It's World Trade Week

May 13, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — This year's 20th annual World Trade Week events in Grand Rapids will have an even more global feel than in years past.

While previous conferences have focused on one or two main countries of interest, organizers decided not to geographically limit the 2005 week of seminars and speeches. Instead, this year's events, with the theme "Leveraging Global Partnerships," are intended to be as broad-based as possible.

"The thinking was, after a lot of discussion, that there's so many areas in the world that people are doing business now that we really need to open it up and provide more information to our constituency. We can't focus on just one area; that's very limiting," said Bill Richeson, senior vice president of global trade and treasury at National City Bank and chair of the World Trade Week West Michigan 2005 committee. "So we thought about the need to partner with various companies and organizations throughout the world. That's how we came up with 'Leveraging Global Partnerships.'"

Richeson eagerly points out that the week's events feature numerous CEOs of local companies, as well as experts on global trade from around the world. Among them is a panel of U.S. Department of Commerce officials whose "road show" will only be stopping at four other cities in the United States. The commerce officials will offer one-on-one sessions with local business leaders. That, said Richeson, is "a tremendous opportunity — almost like free consulting or access to advice from international trade experts."

The week's events begin Monday with a luncheon at the Grand Rapids Economic Club, featuring Alticor CEO Doug DeVos. He will present a program called, "Sleepless in West Michigan: Keeping Up With the 24-7 Economy." Later that evening, an invite-only VIP reception will take place at the GeraldR.FordMuseum

The main conference will take place on Tuesday at GrandValleyStateUniversity's downtown campus. Throughout the day, 18 speakers from around the world will offer insights on how to succeed in today's global business environment.

Keynote speaker at the May 17 conference will be Wolverine World Wide President, CEO and Chairman Timothy J. O'Donovan. Since taking the helm of the company in 2000, O'Donovan has engendered prodigious growth across the shoemaker's product line and bottom line. The company, which earned just shy of $992 million in 2004, is expected to top the $1 billion mark this year for the first time in its 122-year history. Much of that success has come by way of developing and maintaining international relationships.

Of the 43 million pairs of shoes the company sold last year, nearly one-third were sold abroad, according to a recent speech by O'Donovan. The recent growth in Europe and Asia has come, in part, because of massive branding campaigns throughout the globe. The success of those campaigns will be the basis of O'Donovan's keynote speech at the World Trade Week conference. He will deliver a presentation entitled "Partnering to Build Global Brands" at 12:15 p.m. in Loosemore Auditorium.

The West Michigan World Trade Association will present its 2005 World Trader of the Year award at a wine reception Tuesday afternoon (SEE MAY16B TRDAWARD)

 new event for this year's World Trade Week is Student Global Awareness Day. The program introduces students from the Grand Rapids Public Schools to "the opportunities and realities of our increasingly global community" (see MAY16B STUDENT).

The week wraps up Thursday evening with WorldQuest International Team Trivia. The game, presented by the World Affairs Council of West Michigan, challenges teams' knowledge of world news and events.1111

The registration deadline for the week's events has already passed, though at-the-door registration may be available for some events. Contact Kendra Kuo of the Department of Commerce at (616) 458-3564 or Norma Roelfsema at the Van Andel Global Trade Center at (616) 331-6811 for last-minute availability.    

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