that is very, very hungry for education products, especially American education products. If they start working with some of the folks at the U.S. Commercial Service, where we started, they can get some good guidance on where to start.

Barry: Can you say more about the difference government assistance made in where you are today?

Oliversmith: The year 2008 was a really tough time to start a company, because this little recession happened about five months later. So we had to be very careful where we were going to spend marketing budgets and resources.

Our first major investment was to fly to a conference at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the U.S. Commercial Service. I sat down with about 18 Commercial Service officers from all over Asia where I had never been. I started to narrow down where we were going to first jump into the market, where we would start to spend our real resources. It was an amazing three days. I learned more in that conference than I could have learned in two years flying around on airplanes. Since then we now invest in those countries and are up and operational in many of them.

Barry: And your local export assistance center, have they been helpful?

Oliversmith: Incredible. Before we knew it, we were in a wonderful university they found for us in Burma, and less than nine months later we launched our product there.

I think a lot of companies have the wrong attitude that they need to wait until they’re a certain size to export, and really, exporting can help take you to that certain size. I would encourage people to start at an earlier stage to see what they can learn from the U.S. Commercial Service.  How owners, without having to go to all these countries, can learn a lot about where they should start.

Go early. Don’t wait.

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Discovering the Path to Compete, Win, and Grow in Exports

September 19, 2013

Greg Sizemore is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service in North Carolina. 

The Discover Forum featured an impressive list of speakers providing insight on doing business around the world. The image shows one speaker addressing all attendees during a keynote address.

The Discover Forum featured an impressive list of speakers providing insight on doing business around the world.

I just met 400 new contributors to the nation’s economic recovery.

After wrapping up this year’s Discover Forum, a premier event for businesses looking to increase exports, I’ve never been more confident about American companies and their desire and ability to compete in the global marketplace. Our ITA team worked with more than 300 business attendees from Raleigh, N.C., to San Antonio, Texas, to St. Paul, Minn., focusing on export strategies.

We had presentations about doing business all around the world, featuring speakers from the public and private sector who know how to compete and win overseas. Commercial diplomats from embassies across the world shared insights about doing business in their respective markets.

Representatives from companies like Western Union, Research Triangle Institute International, and Accenture shared their lessons learned and the strategies that have led to export successes for their businesses.

A buying delegation from Nigeria attended the Discover Forum, making connections with American businesses looking to do business in Africa.

A buying delegation from Nigeria attended the Discover Forum, making connections with American businesses looking to do business in Africa.

On top of that, U.S. commercial diplomats from 20 countries conducted more than 700 one-on-one counseling sessions with individual companies looking to develop export strategies for markets like Kuwait, Australia, and Chile. A special buying delegation from Nigeria met with several companies about doing business in Africa.

Add that in with the networking that always occurs at events like this, and what you have is a top-notch forum to assist any U.S. company interested in doing business overseas.

Discover Forum provided the knowledge and the connections that can give any business an advantage in the global marketplace.

Even better, the learning opportunities don’t end now that the forum is complete. Our trade specialists will continue to work with clients who attended so we can further develop export strategies. We’ll continue to share the information from this forum with other clients who request assistance from ITA. Upcoming annual events like Trade Winds, ACCESS, and next year’s Discover Forum will provide further learning opportunities for U.S. businesses. You can learn about all of our export promotion events and services at www.export.gov.

I can’t stress enough how helpful an event like this can be for a globally focused American business. I’m certain that anyone that attended Discover can vouch for how much they learned.

Wherever your business is, our ITA team is standing by to help any company that is ready to start exporting. I encourage you to contact your nearest Export Assistance Center, and I hope I will see you next year at Discover.

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N.C. Business Scores a Win: Receives FIFA Product License

September 10, 2013

Phillip Goldstein recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. He is a senior at Middlebury College, majoring in International Politics & Economics

Once every four years, the world gets a taste of world class soccer with the FIFA World Cup. For Greensboro, NC-based University Print & Graphics, the 2014 World Cup experience will include more than just watching the games.

The International Federation of Association Football, popularly known by the French acronym FIFA, recently notified University Print & Graphics of approval for a product license. The company will be able to sell officially licensed hair bows at the World Cup in Brazil.

Chief Operating Officer and Co-Owner Michael Brunson came up with the idea during a trip to South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup. It took the firm two years to apply for and receive the license from FIFA.

It’s a rigorous process to apply for such a license. Luckily, the company wasn’t alone – Debbie Strader and the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Greensboro helped the business navigate through the license application.

They worked together to make sure all parts of the export process had been taken care of, including finalizing product requirements, negotiating freight shipment rates, and securing legal representation. Strader also worked closely with the ITA team in Brazil, giving the company even more insight about doing business in the country.

This license means a lot for University Print & Graphics and for Greensboro. The company expects to hire as many as 25 additional employees under a new division that will handle many aspects of the World Cup campaign.

It’s a powerful team when it comes to exports – quality American products and ITA’s offices in the United States and around the world. We’d like to team up with your company too. If we can help your business increase exports, visit your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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Attila’s Guide to Conquering Export Markets

August 29, 2013

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

Attila Szucs started Advanced Superabrasives in Nashville, North Carolina, with one employee in the early 1990’s. In the years that followed he grew the domestic market for his products, then expanded internationally during the U.S. economic downturn.

Szucs’s company has used International Trade Administration services like the Gold Key matching service to develop international markets around the world. His company was recognized by the Commerce Department with an “E” Award for exporting. He shared his story with Doug Barry, an international trade specialist with the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.

Barry: Tell us about your company.

Szucs: The company was founded in 1993 in Nashville, North Carolina. And basically we started with myself and another person, and today we’re exporting to 16 countries.

We manufacture super-abrasive grinding wheels for other manufacturers. Super-abrasive grinding wheels are a product that actually grinds hard materials such as ceramic, glass, quartz, steel–all materials that need to be manufactured to very high tolerances. And the best way to do that is through grinding.

Barry: How did you get the entrepreneur bug?

Szucs: It was from my father. He had his own business. He started his own business in the United States not too long after we arrived here. And he is the entrepreneur in the family, and that’s where I got it from.

Barry: What was the biggest challenge that you faced in the development of your company?

Szucs: We started with absolutely no sales in 1993, and we did a lot of research and development and testing to improve our product. And slowly but surely we started penetrating the market within the United States.

We started exporting in 1995 to Canada. And after about 2002, when the economy took a hit in United States, we started to look how we could diversify so we can insulate ourselves from economic downturn. That’s when we decided that we really needed to look at exports, and we started exporting to China and to Brazil.

Barry: How did you manage?

Szucs: We were lucky. We actually started talking to the U.S. Department of Commerce, from Charlotte, NC, and it was just absolutely wonderful how we were treated and how much help they were. Through their Gold Key program, that’s how we got into Brazil. And that program is so helpful that they set everything up for you and basically all we had to do is show up. They even helped us with an interpreter and they set up all the appointments for us. It was a wonderful experience.

So from that point on we really tried to work very, very closely with the U.S. Department of Commerce. And in North Carolina we also had the North Carolina Department of Commerce, who was also very helpful in helping us navigate through the exporting issues that may have come up.

Barry: But how did you know to contact these people to begin with? You’ve mentioned just showing up. That’s something that a lot of U.S. companies fail to do.

Szucs: Most small U.S. companies don’t know about that tremendous asset that we have, whether it’s from the federal level or the state level. We actually heard from another company who used the U.S. Department of Commerce which helped them export. And that’s why we contacted them and wanted to see how we could pursue the same route.

Barry: Have you learned things in your dealings with other countries – China, Brazil, elsewhere – that have made you a better company?

Szucs: We just came back from Seoul, Korea. We participated in Trade Winds Asia, a U.S. Commerce organized trade mission. And again, I can’t say enough about it because it is a tremendous amount of help to any U.S. company, especially small companies like ours, because we get to meet companies from the region – potential customers, potential distributors. Plus, we learn about the culture of each country in the region and what they’re looking for so we can better prepare ourselves when we start dealing with these companies. It was invaluable for us.

Barry: Have you modified your product at all, or modified your approach to doing business as a result of what you’ve learned by selling to people in other cultures?

Szucs: We absolutely had to, because different cultures have different needs and we really have to cater to their needs. We can’t use the same approach in Europe that we’re using in Asia.

The United States does have a good following. People around the world, especially in Asia, they look up to United States and to United States products. So if you’re sincere and you have a good product, you have a very good chance of selling overseas, especially in Asia.

Barry: Are you confident that after you recent trip to Asia that you’ll add to your current collection of country markets?

Szucs: Yes, I’m looking forward to adding Korea and Japan. Japan is the crown jewel for me.

Barry: Will the free-trade trade agreement with Korea help?

Szucs: I think it will. Anytime we have a free trade agreement, it definitely helps. And it removes some of the obstacles.

Barry: What’s your advice to U.S. companies that aren’t exporting now?

Szucs: You don’t have to be a large company to export. That’s number one. And we’re a prime example. We’re not a large company. Second, take one country at a time. And most important, get help. And I would highly recommend using the U.S. Department of Commerce and your own local state department of commerce, because it will help navigate those troubled waters of export. Depending on which country you’re trying to get into, it could be a tremendous help to have people help you with the exports.

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