Lakeshore Opening To Global Trade

August 1, 2003
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GRAND HAVEN — Opening the door to global trade for those businesses that want to step through it, and assuring those that don’t understand the drawbacks, is the crux of a new initiative launching in the Grand Haven-Spring Lake area.

The Tri-Cities Area Manufacturing Council, an offshoot of The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, is spearheading the effort that will offer a local certification course in global trade, developed and taught by the director of the Van Andel Global Trade Center in Grand Rapids.

The goal is to get businesses of all sizes to understand the potential foreign competition they may face, as well as the prospects of growing sales through global trade, and to show them how to enter foreign markets.

“There’s a lot of ability here for our companies to thrive and to continue to expand here, and it may have a foreign component to it,” said Tricia Ryan, The Chamber’s vice president for economic development.

The effort kicks off next month with a morning seminar on global trade presented by Jeff Meyer, executive director of the Van Andel Global Trade Center. Meyer will follow up the event with an eight-week global trade certification course that’s designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses delve into global trade.

Like it or not, business is becoming increasingly global every day, Meyer said.

Through modern information and communication technologies, the day is quickly coming to an end of doing business in a small town as a small company without any concern for a potential competitor on the other side of the world, he said.

“The days of having all these little companies in each of our own countries is over. There is a global shift out there,” Meyer said. “Technology and a new era of communications have enabled a small company to have just as big of a wingspan as a big company.”

The global trade certification program, which Meyer developed four years ago, is designed to help a business owner or operator understand how their company can enter the global trade arena and the complexities involved. That foray can occur on any number of fronts — from sourcing parts for a locally produced product from overseas, to selling parts to customers in a foreign market, Meyer said.

“There’s opportunities but we have to take advantage of them,” he said. “There’s a whole range of creative international solutions for companies.”

Participants in the certification program will receive assistance writing an international business plan and go through a due diligence process that helps them decide and justify whether foreign trade is right for their company and how to do it, Meyer said. In some instances, a business that may opt to stay out of the global trade arena should come away with at least an understanding of the shrinking global marketplace and that they may face tough competition in the future from a foreign-based competitor, he said.

The push for a greater emphasis on global trade in the Grand Haven-Spring Lake area stems from the recent creation of the Tri-Cities Area Manufacturer’s Council and retention visits to area employers by chamber staff.

Global business issues “are huge” among local manufacturers, many of whom have great concerns about how foreign competition will affect their business, Ryan said. Formation of the manufacturer’s council gave The Chamber a new forum to address the issue.

“You just have a lot of concern about foreign markets having an impact right now and what kind of an impact it’s going to have in the future, and people want to do it and have no clue how,” she said.

“This is going to open a lot of eyes and people are going to start thinking about a lot of global issues.”

The Chamber will host a morning seminar on global trade on Sept. 24 at the Trillium Banquet and Conference Center. If there’s enough interest, Meyer will organize a local certification course to begin mid-fall.

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