Resources for Exporting: A Visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Last week I visited the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast to attend the Gulf States Trade Alliance’s 2012 Annual Export conference from April 10-12 at the Beau Rivage Resort.  The theme for the event was “Export Resources and New Market Opportunities for Small Business”, and the markets focused on during the conference were Central America, the Caribbean, and Canada.  First, a little background on the trade alliance.

The Gulf Coast Trade Alliance consists of economic development agencies from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida who come together in organizing a regional conference each year focused on international trade and exporting.  The conference highlights tools and resources available to small businesses in each of these four states that enable small business to enter into the world of international trade or grow their existing international business.

After a warm welcome, the conference started out with a discussion of Caribbean market opportunities with discussions by Robert Jones, Counselor for Commercial Affairs for the Caribbean Region (U.S. Commercial Service, American Embassy, Santo Domingo, DR) and Gandy Thomas, Consul General of Haiti Atlanta.  Mr. Jones discussed the benefits of doing business in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations and noted that among  the best prospects for exporting to the region are:  construction in support of tourism, medical equipment and supplies, and renewable energy.  As many businesses engaged in export already know, the United States also has a free trade agreement that encompasses the Dominican Republic making trade with that Caribbean country even more inviting for U.S. businesses.  Mr. Thomas spoke to the fact that demands in Haiti for energy and manufacturing is huge, and the plethora of languages spoken in the region suggests that Haiti is a prime location for businesses to locate call centers.  Each speaker identified that one of the most important aspects of doing business in the Caribbean is establishing relationships face to face and keeping up those relationships even after your visit to their sunny islands.

Later in the conference we heard from Leroy Sheffer, Managing Partner, ITAS Group (Specialized Services Firm, American Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Panama) and Bryan Smith (Counselor, Commercial Affiars for the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica regarding opportunities in Central America, specifically Panama and Costa Rica.

Rounding out the afternoon was Jennifer Rosebrugh, the Senior Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada located in Atlanta, Georgia.  Ms. Rosebrugh extolled the virtues of doing business with Canada, the United States largest trading partner.  Similar to Mr. Jones and Mr. Thomas, Ms. Rosebrugh said that a key to international trading is to do business with honesty, reliability, kindness, friendliness, compassion, civility, forgiveness, and generosity, and these actions are much more easily undertaken with someone who you’ve met face to face than with someone solely interacted with over email and phone.

Other conference speakers discussed services that will help a small business engage in international trade.  These services are provided by agencies such as the U.S. Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the Southern U.S. Trade Association, the Mississippi Development Authority (or other state development boards), banks with international departments, law firms with expertise in international trade issues, customs brokers, etc.  If you are considering entering into international trade business or looking to expand the business you already have, there are many resources available.  Using these resources from the outset to ensure you are making the right choices for your company will help you succeed in both the short and long term.  Understanding both the advantages and pitfalls of international trade will allow your company to make wise decisions that will help ensure your success.

Our firm provides not only legal services for those who have already encountered issues related to international trade, but we also provide business services for those seeking to engage in or expand their trade operations in a way that helps them avoid legal problems down the line.  With over three decades of experience in international trade from both the logistics and the legal sides, we can help you ensure your company is on the right track.  For more information, please visit our website at www.customscourt.com , email us at either nmooney@customscourt.com or smorrison@customscourt.com, or call us at (850) 893-0670 or (800) 583-0250.

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