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Explore and Connect: How a trade mission can help your company go global

Trade missions are an effective and efficient way for a company to explore business opportunities in another country. The good news for Utah businesses is the state strategically plans three to four trade missions a year.

In 2017 the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) led trade missions to South Korea and Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore, and London. The final trade mission of 2017 is a Governor-led trade mission to Israel and Jordan at the end of October.

What to expect

Trade missions are week-long business trips designed to help companies build connections with potential clients and partners in another region of the world. Each trade mission begins with country/market briefings to familiarize the attending delegation with the business climate and customs in the selected country.

The rest of the trade mission consists of networking receptions, meetings with government officials, site visits to innovative companies and business-to-business matchmaking services for approved companies. Twenty Utah companies attended the Singapore and Vietnam trade mission in September. During the trade mission, the delegation attended site visits to Rio Tinto and Nu Skin.

The delegation learned about how Rio Tinto is partnering with Accenture Innovation Hub in Singapore to create technology-driven solutions to improve efficiency and safety in their operations around the world. Singapore is a major distribution and logistics hub, and a gateway to the Asian market. It is ranked second in the world for ease of doing business by World Bank.

Nu Skin, headquartered in Provo, Utah, has seen tremendous growth in Vietnam. Nu Skin’s legal team spoke to the Utah delegation about what it means to do business in Vietnam and what it might take to establish a business there from a legal and tax perspective. Vietnam is an attractive location for Utah companies to do business because of its strong GDP growth, large population, fast-growing middle class and political stability.

At the end of each trade mission, companies walk away with invaluable contacts and experiences that help them determine if the country is the right fit for their product or service. Some companies even walk away with agreements and contracts to start doing business immediately.

Who can attend

Any company, regardless of size, can register to attend a trade mission. Interested businesses simply must fill out an online form and pay a deposit before the deadline to reserve a spot. The full participant fee is due a few weeks prior to the trade mission.

Business-to-business matchmaking “Gold Key” services provided through the U.S. Commercial Service can be added on to a state of Utah trade mission. Gold Key services connect Utah companies with vetted potential clients and partners in the country they are visiting. Companies must meet certain requirements and pay an additional fee to participate in Gold Key services.

Financing a trade mission
A common concern for companies thinking about attending a trade mission is the cost. Thanks to the many resources available to help ease the financial burdens of trade missions for small businesses, this does not have to be a deterrent.

The first place a company seeking financial assistance should look is the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant. Matching grants of up to $6,000 are available to qualifying small businesses to participate in state-led trade missions and up to $4,000 for state-led trade shows. Companies may request up to a total of $15,000 for STEP funding. Recipients are required to make a 25 percent cash match to qualify for funds.

To be eligible for the STEP Grant, a company must meet the following requirements:

  • Meet SBA size standards
  • Is not barred from federal funds
  • Is an Eligible Small Business
  • Has been in business for more than one year
  • Has sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade
  • Is headquartered in Utah
  • Is a for-profit company
  • Has three or more full-time employees
  • Has a finished product or qualifying service with at least 51 percent U.S. content
  • Has an export plan

The Utah Export Acceleration Grant is another resource for companies hoping to attend a trade mission. This grant provides Utah companies with funding to help offset the costs associated with global expansion. Companies are eligible to receive up to $10,000 in funding depending on specific needs related to their international expansion.

Activities and resources that qualify for grant funding include attending a trade mission, conducting international market research or obtaining legal and consulting work to go global. A detailed plan for how the money will be used must be outlined in the application. Companies interested in learning more about the Utah Export Acceleration Grant can visit www.wtcutah.com.

Join a trade mission

WTC Utah and GOED are currently selecting locations for 2018 trade missions. To stay up to date on trade mission registration deadlines, sign up for the WTC Utah newsletter or visit www.wtcutah.com. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are located out of the United States, and trade missions are a great way for companies to access more of those potential customers.

Derek B. Miller is president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, and organization dedicated to helping Utah companies think, act and succeed globally.