Almost 1 in 4 small- and medium-sized Indiana businesses are interested in international sales but don't know how to get started, according to an Indianapolis-based trade expert.
Doris Anne Sadler hopes to help the curious decide whether to tackle the challenge.
The president and CEO of World Trade Center Indianapolis will address the topic next week during a half-day seminar titled “Trade & Tariffs: International Opportunities for Northeast Indiana.”
The local event is open to anyone interested in international business. Registration is open through Monday, Oct. 22.
Sadler is one of several scheduled presenters. The seminar includes a panel discussion with Mark Cooper, director of U.S. Commercial Service-Indiana; Dan Murray, president of Total Control Systems; Rachel Osting, general counsel for Fort Wayne Metals; and Andy Reinke, president of Foreign Targets.
Listening to other business leaders talk about their experience might provide the encouragement some need to explore the option, Sadler said.
“Or they might come and say, 'Boy, I'm glad I'm not in international trade,'” she added.
Although her employer is World Trade Center Indianapolis, Sadler works to increase trade for employers throughout the state. An agreement between the organization and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. makes that broader mission official.
World Trade Center Indianapolis, which was launched two years ago, works with about 320 sister organizations in more than 90 countries to provide varied services to businesses. The New York-based World Trade Centers Association was founded in 1959 by David Rockefeller, a member of a prominent industrial, banking and political family.
Sadler sees multiple opportunities for Hoosier businesses to expand beyond national borders.
The Indianapolis office is organizing a trip to Shanghai for Indiana companies producing distilled spirits. Sadler said there's a market for their products.
Another opportunity lies in the increasing amount of pipes being laid to transport water in developing countries, she said. A company that makes the rubber gaskets used to connect those pipes could land significant orders.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Indiana exported more than $10.6 billion in transportation equipment last year, more than $8.6 billion in chemicals and more than $3.8 billion in nonelectrical machinery, among many other products.
Northeast Indiana's manufacturing, agribusiness and service sectors are experiencing significant growth, said Eric Doden, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.'s CEO.
“But we cannot turn away from foreign markets if we want to keep northeast Indiana's economy competitive in coming decades,” he said in a statement. “Trade within the United States represents only a fraction of the possibilities available to companies in Fort Wayne, and it's critical to encourage local businesses to participate in that global marketplace.”
One looming barrier to entering international trade is sudden shifts in U.S. policy on trade and tariffs.
President Donald Trump has invoked tariffs against some goods imported from China and Europe and recently renegotiated trade deals with Mexico and Canada, Indiana's two largest trading partners.
The unpredictable nature of the federal policies can be a real challenge for companies adopting long-term strategies, Sadler said.
“There are long-term ramifications. You don't just replace a market overnight. Supply chains can't turn on a dime,” she said.
“Uncertainty is never a good thing for businesses trying to plan.”
One way to lessen the effects of shifting U.S. trade policy, Sadler said, is to double down and diversify on which countries a company ships to.
When sales to China become problematic, sales to customers in India could offset the loss, she said.
Despite the challenges, Sadler said, “people are still optimistic about international trade.”
If you go
What: Trade & Tariffs: International Opportunities for Northeast Indiana, a half-day seminar focused on global trade, beginning with lunch and ending with a networking reception
Who: World Trade Center Indianapolis, in conjunction with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana and Indiana Small Business Development Center; presented by PNC Financial Services Group
When: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 23
Where: Sweetwater Sound, 5501 U.S. 30 W.
Cost: $50 per person or $750 for a sponsored table of eight; some discounts are available
Registration deadline: Oct. 22
To register: Go online to https://bit.ly/2IBDBVv
At a glance
The Top 10 countries that imported goods from Indiana businesses last year - and the value of those goods - were:
1. Canada - $13.2 billion
2. Mexico - $5.06 billion
3. China - $2.07 billion
4. Japan - $1.69 billion
5. France - $1.56 billion
6. Germany - $1.55 billion
7. Italy - $1.36 billion
8. United Kingdom - $1.16 billion
9. Netherlands - $1.05 billion
10. Ireland - $971 million
Source: U.S. Census Bureau