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A Century-Old Company’s Global Manufacturing Success: Story of a Harbor Tug

October 23, 2015

Melissa Blackledge is an International Trade Specialist at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

We’ve all heard sad stories like this: an American manufacturing company that has been around for decades closes because it can’t compete in today’s complex, global marketplace. It’s an unfortunate reality experienced by many local communities. However, a recent announcement from Cleveland-based Great Lakes Towing Company suggests its fate will be more favorable.

Tugboat

Great Lakes Towing Company will deliver a tugboat like this in early 2016 to the Port of Quetzal in Guatemala, marking the 116 year-old company’s latest expansion into Central America. The sale was supported by U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service staff in Cleveland and at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

Recently, the 116-year-old company began construction on a tugboat destined for delivery in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, marking the company’s latest expansion into a Central American market. At the tugboat’s ceremonial “*keel laying”, local leaders gathered to celebrate Great Lakes’ ability to compete globally and highlighted the company’s role as a creator of highly paid manufacturing jobs in Northern Ohio.

*In ship-building, the keel laying marks the first stage of the joining together of a boat to officially mark its construction.

Once completed, this tugboat will have quite the story to tell. The deal between Great Lakes Towing Company and Regimen de Pensiones y Jubilaciones del Personal de la Empresa Portuaria took several years to complete and saw contributions from U.S. Commercial Service trade experts in the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, as well as within the United States.

Here are a few other tales this little tugboat could share:

  • Many manufacturing industries, competition in the ship-building business is fierce. Great Lakes Towing’s success in Guatemala is another sign that demonstrates that American workers and products are desirable – and that American companies can win in today’s worldwide, economic stage.
  • It can take a team for small- or medium-sized businesses to successfully export – Businesses with Made-in-America products or services have this team readily available within the U.S. Commercial Service. In the case of Great Lakes Towing, they worked with trade specialists at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to better understand the market and ensure a transparent negotiations process.

    Ron Rasmus, President and Director of Great Lakes Towing’s parent company, summarized the support from the U.S. Commercial Service by saying, “Working through the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala gave us legitimacy. There was a language barrier, there was a cultural barrier, so the company could have not done this without their help.”

Signatures

Upon starting the tugboat’s construction, the buyers welded their signature to pieces that will be attached to the hull of the new boat.

The feel good story of the Great Lakes Towing company doesn’t have to end once they deliver the new tugboat. Companies who manufacture Made-in-America products can model their own success after Great Lakes’. The first step is to reach out to the team that’s ready to help American businesses compete in today’s global marketplace at the U.S. Commercial Service. With offices in U.S. Embassies around the globe, and 109 cities across the U.S., the U.S. Commercial Service can craft an export strategy tailored to your industry.

If your business is thinking about expanding into international markets, or if you’re looking to elevate your current export strategy to the next level, contact the U.S. Commercial Service trade experts in your state.

They are happy to help your team create its own exporting success story.

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