Archive for the ‘Success Stories’ Category

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The U.S. Commercial Service helps Western Shelter Systems export, reduce time to market and avoid mistakes

November 4, 2015

This is a guest blog by Brice Barrett, Director of Sales for Western Shelter Systems and a client of the Commercial Service U.S. Export Assistance Center in Portland, Oregon.

Since 1988, Western Shelter Systems, based in Eugene, Oregon, has manufactured shelters that are easy to transport, simple to erect, and weather-secure for operations in remote locations. The shelters are used by fire, rescue, medical, military, and disaster response teams.

About 15 years ago, we exported our first shelter system to an Australian distributor to be used by wildfire firefighting teams. Our firm made other international sales through the years, mainly in response to inquiries from foreign buyers. The U.S. market for our products is seasonal and exporting became very important to us to achieve our long-term strategic growth objectives.

When I joined the company in 2013, my first priority was to identify the most appropriate export markets for our products in Latin America. I contacted the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) for assistance. I worked with Latin America specialists in Washington, D.C., and CS trade specialists in Portland to develop a data-driven methodology for selecting export markets. We analyzed key criteria across a number of markets and determined that Brazil, Chile, and Argentina represented the best prospects for us in Latin America.

CS Staff in Portland and Brazil organized more than 10 meetings for me with qualified distributors in three cities. As a result of the trip, we signed distributors in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina and have already realized significant sales in in all three countries.

We wouldn’t be where we are today in Latin America without the help of the CS and the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The team helped us get to market 12 months faster than would have been possible if we were going it alone.

We recently decided to enter the Korean market, and I again called upon the CS to help arrange meetings with key players in this new market for us. There is no way we could have made these connections without the CS. We’re working on significant opportunities with our new Korean distributor, and we have product demonstrations scheduled throughout the next year. We’re progressing pretty quickly.

We now sell our products in more than 20 countries, and I admit that exporting can be a difficult and long process, particularly in a country where you don’t know the language or the market. Before you export, you need to do your homework and there are people out there to help you. I urge you to take advantage of the CS’ local expertise in foreign markets. The CS saves me from making a bunch of mistakes.

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Powerful Connections: Introducing U.S. Businesses to Unprecedented Opportunities in Japan’s Electricity Market

October 30, 2015

Lilian Lee is an intern with the International Trade Administration’s Renewable Energy team

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami impact on Japan’s nuclear power sector revealed inherent challenges in Japan’s electricity market when metropolitan areas experienced rolling blackouts for the first time in half a century. These events spurred significant reforms in Japan’s electricity market, which until now has been dominated by the country’s 10 vertically integrated power companies. The reforms are opening new opportunities for U.S businesses to tap into the liberalization of a $67 billion Japanese retail market.

Earlier this month, the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the International Trade Center hosted members from the U.S. and Japanese public and private sectors in Washington, DC to discuss their perspectives on Japan’s changing electricity market and what the reforms mean for U.S. businesses.

Attendees heard about Japan’s roadmap for full liberalization of the retail electricity market and learned about resources available from both the U.S. and Japanese governments to assist them in engaging in this market.

Kaname Ogawa, Director of the Electricity Market Office in the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, Industry, and Investment (METI), outlined the reform process that began April 2015. The first part of the reforms established an organizational body to facilitate power interchange among Japan’s 10 regions that previously operated as independent units. Participants noted that U.S. businesses will encounter the most opportunities when the next two phases are deployed—in April 2016, the residential sector will open up to full retail competition; and by 2020, the transmission and distribution sector will be fully separated from the generation and retail sectors.

Daiki Nakajima, a Project Manager at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) shared information about some key resources available to U.S. businesses, including the Technology Partnering Program, interpretation services, free consultation, and office space. Skipping Stone, a U.S. energy consulting firm already operating in Japan, shared best practices and addressed myths about doing business in Japan.

As Maureen Smith, ITA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, noted in her opening remarks, there are many ways for U.S. firms to partner with Japanese utilities, government, and businesses and lend their experiences and innovations in a deregulated electricity market. She commented on the opportune timing of this development, as the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, of which Japan is a key member country, recently concluded in Atlanta, Georgia.

Peter Weigand, CEO and Founder of Skipping Stone, called Japan’s energy reforms an “unprecedented” market development opportunity. His comments were echoed by the Executive General Manager of International Business and Affairs at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Hirokazu Yamaguchi, who highlighted in his remarks the launching of the TEPCO Open Innovation program. This program is encouraging conservative energy product, service and technology companies from the United States to apply for partnerships with TEPCO to capitalize on this market opportunity and provide their advanced services and technology to consumers in Japan.

The Commerce Department is facilitating these partnerships and working on multiple fronts to connect U.S. businesses to opportunities in Japan. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker led a trade mission to Japan in 2014 that included U.S. energy companies looking to provide solutions to help Japan restructure its energy mix. Commerce has also increased cooperation to support the development of new and renewable sources of energy. For the past three years, the ITA has co-chaired the U.S.-Japan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy Roundtable with Japan’s METI and the U.S. Department of Energy.

This month’s seminar discussion was well-aligned with the objectives of the Roundtable and trade mission. Japan’s energy reforms present significant opportunities for international business partners with interests in the country’s electricity market and smart grid development.  To learn more about opportunities in the Japanese electricity market for U.S. business, please see ITA’s 2015 Top Markets Reports on Smart Grid and Renewable Energy.

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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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Thirty Tigers Reaches a New Level by Exporting

July 15, 2015

This is a guest blog by David Macias, President of Thirty Tigers.

Thirty Tigers is an entertainment company, located in Nashville, Tennessee that offers management, marketing and distribution, and publishing services to independent artists.

Thirty Tigers was interested in marketing itself outside the United States and learned about the Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) of the International Trade Association (ITA) through the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). With support of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and a grant through the ITA from the MDCP, we exhibited at MIDEM 2013, the music industry’s leading trade show held annually in Cannes, France.

As a result of participating at MIDEM 2013, Thirty Tigers reported a sales agreement signed in France that led to sales of $80,000 in the first six months of the negotiated term. The benefits of participating at MIDEM continued for us in 2014, as we opened an office in the United Kingdom, leading to product sales in almost every European territory. Due to our increased global visibility, Thirty Tigers signed a distributor for Australia and New Zealand in October 2014 and ended the year with an approximate $700,000 in export sales. We anticipate international sales in excess of $1,000,000 in 2015.

This increase in export sales also resulted in an additional two jobs in the United States, with the potential to add more positions as sales continue to grow. Thirty Tigers plans on continuing to expand into Japan, South America and other territories, potentially through a company that we met with at MIDEM.

The assistance the International Trade Administration provided was hugely helpful to us. The business relationships that we built at MIDEM are not only going to allow us to sell music in those markets, but the promotional support that we can now arrange for our artists are going to allow them to tour in those countries, as well. Those acts will employ road staff and musicians that live, work and pay taxes here at home. The multiplier effect that has come from the help the ITA has provided continues to pay off, not just for Thirty Tigers and our acts, but for many related companies and free-lance workers.

This is a great example of how a little help and direction from the government can be helpful to business and workers alike. We and our artists are very appreciative.

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E Star Award Winner Volk Optical Saving Sight and Supporting Exports

July 7, 2015

This is a guest blog post by Pete Mastores, President, Volk Optical

ophthalmic lenses In May, the Department of Commerce hosted the 52nd  Annual President’s “E” Awards honoring U.S. companies for their contributions to increasing our nation’s exports. The awards are broken into two designations: “E” Award for Exports for first time winners and “E” Star Award for Exports for previous recipients who continue to demonstrate significant contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Having received a first time “E” Award for Exports in 2011, Volk Optical was recognized this year with an “E” Star Award for Exports for the continued success of our exports program. One of only 4 product manufacturing exporters awarded this distinction, Volk has seen steady growth in export sales since its first “E” Award.

Our company manufactures ophthalmic lenses, portable diagnostic imaging products, and surgical ophthalmic viewing systems and lenses that are used to diagnose and treat conditions of the eye. Eye doctors globally use Volk’s products provide the best possible eye care, thus improving vision.

ophthalmic lensesIt’s gratifying to have our export strategy recognized with a second President’s “E” Award and Star distinction. Our focus, strategy, and personnel additions have allowed our export business to grow consistently for 8 years.  Volk takes the proven approach of focusing on a single region for a one year period, establishing distributors, attending regional tradeshows, and securing the necessary regulatory product registrations and approvals. We concentrate our efforts on entrenching our core product line of ophthalmic diagnostic, laser treatment, and surgical lenses, after which that region is expected to grow organically. After the initial year, Volk turns its eye to growing demand for our more technical and capital-intensive products such as eye imaging cameras and surgical systems. These products require more education and effort to sell, so training of our worldwide distributors was critical. They take time and effort to sell, so the commercial approach requires established, trained, savvy boots on the ground.

We applied this approach first in Europe, then South America, India, China and the Middle East. Volk’s commercial expansion was supported by our parent company, Halma plc, which set up office hubs in developing markets. Having a regional base of operations helped us establish our international sales force.

Additionally, Volk has been assisted along the way by the efforts of the International Trade Administration (ITA) and U.S. free trade agreements. Some of the benefits from a U.S. Free Trade agreement is in lowering our costs of procurement of raw materials, components, etc., as well as in expanded global sales opportunities, allowing us to provide affordable optical medical devices.

Free trade agreements have helped Volk a lot and will continue to do so. We still manage everything out of Mentor, Ohio– the design, the manufacturing, the sales and marketing. The free trade agreements have allowed us to save significant time and money in going to market in foreign countries. We’ve kept and created jobs here in the U.S., as well as internationally, by putting people in the field to support our export efforts.

Volk has also benefited from the services of the U.S. Commerce Department which has been instrumental in assisting us with Gold Key programs to identify distribution channels around the world.

Volk expects export growth to continue as more and more developing countries’ eye doctors are able to afford Volk’s high quality, high performance lenses  and electronic diagnostic imaging devices to provide the best eye care to their patients.

Winning the U.S. President’s E Award in 2011 certainly excited and challenged us to continue to grow our international export business for the past 4 years in order to win this prestigious E Star Award. We’re eager to see what the next several years hold for Volk Optical.

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Export Success Series: Export Sales to Mexico Opening Doors to Latin America

June 12, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Decoration image of a globe with U.S. and Mexican flags designed as arrows pointing above and below each other

Export Success Series: Export Sales to Mexico Opening Doors to Latin America

As businesses work to expand their international export networks, they look to the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service (CS) to move domestic and foreign economy relations forward. The U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), a major part of Commerce’s CS, specifically provides key opportunities through counseling, special events and specific business matchmaking. This business matchmaking can broaden opportunities for further export sales with a multitude of countries. Escalade, Inc. of Evansville Indiana, now an international manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods brands, partnered with the USEAC in Indianapolis ten years ago to establish themselves in Latin America.

In 2005, Escalade’s National Account and International Sales Manager Marla Fredrich, with the help of USEAC, explored possibilities of opening export sales to Mexico. Soon after connections were made, initial sales to Mexico launched and have increased ever since. Today, Escalade exports their products not only to Mexico, but also to other Latin American countries such as Colombia, as well as CAFTA countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. Fredrich explains, “there’s no doubt that learning the ins-and-out of selling to Mexico and working with the Commercial Service gave us more confidence in expanding our sales to other parts of Latin America.” By doing so, Fredrich states that Escalade is “now reaping the fruits of [their] hard work in making new sales to world markets, and Latin America has become a key focus of our international business strategy.” Escalade is just one recent example of how U.S. companies have made much progress in exporting to a wide variety of countries, especially those in Latin America.

Establishing a foothold in one reputable export country such as Mexico paves the way for businesses to grow and sustain export networks in similar countries. This global diversification creates opportunities for both U.S. firms as well as foreign countries to strengthen economies and become more internationally competitive. Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attended the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Secretary Pritzker emphasized achievements of the High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), which include new air travel agreements, steps to improve border management. Strengthening people-to-people ties in the near future with these types of forums, Pritzker stated, will continue to play a key role in creating export success stories similar to that of Escalade, Inc.

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Export Success Series: Chilean Exports Save Thirty Plus Jobs

June 5, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

In recent years, American Emergency Vehicles (AEV), a custom ambulance production company based in North Carolina, has increased exports to several countries—namely, Chile. Addressing the growing demand for safe, custom-made emergency vehicles, Chile has become a vital partner with AEV.

With the help of the U.S. Commercial Service and ExportTech, all backed by U.S. and Chilean free trade negotiations under the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, AEV views “Chile as a critically important market for our long-term global sales strategy,” says Randy Barr, AEV’s Sales Manager. AEV’s advantageous relationship with Chile is not limited to production sales; it also translates to increases in prospective jobs.  “Overall, the business we gained from expanding into exporting allows us to keep the people we have,” Barr explains. Exporting has saved up to 30 jobs within AEV since 2012. AEV hopes to expand its production, which would result in an additional 30 new jobs created. For this rural-based firm, the U.S.-Chilean trade agreements allow for mutually beneficial sales and increased employment opportunities.

The United States economy requires the swift negotiations of these free trade agreements on a global scale to ensure a fair playing field for all firms and workers. Without the Chilean free trade agreement, for example, AEV would not be able to work so closely with Chile both in generating exports for products as well as jobs. Exports are extremely valuable in strengthening our economy; thus, improving export relations will help the U.S. stay globally competitive. Find out more about how free trade agreements assist in expanding the United States economy at http://www.trade.gov/FTA/.

Making trade and investment a bigger part of the DNA of U.S. businesses and increasing opportunities for American companies like AEV by opening new markets globally is a key pillar of the Department’s Open for Business Agenda. Later this month, Secretary Pritzker will travel to South America to help American companies learn about potential opportunities in the region and make important contacts with business and government leaders.

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