Some resources have recently become available to help local firms navigate dealings in global trade.
Wilmington businesses can apply for another round of federal grant funds recently awarded through the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) was awarded a nearly $775,000 grant through STEP to help small exporting businesses around the state. The new grant year began Sept. 30.
Local companies in the past have used the STEP funds, which are offered to qualifying businesses for travel, lodging and booth registration for international trade shows, as well as money for website or marketing materials translation.
In the last grant cycle, STEP funding helped 185 state businesses participate in 290 exporting activities, which resulted in nearly $37 million in international sales.
Wilmington businesses that received funds in that cycle included Leland-based Tri-Tech Forensics and Castle Hayne-based Mirimichi Green, said John Loyack, EDPNC’s vice president for global business services.
Regardless of the impacts trade tensions and tariffs have on the global economic environment, being internationally engaged is a better business strategy for companies than only doing business domestically, Loyack said.
“Businesses who are selling internationally, we know statistically speaking, are much more likely to be hiring new employees, and they are much more likely to be in business five years from now,” he said.
The STEP funds will also aid a new initiative to help businesses increase sales in Southeast Asia.
Firms are now asking about those markets, Loyack said, as the country’s trade relations with China and complex tariffs continue to be in flux.
Steve Hayes, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s head of middle marketing international banking, who spoke at Wilmington-based N.C. Foreign Trade Promotion Council (FTPC) event in mid-September, said that the firm is also seeing larger mid-sized companies explore opportunities in Southeast Asia to diversify their supply chains.
The event, which was hosted by the FTPC, is one of several the organization is putting on in Wilmington this fall.
Another is planned in October with Dutch representatives seeking to explore opportunities in Southeastern North Carolina, said John Hayes, FTPC’s executive director.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in September announced a partnership with the Carolina Chamber Export Assistance Center to help streamline the process of electronic documentation for international trade. The online service, called essCert, has been used by chambers across the country.
Export education seminars are also being hosted by the EDPNC this year, Loyack said.
The organization in late September hosted an international document training session at Cape Fear Community College. The event drew 12 businesses, including QuickSilver Analytics Inc., he said.
And EDPNC will bring in its international representatives from six overseas offices for the weeklong Go Global Roadshow, which will begin in Wilmington in April. During the event, those representatives will meet with area businesses about selling in international markets.
“It’s important for a variety of different North Carolina partners … to stay globally engaged,” Loyack said.