Path to success leads overseas

Moderated by Rick Badie

The Metro Atlanta Chamber wants to help local companies explore business opportunities abroad. Today, a chamber executive explains the Metro Exportation Plan, an initiative to aid international engagement. Additionally, a UPS leader writes about the importance of large corporations and federal government lending a hand to small and medium-sized companies that want to grow globally. In the third column, an entrepreneur shares his success story.

Exports boost sales and jobs

By Ric Hubler

Is your business looking to increase sales and add jobs? Then consider making exports a part of your business plan.

Exports play a critical role in our community. By selling competitive products and services to meet global demand, our companies can find opportunities to grow business and benefit the economy with more revenue and jobs. Yet, this simple seven-letter word still generates fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of entrepreneurs and executives of small, medium and large businesses.

More Atlanta companies are capable of exporting than you may realize. While most people think of exports as manufactured goods, much of Atlanta’s exports come from service sectors such as architecture and design, consulting, engineering, franchising, legal and accounting, software and travel and tourism.

The value for companies to export is a simple one: increased sales. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates a typical business that sells to just one foreign market can generate about $375,000 annually in export sales. An increase to two to four export markets grows that figure to $1 million. For companies that continue on to five to nine export markets, the figure jumps to $3 million in annual export sales.

In addition, exporting companies grow faster and are stronger. Plus, exporting extends the Atlanta brand around the world.

The initiative was created to foster export strategies at the metropolitan level, where great potential exists to engage companies in exporting. Resources and export strategies already exist at the federal and state levels — for example, at the Georgia Department of Economic Development — but like most metro areas, Atlanta lacks a complementary metro export strategy.

Locally, a coalition of organizations has come together to build a cohesive export strategy for metro Atlanta. The partners include the metro chamber, city of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the state Department of Economic Development, U.S. Export Assistance Center and economic development representatives from various metro counties. The local chairs of the Atlanta export plan, representing the private sector, are Dwayne Meeks of UPS and David Balos of Chase.

All these partners are working to create a more effective export ecosystem and a stronger export culture in the region.

An effective export ecosystem would translate into an environment where companies, regardless of size, could more easily identify and connect with the appropriate resources and tools to start exporting or to grow existing exports.

Another outcome of the Atlanta export plan would be a stronger export culture where exports are part of the daily conversation. It would be an environment where existing exporters could mentor new exporters, and where “exports” would no longer be a scary seven-letter word. Rather, it would be an environment where “exports” could be exchanged for another seven-letter word: success.

Ric Hubler is senior director, global business growth, for the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Exports key to success

By Scott Davis

Ask anyone successful in business how they made it, and they’ll tell you they didn’t do it alone. When starting out, you need support and mentorship.

It’s time to offer that to America’s small businesses.

At a time our economic reemergence is a work in progress, we need to focus on how we can create long-term growth. And in an increasingly global marketplace, we need to find ways to help American businesses — especially small- to medium-sized ones — compete and create jobs.

The key to success is finding customers in new markets and increasing exports. For small businesses, expansion is not as easy as setting up an office in Hong Kong. A mom-and-pop shop in Gwinnett or Buckhead likely lacks the resources and experience to “go global.” No matter what economists say about emerging middle-class populations in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, small business owners have little time to deal with the difficulties of expanding internationally when they’re focused on daily operations.

Exports are the answer. To increase exports, small and medium-sized businesses need trade-friendly government policies and support from large corporations.

Less than 1 percent of America’s 30 million companies export. Of those, more than half export to only one market. American small businesses create more than half of all new jobs and more than half of all non-farm GDP, most of them without access to 95 percent of the world’s consumers. In 2012, the Atlanta metropolitan area was the 17th largest export market in the United States, with merchandise shipments totaling $18.2 billion. We need to continue to grow that business.

The Obama administration and Congress must take steps to implement domestic reforms that eliminate barriers to global competitiveness. We need more programs like the one the U.S. Department of Commerce just introduced — an updated National Export Initiative called NEI/Next. It works to streamline regulations that impact exporting and open new markets to American businesses.

Concluding negotiations on trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will also streamline the trade process and create a level playing field. The administration could also fully implement the “single window,” which creates a single electronic platform for exporters to complete forms needed by dozens of agencies.

UPS launched an initiative to identify small and medium-sized customers that export to only one market. Using our advanced analytics, we partner with these companies and help to identify new potential markets.

With adequate guidance, small businesses can emulate the success of companies like Alpharetta-based Cellairis. UPS partnered with Cellairis, now the largest franchiser of wireless accessories, to streamline its operations and find a new inbound supply chain operator. Its phone cases and armbands can now be found in kiosks across North America, South America and Europe.

Working together, the federal government and the private sector can make it easier for small businesses to expand internationally. We all received help at some point. Paying it forward ensures stronger economic growth in the future for everyone.

Scott Davis is UPS chairman and CEO.

Global partnerships touch lives

By Mark Gilreath

When we founded EndoChoice in 2008, I was working from my basement in Atlanta with little more than an Internet connection and an idea.

We emerged into the global market like many companies — slowly. In 2012, we discovered innovative technology in the early stages of development in Israel. This technology would give gastrointestinal providers a tool to find 69 percent more pre-cancerous polyps than the standard colonoscope. Now in production, our Fuse Full Spectrum Endoscopy system is a game-changer and could help eliminate colon cancer entirely.

After we discovered this technology, the biggest challenge was connecting a global manufacturing and supply chain. We acquired Israel-based Peer Medical to gain more capabilities in innovation, and the German endoscope manufacturer RMS Endoskopie-Technik to allow us to scale in early 2013.

As a growing organization with different cultures and practices, the large-scale export business posed even bigger challenges. We source small, specialized technologies and components from around the world, bring them to Israel and Germany to construct the product, and distribute the completed Fuse system globally from Atlanta. The process — from sourcing and distribution to taxes and laws — is complex. We can’t do it alone.

We’re Atlanta-based, so we reap tremendous benefits from the city’s metropolitan export initiative, which bridges organizations, companies and universities overseas. Global trade support from Atlanta’s Global Commerce Council also provides a competitive advantage.

Take logistics. An endoscope is a highly complex, fragile instrument used to examine the gastrointestinal system of a patient. It costs more than most cars. We’re not shipping a commodity product, so we were fortunate to find an Atlanta-based logistics partner that understands our process, values precision and has health-care experience.

Last year, EndoChoice was deemed the fastest-growing med-tech company in the United States by industry analysts. With more than 2,000 customers worldwide and a compound annual revenue growth rate of more than 100 percent since we began in 2008, we continue to expand our portfolio of med-tech devices, diagnostics, infection control and endoscopic imaging that serves gastrointestinal health-care professionals in 34 countries.

While we expand our reach, we’re aggressively pursuing research and development and working to uncover the next big thing in innovative technology for gastrointestinal care. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the market and our competitors.

In six years, our idea has become a global reality. We’re making a wonderful impact on patients’ lives through numerous local and global partnerships.

Mark Gilreath is founder, president and CEO of EndoChoice Inc.



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