Archive for the ‘Success Stories’ Category


Celebrating Manufacturing Day in Pella, Iowa

October 12, 2016
Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Guest blog post by Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Throughout the year nearly 3,000 Vermeer team members work diligently to build impressive equipment that serves ten different markets. Our engineering team works hard to concept and design equipment; our manufacturing team machines, welds, paints and assembles the tough equipment we sell. Our support teams procure parts, integrate technology solutions, market the equipment and build relationships with customers and dealers on six continents. In order to experience ongoing success as a growing global company, we must continue to recruit, develop and build teams that can keep pace with our customer needs.

Numbers prove that a STEM-skilled workforce is essential to the future of manufacturing and our world. Every dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.37 to the US economy, and every 100 jobs in a manufacturing facility create an additional 250 jobs in other sectors. Yet 80 percent of manufacturers report difficulty in finding skilled workers. Manufacturing clearly has an impact on the nation’s economy. So the skills gap we are facing in our industry has to be addressed in order to achieve a healthy workforce, and is sure to be reflective of the significant need throughout the nation.

Our annual Manufacturing Day event at the Vermeer headquarters in Pella, Iowa has proven to have some of the most positive, immediate results in shifting the manufacturing perception. We invite local middle and high school students inside our doors and break down the myth that manufacturing means a dirty job.

Through hands-on activities and plant tours, students get to dig into all the facets of manufacturing. Paint and weld simulators offer an opportunity to try it out. 3D printing, digital assembly and robotics activities show students manufacturing isn’t an outdated assembly line, but rather a smartly progressive field maximizing science and technology. Finance and marketing activities have students calculate exchange rates and see that manufacturing isn’t limited to a factory, but instead is connected around the globe.

We’re once again preparing to give students an up-close look at what manufacturing is all about. Why? Students, and their influencers, want it. An Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council survey shows that 94 percent of Iowans think STEM education should be a priority in their local school districts. Our Manufacturing Day experience reflects that. Attendance jumped from 100 students to 700+ in just three years.

We also make it a point to survey the students before and after their visit, and are very motivated by the results: The percentage of students who felt they understood what manufacturing is, jumped from 57 percent before Manufacturing Day to 97 percent after, and those who want to work in manufacturing someday jumped from 34 percent to 69 percent. With the majority of students saying that personal experience directs them down a particular career path, we want Manufacturing Day to be one experience that launches them on a STEM journey toward manufacturing!

The future is bright for Vermeer, and when we open on our doors on October 14 for Manufacturing Day, we stand with pride to be a manufacturer and future employer to some of these students who will leave inspired to pursue a career in manufacturing.


The Benjamin Joy Award: State and Commerce Collaboration

October 5, 2016

Arun Kumar is the Assistant Secretary for the International Trade Administration

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and I had the great pleasure last week to present the first Benjamin Joy Award to the State-Commerce teams at U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Benjamin Joy Award was created by the International Trade Administration’s Global Markets unit and the State Department’s Economic Bureau (EB) to highlight and promote interagency collaboration and excellence in commercial diplomacy. The Award is named for Benjamin Joy, an early exemplar of U.S. commercial and economic diplomacy, who was appointed in 1792 by President George Washington as the first American Consul and Commercial Agent to India.


Kumar with the winners of the Benjamin Joy Award

There were 43 nominations from 34 different countries, a testament to robust State Commerce collaboration – and to the premium our people put on working together to assist American businesses. From our very first meeting, Ambassador Rivkin and I have shared the conviction that closer State and Commerce collaboration can create even greater success in advancing our country’s commercial and economic interests. Following the ceremony, we also signed a memorandum to further expand the interagency cooperation under the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service-State Partner Post Program.

The joint State-Commerce team in Ethiopia was led by Ambassador Patricia Haslach, and made up of Tanya Cole, Teddy Tefera and Nnaji Campbell from Commerce and Peter Vrooman and Gaia Self from State. The team worked tirelessly over 19 months, through many ups and downs, to ensure a level playing field for a U.S. company, Gates Air in a government tender to upgrade and digitalize Ethiopia’s television infrastructure.

The runners-up were teams from Embassy New Delhi and Embassy Jakarta. Those teams too exemplified outstanding State-Commerce collaboration – which is all the more important to increase America’s influence in today’s increasingly complex and uncertain world,  when competition overseas is stiffer and does not always play by the same rules.

Congratulations to the winners!


The GlobalTarget Program: The Proof is in the Partnerships

September 6, 2016

Susan Whitney is Director of the U.S. Commercial Service Office in Cleveland, Ohio.This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy

If you often have the feeling that you or your company is figuring out exporting entirely on your own, I’m going to let you in on a little-known fact: a collection of partners are waiting to help your business succeed overseas. You just have to find them.

In Northeast Ohio, we have gathered this group of peers, experts, and service providers together in a nine-month export training program called GlobalTarget. The program is for companies between $2 million and $50 million in sales who are poised to take the next step of growing their business internationally.

GlobalTarget is different from most other export training programs because of how it capitalizes on each partner’s strength so they can delivery value to the participant. The program unleashes a network of the region’s best and most experienced international business professionals so each GlobalTarget participant can grow overseas – that’s what makes partnerships so powerful.

Over ten years ago, I helped form Global Target around the idea that one company, stakeholder group, or service provider doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to international growth. Therefore, GlobalTarget strives to focus these partners toward a singular goal: help Northeast Ohio companies grow in international markets.

Here’s a look at how the partners come together to make GlobalTarget a success:

  • Federal (U.S. Commercial Service) – By offering participants export counseling and their Gold Key matchmaking service, GlobalTarget companies can connect to a worldwide network of trade professionals in over 70 countries.  The Gold Key matchmaking service allows the participants to implement what they have learned and to turn training into sales.
  • State (Ohio Development Services Agency) – By offering export counseling and grant funds to help cover a participating company’s cost, more firms are able to participate in GlobalTarget.
  • Academia (Cleveland State University) – Through presentations from industry experts and faculty, participants learn the ins and outs of exporting from every angle. Cleveland State students also research international markets and create a report for each participant.
  • Private sector (FedEx) – By covering the cost of several international offerings from the U.S. Commercial Service, GlobalTarget participants are able to customize the program’s services to fit their needs.
  • Ohio’s exporting community – By matching up each GlobalTarget participant with an experienced exporter, each company learns from their mentor’s experience to shorten their learning curve.

One alumnus of GlobalTarget said the most valuable part of the program is being matched up with an “exporting mentor”. Mentors are another Ohio company with deep experience taking their business global. Here’s what Jeff Sponseller, VP of Sales for Miller Weldmaster, said about their mentorship experience:

“When you to go through the day to day of figuring out exporting on your own, at times you catch yourself saying ‘this is a lot harder than it should be’. Through GlobalTarget, we realized exporters around the region have many of the same questions – regardless of their industry.

“We got to ask other exporters ‘How to you do handle this or that situation?’, which positioned our company to benefit from our mentor’s experience.”

The mentorship aspect of the GlobalTarget adds value for two reasons. First, mentoring builds a sense of community among the region’s exporters – it allows for positive experiences like Miller Weldmaster’s. Second, engaging experienced exporters as mentors builds on the central idea of what makes GlobalTarget so successful – capitalizing on each partner’s strength to deliver maximum value to Ohio companies.

Finally, what happens to companies that go through GlobalTarget? What are the results?

On average, over 70 percent of GlobalTarget alumni that have used the Commercial Service Gold Key matchmaking service have success in a foreign market within their first year of completing the program. In the case of Miller Weldmaster, they expanded into several new markets through the Commercial Service Gold Key matchmaking service including Chile, Russia, and Korea, with plans to use the Gold Key Matchmaking service in other countries in the coming months.

If you are a Northeast Ohio company weighing whether you should join this year’s GlobalTarget group, the proof of the program’s success is in the partnerships. GlobalTarget utilizes the unique strengths of our area’s exporting experts who have a vested interest in your success.

Visit the GlobalTarget website to learn more about the program.


Cutting-Edge Tech at Hannover Messe Equals Win-Win for U.S. Small Business and the Planet

August 24, 2016

Joshua Kaplan is an International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Commercial Service Office in Richmond, Virginia.

One important aspect about U.S. companies going global is that they aren’t just looking for profits. In my work, I’ve seen broad commitment from global companies to make positive impact in the markets in which they sell. That definitely adds a sense of reward for me; as I help companies grow through global sales, I see these companies making a positive impact in the world.

Among the 400-plus exhibitors that joined the U.S. Partner Country delegation at Hannover Messe in April was a company called Filtroil, a small business in my city of Richmond, Virginia. Filtroil produces advanced filtration systems for industrial fluids, extending the life of machinery and reducing the amount of potentially harmful waste produced by manufacturers.

Filtration systems can help industrial companies increase productivity and decrease cost, and minimize environmental impact. That’s a major benefit for manufacturers, and the attendees at Hannover Messe took notice of Filtroil’s solutions.  Even before the show began, our Commercial Service team gathered more than 20 prospective leads for the company, and set up meetings between Filtroil CEO Jeremy Leahman and several qualified prospective buyers.

During the week of the show, Jeremy often had a line at his booth, as the thousands of Hannover Messe attendees passed through our U.S. Pavilions and saw innovative U.S. companies like Filtroil.

Just six weeks after the show, Filtroil has already secured enough new global business that the firm has hired additional staff to capitalize on these new opportunities.

That’s an excellent result from a trade show and a great benefit for a small company. It’s also great news for the environment, because both developed and developing economies are looking to improve productivity to meet increased global demand, and innovative products like Filtroil’s will help them do that without a commensurate increase in environmental impact.

It’s one small example of what I believe to be a unique trait of U.S. companies – we don’t just send products to a market and leave with the profits. American companies create solutions that help the world’s producers be more efficient and environmentally-friendly. I’m glad that companies like Filtroil joined our Hannover Messe delegation to show the world how U.S. innovation keeps the world green.

For any U.S. company looking to make a global impact, I encourage you to contact your nearest Commercial Service office and let us help you find your next international market.


First Native American organization that received President’s “E” Award has been honored in Albuquerque

August 3, 2016

Stephen Collier is a Communications Specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service, Southwest Network

An acknowledgement of true achievement took place July 26 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: a celebration in honor of the first Native American organization to win the President’s “E” Award for Export Services.

The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association was recognized in May by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker along with 122 other companies and organizations across the United States that have contributed to increased exports in their respective industries nationwide.


Robert Queen, Director of US Commercial Service-Santa Fe (left), poses with members of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association and nearby Native American organizations

In attendance at the event were representatives from the offices of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM). Rep. Grisham represents the New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the Albuquerque area. Representatives from several Pueblo nations were also on hand, as was Robert Queen, Director of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Santa Fe office.

In his remarks, Queen, who provides export guidance and support to New Mexico businesses, spoke about the importance of organizations like AIANTA in reaching several audiences and tribes across the nation.

“Most of the projects we work on in the U.S. are manufacturing based,” he said. “Companies manufacture a product, put it in a package, and ship it across the world. But tourism is also an export. It might now show up in the stats, but we know that someone from Germany or a family from Japan come to the U.S., they rent a car, check into a hotel, go to dinner, go to an event and they spend an enormous amount of money. And that’s why we love organizations like AIANTA. We are able to connect with AIANTA directly and work with them on trade shows and at the same time, reach foreign customers. For us, it’s a great partnership.”

In fact, tourism within the Native American community continues to rise. According to the Department of Commerce, in 2014, America had 35 million visitors to its shores, including a record 1.65 million to Native American communities. Those visitors and tourists also spent approximately $7 billion, infusing increased revenues into unique locations like these communities.

And the future projections aren’t expected to change, with a forecasted 30 percent increase in overseas visitors to tribal lands, with visitors spending an approximate $9.5 billion annually. .

Speaking on behalf of Sen. Udall was Joshua Sanchez, a field representative for the senator’s office. While the senator could not be in attendance, Sanchez relayed Sen. Udall’s continued commitment to organizations like AIANTA that are helping to increase awareness of Native American culture to international visitors.

Sherry Rupert, President of the Board of Directors for AIANTA, said the organization takes pride in their international outreach efforts that create opportunities for America’s tribes.

“Overseas travelers are visiting ‘Indian Country’ more than ever before, and international travelers are looking for both something unique and an experience,” she said. “Travelers visiting our tribes have increased dramatically, growing more than 50 percent from 1 million in 2007 to 2014. These are the travelers all of the tourism industry is trying to grab to bring to their destinations. It’s a great opportunity for Indiana Country. AIANTA continues to work to capitalize on this opportunity to set up tribes to compete in the international market. Even though we’ve been here for thousands of years, we are the new and unique experience these visitors are looking for.”

To learn more about the U.S. Commercial Service in New Mexico, visit


Showing the World that America is—and Will Remain—Open for Business

May 16, 2016

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today honored 123 U.S. companies and organizations that export goods and services overseas during the 2016 President’s “E” Awards ceremony. For the first time in the award’s 54-year history, winners represent every state and the District of Columbia. Of this year’s 123 honorees, 105 are small and medium-sized businesses, and 64 firms are manufacturers.


Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Presents the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) with the 2016 Presidential “E” Award for Export Service

Did you know that the United States exported $2.23 trillion worth of goods and services in 2015? This high number would be nearly impossible without the hard work and dedication of our companies, here at home. It’s no secret that there is a continued demand for the world class goods and service that American businesses have to offer. By selling Made-in-America products internationally, 11.5 million Americans can wake up and go to jobs, thanks to the support of exports.

Have you ever seen a company display a huge blue and white banner with a large “E”? During World War II, more than 4,000 “E” pennants were presented to war plants in recognition of production excellence. The famous flag with the big “E” emblazoned on it became a badge of patriotism in action. President Kennedy revived the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America’s exporters. Thus, the “E” Award Program was established by Executive Order 10978 on December 5, 1961. Today, companies that have been recognized continue this tradition.

This year, 73 companies and organizations were honored with the “E” Award for Exports for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over a four-year period. There were 28 companies and organizations that assisted and facilitated export activities and received the “E” Award for Export Service. The “E” Star Award for Exports, which recognizes previous “E” Awardees who have reported four years of additional export growth, was awarded to 17 firms. And, five companies were awarded the “E” Star Award for Export Service, which recognizes previous “E” Awardees that have shown four years of continued support of exporters since first winning the “E” Award.

One of this year’s awardees, The Fairfax Christian School is a kindergarten through 12th grade university-prep school located in Northern Virginia.  For more than 50 years it has served the international community. The school enrolled its first international student in 1963; introduced its English as a Second Language program in the 1970s; began taking F-1 visa students in the 1980s; and, began opening schools overseas in 2010, including China.

The Fairfax Christian School currently has 42 employees and has added jobs as the international program expanded. In 2017, the school will open a new campus and plans to double the size of its international program and staff over the next three years.

Another example of one of this year’s winners is the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)—the State of Hawaii’s tourism agency. Its offices are located in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. HTA’s mission is to increase tourism to markets in North America and internationally to support the ongoing, sustainable growth of Hawaii’s economy. The organization has been exporting for 18 years. It currently has 23 employees, and jobs have been added to accommodate business resulting from exporting.

American companies are nominated for “E” Awards through the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service office network, located within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. To learn more about the “E” Awards and the benefits of exporting, visit


Sustainable Practices Help Wente Family Estates Land New Distributor, Make Sales

April 15, 2016

Susan Crawford is a Communications Specialist for the International Trade Administration 

The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) Oakland, the consul general of Norway, the mayor of Livermore, California and others celebrated Wente Vineyard’s successful foray into the Norwegian wine market at a recent bi-lateral meeting held at Wente Family Estates. The Livermore, California-based vintner has shipped 3 wine-filled cargo containers to Norway since December 2015, and expects that number to triple by the end of 2016 with an approximate value of over $500,000.

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and this journey began last year when Rod Hirsch, director of CS Oakland, encouraged Wente Family Estates, a Certified California Sustainable Winegrower, to participate in the CS’ Discover Global Markets: Sustainable Solutions conference that was held in Silicon Valley in 2015.

“I knew that the vintner’s sustainable initiatives would be a major competitive advantage in the right market, such as Norway, which values sustainability and green growing practices. I wanted the firm to have the chance to investigate new potential markets,” Hirsch explained.

CS specialists from 20 international markets, including Norway, counseled conference attendees on market opportunities. A meeting between Hirsch, Norway-based CS Commercial Specialist Bjarke Frederiksen and Wente Vineyards coincided with a new listing opportunity with the Norwegian Liquor Government Monopoly.   Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay from Livermore Valley was selected in a government procured tender; soon Wente Vineyards was on the path to a successful listing in the Norwegian market. “The concept of Sustainable Farming has been an instrumental selling feature of our wine in Norway” says Michael Parr, Vice President of International Sales for Wente Family Estates.

“The CS strives to connect the dots between U.S. exporters and appropriate international markets and it is very rewarding to know that we played a role in helping Wente Family Estates expand and market their brand in Norway,” Hirsch said.

In addition to assisting Wente Family Estates in Norway, the CS previously helped the winery crack the competitive Australian wine market. CS Oakland worked with CS Australia and the U.S. ambassador to organize promotional events at each of the three Australian consulates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Hirsch and the CS Oakland team can help Oakland area firms identify and enter new markets or expand exports to existing markets. For more information, please visit: