Export program helps businesses understand international markets

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The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism this week announced new programs aimed at helping small businesses go global.

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The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism this week announced new programs aimed at helping small businesses go global.

The Hawaii State Trade and Export Promotion — Export Readiness Program is designed as a continuum to help complete novices and old hands alike gain more understanding of how to tap international markets.

“A lot of companies, they produce…for the local market,” said DBEDT branch chief Mark Ritchie. “(They) think “Oh, could I actually start selling outside of Hawaii?” and that’s what the whole program is about.”

Kanoe Pu‘uohau, senior business adviser at the Hawaii Small Business Development Center’s Hilo branch, said that local businesses tend to focus their sales efforts in-state, with some making additional pushes to the mainland.

“International (marketing), I think, is less established from Hawaii Island,” Pu‘uohau said. “But there are people that are definitely interested.”

Last year, she said, a local workshop held by the Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce drew nearly 30 people. The Commercial Service is responsible for developing export markets at the federal level.

“The other thing, too, is on this island there’s a lot of agricultural products and value-added products that they’re trying to get off the ground,” Pu‘uohau said. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”

“Those products are actually very well-received in places like Japan,” Ritchie said. “But you do have to understand some of the (Japanese) import laws…that’s the kind of thing we help you with in the training.”

Rithcie said the DBEDT’s program has relied on state funds in the past, but this year federal funding from the Small Business Association has allowed for expansion.

“Most of our companies fit into that (category) in Hawaii,” Ritchie said. “We’re kind of a small-business state.”

He noted that export potential lies not only in goods, but also in areas like service and consulting.

“You could be an engineering company (or) an environmental company,” Ritchie said.

The DBEDT programs range from Export University, a course that helps newcomers create an export plan to coordinated participation at international trade shows.

“We purchase the booth space and recruit companies,” Ritchie said. For companies that want to strike out on their own at trade shows, the department will subsidize paying for their booth space.

“Any time the state is providing assistance to Neighbor Island companies, that’s good,” Pu‘uohau said.

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For more information about the Hawaii State Trade and Export Promotion Export Readiness Program, visit http://invest.hawaii.gov/exporting/histep. The application deadline for the training program is Feb. 15.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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