Sponsored By

Exporting from U.S. made easy

March 1, 2006

4 Min Read
Exporting from U.S. made easy

The United States set a trade record last November, but it''s not what you might expect. Although the $64.2 billion trade deficit just missed the all-time high of $68.1 billion set in October, it was exports-$109.3 billion of them-that achieved a new high-water mark.

A free-trade proponent, the U.S. government has largely taken on monthly trade deficits that ballooned from $15 billion-$20 billion in 1999 to nearly $70 billion today through the promotion of U.S. exports instead of protectionist measures. Some credit for the $109.3 billion in exports last November belongs to the behind-the-scenes efforts of the U.S. Commercial Service, a branch of the Dept. of Commerce charged with assisting U.S. firms in promoting their products and services overseas.

All packaged up with nowhere to go

With his deal officially dead, Jeff Miller, owner of Mildo Exports LLC, was stuck with $12,000 worth of post-consumer PET scrap sitting in a 40-ft container at the Port of Honolulu, and storage surcharges beginning to accrue. Miller, who founded Mildo (Mililani, Hawaii) as an export business targeting the growing demand for raw materials in developing markets like China, thought he had plenty of alternate leads generated by his posting on the business-to-business web portal, Ali Baba. But call after call proved fruitless, until he phoned the U.S. Commercial Services Export Assistance Center in Honolulu, and spoke with director Paul Tambakis.

"The first thing [Paul] told me was relax, he could help me," Miller says. Tambakis immediately contacted the appropriate commercial specialist at the U.S. embassy in Hong Kong, Rose Mak, and Mak arranged a buyer within four hours. Twenty-four hours later, Miller had a purchase agreement with the contact, and a week later the shipment was China-bound with Miller receiving a direct wire transfer from the customer, forgoing the credit checks that other potential clients had asked for.

"Partnering with the Commercial Service adds a lot of credibility to the company in the eyes of the overseas customer," Tambakis says.

Exporter''s peace of mind

Tom Hooper of Polymer Technology and Services LLC (PTS; Murfreesboro, TN) knew that growth prospects for his company lay beyond U.S. shores, as did potential headaches.

"[Americans] are used to a system of laws and a very strong legal system," Hooper says. "If someone doesn''t pay, you have recourse. Once you sell outside the U.S., the rules change, and what [the Commercial Service] does is basically bring us a level playing field. If we get a big order, we can actually take it."

A manufacturer and marketer of engineering plastics, including its proprietary Tristar polycarbonate, PTS began to follow its customers overseas, and three years ago hired Jonathan Guevart as business development manager to focus on the export business. In that time, export''s share of sales has risen from 28% to 35%, with that segment split 60/40 between Mexico and China. In 2004, as exports, and anxieties over credit, increased, PTS turned to the Commercial Service, which put it in touch with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, using its Credit Insurance program to help finalize sales into Brazil and Argentina.

PTS has also signed up for the Commercial Service''s Gold Key program, arranging interviews for Guevart with potential customers and distributors in France, Germany, and Belgium, as the company looks to expand into Europe. In addition it''s used the Commercial Service''s export counseling, market research, and Passport to Export seminar series.

"The [the Commercial Service] has provided a tool that has allowed us to focus on application development, marketing, and sales-not about whether we''ll get paid," Hooper says.

Getting started

Seong-Gi Baek, president and CEO of RheoSense Inc. (San Ramon, CA), a manufacturer of material testing equipment including a proprietary rheology meter, had a new product and an inquiry from South Korea. Now what?

"I didn''t know where to start," Baek says. "I didn''t know anything at all about all the regulations and tariffs." Following the advice of a contact, Baek contacted Rod Hirsch, director of the Oakland Export Assistance Center. A new-to-export company, RheoSense definitely fits the U.S. Commercial Service''s client profile, Hirsch says.

"Our job is to reduce the risk for small to medium-sized businesses in doing business overseas," Hirsch says. "They have limited time and resources to achieve a lot of their international objectives." The Oakland Export Assistance office provided RheoSense with the proper harmonized schedule tariff code and performed due diligence on the prospective buyer. Since then, the office has helped Baek and RheoSense qualify for a CE mark in order to export to Australia, and helped it pursue leads from Switzerland and Romania.

Tony Deligio [email protected]

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like