Big Business at Big IronNovember 2, 2009
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Heather Ranck is Director of the Fargo, North Dakota US Export Assistance Center. She is also active on the Agribusiness Team, and in that capacity she promotes the export of US-made agricultural machinery throughout the world.
So Much to Do, So Little Time
I keep telling myself: sleep is overrated! Somewhere between the 1 a.m. airport pickup for my colleague arriving from China; and the 7:30 a.m. Ex-Im Bank finance meeting sleep tends to take a back seat to all the organizing, facilitating, entertaining and crisis management that is inherent in putting on any large event. The Big Iron Farm Machinery Show is the biggest agricultural machinery show in the Upper Midwest, and in 2007 we decided to make it a global event when the former Soviet countries began showing very high interest in our large scale farm machinery built in North Dakota. This, our third year, is once again packed with activity and opportunities for the 150+ foreign buyers who are descending on Fargo to learn about American large scale crop farming.
This year I focused my recruiting efforts on Africa, a new frontier for large scale farm equipment. Having lived in Mozambique and Congo, I wanted to scope out the prospects, so in May 2009 I took a 3-week trip to South Africa, Angola and Mozambique. After 144 meetings I learned a lot about the needs and opportunities for farm equipment in Africa. We had a delegation of 25 Africans at Big Iron this year, and I would like to see American technology helping increase food production in Africa.
The Big Iron International Visitors Program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Commercial Service (the primary federal government export assistance agency) and the North Dakota Trade Office (a state of North Dakota trade promotion organization); and our combined team of 10 people coordinates very closely on all recruiting, events planning, logistics, interpreting, transportation and programming.
During the show, the hub of all the activity is the International Visitors Pavilion, for which the International Trade Administration’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) provided substantial funding for the meeting rooms this year. This is Grand Central Station for buyers and sellers, with meeting rooms, food and COFFEE!
We are always coming up with new elements to the program, and one of my new ideas this year was to hold an international soccer match. We had a beautiful, sunny day in Fargo and Fargo Parks let us use the best fields in Fargo. The game ended in a 4-4 tie, further ensuring international harmony.
I also have taken on the activity of ensuring adequate language assistance for buyers and sellers. I speak Portuguese, and therefore did quite a bit of interpreting for the Angolan delegation this year. We are fortunate to have 3 universities in the Fargo-Moorhead area, so we recruit student volunteers to facilitate business meetings throughout the week.
Big Iron 2009 was as exciting as ever this year with representation from 12 different countries, many of them new to Big Iron. It is thrilling to watch the years of effort leading to deals being negotiated before our eyes; and millions of dollars of US agricultural machinery being shipped all over the world.