Posts Tagged ‘success stories’

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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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Connecticut’s Exports Continue to Take Off!

July 23, 2013

Nicholas Barter is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. He’s a graduate of Eastern Connecticut University, taking graduate courses at the George Washington University.

Connecticut small business Test Logic Inc. received an Export Achievement Certificate for its export success.

Connecticut small business Test Logic Inc. received an Export Achievement Certificate for its export success.

It’s a great time to be a Connecticuter!

Connecticut as a whole has been a wealth of exports as its merchandise shipments totaled $16 billion in 2012, which is an increase of about 9 percent since 2009.

Small businesses have helped lead the way in this increase. Of the 6,020 companies that exported from The Constitution State in 2011, more than 5,300 were small and medium-sized companies employing fewer than 500 workers.

With numbers like that it is easy to see why Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy signed the Export Financing Act last week.  The Commissioner of Economic Development will now have the ability to give priority funding to small businesses wishing to export their product under Connecticut’s Small Business Express Program.

This bill shows how committed Connecticut is to being a major player in the global economy and its strong commitment to small business.

The bill sets up a brilliant future for Connecticut’s small businesses who aren’t yet exporting, so they can join their fellow business leaders in seeing the boost exporting can give to their bottom line.

For example, Test Logic Inc. was awarded with an Export Achievement Certificate for its outstanding success in exporting their products.

The award was given by Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Based out of Middletown, Test Logic is a small business of only 17 employees specializing in designing, manufacturing, and producing highly sophisticated, custom built-to-order aerospace test equipment used to develop turbine engines. It has become one of the leading providers in complete test cell system packages for multiple major aerospace companies, both foreign and domestic.

Test Logic consulted with the Connecticut U.S. Export Assistance Center to help get their exports off the ground. The team helped the company take advantage of SBA financing programs which eventually led to the company acquiring an $850,000 SBA Export Working Capital Loan. All this has helped Test Logic to expand to new markets like Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Now, 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from exports.

As a born and raised Nutmegger, I am very proud in what small businesses like Test Logic are doing to propel not only Connecticut’s economy, but to support our national recovery also. I’m glad to know the state is helping support small businesses as they lead the way in the global market.

As President Obama has said, small businesses are the backbone of our country. They may be small, but they deliver the powerful punch that is needed to stimulate our national and state economies.

Way to go, Connecticut! You’re paving the way and providing the tools for all small businesses to succeed overseas.

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2011 Export Success Highlights

January 13, 2012

The International Trade Administration helps thousands of companies every year and we’d like to highlight a few of our most recent success stories from this past year.

Sirchie of North Carolina wins $1.1 million contract with Brazilian government

Sirchie of Youngsville, North Carolina manufactures crime scene investigation kits and materials used by law enforcement officials worldwide. Sirchie contacted the U.S. Commercial Service office in Raleigh for assistance in selling law enforcement products to the government of Brazil.

Sirchie used a Gold Key Service, which would introduce them to prospective buyers in Brazil as well as give them the opportunity to meet with key industry officials and ministries, including local police and law enforcement. In advance of the Sirchie’s trip to Brazil, the trade specialists in the Commercial Service in Brazil also provided Sirchie with information on the government procurement process in Brazil and how Sirchie could tap into opportunities selling to the Brazilian government.

As a result of assistance from the Commercial Service, Sirchie won a Brazilian government tender and sold $1.1 million of export product to the Brazilian government.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company of Illinois Wins $51 million project in Bahrain

This past November, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC (GDD, Oak Brook, IL) signed a contract with the Bahraini Ministry of Housing to provide dredging and land reclamation services for the East Hidd Housing Development project. GDD competed against companies from the Netherlands, Algeria, and China. The strong advocacy effort provided by the Commercial Service and the U.S. Embassy staff in Bahrain was key to the success of this advocacy campaign. The final project value was $57 million, with $51 million in U.S. export content, supporting 280 U.S. jobs.

Food Concessionaire, International Meal Company (IMC) of Massachusetts Overcomes Panamanian Trade Barrier

IMC, headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Boston, Massachusetts, overcame a foreign trade barrier with the assistance of the Department of Commerce’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program, led by the Market Access and Compliance Unit that threatened to have its airport food‐court concession revoked.

IMC’s concessions in Panama are worth $6 million. After winning a bidding process and opening various food and beverage concessions at Panama’s Tocumen Airport, IMC’s multi‐million dollar investment was jeopardized by the Government of Panama’s failure to ratify its contract.

The International Trade Administration and the U.S. Embassy intervened on behalf of IMC with the Panamanian Government and Tocumen Airport Authority, urging the Panamanian Comptroller to review and ratify IMC’s contract for the food‐court concessions. Thanks to these efforts, the contract is now ratified, and IMC is able to continue its operations in Panama with contractual protection.

Garmin Marine Navigation GPS Units of Kansas Navigates Turkish Customs

Garmin of Olathe, Kansas, tapped into the resources of the International Trade Administration to ensure its $1.5 million worth of marine navigational GPS units cleared Turkish customs. Turkish customs claimed that the CE Mark Directive on Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) required that these products be tested and certified at a third-party lab recognized by the European Union (EU). However, the R&TTE Directive allows for the marine navigational GPS units imported by Garmin to be self‐certified.

ITA officials, working in close collaboration with the Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey, worked with Turkish government officials to explain that marine navigational GPS units can be self‐certified by an accredited independent lab, in compliance with the relevant EU standard. As a result, Turkish customs officials correctly assessed Garmin’s products and accepted its self‐certification.

Garmin reported in May that its most recent shipments to Turkey had gone through customs smoothly and the company does not anticipate any trouble getting these products into Turkey in the future.

These are but a few of the successful sales and logistical issues that the global staff of the International Trade Administration helped to realize for American businesses. To learn more about pursuing overseas markets or to get help resolving a market access issue, visit export.gov.

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Opening the Doors to International Sales

December 7, 2011

Richard Brenner, chief executive officer of Amarr Garage Doors, a North Carolina–based manufacturer of garage door systems, tells how his company has devoted its resources over the past 20 years to developing an international mind set and thereby finding success in exporting.

Doug Barry is a senior international trade specialist in the Trade Information Center

Amarr Garage Doors, Inc., is a world leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of door access systems for residential garages, warehouses, commercial buildings, and shopping malls.  Founded by brothers Abe, Morris, and Herb Brenner in 1951, the company recorded sales in excess of $200 million in 2010, and employs more than 1,000 people at 70 locations worldwide. The company has two U.S. manufacturing facilities, in Lawrence, Kansas, and Mocksville, North Carolina, and also has a research and development facility at its headquarters in Winston-Salem.

As a business client of the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS), Amarr has benefited from export counseling, market research, and business matchmaking offered by the USFCS to greatly expand its export sales. Recognition of this came in May 2011, when then–Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke presented Amarr with a prestigious Presidential “E” Award for Exports. The award is the highest recognition any U.S. company may receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Richard Brenner, chief executive officer of Amarr Garage Doors (left) with Ran Ji of Shanghai Rich-Mark Doors, Ltd. (photo courtesy Amarr Garage Doors)

Richard Brenner, chief executive officer of Amarr Garage Doors (left) with Ran Ji of Shanghai Rich-Mark Doors, Ltd. (photo courtesy Amarr Garage Doors)

Recently, Doug Barry of the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center spoke with Richard Brenner, the chief executive officer of Amarr Garage Doors, about the challenges and rewards of selling internationally.

Barry: What challenges did your company face getting into the international marketplace?

Brenner: The first was learning that a garage door for the United States is not the same as a garage door internationally. We had to customize our product to international specifications. Then there was the challenge of obtaining international certifications, particularly CE certification for Europe. We also had a challenge with language—things get lost in translation.

Barry: In what respect?

Brenner: When you’re working internationally, if your customer doesn’t speak English everything takes three times longer. You speak; it’s translated. They speak; it’s translated. So, just having the stamina to pursue negotiations is a big challenge.

Barry: Making and selling garage doors seems pretty straightforward. They go up and they go down. Is there more to the story?

Brenner: Absolutely. For one thing, you have to be willing to deal with the cultural values of your clients, wherever they may be. Recently, for example, I and some colleagues were meeting with a customer in Norway who wanted to treat us to something very special to eat—a sheep’s head! And after having to eat it, he insisted on showing us how the dish was prepared. I think we can leave it at that.

Barry: That doesn’t sound very appetizing. But throughout this exporting process you’ve had help from the Department of Commerce. Can you tell us about that?

Brenner: Alan Richel of the Houston Export Assistance Center [of the USFCS] has been very instrumental in helping us overcome barriers in certain markets where we needed help. Not only through connections, but by educating us—that is, our international sales team—about things we needed to know and do.

Barry: How many international markets are you actually in now?

Brenner: More than 40.

Barry: Was there a big difference between going from your first international market to additional ones?

Brenner: No, just a little bit. Once you understand the first one, it really helps you to get to the next one.

Barry: How long did it take to go from one market to many?

Brenner: More than 20 years. It takes time to build your brand and to build awareness of the fact that you are a company that thinks internationally, not just a domestic producer taking the random opportunity to make an international sale. We had to dedicate resources and time to that effort.

Barry: So how did you become an international-thinking organization?

Brenner: It’s a mindset, but it also was something that I was interested in. I thought it was important for our business. There are only 300 million people in the United States. There are a lot more potential consumers internationally. So, it’s just a matter of focus.

Barry: What’s your biggest overseas market now?

Brenner: The biggest market for garage doors outside of the United States is the European Union. But some of the more interesting markets have been in the Middle East and in the Far East.

Barry: When you say “interesting,” is it because you faced challenges in terms of selling, or the uses to which the doors were put?

Brenner: More the use. For example, going to China and seeing Western-style subdivisions where they were trying to replicate various styles of homes that you see here in the West—I just found that to be very, very amusing.

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: Has exporting changed your approach to business? Has it had an effect on you as a person who’s taken a company international?

Brenner: Yes, definitely. Being an exporter has made us a better company domestically. By understanding what’s done internationally, I think that we’ve become better listeners to the needs of our domestic customers. And our international dealers have taught us things about what they see in their market that we’ve translated back into our domestic market. So it’s definitely broadened our scope.

Barry: Can you give me an example of something that you imported back into the United States that helped you be more competitive in all markets?

Brenner: Yes. For example, when we were going through our CE testing [for the European market], we learned some things about the wind-load rating of our doors. Since we do a lot of wind-load testing here in the United States already, we were able to bring back the knowledge that we gained from that process to reduce some costs and create a better product for the U.S. market. In this respect, exporting has been valuable for us on many levels.

Barry: If you had to speak to U.S. business owners who are either exporting just a little or not at all, what advice would you give them?

Brenner: I would say three things. First, dedicate your mind to the fact that this is something you actually want to be involved in. Second, dedicate your company’s resources in terms of people and money to that end. Third, get help from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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