Want to grow? Work locally, but think globally

By Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK

Last year, Michigan set a record. Nearly $60 billion in goods were exported from Michigan — a 3 percent increase from 2012. Every billion dollars of exports supports around 5,000 U.S. jobs, giving us a significant reason to focus our attention on these export markets.

Livingston County already competes in the global economy. Hundreds of people in the area work for firms based in Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Thailand, among others. And companies in Livingston County export about $775 million in goods and services annually, which accounts for more than 17 percent of the county’s economic production. That means that nearly one in five dollars of the county’s economic engine is dependent on countries other than the United States.

Successful companies know that they can compete globally by working locally. More than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, and three-quarters of the world’s purchasing power exists elsewhere. With growing global economies, our local businesses could have as good a chance at scoring new business in Howell as they do in Hanoi.

Companies like Brighton-based Hug-A-Plug have set their sights on our neighbors to the north.

“Expanding into Canada increases our market potential by 33 percent with minimal changes to our marketing program,” says Bob Green, president of Hug-A-Plug. “Existing distribution channels are a perfect fit for our product. With numerous transportation options and easily met import requirements, Canada is a great way for Hug-A-Plug to enter the export market.”

Clearly, it takes a lot of work to enter any new market, let alone a foreign one. There are different rules, languages, customs and cultures to learn and understand. But there are also plenty of resources available to address those issues. For many years, the federal government has assisted companies in identifying potential foreign customers, and recently, the state of Michigan has provided assistance to companies that want to translate their marketing materials or attend a foreign trade show. There are even programs that can reduce the financial risk of securing new international clients.

Michigan is a terrific place to do business — we have 10 million consumers living here, and personal income is growing faster than it has in many years. But companies looking to grow should welcome the opportunity to compete globally. It will be a challenge, but it could pay off for businesses and their employees.

 

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