It is the greatest blessing and, at the same time, the
The size of the U.S. economy and its impact upon small- and
medium-size firms looking at international markets can be
described with these words. American companies work within
the world's largest national market, and generally, do not
perceive the need to export. However, foreign markets present
significant opportunities for the U.S. firms.
Consider the expanded European Union alone, where there are
450 million inhabitants, one and one-half times the U.S. total.
The combined economy is the largest in the world with a nominal
gross domestic product of $14.5 trillion, according to the
International Monetary Fund, more than $1 trillion greater than
that of the U.S. And as the EU removes internal trade barriers
and creates uniformity - from patent rights to certification
requirements - it resembles a single economy more and more. This
is good for the American firms seeking markets in Europe.
And with the declining dollar, U.S. firms have become very
competitive on price.
This is one very important reason why an increasing number of
international firms are locating in the U.S. In Massachusetts,
almost 185,000 people work for the subsidiaries of foreign
Over the past 10 years, Massachusetts companies have become
much more sophisticated in their approach to foreign markets and
have significantly increased their sales overseas.
and 2006, Massachusetts exports increased 66 percent to over $24
Despite this, many of our state's firms are not realizing
their full potential globally. Both smaller and larger companies
are sometimes surprisingly inert and reactive when selling
overseas. Often, a foreign sale is made only in response to an
inquiry from an overseas customer. After the initial sale, there
is no serious effort to follow through or to try growing the
business in that market. Companies need to realize that to grow
sales internationally, they need to take a strategic look at
foreign markets and commit resources with an eye toward
long-term market development. Companies who expect to be
successful overnight will be disappointed, while those who have
a longer horizon will reap the benefits of expansion.
Too often, a long-term outlook is absent due to the lack of
commitment from the top management. Managers without
international experience can be reluctant to dedicate resources
to growing export markets, thus perpetuating the reactive
attitude in the company. Commitment is also critical for the
development of export expertise that a company needs to operate
globally. While a full-fledged export department is out of reach
for many small- and medium-size companies, one or two employees
trained in export logistics and finance, as well as
international business development, can provide an invaluable
contribution to the company.
Companies targeting foreign markets should take advantage of
the numerous resources available to them. For example, the
Massachusetts Export Center
has a regional office in Worcester dedicated to
helping exporters in the region, and the Massachusetts Office of
International Trade and Investment has a network of overseas
offices engaged in trade promotional activities.
Bruce Greenwood is the European director of the
Massachusetts Office of International Trade.
Julia Dvorko is
Central Massachusetts regional program director for the
Massachusetts Export Center.