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After more than two decades of existence, the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico are open to updating the free-trade agreement to stay caught up with the digital age. President Donald Trump notified Congress on May 18 of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA, which triggered a 90-day period before negotiations with Canada and Mexico begin. In an effort to hear from Oklahoma businesses, farmers and manufacturers who will be impacted.

According to the U.S. Commercial Service, comments on a total of seventeen topics will help inform the direction, focus, and content of the NAFTA negotiations include:

  • Digital Trade
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Regulatory Practices
  • State-Owned Enterprises
  • Services
  • Customs Procedures
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
  • Labor
  • Environment
  • Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Directions for submitting comments via the Federal Register Notice:

  1. Visit www.regulations.gov and search for docket number USTR-2017-0006
  2. Click the “Comment Now!” button to make your voice heard

Written comments must be submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative no later than Monday, June 12, 2017. A hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 9:00 am, in the Main Hearing Room at the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E St. SW, Washington DC, 20436. Persons wishing to testify orally at the hearing must provide written notification of their intention by Monday, June 12, 2017.

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.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker presented CCK Strategies with the President’s “E” Award for Export Service at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., May 16. The President’s “E” Award is the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

“Congratulations to CCK Strategies being honored today for its achievements in exporting,” said Secretary Pritzker of the Tulsa-based global tax and accounting firm. “The “E” Awards Committee was very impressed with the organization’s work to help exporters understand the export process and enter new international markets. Their success contributes to growth, job creation, competitiveness, and the success of the American economy.”

“This year’s “E” Award winners have shown tremendous dedication to expanding into foreign markets, often overcoming significant barriers,” said Thomas Strauss, Southern Regional Director of U.S. Commercial Service. “Having access to tools and resources provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, these businesses are better primed for tapping into global market opportunities where 95 percent of all consumers exist.”

CCK Partner Eric Kunkel expressed, “CCK has the good fortune to work with many successful companies which are making substantial contributions to the U.S. Economy with innovation, quality new jobs and economic development. Exporting is crucial to the success of these businesses. This recognition for CCK is a direct reflection of the great work being done by our entrepreneurial clients.”

In 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order reviving the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America’s exporters. In 2015, U.S. exports totaled $2.23 trillion, accounting for nearly 13 percent of U.S. GDP. Nationally, exports contributed to the U.S. economy, supporting an estimated 11.5 million jobs.

U.S. companies are nominated for the “E” Awards through the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service office network. Criteria for the award is based on four years of successive export growth and case studies which demonstrate valuable support to exporters resulting in increased exports for the company’s clients.

CCK is a non-traditional firm that connects globally by working with companies headquartered on four continents with operations in over 25 countries. CCK export revenue from international clients was approximately 21% of CCK’s year 2015 gross revenue, reflecting an increase of approximately 87% from year 2014 export revenue as a percentage of total revenue. This increase in international sales has been a principal driver in CCK employment rise over the last year from 61 to 83 total staff, making CCK one of the largest CPA firms in Oklahoma. The continued growth brings expertise to clients with a variety of business needs in international business consulting and planning, IC-DISC implementation, foreign tax credits, outbound and inbound structure planning, worldwide tax minimization planning, transfer pricing analysis, ASC 740 (FAS 109/FIN 48) and IFRS/GAAP convergence.

Oklahoma depends on world markets, with export shipments of merchandise in 2015 from the state totaling $5.3 billion, which support approximately 36,000 jobs. Foreign controlled companies employ approximately 46,000 Oklahoma workers. Over 3,000 companies export from Oklahoma locations with approximately 84% of these being small and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Last month, CCK Strategies was honored with the 2016 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting. This prestigious award recognizes one or more Oklahoma firms annually for noteworthy success in increasing export sales. The award was presented at the Governor’s luncheon during the 33rd Annual Oklahoma World Trade conference. CCK Strategies’ clients represent two-thirds of the companies honored by these Statewide Export Awards in 2014 and 2015. This reflects CCK’s continuing commitment with clients in the international and export marketplace in tax, accounting and consulting matters.

Shared from our friends over at GlobalTrade.net, Oklahoma businesses have a ready and willing partner in commerce with the U.S.’ sixth largest trading partner, the Republic of South Korea.

Operating under a free trade agreement since 2012, the U.S.-South Korea relationship looks to grow as 95 percent of tariffs on American imports are expected to be eliminated by March 2017.

According to the latest GlobalTrade report, opportunities to contribute to the $114 billion in U.S.-South Korean trade relationship for American firms can be found int he agricultural product, general machinery and energy production sectors.

To read the full report from GlobalTrade.net, please click here.

Manufacturers and exporters in the Sooner State are set to benefit from the recent passage of the $1.1 trillion omnibus budget agreement passed on Dec. 18, 2015. As noted in an editorial in the Tulsa World, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive a $1.2 billion budget increase, some of which may be used to upgrade the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, of which the Port of Catoosa is the terminal. Port of Catoosa

As the piece notes, “Over the years, a $150 million public investment at the port has been leveraged to attract more than $1 billion in private investment. Along the waterway, in Oklahoma alone, more than $5 billion in private money has been invested. Employment tops 8,000.”

To read the full editorial, please visit the Tulsa World.

 

One of the more common questions a drilling manufacturing company head always gets in times of cheap oil is how badly is it impacting their business. Yet Oklahoma’s Mills Machine Co. faces no such problems, as the company’s diverse product line for all earth drilling needs, from the water well to mining industries keeps it in a regular supply of customers. We spoke with OKGIT member and Mills Machine Co. President Chuck Mills about his company, its domestic and international clientele and the future of Oklahoma exports.

 What does Mills Machine Co. do?

“Mills Machine Company (est. 1908) is a third generation, family owned business headquartered in Shawnee, Okla. Mills is a leading manufacturer and distributor of a complete line of earth drilling tools, bits and related accessories for water well, environmental, geo-thermal, construction and blast hole mining industries.

Chuck Mills.

Chuck Mills.

“We serve these industry customers in both domestic and international markets, offering standard and custom-crafted products that include hollow stem augers, stabilizers, hole openers, underreamers, casing cutters, pipe handling tools, drilling adapters, soil sampling equipment, claw bits, core bits and other drilling accessories.

“Mills has earned a reputation for quality products and for its innovative customer solutions. Based on years of service in multiple drilling industry sectors, we have developed the unique capacity to modify existing products from one industry for use in another, often resulting in cost savings to the customer.”

 

How many employees do you have in Oklahoma?

“Mills currently employs 22 skilled professionals at our Shawnee facility, which includes our corporate and sales offices, manufacturing facilities and warehousing and distribution operations.

“In past years, Mills employed as many as 65 skilled workers, but with increased mechanization through computer aided manufacturing (CAM), we were able to streamline our production of standard industry products. In producing the custom-crafted products Mills is known for, we maintain a highly skilled and innovative workforce.

“By focusing on our core business and providing the best possible customer service, Mills has been able to serve a broad and growing domestic and international clientele from one central location in Shawnee.”

 

Can you give me an idea of how much Mills Machine Co. relies on exporting its products outside the U.S.?

“The mix between our U.S. and international product sales varies at times depending upon economic conditions here and abroad, but as a general rule approximately 25 percent of the standard and custom-crafted products we produce are sold internationally. While the specific international customers may vary with time, we have sold our products in approximately 70 worldwide markets.”

 

What are some of the challenges Mills Machine Co. faces in exporting from Oklahoma?

“Thankfully, we don’t have any significant challenges or obstacles in exporting our products from here in Oklahoma. We’re fairly close to the ports of Houston and New Orleans and transportation is efficient and cost-effective.

“Communication is no barrier because English remains the international business language. In addition, there are a variety of service providers, including freight forwarders, agents, international banks and attorneys to help manage the process.”

 

You’ve said before that despite the cost savings associated with moving production elsewhere, you’ve made a conscious effort to keep Mills Machine Co. in Shawnee, Okla. What’s the calculation there for you as a small business owner?

“Companies relocate or open satellite facilities to get closer their customers and to sell more products. While that can be an advantage, there is also the potential disadvantage of increased overhead and higher production costs which affect profitability. This is particularly true in the highly populated coastal markets where the cost of living and taxes are higher.

“As a manufacturer of drilling tools, I would rather be here in Oklahoma, the crossroads of America, in one manufacturing and distribution facility. Here, we can best manage and control process, production and distribution. Also, since we manufacture both standard and custom-crafted drilling tools and accessories, we have an added advantage. Our customers come to us because very often they are looking for a specific product solution that only a custom manufacturer can provide.

“In fact, I’d say that since we are a custom or niche manufacturer, we can produce our products from virtually anywhere and customers will find us as a result of our aggressive marketing efforts.”

 

In terms of when Mills Machine Co. first began producing items for export, is there any advice that you’d give to firms in Oklahoma who are considering forging international ties and exporting?

“Let’s begin with the good news. The landscape for exporting has improved dramatically since Mills Machine Company began exporting from Oklahoma more than 35 years ago. The world has shrunk due to a robust infrastructure of resources and services available to assist companies interested in exporting opportunities. The Internet and digital technology have helped tremendously, offering tools, information and services for both the novice and skilled exporter.

“To those interested in exporting, I’d say the time is right. With an estimated 95 percent of consumers living outside the U.S. and 80 percent of the buying power residing outside our country, there is potentially a huge untapped market of opportunity to grow Oklahoma businesses through exports.

“To the uninitiated, it may appear to be complicated and risky, but there are both governmental and private resources to help guide businesses through every step in the process. I predict that here in Oklahoma, the infrastructure to support exporting capabilities will take another leap forward in the coming months.”

Another great article about Oklahoma’s international commercial ties from The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus on Jun 18, as he profiled OKGIT member and Oklahoma Department of Agriculture International Marketing Coordinator Barbara Charlet.

Working under the department’s “Made in Oklahoma” coalition, Charlet is a regular attendee at trade shows and export conferences in Canada, Europe and Asia where she spreads the good word about Oklahoma’s food offerings.

“I basically encourage our food manufacturers to try to think outside our Oklahoma borders,” Charlet told the state’s business paper. “We have to think on an international scale and find ways to get their products into the world’s markets.”

Charlet cites Ponca City’s Head Country  as a success story for its increasingly popularity in Scandanavia, where a Swedish importer began buying the Oklahoma-based company’s BBQ sauce and repackaging it for resale under another name.

The Oklahoma food product advocate also notes that one of her biggest obstacles is to convince Oklahoma producers that exporting will cut into their profits. As Charlet points out, the opposite is often true, with international importers in search of a unique American brand willing to pay more to compensate for added costs associated with bringing a product to their own domestic markets.

To learn more about Barbara Charlet, please visit her profile page. To read the entire article, please click here.

(Photo courtesy of the Journal Record – by Brent Fuchs.)

Started from a family BBQ recipe in 1947, Ponca City, Okla.’s Head Country is a well-known commodity in the country’s grocery stores and dinner tables. Yet this domestic success is just one facet of this Oklahoma exporter’s story. Under Vice-President Paul Schatte, Head Country began to explore expanding into global markets.

“Outdoor cooking is the oldest form of food preparation in the world,” said Schatte during a presentation to the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team in May 2015. “And no one does it better than Americans.”

Head Country VP Paul Schatte - Photo courtesy www.okbs.us

Head Country VP Paul Schatte – Photo courtesy www.okbs.us

It was that prowess for the American grill that first brought Schatte’s attention to the potential in exporting Head Country. As he describes it, several emails and phone calls from a potential customer in Sweden about how best to prepare a Head Country BBQ recipe resulted in Schatte’s visit to the Scandinavian country for a personal demonstration. The successful contacts and business resulting from that foray resulted in Head Country’s expansion to other international markets.

Schatte spoke with the OKGIT about Head Country’s experience in exporting as an Oklahoma company.

 

How many employees do you have in Oklahoma?

“We have 27 employees in-state, and occasionally use temps outside of Oklahoma when necessary.”

Can you give me an idea of how much Head Country relies on exporting its products outside the U.S.?

“Our international sales account for around five percent of our total business.”

What are your biggest markets to date? Are there some new markets you see worth exploring in the future?

“Head Country is currently established in foreign markets in Europe, Canada, Mexico and Australia. Some new and potential markets of interest include China, other parts of Asia and central and South America.”

What are some of the challenges Head Country faces in exporting from Oklahoma? Are there some benefits from exporting from Oklahoma as well?

“Some of our main challenges of late include a strong U.S. dollar, European food standards and the understanding of our products.

“In terms of positives, Oklahoma is received favorably around the world. Our state’s history of cowboys and Native Americans is found intriguing to the international community. The state is looked at for honesty and being diversified.

“In that vein is Head Country, which proudly represents Oklahoma in foreign trade!”

Looking back to when Head Country first began producing items for export, is there any advice that the company would provide to fellow firms in Oklahoma who are considering forging international ties and exporting?

“Evaluate every question that the foreign distributor asks. What special requirements do you need to meet to manufacture products for them and to get the product imported into their country?

“And finally, charge appropriately for your company’s investment into producing international commodities.”

In terms of trade, what are some challenges for an American food firm in exporting?

Today Head Country’s export destinations include Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) partners in Scandinavia, Spain and Germany. We also export to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) nations like Australia and hope to export to other Asian nations that are part of that agreement.

“In some TPP countries, we face tariffs as high as 20 percent on our product. Should these two trade agreements, the TTIP and TTP, be ratified, Head Country could face lower tariffs and easier regulations, making our products more competitive abroad and consequently, benefiting our workers here in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma City- based Electro Enterprises Inc. was recently awarded the Export Achievement Certificate from the U.S. Commercial Service. We sat down with Electro Enterprises’ Mitch Enright to discuss the military and aerospace company’s work in Oklahoma and the challenges and benefits of exporting from the Sooner State.

What does Electro Enterprises Inc. do?

“Electro Enterprises is stocking distributor of interconnect, electro-mechanical, wire and cable, and wire harness management products for the military and aerospace industries. For more than 40 years, Electro Enterprises has been providing superior electronic components at competitive prices to various markets around the world.”

Electro Enterprises recent 36,000 square foot factory extension.

Electro Enterprises recent 36,000 square foot factory extension.

How many employees do you have in Oklahoma? How many more are outside the state? 

“In Oklahoma we have 140 employees, with an additional 43 located outside the state.”

Can you give me an idea of how much Electro Enterprises Inc. relies on exporting its products outside the U.S.?

“Exports make up roughly 15 percent of Electro’s total sales, which amounts to over $13 million in sales. Beyond this, exporting our products to companies around the world allows us to expand our customer base, reach new markets, and create relationships with manufacturers that we otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with.”

What are some of the challenges Electro Enterprises Inc. faces in exporting from Oklahoma? Are there some benefits from exporting from Oklahoma as well?

“It is extremely important for us to ensure that we are exporting all of our products within the rules and regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Commerce as well as the U.S. Department of Defense. Being heavily entrenched in the military and aerospace industries, some of the items we sell are ITAR controlled and, as a result, we must make sure to apply for export licenses whenever applicable. Over the years, we have a created an internal export control system that allows us to successfully manage the export of products to our international customers.”

Looking back to when Electro Enterprises Inc. first began producing items for export, is there any advice that the company would provide to fellow firms in Oklahoma who are considering forging international ties and exporting?

“It is imperative for companies new to exporting to reach out to your local Department of Commerce office and sign up for export training. There are numerous export seminars that companies and attend at minimal cost. These seminars will provide the basic information that all companies need to know in order to export within all of the rules and regulations set forth by the Government of United States.

“While Electro Enterprises has been exporting for many years, we still make it a point to attend these seminars yearly.”

 

Oklahoma firms continue to show why they can compete with firms closer to the coasts through a spirit of innovation and determination to grow their businesses overseas. Several Oklahoma firms were recognized for their exporting achievements during last month’s Oklahoma World Trade Conference, while Tulsa-based Sawyer Manufacturing Co. recently received an honor from the U.S. Small Business Administration, as it was named the national Exporter of the Year.

Sawyer Manufacturing Co. specializes in designing and producing pipeline infrastructure construction equipment, and according to company spokesman Drew Martins, prides itself in taking on projects of all kind to meet the needs of customers around the globe.

“We actively try to partner with other manufacturers when there’s an unmet need,” Martins told the Journal Record’s Brian Brus. “One of the things I see in other big and small companies is that if a product isn’t in their catalog, they pretty much refuse to do it. We approach it differently, because with enough time and resources, we’ll do anything.”

According to a release from the SBA, the firm was founded by Red Sawyer and AB Jensen in 1948, and has since grown to a 40-person staff exporting to more than 50 countries. In 2013 it was named as one of Tulsa’s “Fast 40” of the metro area’s fastest growing companies.

Though primarily focused on the oil and gas sector, the firm’s emphasis on diversifying its customer base allows it to succeed in a state where energy-related work has fallen off.

Vice-President Dave Hembree told the Tulsa World‘s Casey Smith that Sawyer’s readiness to take on unique projects that involve a smaller or customized line of products has the Tulsa firm branching out to customers in the restaurant, fitness, and water utility fields.

“The more diversified we can get, the better,” he said.

Representatives from Sawyer Manufacturing will visit Washington D.C. and the White House during the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week from May 4-8.

Sawyer’s success, as well as other Oklahoma exporting firms like it, show that despite Oklahoma’s landlocked location, good business practices and better products will continue to have an appeal to customers around the globe.