Only a few hands at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce went up when Georgia‘s international trade director asked for companies that haven’t yet sold their products overseas.
But that’s not a problem, given that her division specializes in infrequent exporters, those who have dipped their toes into exporting but haven’t yet maximized their full international potential, Kathe Falls said.
Exports don’t necessarily spell salvation for failing companies, but they do make successful companies even more profitable and resilient, Ms. Falls told about 80 people at the Gwinnett Chamber’s inaugural Global Trade Summit.
Among the advantages of exporting firms: They pay 13-18 percent higher wages and grow 20 percent faster while being 8.5 percent less likely to go out of business.
Some of this information amounted to preaching to the choir. By far the largest show of hands in Ms. Falls’ informal poll were the service providers – bankers, insurance professionals and trade finance representatives, who came to the event presumably to spy out prospects.
But the consensus among expert panelists was that exporting is a hotter prospect than ever before.
Georgia’s trade numbers bear that out. After a record year of $35.9 billion in exports in 2012, the state also posted a record for the first six months of this year.
The state’s international trade division helped more than 1,300 companies in 2012, aided by a federal government grant that subsidized the cost of trade services. Companies could attend Georgia’s co-branded trade shows in places like Taiwan, for instance, for $400 instead of $1,500, Ms. Falls said.
The grant is just one way the U.S. has stepped up export support throughout President Obama‘s National Export Initiative, which was announced in the 2009 State of the Union address, said Donald Nay, director of the Atlanta U.S. Export Assistance Center.
Even the State Department, which runs U.S. embassies overseas, has enhanced a role granted in the early 1990s to be a key cheerleader for U.S. companies abroad.
“Once the president launched the National Export Initiative, ambassadors truly got the message,” Mr. Nay said.
The initiative has also caught the attention of companies of varying sizes.
“Companies seem more ready to export, so they’re listening to our message,” said Mike McDonald, international area sales manager for United Parcel Service Inc., which is a key worldwide partner of the government on the export initiative.
UPS is more than the brown truck that makes final deliveries in the neighborhood, Mr. McDonald said. The Atlanta-based delivery giant provides logistical, financial and e-commerce services for exporters, helping them at each point in the process.
Mr. McDonald highlighted TradeAbility, a UPS tool that allows companies to assess markets for their products and search for customers. He also introduced a UPS e-commerce platform that integrates with a seller’s website to allow foreign buyers to pay for all fees – duties, taxes, shipping and purchase price – in their local currency. Once finished with the transaction, all the buyer has to do is wait for a UPS delivery.
Despite the breadth of resources available, exporting isn’t always easy, Mr. Nay said.
“I used to use my couch in my office in India for psychiatric counseling for American companies,” he joked. “The ones who were looking for the business were not as bad off as the ones who had gotten the business.”
That said, India and other emerging markets provide significant opportunities for the companies that use resources to navigate the challenges.
One exporter in the crowd was looking to sell to Myanmar, the once-reclusive Southeast Asian nation that has undertaken an array of reforms leading some nations to drop sanctions and pave the way for investors. Another audience member was wondering how to pick a first export market.
Speakers pointed to a variety of resources from various private and government agencies:
Georgia Export Directory
When the Georgia Department of Economic Development receives inquiries from international buyers, it points them to this online database of Georgia companies and their products. Cost: Free for Georgia firms. The website is operated in partnership with www.exportyellowpages.com.
UPS TradeAbility App
Online tool allows exporters to estimate the total landed cost of an item shipped across borders, including duties and transportation charges. Companies can also find the tariff code related to their product in other countries and ensure that their products and aren’t embargoed.
Run by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, this one-day course bills itself as a fast-track to international sales by providing a comprehensive look at the nuts and bolts of getting started in exporting. Cost: $450. Next course: Sept. 6.
Consolidation of export information from the myriad government agencies involved in trade, including U.S. Commerce Department, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and more. Among the more useful resources on the site are country-specific market research and industry reports and contact information for U.S. Commercial Service offices around the world. More information on the commercial service in Georgia can be found at http://export.gov/georgia.
View more trade stories and resources at www.globalatlanta.com/trade.