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INSIGHT ON MANUFACTURING...   Connecting companies with skilled workers and educational resources in the New North
 

Getting a jump on trade

Resources available to help businesses expand overseas
By MaryBeth Matzek, June, 2011

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For businesses looking to grow, Fred Monique has some simple advice: Look overseas.
More and more companies from across the New North are engaging in international trade and seeing results, says Monique, interim president of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and vice president of Advance, the chamber’s economic development arm.

“Only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in America. If you just stay domestic, you’re not reaching a lot of potential customers,” he says.

In 2010, Wisconsin companies recorded more than $19 billion in exports. Canada is the No. 1 country state firms export to, followed by Mexico. Wisconsin now ranks as the 18th largest exporting state, up from its 21st-largest rank in 2006.

“There’s a market (overseas) for just about everything our area produces,” says Monique, adding the top sectors are industrial machinery, electrical machinery, scientific instruments and medical devices.

There is plenty of help available for companies looking to get into the global market. The Highway 41 Corridor International Development Program, which Monique leads, offers quarterly educational and informational sessions and provides one-on-one consulting to companies looking to make the leap.
Then there’s the Internet. The Internet is not only full of information and resources – such as a series of webinars put together by the federal government to help companies expand overseas – but it’s also a place to connect with potential customers, Monique says.

“You don’t need to be a large company to be involved in exporting. The Internet has opened up a host of opportunities. People from throughout the world are using the Internet to find products. I’ve heard from several businesses who had no intention to get involved in exports, but then were contacted by someone overseas who found them on Google. That gets the ball rolling,” he says.

The State of Wisconsin also offers resources online or offers businesses an opportunity to work with Wisconsin’s international trade offices in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China. Brazil is seen as a potential “hot spot” for future trade growth.

The trade office offers counseling on local business practices, regulations and trade show participation; introductions to support service providers such as warehouses and accountants; real-time access to market information via conference calls; customized market research; and customized services in some markets such as product registration and sales manager searches.
Fox Valley Technical College and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College also offer programming for companies looking to expand overseas. Training is essential before “jumping in” the global market, says Dr. Marie Martin, FVTC’s director of Global Education and Services.

“It’s so different from culture to culture and if you just base your assumptions on what we do here in America, a lot of pitfalls can occur,” she says. “You don’t want to waste too much time or energy trying to figure out how something is done in another country when you’re trying to get business done.”

Martin says it’s not only about different languages, but culture as well, since people do and act differently depending on where they’re from. She says FVTC offers customized training to help ensure professionals and businesses are aware of this.

For example, FVTC offers a five-part North American Small Business International Trade Educators series (NASBITE) developed with the Certified Global Business Professional credential.
“That’s a recognized professional credential that demonstrates a person’s competency in international trade,” Martin says.

NWTC offers a global business certificate for adults who currently work in businesses engaged in a global and international environment. The courses help students improve their global awareness. They discuss international marketing, how to utilize supply chain management in a global setting and understand international documentation, says Kelly Holtmeier, NWTC’s manager of international education.

NWTC is an associate member of Global Corporate College, a network of community colleges in every major U.S. market that ensures a consistent, high-quality learning experience for all employees without all the logistical challenges. By being part of this program, NWTC can serve as a one-stop training resource for companies with multiple locations, Holtmeier says.

Knowing what questions to ask is the most common problem businesses have when wading into international waters, Martin says. She says businesses may sign a joint venture agreement and then realize their assumptions are not the same. “That’s a common issue,” Martin says.
In addition to offering the NASBITE series, FVTC offers a variety of workshops and seminars that professionals can take to learn more about working overseas.

“In the end, it’s just about how to adapt to the global marketplace,” Martin says. ?