Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness Christina Sevilla recently attended the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) annual meeting in San Diego, CA. At the meeting, she spoke about international trade opportunities for small businesses.
While in San Diego, Christina met with Brent Rondon, manager of the global business program at the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Pittsburgh, PA. Every year Brent counsels approximately 100 small business exporters from the Pittsburgh area and helps them find new market opportunities and customers overseas.
According to Brent, “the Pittsburgh region has a wide array of manufacturing and technology companies. They are highly specialized and competitive, and exports constitute between 5 to 20 percent of their sales. When they compete overseas, many times tools such as a trade agreements help them win contracts. I hear that from my customers. Of the 3,500 manufacturers in this region, about 8 percent export. Trade agreements will increase the number of exporting companies.”
For example, Hörmann Flexon, of Leetsdale, PA – a company of 50 employees – specializes in manufacturing high performance doors for residential and commercial markets. In addition, the business produces loading dock equipment. While the bulk of their business comes from domestic sales, the company is working to expand sales and dealer opportunities in Latin America. All of the control boxes supplied with these high performance doors now come programmed in five languages: Spanish, English, French, German, and Portuguese, reflecting Hörmann Flexon’s commitment to international business.
With Brent’s assistance, Hörmann Flexon recently made a $200,000 sale to a new customer in Colombia. Carlos Turcios, International Sales Manager for Hörmann Flexon, stated that the company “could do much more in export sales when the trade agreement with Colombia is implemented. The competition is fierce out there. We need to export to help our economy. Our products are of great quality, so the end user will also win.”
U.S. goods exports to Colombia in 2010 were $12 billion. When the agreement is implemented, more than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products will become duty-free immediately, with remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years. The U.S.-Colombia trade agreement will support additional Pennsylvania jobs, increase exports, and enhance the competitiveness of Pennsylvania small businesses seeking new Colombian customers.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are partnerships between the Small Business Administration and colleges and universities around the country. They provide free one-on-one business consulting and at-cost training to small businesses and entrepreneurs. This training includes financing, market research, production, and international trade assistance. There are over 1,000 SBDC locations in all fifty states, which can be found at www.sba.gov.