Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 10, 2013

Selling To The World

Northern Michigan companies get support to develop global trade

TRAVERSE CITY — Tellurex in Traverse City developed a product its leaders believe has great potential to sell in developing nations.

Their TPOD1 provides thermal electric power on demand, basically relying on a tea candle.

With that in mind, the company took the TPOD1 to the Lighting Africa trade show in Dakar, Senegal, Africa, in November. And they did it with support from the Northern Michigan Global Trade Alliance.

The Alliance is a program of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and Michigan Economic Development Corporation and is a business resource center for international trade. Now in its second year, it's designed to be a one-stop resource for companies in 36 northern lower and upper peninsula counties that want to expand globally.

"(President Obama's) export initiative has a goal of doubling exports through 2014, and Gov. Snyder shares that goal," said NWMCOG Business Connections Manager Jaclyn Sanborn. "For last year, so far, the businesses we've assisted have reported $7.4 million in exporting sales "¦ and I imagine that is going to go up a lot (because all of the numbers aren't in yet)."

Grant assistance

Sanborn estimated 52 companies participated in Alliance programming so far.

"They either received some actual dollars to help offset (expenses), participated in educational programs, (or) we helped them build their export strategy," she said. "That also includes some 30 companies that actually received a grant incentive to help offset their export operation costs."

A U.S. Small Business Administration State Trade and Export grant program allows eligible companies to qualify for up to $12,000 in assistance to participate in trade missions and shows, make foreign sales trips, pay for translating services, search for agents, distributors and customers and conduct research on foreign markets.

Northern Michigan's Alliance had $230,000 to use for the grants last year, and received $300,000 this fiscal year.

"It pays for the costs associated with the matchmaking," Sanborn said. "It can pay for the actual travel and airline ticket, and hotel, but that's pretty much the limit of the travel costs.

"We can help support fees for setting up booths; there's a lot of expense in shipping. The other big areas are in translating materials, business cards, marketing materials and even some website translation. It's a 50-50 match and the company gets reimbursed."

A northern branch of the state's Procurement Technical Assistance Center can also provide local businesses with instruction on obtaining government contracts.

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