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Businesses engage range of resources for exporting success

Around the world for Made in Mississippi products

More and more Mississippi businesses are importing and exporting. There are several resources available as they seek advice and assistance before joining the global marketplace. Three of those include the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the Mississippi World Trade Center (MSWTC) and the U.S. Commercial Service’s Mississippi Export Assistance Center.

According to Liz Cleveland, manager of MDA’s International Trade Office, international trade specialists in the Jackson office and in a network of overseas offices work with private-sector firms to provide the following services and programs:

• Seminars and workshops

• Technical assistance/export

• Publications/exporters
tool kit/Web site resources

• International catalog shows

• International trade fairs and

• Trade missions

• Hosting of in-bound missions

• Referrals

New and existing clients

“Our program is pro-active as well as re-active,” Cleveland said. “We consistently call on firms around the state to interest them in international markets. With exports up double digits each year, we are constantly adding new clients as well as continuing to work with existing ones.”

She says Mississippi firms, especially small or medium-size ones new to exporting, benefit the most from the numerous export assistance programs available locally. “Utilizing these programs not only saves time and money, but the sales leads generated overseas are qualified, providing the best opportunity for sales contracts to be procured,” she added.

Barbara Travis, the Mississippi World Trade Center’s executive director, lists the organization’s services to exporters as follows:

• Trade education such as seminars,
executive lectures and conferences

• Trade certification program

• Trade information provided by state
and federal sources, access to
national databases, newsletters
and a calendar of events

• International market research,
briefings and consultation

• Access to catalog shows,
exhibitions and fairs and
gold key services

• Comprehensive Web site with full
range of information and
e-commerce services and
searchable databases for global
trading geared to small and
medium-size businesses

• Reciprocity with 300 world trade
centers in more than 90 countries

• Information about industry-targeted
trade missions, business matchmaking
and trade opportunities

• Translation services

• Access to international business
resource libraryv
• Networking events

“Educational events and referrals are the services most utilized,” Travis said. “I think we do a great job of providing pertinent and timely trade information to our members, but it is also our job to analyze client needs and direct them to the best public and private resources for targeted assistance and one-on-one consulting.”

Growing trend?

The certification offered by the MSWTC is a series of five half-day classes of export basics designed in partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi. The classes are taught by a combination of university professors, MDA trade specialists and private companies who are engaged in exporting. Travis says the Madison County Chamber of Commerce is taking the lead in hosting the classes this spring.

“The program is two years old and has been quite successful, but we certainly want to see it continue to grow,” she said. “We would especially like to see more local economic developers become involved because they will be dealing with more and more international business issues in the future.”

Travis says the MSWTC is the only place in the state where businesses can go to a single location and find answers to all their questions either in-house or by referral, have access to high-value seminars at a low cost, meet and learn from other people engaged in international trade and regularly enjoy networking events with international themes.

“We think it’s a win-win for Mississippi businesses focused on staying competitive in the global economy,” she added.

Achieving international
marketing objectives

The Mississippi Export Assistance Center can help businesses achieve their international marketing objectives through the following services, according to director Carol A. Moore:

• Help locate prospective buyers,
agents, distributors, representatives,
licensing and joint-venture partners

• Provide competent information and
guidance regarding the export process

• Help identify international markets
of opportunity

• Provide comprehensive and
accurate market research for
targeted country markets

• Provide business background/credit
investigations about prospective
buyers and representatives

• Promote products/services worldwide
through various trade events

• Refer businesses to other qualified
resources for export financing,
logistics support, trade leads and
market research

“In fiscal year 2006, the office provided assistance to over 250 Mississippi exporters,” Moore said. “We have assisted firms to identify new overseas distributors, to perform due diligence on potential overseas partners, to help clear items through customs, to obtain financing for international shipments, and to research market opportunities for individual companies.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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