steer businesses through export regulations
By A.J. Bauer
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 07, 2008 @ 02:32 PM
— With the dollar hovering near all-time lows against many foreign currencies,
more local companies are looking to capitalize by exporting their products
overseas, and it’s Paula Murphy’s job to help them out.
Murphy, a Marshfield
resident, is director of the
a specialized part of the state’s small business development network she helped
establish in 1994.
In late April, the center was awarded the first Small
Business Development Centers Service Excellence and Innovation Award from the
U.S. Small Business Administration, which pays roughly 60 percent of the
center’s $500,000 annual budget. The rest is provided by the state.
Massachusetts businesses exported more than
$25 billion in goods in 2007, up about 5 percent from 2006. While the center’s
clients accounted for a little more than $160 million of that sum, they saw
their export sales increase at three times the overall state export rate.
Murphy said the recent award validates her efforts
and those of her six-person staff as they work to cover rapidly growing demand
for their services.
What are the biggest challenges facing small
businesses attempting to export their goods?
One of the biggest challenges is, ironically, our U.S. export
regulations. In the name of national security, they’ve become really quite
complex and onerous, and it can be difficult for a company to navigate those
regulations and make sure that their processes and procedures are compliant.
What does the
do to help guide businesses through those regulations?
We go into the company. We will counsel them on the
different areas of regulations, help them determine what jurisdiction they might
be under. We might do in-house training, because what happens a lot of times is
when a company is exporting, different parts of the company are involved. So
you’re going to have the sales and marketing people, you’re going to have the
logistical people, you’re going to have the accounts receivable people. And
they’re not necessarily talking to one another, and in order for a company to be
compliant and make sure nothing falls through the cracks, they have to be
talking to one another.
With the decline in the value of the dollar,
have you noticed an uptick in demand for your services?
Absolutely. Our exports are definitely up, and it is
reflected in our export value. Our (statewide) exports are around $25 billion
per year. I feel like the demand for our services has surged probably more than
the actual export growth. ... Exporting is a long-term venture, so for companies
it’s going to take a couple of years. If a company is new to exporting or new to
a particular country, you’re looking at a year or two lead time before they’re
going to start seeing sales. So based on anecdotal observation of what we’ve
been seeing, I’m sure there’s going to be a big surge next year, or the year
after, in our exports.
What kinds of businesses are best suited for
the current export climate?
The good thing about
is that we have the kinds of businesses that are successful exporters by nature
of where we are and the kinds of companies we already have. Obviously technology
(is one industry where exporting is successful), there’s a huge demand for that
overseas. But even the non-technology companies that we have here, they’re
typically producing very niche products that are unique or that are leaders in
their field. And any time, even if it’s industrial products or food products or
whatever, if you have a company like that, it’s the type of company that will do
What are your goals for the Massachusetts Export
One thing we hope to do in the coming year is develop
an export compliance consortium so that individuals within companies who are
working on compliance issues can network with one another, share best practices,
provide ideas on what they’re doing for their compliance programs. There’s only
so much we can do as a government agency to help companies, but where we see the
real need is for companies to talk to each other. So we’re creating a forum to
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