Selling to the World From Centre County: Many Local Companies Benefit From Exporting
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has long been a leader in helping its companies establish meaningful contacts worldwide that lead to business expansion through exporting.
In fact, the state maintains connections to 77 nations through 23 international trade offices.
Pennsylvania’s Center for Trade Development offers more opportunities to connect to international trading partners than any other state.
Many Centre County companies have expanded their businesses by entering the exporting marketplace.
Well-established local companies like Supelco, Minitab, Sound Technology, The Drucker Company, Chemcut, AccuWeather, Videon Central and Restek are just a few of the organizations that do considerable business internationally.
The list also includes relative newcomers SilcoTek and AcousticSheep. Both companies are active exporters.
Pennsylvania’s top export destinations include Canada, China, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom.
While exporting can be an enormous boost to Centre County company’s bottom line, there are some issues of concern that companies are urged to explore before entering into any international trade agreements.
For example, local companies need to be aware of the effects that foreign currency exchange rates may have on their deals. A small reduction in a currency will cut into profit margins. Further, companies need to operate within the laws of the country they are considering exporting to. Protecting intellectual property is also a major concern.
While a Centre County business may need to consult with international legal, tax and intellectual property experts, the rewards of exporting far out weigh the risks.
“We have been selling SleepPhones overseas for the past five years,” says Wei-Shin Lai, CEO of AccousticSheep, Inc. “We struggled through some minor shipping issues initially and now we are working through intellectual property protection.”
Dealing with different cultures can be challenging. “We are respectful and nice. We ask lots of questions. We never assume we know what they mean or they know what we mean. If you knew of all the complexity and potential problems up front, it’s overwhelming and you may not do it. So just do it.”
SilcoTek has been selling internationally since its inception in 2009. “Shipping logistics for large, multinational customers is a major challenge,” says company founder Paul Silvis. “Surprisingly, language has not been a problem. Our coatings are universal. To get involved with exporting, do your homework, research market potential to develop the best strategy and jump in.”
AccuWeather provides forecasts for 2.7 million locations worldwide, every place on earth where people live work or travel, very hour of every day.
“This has molded our business in many ways,” said Barry Lee Myers, CEO. “We have found ways to access weather data from all over the world. We have made a huge investment in information technology infrastructure to manage all that data. For our product to deliver value to our audience, it must be understood, everywhere in the world. That starts with language, and, indeed, we deliver our forecasts in 48 languages,” Myers notes.
AccuWeather is a global brand and recently signed a major agreement in China to be the exclusive weather partner of Beijing Huafeng Innovative Network Technology Company, Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the China Meteorological Administration.
The agreement provides a reliable single source for device manufacturers who wish to distribute their digital products in the world’s largest market.
Videon Central in State College has been selling internationally for more than 10 years.
“(Exporting) challenges vary by region,” stats Todd Erdley, president and CEO. “In Europe we sell product for the in-flight entertainment industry. This requires significant attention to shipping methods and costs. Shipping costs can often be greater than the profit margin. In Asia, we provide software intellectual property and services. This means a totally different set of challenges as one needs different representation. Contracts must be tightly constructed to limit the potential for unwarranted utilization of one’s intellectual property.”
Erdley strongly urges companies interested in exporting to work with state organizations and get involved with a trade mission. “The value one can gain from this action is amazingly important,” he says.
Dealing with cultural issues has not posed a problem for Videon Central. The company deals with many different world cultures and has employees from many different nations.