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Spotlight on Commerce: Chris Higginbotham, Deputy Director of Outreach, SelectUSA

November 9, 2017

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Veteran’s Day.

When Congress first declared November 11th as a holiday that ultimately became Veterans Day,  it said the day should be marked with “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

U.S. Army Segeant Chris Higginbotham standing with comrades in Iraq in 2004.

U.S. Army Sergeant Chris Higginbotham in Iraq in 2004.

I am fortunate that in my two careers — one in the U.S. Army and one in the U.S. Department of Commerce — it was my mission to do just that.

I began my career in the U.S. Army and had the best job in the service; that’s no exaggeration. For six years, I followed Army units around Europe, Southwest Asia and the great Commonwealth of Kentucky as a photographer and videographer. I did my best to tell soldiers’ stories, and to help people in the United States and abroad understand the important missions my colleagues took on every day.

I regularly think back to some of the work we did, like when I joined the airborne troops of 5th Quartermaster Company to photograph one of their jumps, only to learn after takeoff that the C-130 pilot also needed to practice “evasive maneuvers,” which did not make for the smoothest ride. That is the only day I have ever been envious of people who were jumping out of an aircraft.

My unit participated in the ceremony recognizing the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and I had the honor of interviewing veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. There was a man who I swear could still beat me in a race who recounted his feelings about the war stating, “Oh, it didn’t bother me at all.” That was tough to believe, but you don’t often question someone who’s been through something like that and lived to tell about it.

And I remember being inside a trailer on Camp Victory in Ballad, Iraq, recording video messages for home from the deployed members of 95th Military Police Battalion. There was one soldier whose message would be the first time his newborn son would ever hear his father’s voice or see his face. The soldier kept reaching out to the camera as if by touching it, he would be touching his baby. Giving that tape to those Soldiers’ families back home might have been the most meaningful work I ever did.

Working now in the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration is something I see as a continuation of my service in the military. Just like in the Army, my job is to tell the stories of the work my colleagues do through assisting U.S. exporters and attracting foreign direct investment. Their work supports millions of American jobs, and it’s something in which we all take a great amount of pride.

And this work in international trade and business is right at the core of promoting mutual understanding and good will between nations — it’s an everyday perpetuation of what Congress asked Americans to do every November 11th. One recent example of this was at the Trade Winds Business Forum and Trade Mission in Bucharest. I heard U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm and Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose repeatedly reference trade as a key pillar in U.S. relations with Southeast Europe. I witnessed first-hand the ability of our government to connect U.S. companies and organizations to promising business opportunities. I am proud to be part of a team of professionals who work tirelessly every day to help U.S. business compete at home and abroad.

On Veterans Day and every day, I salute all of the great men and women who are serving or who have served in our armed forces, and I give thanks to all who have fought to perpetuate peace and good will around the world.

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Finding the Right Bank to Help Your Company Go Global

October 25, 2017

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

Robert Kurek is the Senior Vice President for International Financial Institutions at KeyBank

A few weeks ago, our team here at KeyBank had the pleasure of joining more than 350 people at the Discover Global Markets: U.S. Manufacturers to Europe and Beyond in Cleveland. As a proud sponsor, we were onsite, meeting with attendees on what to look for in a potential banking partner when entering global markets.

The rewards of an expanding global footprint are numerous, such as access to new growth markets and a diversified customer base, but with these benefits comes a certain amount of risk. Corporate treasurers are challenged every day to recognize, measure, and minimize these risks in a global economic environment that is anything but certain; however, with the right bank your company can recognize and minimize the dangers of international expansion.

If you were unable to attend the event, don’t worry. These are the top five questions to ask a potential banking partner as you explore international growth:

  1. What types of financing and foreign exchange transactions does it provide?
  2. What resources are available to help the importer or exporter?
  3. How does the bank evaluate foreign risk?
  4. Is the bank willing to take the time to understand your business and explain your options?
  5. Does the bank have well-established correspondent banking relationships abroad?

If a bank cannot confidently answer these questions, it is likely not the right partner for your international business ventures.

Finding a bank with global market experience ensures businesses make the most of their foreign trade opportunities. Small businesses should expect their bank of choice to offer working capital to help fill new orders from foreign buyers, including facilities supported by the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. These agencies accommodate special trade financing, which allows exporters to borrow against their foreign accounts receivable and extend short-term credit to foreign buyers.

Small and medium-sized businesses interested in expanding their foreign trade should access tools and informational resources to learn how to manage their risks while staying globally competitive.

The right banking partner plays a key role in connecting businesses to a wide range of resources, allowing them to take advantage of global opportunities. Businesses should be able to import, export, or both with confidence by utilizing appropriate finance tools and techniques to help them expand while mitigating risks. Check out some of our financial tools and resources available to help you manage risks and turn foreign business opportunities into profitable outcomes.

 

 

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Celebrating Manufacturing Day with a Focus on FDI

October 23, 2017

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

By Mark Schmit, National Accounts Manager, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, National Institude of Standard and Technology (NIST) 

An employee of UK-based manufacturing company Domtar provides high school students with a tour of the company’s facility in Rock Hill, S.C. on Oct. 6.

An employee of UK-based manufacturing company Domtar provides high school students with a tour of the company’s facility in Rock Hill, S.C. on Oct. 6.

Although I believe Manufacturing Day is an everyday affair, the official 2017 Manufacturing Day has come and gone. On October 6, modern-day manufacturing was showcased to students, teachers, parents, prospective employees, elected officials, and more at over 2,800 separate events across the country.

It is neither a stretch nor an exaggeration to believe that Manufacturing Day 2017 accomplished what it set out to do—celebrate modern manufacturing and inspire the next generation of manufacturers in this country. Manufacturers build the things that power, move, and shape America. On October 6, manufacturers across the country opened their doors to show their community what manufacturing is all about.

South Carolina manufacturers have been a mainstay of Manufacturing Day participation since the beginning. Year after year, they have opened their doors to educate visitors. This year, 19 events were held statewide, six of which the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center (SCMEP), was a hosting partner. I want to highlight three of those partnership-led events that celebrated not only partnerships, manufacturing and American jobs, but also FDI, an important part of modern manufacturing in America:

  • Swiss Krono hosted a presentation and plant tour in Barnwell, S.C., for 10 attendees. Swiss Krono LLC, a division of Swiss Krono Group, began distribution in the United States in 2000, and opened its current Barnwell manufacturing facility in 2005. In Barnwell, Swiss Krono LLC creates virtually any style, shape, finish, texture, scrape, bevel, locking system, thickness, size and attached pad of laminate flooring planks sold through distributors, dealers and chains nationwide.
  • Located in Newberry, S.C., Komatsu hosted a presentation and plant tour in honor of Manufacturing Day for 74 attendees. Komatsu America Corporation is a U.S. subsidiary of Japan-based Komatsu Ltd., the world’s second largest manufacturer and supplier of earth-moving equipment, consisting of construction, mining, and compact construction equipment.
  • SCMEP partnered with UK-based Domtar in Rock Hill, S.C., to host a presentation and plant tour for 25 attendees, including students from the Floyd Johnson Technology Center. The event was so successful that it was covered by both local and state level media. Domtar is a leading provider of a wide variety of fiber-based products including communication, specialty packaging papers, market pulp and absorbent hygiene products.

These are just a few examples of the events coordinated by the MEP National Network across the country for the 2017 Manufacturing Day festivities.

More success stories and information on how to get involved are available here, and remember to mark your calendars for next year’s Manufacturing Day: October 5, 2018!

A member of the Federal Interagency Investment Working Group, NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership works with SelectUSA, the sole federal program dedicated to promoting and facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. Together, these entities partner to encourage international companies to invest in the U.S. manufacturing industry.

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Tacoma, Washington Firms Translate Global Success into Local Jobs and Economic Growth

October 16, 2017

Susan Crawford is a communications specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service’s Pacific North Network 

U.S. Rep. Kilmer’s District Representative Nicholas Carr presented each of the three organizations with their Certificate of Appreciation at a recent event hosted by the World Trade Center Tacoma. L-R: Nicholas Carr, James Newman of Tacoma Community College, Dennis Morris of SAFE Boats International, Diane Mooney of U.S. Commercial Service Seattle, Jason Lollar of Lollar Guitars, Inc.

U.S. Rep. Kilmer’s District Representative Nicholas Carr presented each of the three organizations with their Certificate of Appreciation at a recent event hosted by the World Trade Center Tacoma. L-R: Nicholas Carr, James Newman of Tacoma Community College, Dennis Morris of SAFE Boats International, Diane Mooney of U.S. Commercial Service Seattle, Jason Lollar of Lollar Guitars, Inc.

Three small Tacoma-area organizations prove that it is possible to look beyond U.S. borders and succeed in the global marketplace. The World Trade Center Tacoma, the U.S. Commercial Service, and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s office recently recognized Tacoma Community College, Lollar Guitars, Inc., and SAFE Boats International with a U.S. Commercial Service Certificate of Appreciation for the positive impact these organizations have had on their community through exporting and international operations, and promotion of local jobs.

SAFE Boats International

SAFE Boats International, based in Bremerton, Wash., designs and builds aluminum boats that are used by military, law enforcement, and fire and rescue agencies worldwide. The company’s international sales account for 30 percent of total revenues and provide jobs for approximately 200 of the firm’s 400 employees.

Before signing any international distribution contracts, the firm contacts the U.S. Commercial Service to conduct background checks on potential agents to help ensure that they have a solid reputation and meet the firm’s partnership requirements. “The U.S. Commercial Service has helped us to grow our international sales and build solid business expansion opportunities worldwide,” said SAFE Boats International Chief Executive Officer Dennis Morris. “We value this relationship as a true ‘force multiplier’.”

Lollar Guitars, Inc.

Tacoma-based Lollar Guitars is a small, family-owned firm that designs and manufactures pickups for electric, bass and steel guitars. The U.S. Commercial Service has assisted Lollar Guitars with export documentation and international payment issues, and helped identify valuable international networking opportunities for the firm. During the past 10 years, the firm’s exports to more than 30 countries have expanded to reach 20 percent of total sales.

Tacoma Community College
Tacoma Community College (TCC) works closely with the U.S. Commercial Service to develop new international student markets. “The [U.S. Commercial Service] has been a terrific resource for our college in introducing new partners and connecting us with in-country representatives in China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico,” said James Newman, director of International Student Services at Tacoma Community College. Since 2009, TCC has expanded international student enrollment from 270 to 450 students, which in turn supports 11 full-time and 8 part-time employees. The local Tacoma economy also benefits from international student spending on goods and services, such as accommodations, food, and transportation. Community members in the College’s homestay program benefit from compensation of $625 per month.

Local Export Resources

It’s true that exporting can be more complicated than selling in the United States, and that’s where the U.S. Commercial Service can help. Our trade professionals are located in more than 100 U.S. cities and more than 75 countries to help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets. For more information, locate your closest U.S. Commercial Service office.

U.S. Commercial Service provides educational material and short how-to videos for firms interested in learning the basics of exporting.

Country Commercial Guides are another ITA resource for firms interested in exploring worldwide market opportunities. The guides provide information on market conditions, opportunities, regulations, and business customs for 125 nations.

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Startup Global starts local

October 12, 2017

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

By Tricia Van Orden, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat

Philadelphia-area startups recently gathered at Temple University’s Fox School of Business for advice on going global with business. The Startup Global event, a partnership between the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Global Innovation Forum, helps entrepreneurs and early-stage companies strategically plan for international business. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live beyond the U.S. borders, and modern technology has made it easier than ever to reach them. International business expert and attorneys offered some important lessons:

1. Start with what you know and leverage others’ knowledge. Whether it’s tapping into big data from online platforms to gain market insights or scheduling a meeting with a business counselor at a local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), you don’t have to do it all. A plethora of online tools and community resources are available to help startups and small business find success in international markets. The U.S. Government, and in many areas, State and local governments, offers free training and counseling to develop an international business plan and get started doing business globally. A great starting point is your local SBDC.

If your startup or small business has done business in one or two foreign markets and you’re interested in finding new opportunities and expanding sales, contact your local USEAC.

2. Know when to seek the counsel of a lawyer you trust. International business can be complicated, and you need to ensure your ideas, trademarks, and copyrights are protected and that you’re compliant with U.S. and international laws. Professional legal guidance will help you find the right path. Until you’re ready for that step, peruse the intellectual property information available on export.gov.  Another resource is the Export Legal Assistance Network, a network of attorneys who volunteer their time to provide an initial legal consultation free of charge to new exporters to assist with issues related to export licensing, taxation, tariffs, and intellectual property.

3. It’s never too late to go back to school.  Your campus days might be over, but local universities and community colleges often provide opportunities for business expansion. You might find your next partner or investor at networking event, and many schools offer international immersion programs that can broaden your global mindset and help you make connections in markets of interest. At many business schools, students team up with local companies to conduct market research and develop market entry strategies.  Companies interested in exporting can take advantage of these cooperative agreements and receive market research products either free of charge or for a very low fee.

If you are interested in hosting a Startup Global event in your city, please contact Pat Kirwan  from the Department of Commerce or Jake Colvin from the Global Innovation Forum.

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FDI Strengthens America’s High-Tech Competitiveness

October 5, 2017

By Maureen Book, Research Analyst, SelectUSA 

Map of United States highlighting high-tech employment concentration by metro area, 2015 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns, Accessed July 6, 2017, factfinder.census.gov

High-Tech Industry Employment Concentration, High-Tech Employment/All Employment, by Metro Area, 2015 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns, Accessed July 6, 2017, factfinder.census.gov

SelectUSA released its second industry-focused report: “High-Tech Industries: The Role of FDI in Driving Innovation and Growth” on Sept. 19. This report provides an in-depth look at high-tech clusters in the United States, and gives the first-ever analysis of the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in high-tech industries. The report’s biggest takeaway is that FDI plays a significant role in these industries.

Where are high-tech clusters?

High-tech industries have a concentration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics  and employ more than twice that of the national average. After analyzing the U.S. high-tech industry and considering participation of both foreign and domestic firms, SelectUSA explored the geography of high-tech companies in the United States by state, to identify large groups, or clusters, of employment.  The top employers of high-tech workers were California, Texas, and New York, while the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Washington boast the highest employment per capita of high-tech jobs.

High-Tech Clusters by Metro Area

Looking at metro areas with the highest concentration of high-tech employment, SelectUSA found that San Jose, Calif., tops the list with more than 34 percent of local employment in high-tech industries. They were followed closely by Elkhart, Ind., with nearly 33 percent, and Huntsville, Ala., with more than 31 percent. While the concentration in San Jose might not be surprising because it is the largest city in the Silicon Valley area, Elkhart and Huntsville both have industry concentrations nearby to make them important locations for high-tech companies. Elkhart’s economy is heavily concentrated in the transportation equipment manufacturing industry, and centers around recreational and commercial vehicle manufacturing. Huntsville is home to many aerospace and defense contractors, and military technology firms.

The Role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)  

The data cited is provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

Line graph showing FDI impact in U.S. high-tech industries from 2007-2015. Three outputs are measured: R&D, contributions to U.S. exports and their contribution to value-add. FDI’s contribution to value-add has been rising steadily over time, except for the dips in 2008-2009, where all indicators experienced a shift downwards due to the recession. FDI’s contribution to U.S. goods exports has also been rising since 2009, except for the past couple of years, which have seen a decline. R&D spending has remained relatively constant from 2007-2015.

FDI Impact in U.S. High-Tech Industries, by Majority Foreign-Owned U.S. Affiliates Source: Source: Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Accessed Oct. 24, 2016, http://www.bea.gov/iTable/index_MNC.cfm Note: Data for some high-tech industries has not been included due to lack of available data.

Using our definition of high-tech industries and data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, SelectUSA looked at the role that FDI plays in high-tech industries. For those not familiar with the terminology, FDI generally captures a long-term relationship with the management of a foreign enterprise, which is usually linked with the real output of the country in which it operates.

Our data found that FDI stock in high-tech industries reached more than $1.6 trillion in 2016, and supported 2.1 million jobs in the United States. In fact, the high-tech component of FDI is quite robust; nearly 44 percent of all FDI in the United States is invested in high-tech industries.

Compensation, R&D, Exports, and Value-added Activities

Beyond employment, one must also acknowledge the significant impact that foreign firms in high-tech sectors play in other economic activities. For instance, U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned firms on average offer a higher compensation to U.S. workers than domestic . But FDI in high-tech industries offer a greater average compensation than other FDI companies in other industries. U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned firms also greatly contribute to the innovation sector of our economy, spending nearly $42 billion on research and development (R&D) in the high-tech sector. In 2015, they also contributed $154 billion towards U.S. goods exports and more than $373 billion towards value-added activities.

Historical-cost basis bar graph showing FDI entering the United States since 2007. Blue bars show FDI entering the country, but not classified as high-tech, and the red bar is all FDI entering the U.S. that is classified as high-tech. The gray line shows the percentage of high-tech FDI compared to all FDI entering the U.S. Looking at 2016, we can see that high-tech FDI accounted for nearly 44% of all FDI in the U.S. and amounted to $1.6 trillion. FDI in high-tech has also been growing by an average of more than 10% each year since 2009.

High-Tech Position in the United States, Historical-Cost Basis Source: Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Accessed Aug. 17, 2017, http://www.bea.gov/iTable/index_MNC.cfm

Source Markets Supporting High-Tech

We also find that Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan are among the largest source markets for R&D spending, exports, and value-added activities in high-tech industries. Beyond that, they are also several of the United States’ leading trading partners. Collaborating with them on FDI reinforces the trade relationship and strengthens our nation’s bilateral ties with these partners.

For more information:

Please visit selectusa.gov to view the full report, other industry reports, international and domestic FDI fact sheets, and SelectUSA’s data visualization tool, SelectUSA Stats.

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Showcasing our strengths at Discover Global Markets

September 29, 2017

By Jason Lindesmith, Acting Director, Communications, U.S. Field, U.S. Commercial Service

Attendees listen as Erin Walsh, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service delivers remarks on Sept. 18 in Cleveland.

Attendees listen as Erin Walsh, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service delivers remarks on Sept. 18 in Cleveland.

Last week in Cleveland, more than 350 participants attended U.S. Commercial Service’s showcase forum, Discover Global Markets: U.S. Manufacturers to Europe and Beyond.

Discover Global Markets (DGM) events highlight the unique strengths of the U.S. Commercial Service and its global network. U.S. government trade experts representing more than 16 international markets, and dozens of industry experts descended on Cleveland to help hundreds of small businesses establish and grow their exports.

One of the keynote speakers, Erin Walsh, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, addressed the crowd to stress the importance of free and fair trade in expanding U.S. exports:

“The International Trade Administration and its U.S. Commercial Service plays a unique role in connecting both large and small U.S. companies to trading partners around the world,” Erin said. “Our Commercial Specialists around the globe thrive on providing the personal touch for our clients. We help U.S. businesses succeed in trade through customized solutions, from how to get your products through customs to commercial diplomacy such as breaking down barriers to entry.”

So how does the DGM agenda showcase the strengths of the U.S. Commercial Service?

U.S. Commercial Service staff from the International Trade Administration offered clients personal attention and held over 290 one-on-one counseling sessions with U.S. companies, helping them develop strategies for international growth. These sessions included staff representing more than 16 international markets from our global network of trade and policy professionals.

Where else can you receive one-on-one feedback from in-country experts from around the world without needing to travel overseas?

In addition, DGM demonstrated our extensive domestic contacts across U.S. manufacturing industries – more than 50 meetings between manufacturing original equipment manufacturers and prospective small business suppliers took place at the event. Breaking into global supply chains can provide small businesses the opportunity to sell into many global markets within a short time.

The next DGM event will be held in Kansas City, Mo. in April 2018 and will focus on design and construction sectors.

I encourage you to subscribe to the DGM e-mail list for any updates as the next event comes together. I look forward to seeing you there so you can take advantage of the U.S. Commercial Service’s strengths on display!