Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’


Growing the Export Tradition in North Carolina

June 10, 2015

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Wayne Cooper is the Chair of the District Export Council of North Carolina, a Marketing Partner for the Trade Winds-Africa Business Forum and Trade Mission.

Wayne Cooper

Wayne Cooper

As long as North Carolina has been a state, it’s been an exporter.

One of our first main exports was pine tar, and one rumor has it that our use of pine tar in the Revolutionary War is how we became known as the Tar Heel State. But I’m not writing to talk about rumors, or about the past.

What I want to talk about is the future, and for companies here in North Carolina and around the country, the future is global. We’re on a winning streak here in this state, and I’m not talking about college basketball. North Carolina has set goods export records for four straight years, hitting $31.3 billion in 2014.

Our globally engaged companies are reaping the benefits of that success: finding more revenue, hiring more people, expanding their inventories, their services, and their companies.

Why wouldn’t your company want to find that kind of success?

At the North Carolina District Export Council, the importance of exporting is always top of mind for us. What we want is to help get more North Carolina companies on board.

That’s why we are so glad to work with the U.S. Commercial Service, and it’s why we are partnering on the Trade Winds—Africa Forum. When we talk about the future of global business, it would be folly to not talk about Africa. In development, population, spending power, and just about any other measure, few regions can compete with the growth in Africa.

I hope that companies across the state, from the beautiful sands of the Outer Banks to the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains, will take a look at opportunities in Africa, and at the Trade Winds mission. If there is any way your company can best take advantage of the opportunities in that continent, it’s with the help of the Commercial Service team.

I want more companies to find the success that our state’s exporters already enjoy, because we all know that there aren’t many places in the world that compete with North Carolina when it comes to manufacturing, building, selling, or providing quality products and services.

Now let me say this in my best North Carolina voice: I hope to see y’all in South Africa!


Export Success Series: Chilean Exports Save Thirty Plus Jobs

June 5, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

In recent years, American Emergency Vehicles (AEV), a custom ambulance production company based in North Carolina, has increased exports to several countries—namely, Chile. Addressing the growing demand for safe, custom-made emergency vehicles, Chile has become a vital partner with AEV.

With the help of the U.S. Commercial Service and ExportTech, all backed by U.S. and Chilean free trade negotiations under the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, AEV views “Chile as a critically important market for our long-term global sales strategy,” says Randy Barr, AEV’s Sales Manager. AEV’s advantageous relationship with Chile is not limited to production sales; it also translates to increases in prospective jobs.  “Overall, the business we gained from expanding into exporting allows us to keep the people we have,” Barr explains. Exporting has saved up to 30 jobs within AEV since 2012. AEV hopes to expand its production, which would result in an additional 30 new jobs created. For this rural-based firm, the U.S.-Chilean trade agreements allow for mutually beneficial sales and increased employment opportunities.

The United States economy requires the swift negotiations of these free trade agreements on a global scale to ensure a fair playing field for all firms and workers. Without the Chilean free trade agreement, for example, AEV would not be able to work so closely with Chile both in generating exports for products as well as jobs. Exports are extremely valuable in strengthening our economy; thus, improving export relations will help the U.S. stay globally competitive. Find out more about how free trade agreements assist in expanding the United States economy at

Making trade and investment a bigger part of the DNA of U.S. businesses and increasing opportunities for American companies like AEV by opening new markets globally is a key pillar of the Department’s Open for Business Agenda. Later this month, Secretary Pritzker will travel to South America to help American companies learn about potential opportunities in the region and make important contacts with business and government leaders.


Three Reasons Africa Should Be Your Business’ Next Export Market

May 12, 2015

Shannon Christenbury is an International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Charlotte, NC. More and more American companies are looking outside the United States to find new customers. Expanding to new markets leads to increased revenue and more growth – great results for any American business. For many companies I work with in Charlotte, growing markets in Sub-Saharan Africa are some of the most promising markets to explore. In fact, a number of area businesses are already growing because they have taken advantage of opportunities on the continent. Here are three reasons U.S. companies need to consider Africa as an export market:

  1. There’s never been a better time to do business there. Years of steady economic growth have created a growing middle class, and that means there are more consumers looking for quality goods and services. And an increased focus on the market is making the export process simpler.
  1. African leaders and consumers are seeking the Made-in-America label. Not only do customers appreciate the quality of American products, they also recognize the positive contributions U.S. companies make through corporate social responsibility programs.
  1. Support from the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service is an unparalleled advantage. We have increased staff on the ground in Africa and an unequaled amount of expertise on the market, so there’s no better way for your company to have success on the continent than to work with us.

The best way to get started in taking advantage of opportunities in Africa is to join us at Trade Winds—Africa in September. Our team is leading the largest-ever U.S. trade mission to Sub-Saharan Africa, and we will connect your company to qualified, vetted partners who can help your business succeed. We will give you access to the African leaders and decision-makers that can give you the access you need.

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Are you ready to find your next customer and grow your business? Join us at Trade Winds! To get more information or if you have questions, contact us at and follow the conversation on Twitter: #TradeWinds15.


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!


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

May 8, 2014

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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.


Handy Men and Women Keep the World’s Machinery Humming

January 7, 2014

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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.


“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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