Face Time June

Posted on Jun 1, 2011 :: Face Time
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo by Shane VanBoxtel of Image Studios

Fred Monique wears a lot of hats. He serves as interim president of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce (following Paul Jadin’s appointment to run the Wisconsin Department of Commerce) and as vice president of Advance, the chamber’s economic development arm. Monique is also director of the Highway 41 Corridor International Development Program. Insight News Editor MaryBeth Matzek asked him to discuss global opportunities for regional businesses.

Now is a good time for businesses to look into the overseas market. The worldwide economy is picking up, much like how we’re seeing a turnaround in the U.S. economy. There are a number of conditions why it’s favorable now to enter into the global marketplace. For one, President Obama made a goal of doubling the value of exports within five years. To make that happen, there are more resources out there, such as webinars, to help companies get started.

Wisconsin companies logged more than $19 billion in exports in 2010. The Fox Valley – from Green Bay down to Fond du Lac – plays a key role in that. A lot of companies here have success on the global stage. There’s a market there for just about everything our area produces. 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. Of course, it can go the other way, too, and companies stateside are searching the Internet for products and may go with foreign competition rather than someone here. It’s definitely a vehicle that has changed the landscape.

I heard about a woman in her 80s who makes jewelry here in the New North and thanks to the Internet, she is able to sell finished products overseas. In a sense, she is a global business.
Size does not matter. You can be a massive company making engines or giant vehicles like Oshkosh Corp. or a small one-person business — getting involved in global trade is possible.
In Wisconsin, our No. 1 trade partner is Canada, followed by Mexico.

Why do businesses get involved in foreign trade? It’s simple: it’s an expansion of their market. Only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States so if you just stay domestic, that’s 95 percent of the world’s customers you can’t reach.

Businesses looking into exports have more potential customers, which means more potential growth. Marchant Schmidt Inc. in Fond du Lac makes industrial cheese shredders and pretty much saturated the American market so they started looking globally. They have seen a significant increase in business.

Doing business on a global scale does have challenges. The biggest one is the currency question. If you decide to deal in foreign currencies, you have to pay particular attention to how it fluctuates against the dollar – especially if you’re dealing with a contract. What is worth X today might not be worth that nine or 10 months down the line.

Businesses also need to be aware they are dealing with different legal systems and they have to look at the commercial terms of the deal.

You have to be cautious when dealing with foreign opportunities, but there is help and assistance available.

There’s the webinars the federal government offers and there are resources at the state and regional levels.

In Northeast Wisconsin, the Highway 41 Corridor International Development Program provides that assistance and we really focus on making it as low-cost as possible.

We answer questions and help them get started. We not only do one-on-one consulting, but also hold events focusing on education.

There are a lot of opportunities out there for businesses who are looking to expand their reach. Our goal is to help them get started on that journey.