The below interview originally ran in the January 2017 edition of The New Pioneer magazine. It is reproduced here with the express written permission of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

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Chuck Mills

Q&A with Charles D. Mills, President of Mills Machine Company, on his company’s use of the State Trade Expansion Grant Program offered through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

What initially made you decided to apply for the STEP grant?

“Since the grant was written for international marketing programs and I had always wanted to translate my website into several other languages, it was a perfect fit for my company. We chose Spanish to be the first language for translation because we were expanding our export market in Mexico, Central and South America.”

How has having your website translated into Spanish helped to increase opportunities/actual sales results?

“Our distributors have commented on how helpful the translated site is for them and their customers in trying to explain our product line and the advantages of our custom designed products.”

How did STEP funds help you save money in the long term?

“The STEP grant funds supplemented our investment for the translation costs which saved us several thousand dollars.

“As a relatively small company I probably would not have been able to come up with the money to translate my site, that is why I had not done it sooner.”

Describe the application process for the STEP grant.

“The application process was pretty involved but the questions were simple and straight forward. It requires you to define and update your international business plan which is always a good exercise for any business to do on a regular basis.”

What recommendations would you give other companies looking to apply?

“The STEP grant that I was awarded was $5,000 (the current cap is $2,000) and the cost of the translation plus the software and labor required to put that on our website cost us a little over $8,000. So, the new cap of $2,000 would still help but we obviously would have a lot more investment from our side. You could possibly at least translate your home page. The first thing that you need to do is contact your webmaster and see what is required to embed the software into your website and then shop around for a translation company that has good references in translating your industry’s terminology. Be aware of the different dialects and try to find some middle ground where people from different regions can understand your information. Use any local contacts that you have to provide guidance and translate your industries terminology into their language.”

What are some key takeaways from your experience?

“Do your homework, have a plan of what type of marketing that you want to apply for. You could translate your website or a brochure, attend ExporTech, exhibit at a trade show or whatever type of marketing that would grow your company.”

What is the primary reason peer companies should consider this grant other than the export portion?

“Take advantage of your tax dollars to supplement your marketing efforts to grow your company globally. Ninety-five percent of the world lives outside of the United States so take advantage of the opportunity and let’s grow the economy!”

For more information visit: okcommerce.gov/stepfund.

Read more about Chuck Mills and his century-old Oklahoma business in this profile from The Oklahoman.

(Top photo credit: Photo by Jim Stafford, For The Oklahoman.)

Pulling from our friends at the Federation of International Trade Associations, there are opportunities for Oklahoma businesses to boost their bottom line by trading with partners in Chile.

According to U.S. Census data, trade between the United States and Chile totaled $24.1 billion in 2015, with the U.S. exporting a total value of $15.4 billion and importing $8.7 billion worth of goods.

The main goods exported by the United States include mineral fuels, aircraft and machinery as well as vehicles. The main goods imported from Chile include copper, agricultural products and wood products.

Check out the Chileyello business directory to find potential partners and sectors.

For the full country report from Chile by the Federation of International Trade Associations, click here.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce announces the Oklahoma STEP Forward Enhancement Fund, part of the State Trade Expansion Program, an export promotion initiative that makes matching-fund grants for states to assist small businesses. This grant is funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The intent of this program is to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting, and to increase the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting,” said Jennifer Springer, Director of Global Recruitment and Trade Services, at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

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Download the STEP Fund Flyer here.

Funding for this year will help eligible companies to offset the cost to participate at designated international trade shows and allow them to promote their Oklahoma-made products on a global scale.  In addition, other services such as website translations and marketing design; compliance testing; and shipping of sample products into international markets can be used toward the grant as well.

“The STEP grant, in partnership between the U.S. and Oklahoma Department of Commerce, is an incredible opportunity for Oklahoma exporters to receive marketing assistance to promote their products or services worldwide,” said Chuck Mills, President of Mills Machine and previous STEP grant recipient. “The program enabled us to translate our website into another language which made it easier for our customers to understand our product line!”

To be considered for the Oklahoma STEP Fund, all applicants are required to submit an application and supporting documentation. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce will begin taking applications from Oklahoma small businesses starting November 1, 2016.

A full application, guidelines and requirements can be found online at www.okcommerce.gov/stepfund. For more information, contact the Global Recruitment and Trade Division at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce at (800) 879-6552, or 405-815-5136 or Jesse.Garcia@okcommerce.gov.

If you missed the October 2016 version of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s monthly publication, The New Pioneer, you may have missed the good news for Oklahoma’s aerospace and defense industry, whose products and parts account for $4.1 million in Oklahoman exports to the Republic of South Korea, an astounding 350 percent increase from the previous year.

From ODOC,

“Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with officials from the South Korean province of South Gyeongsang. The signing took place in Changwon, South Korea with a small delegation, including a representative from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce joining Secretary Benge.

The agreement is the result of months of work by both parties and fosters collaboration and trade through the exchange of industry expertise and reciprocal visits by senior officials.

Both regions have a large presence in the aerospace sector. Oklahoma is home to the American Airlines facility in Tulsa, the largest commercial aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) depot in the world and the largest U.S. Department of Defense depot at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City. Gyeongsang is the largest province in South Korea for manufacturing and the South Korean economy is the world’s 11th largest.

“Both Oklahoma and South Gyeongsang are internationally recognized as hubs for the aerospace industry, and leaders in manufacturing and innovation,” said Benge. “This reciprocal agreement is a win-win for both parties and brings with it many potential opportunities for Oklahoma companies to expand sales of products made here to the growing South Korean market.”

The MOU and recent dialog among government leaders serve as a framework for South Korean companies to invest in Oklahoma and create new jobs in the state.”

Read the full article here, or check out the October 2016 edition of the The New Pioneer for more information about business in Oklahoma.

(Top photo: Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge signed an MOU with officials from the South Korean province of South Gyeongsang in September 2016. Courtesy of Oklahoma Department of Commerce.)

 

One concern that many Oklahoma exporters have about doing business overseas is worrying about a lack of payment once services are rendered or a product is delivered. Tools offered by the Export-Import Bank of the United States such as Export Credit Insurance, which amongst several benefits, can insure against nonpayment by international buyers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXmhoFuz1-8#action=share

However, there are occasions where private firms specializing in collecting payment from overseas are necessary. Altus Global Trade Solutions is one such firm with a presence in 116 countries worldwide.  They are a fully bonded company licensed in all states and countries that require it. In addition, Altus offers its own credit reporting system to inform agencies such as Experian, Dun & Bradstreet and Equifax of your debtor’s credit.

Altus offers negotiable rates for its services, which include financial investigations of debtors bank accounts, assets and liabilities. They also claim that less that due to the thoroughness of their investigations, less than 1 percent of their accounts ever reach litigation. If they do, Altus is a member of the Commercial Law League of America.

To learn more about Altus Global Solutions, visit their website here or contact Andrea Nicole Lawrence.

While Oklahoma businesses may have difficulty picturing how to best secure stable and reliable customers outside of the U.S., there are incentives, especially for small businesses, to explore broadening their customer base to international markets. According to the latest white paper from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, small businesses that export products are 17 percent more profitable than those that do not.

If you’re an Oklahoma small or medium sized business ready to explore these options, check out the EXIM publication that helps firms determine who they’re doing business with and how they can ensure full and timely payment.

Check out “Export Evaluation: 7 Things Every Foreign Buyer Credit Report Must Have and Why.”

If you’ve still got questions as an Oklahoma business owner interested in learning more about exporting abroad, reach out to us at info@okgit.com and we’ll point you in the right direction.

 

Shared from our friends over at GlobalTrade.net, Oklahoma-based companies have an opportunity to expand their business interests with trade partners in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. According to the latest country report from GlobalTrade.net, trade between the U.S. and Israel has expanded eightfold since the signing of the countries’ free trade agreement.

As noted in the report, “while technical barriers persist for agricultural goods, Israel has been removed from the watch list of countries not adequately protecting intellectual property rights, opening the way for new business opportunities.”

Navigating those technical barriers might be a concern, but for Oklahoma companies there are partners available right here at home that may help facilitate a smooth transition. Current OKGIT chair Susan Robertson, head of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange (OKIE), is just one of the partners available for Oklahoma firms interested in establishing ties with Israeli commercial and trade partners.

Read the full report on Israel from GlobalTrade.net here.

While the campaign trail has been littered with debates about the efficacy of free trade agreements, including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, the details of these agreements are difficult to decipher for the average Oklahoman. Thanks to our partners at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Oklahoma City office, the numbers and details of Oklahoma’s connections to TPP countries is visible.

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Download the infographic.

Some of the more interesting figures include:

  • 52 percent of Oklahoma’s goods exports went to TPP countries in 2014
  • 1,780 companies from Oklahoma exported goods to TPP countries in 2013 – 83 percent were small and medium sized companies

To learn more about the potential impact that the TPP will have on Oklahoma, click on the image for the full infographic. To learn more about the Oklahoma’s U.S. Export Assistance Center, get in touch with OKGIT member Marcus Verner.

 

Available through the EXIM Bank of the United States of America on July 26, Oklahoma exporters can log in from the comfort of their offices or home to learn about credit insurance and tax credit assistance when shipping their products abroad.

Register for this free webinar taking place at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time here.

EXIM will host a brief, one hour webinar on IC-DISC and Export Credit Insurance. For those of us outside the complicated realm of federal government-inspired acronyms, IC-DISC is an IRS export tax credit program that helps small and medium sized American firms reduce their tax burden.

Presenters will include:

  • Jennifer Simpson – Regional Director, EXIM Bank
  • Paul Ferreira – President, Export Tax Management
  • Adrienne Selko – Panel Moderator, Senior Editor at IndustryWeek

If you think your firm may be among the 50 percent of American SMEs who are overpaying on their export taxes, this is the webinar for you. Link to the registration page here.

Shared from our friends over at GlobalTrade.net, Oklahoma-based companies have an opportunity to expand to one of the U.S.’ growing trade partners with access to the wider Mediterranean. According to GlobalTrade.net’s latest country report,  “trade between the United States and Morocco totaled slightly above $2.6 billion in 2015. The United States exported a total value of $1.6 billion and imported $1 billion worth of goods…

“The United States export mainly apparel and food manufactures, electrical equipment and appliances, mineral fuel and oil as well as cereals. Imports from Morocco are mainly fertilizers, raw materials (salt, sulfur, earth and stone), electrical machinery and woven apparel.

“New opportunities for business can be found in particular in agricultural products, textiles and the banking sector.”

For Oklahoma agriculture exporters, especially wheat farmers coming off a better than expected 2016 summer harvest, the USDA’s forecast for nearly 3 million tons of wheat imports (up from 2.8 initially predicted) into Morocco is a positive.

To read the full GlobalTrade.net article, please click here.