Posts Tagged ‘APBO’


One-on-Ones at APBO

March 28, 2011
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Cynthia Griffin is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Thailand.

Where else can a U.S. company meet with U.S. Embassy Commercial Counselors from throughout the Asia Pacific region in one day?  Only at the Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference in Los Angeles.

When the representative of a Florida-based company learned of the Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference (APBO), she cancelled all of her planned travel to Asia to schedule one-on-one meetings in Los Angeles with Commercial Counselors from her target markets.  Through the one-on-ones, she received customized market research and market entry strategies for her product line on a country-by-country basis.  Armed with the new information gleaned from the Commercial Counselors, she has a better sense of her overall approach to entering new markets in a systematic manner throughout the region.

While it is a challenge to counsel 16 companies back-to-back, the experience is nonetheless exhilarating!!!  I, with the help of my Bangkok-based team, have learned about many new companies with products that are ripe for our market in Thailand.  Today, I met with companies in: construction management, water filtration, cosmetics, skin care, oil and gas, automotive parts, aircraft parts, telecommunications security, construction equipment, education, beverages, energy conservation, medical equipment and consumer electronics.    What a mix of companies!  And all have great opportunities in Thailand.

Below are some snapshots from my meetings with companies and a flavor of the conference that has well over 400 participants.  By all accounts, our keynote speaker during lunch, Ambassador Dino Djalal was engaging and reminded us that America needs to regain confidence and not shy away from the international community, as the international community experiences transformations.

One of my regrets today is that I was unable to participate in the keynote presentation delivered by long-time China specialist Sidney Rittenberg on “What’s Happening in the Chinese Economy–Transformation of the Growth Model.”

Tomorrow, I look forward to another productive day as we strive to double exports in line with the National Export Initiative!   See you tomorrow!


The Paper Chaise: More APBO Homework than Ever

March 27, 2011
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Andrew Wylegala is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Hong Kong.

It is chilly in LA this March–especially for Arizona Wildcats–but preparations for the annual Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference, (APBOC), have heated up.    The 24th session gets under way in 24 hours, and–for the second year running–is sold-out!   Many participants were drawn by keynoter Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington, the current Secretary of Commerce, and the nominee to become the US ambassador to China.  Many are looking forward to hearing experts on a range of export and business opportunities and challenges in 60 sessions assembled by the organizers from USC’s Marshall School over the compact two-day program.

But what sets this conference apart from others focused on Asia is the part I am in.  That is the portion in which the company reps at APBOC have a rapid-fire succession of private counseling sessions with Senior Commercial Officers working in 13 of the leading markets across Asia Pacific.  This year, the interest in these meetings is hotter than ever.  These one-on-ones allow companies to sit down with the Asia-based officers to tackle their specific business issues and lay out plans of action for these markets, often involving future client services which the Commercial Service teams will provide, in-country.  In my case, I am representing Hong Kong, and I will be backed up by an “executive partner,” a private sector consultant with 30 years helping foreign firms trade and invest, as well as by my colleagues on the domestic side of the Commercial Service’s global network, and a couple of counterparts from the Hong Kong government.

Since the topics addressed in the mere 15-20 minutes allowed for these sessions cover the gamut of industries and issues, it is not possible for the Commercial Officers to go into the meetings cold.  Fortunately, we are armed with preparatory notes for each company — a combination of the US firm’s thumbnail and questions, and corresponding responses and data assembled back overseas.  But even digesting these condensed “cheat sheets” is a challenge.  At last year’s APBOC I had only about 20 clients to counsel.  I did my boning up on the long-flight over, the paperwork manageable even on the flip-down seat tray.  No such luck for 2011.  Like my SCO colleagues from the other markets, Hong Kong has drawn about 36 appointments, meaning about four talk-packed hours of interaction for both of the two conference days.

But here’s the dirty little secret:  as versatile and quick study-adept as my fellow SCOs and I come to be, the real value add comes from the individuals preparing our “cram sheets,” our locally-engaged staff overseas.  These foreign nationals are our eyes, ears and expertise.  They get to know the products, players and problems in their industry sectors, often over decades of work for the Commercial Service in our embassy and consulate locations.  Indirectly, then, it is these folks who our business clients seek out at APBOC and throughout the year.  Of course, the work of the local specialists, alone, cannot provide the U.S. exporter with a total solution.  That takes our entire CS organization: the U.S. Export Assistance Center specialists placed in a 100 offices across the U.S., those locally-engaged staff from the embassies, and us jack-of-all trade Senior Commercial Officers.


Someone’s in the Kitchen With…

March 26, 2011
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Andrew Wylegala is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Hong Kong.

Day #2 and I am working my way down the Golden State from San Francisco to San Jose on the road to the big Asian exporters’ round-up at USC on Monday, the Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference.   Colleagues from San Jose’s Export Assistance Center are introducing me to their U.S. clients so I can learn their export needs and introduce Hong Kong’s many business “charms.”  Today I am to trade helix in glass (see previous post) for helix in nucleotides. Those, instant 8th Grade recall tells me, would be the building blocks of our cells, the study of which has spawned San Jose’s latest cluster, a community of scientists and v-cap types forming “The Capital of Biotech.”   Meeting the “brainiacs” and medical pioneers populating this sector makes one proud to “sell American.”  The U.S. biotech industry is one of the innovative champions of our economy. In Northern California, alone, there are over 2,200 biotech companies employing over 267,700 people with an average annual wage of $72,000 a year.  In California, the industry generates an estimated $114 billion in revenues and $15.4 billion in exports.

Tom Moran (left) of Camptologics and Senior Commercial Officer Hong Kong Andrew Wylegala

After I give an hour’s talk about Hong Kong “market opps” to a group of 15 lifesciences companies in San Jose’s gleaming new city hall — and have a Sonoma Chicken fix with the colleagues — it is off to a pair of site visits that bring home the extremes of the innovation–commercialization–export continuum.  The first stop is Mountain View, CA, home of the Googleplex, as well as our target, Mr. Tom Moran, a senior patent attorney and one of three co-founders of biopharmaceutical company Camptologics.  As we sit around the not-just-proverbial kitchen table in Tom Moran’s home, I learn of the anti-cancer drugs which Camptologics hopes to develop and test in the U.S. and China.  Camptologics has just successfully used the Commercial Service to vet partners.  But they have a long road ahead and I am getting a sense of the profound challenges my organization faces in updating our service offerings so we can better help the new types of actors who populate this cutting edge field.

The final stop for the day is further up the line, in terms of geography, and stage/scope of business.  It is time to head to Menlo Park (home of Joan Baez, by the way) to be dazzled by — hold your breath — “a third generation DNA sequencing platform,” a powerful tool that will allow researchers to work better and faster on problems from drug discovery to forensics. Excitement suffuses the Pacific Biosciences campus, for which the firm has recently raised several hundred million in funding from an IPO, and is just one quarter away from realizing exports of its new instruments and consumables.  My San Jose colleague, Gabriela, and I can’t help but be swept up in the thrill, ourselves, as we slip on the protective glasses and clean suits and wonder at a  blur of nanofabrication, chemistry and optics technologies being put on display by this team of world-class scientists and engineers.  But even at this end of the development spectrum, it appears that firms like this one still seek and need USDOC services as much as the back-of-the-napkin set.   I note that one of Pacific’s large, potential customers has just opened up down the road in Hong Kong … and the wheels start turning.   And, as we depart the still-buzzing campus at 5:30 pm, we catch welcome news that our new clients in Menlo Park are considering joining the Biotech Life Science Trade Mission to China which a senior USDOC official will be leading from October 17th of this year.


Build it…and They Will Export!

March 23, 2011
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Andrew Wylegala is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Serivce’s Senior Commercial Officer in Hong Kong.

San Francisco’s economy is tourists, bankers, Craigslist and, of course, Twitter.  Wrong spot to send a government export promoter looking for more Made in the USA material to help reach the President’s National Export goal of saving or creating some two million jobs by 2015.

Maybe not.

I’ve opted to stop in the services city by the bay en route to the annual Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference held at the University of Southern California’s business school, where this year 180 US firms will come for updates on Asian markets and export tips, and to hear from Secretary Gary Locke.  The Commercial Service, part of the International Trade Administration, an operating unit in Mr. Locke’s Department, assigned me to Hong Kong to work on behalf of U.S. companies and economic interests about three years ago.  I’ll be joined at the conference by a dozen of my colleagues similarly positioned in other Asian capitals to do the same export enhancing work.  This year I’ve opted to stop in San Francisco to meet with current and future U.S. exporters, in addition to those meeting us in LA for the seminars and one-on-one counseling sessions.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

Left to right: Commercial Officer Douglas Wallace, Commercial Officer Andrew Wylegala, and Sculptor/Manufacturer, Capitano di Minuzie Nikolas Weinstein stand on the Weinstein Studios shop floor.

I am standing in the middle of Nikolas Weinstein’s glass sculpture studio located improbably enough behind a Mission District laundromat.  And I am trying to decide which is more shocking — the 30′ undulation of helix-shaped glass tubes of a work in progress, suspended above the furnace, forklift and flat-panel displays of this compact factory, or the discovery that precision manufacture on an industrial scale can still be carried out in San Francisco.  Downtown San Francisco!  We ARE  talking export manufacture.  The vast majority of Nick’s work is destined for grand residences and luxury hotels overseas, mostly in Asian cities such as Singapore and Shanghai.  And we are talking BIG exports.   I learn that — at over 250′ unfurled — the glass “fabric” of a work now soaring above the lobbies of a Shanghai luxury hotel (looking in the glossy photos like one of those Chinese acrobat’s ribbons) and comprised of some 35,000 hand-worked glass tubes, would not have fit in the 747 that brought me here from Hong Kong overnight.  And we are talking innovation.  To execute the unique forms of a Weinstein chandelier I now recall visiting at a Gehry-designed bank headquarters next to the re-constructed American Embassy in Berlin, Nick’s team even had to invent a special matrix bed for the in situ kiln.

But Nick is explaining that it is not finding more projects in booming Asia, nor the glass- and mind-bending technical complexity of his shapes, nor even the delivery headaches of the fragile works that keep him up at night.  It turns out that the chain of glass blowers, metal formers and ceramic suppliers needed to execute these fantasies in glass is nearly as long as some of his installations.  And the nature of this work — one-off, site-specific projects whose execution requires endless iteration of tweak and turn — is such that relative proximity is a must.

So this preview stop of my Business Outlook Conference tour reveals a snapshot as complex and organic as a Weinstein: the offering of conceived- and fabricated-in-the U.S. product remains as rich as ever, but the challenge of keeping U.S. production chains short enough that they remain linked is a daunting one.  I am thinking that U.S. export growth can be part of the solution to this challenge, by providing Nick’s manufacturer partners with sufficient scale and income to stay in business and in Nick’s “neighborhood.”  Should this prove to be the case, we will not only reach that National Export goal but also prove to the world that, “yeah, we DO still make stuff in the U.S.”  The best stuff.


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