Council Shows Michigan The World

January 22, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — For businesses hoping to break into new international markets, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service is a valuable resource, said Thomas Maguire, director and international trade specialist, and executive secretary of the Michigan District Export Council serving West Michigan

“We are the largest single resource available to the business community who wish to be involved as exporters to foreign markets,” he said.

Maguire said the mission of the government organization is to “assist American businesses in gaining a substantive presence in a foreign market,” with the aid of more than 3,500 employees and 200 offices throughout the world.

As the fifth-largest exporting state in the nation, Michigan is a prime state for international trade opportunities.

Maguire said the clients that he works with are divided into two categories: new to export and new to market. The new to export companies are those that have never exported before; new to market are those that have exporting experience but want to expand into new countries or markets.

Maguire meets with the clients to explore their products or services and see where their interests are. He said he reviews how they sell domestically and what would be a good way for them to export, as well as where.

An export market plan is created, determining the company’s strengths and how to export in the markets they choose, including what licensing, regulations and services are needed to export in the market. Maguire said he and his staff also are available to make contacts, attend meetings with representatives or agents, and work with companies on documentation, licensing and agency termination laws, which vary from country to country.

With more than 1,200 businesses on the books in West Michigan, Maguire said hardly a week goes by that he doesn’t hear from another company wanting to know more about exporting.

“We counsel them on the challenges they’re going to face,” he said.

Orville Crain, co-developer of the Klever Kutter box cutter, said he used Maguire’s services to help with exporting to the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain, and he is now in negotiations with Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Israel

Crain said when a South African company contacted him, he called Maguire to check on its background. Maguire helped find information on the company, showing that it had good credit and was a reputable company.

“Tom Maguire has been a supporter, a cheerleader, a helper,” Crain said.

Any company that needs help should utilize Maguire and his staff, he said.

“I would say they’re invaluable; he’s been a significant help to me and my company,” he said.

Crain said he also gained knowledge from the organization’s Web site,

Maguire said companies also can access the Michigan District Export Council through his office, which gives them the opportunity to talk to international attorneys and other volunteers who are able to share their expertise pertaining to exporting.

“We nominate these types of people because of their expertise,” Maguire said.

The nominees are then appointed by the government for three-year terms of volunteer service with the council, helping with issues such as documentation, legalities and other guidance.    

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