The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia is now crossing the Delaware, and under the leadership of Michael Manning it is marching southward from Princeton. Having just signed on this month as WTCGP’s manager of International Trade Services (New Jersey), Manning is lining up business support for the organization’s “Job Creation Through Export” program.
This EDA-grant-funded program will deliver many of the same services typically offered to Pennsylvania WTCGP members, but goes far beyond in both energy and focus. (For details visit www.wtcphila.org). Already Manning is lining up central and southern New Jersey support in the areas of biotechnology and life sciences, nanotechnology and related high tech, education, and IT. “Our goal” says Manning, “is to give Garden State businesses and institutions in each of these four areas a much greater visibility abroad. We have to let other nations’ tech centers realize that very beneficial partnerships can be forged with many New Jersey firms.”
The agenda. The Job Creation Through Export program’s plan is to start with a series of seminars and work through to specific trade missions in which personal and commercial connections may be made. The individual counsel provided by Manning and the WTCGP, along with their formal seminars, will act as both stepping stones and a weeding out process for global hopefuls.
“The first factor those looking overseas must learn is where in the world what they’ve got will sell,” says Manning. In the nanotechnology fields, he has been working with Princeton-area companies. “They have a shorter nation list of potential partners,” says Manning. “These firms have to operate in developed nations, such as western Europe, India, Japan, and Brazil.” Companies relating to biotechnology and life sciences may cast a broader net, but still both the work force and the regional culture must provide a fertile, high-tech environment.
For the fields of education and information technology, it is more a matter of product than region. “Rowan University has an excellent engineering department, and Stockton offers world class training in life sciences and hotel management,” says Manning. “They don’t have the international star reputation or traditional reputation of Princeton, but they have training useful to students everywhere. And that’s what we want to make known internationally.”
Further finances will help business owners decide if they have the sustained budget necessary to launch an overseas business. Each nation, even each region, demands its own marketing protocols. Industry specialists can help trim costs and focus strategies, but the initial cash outlay must be there for them to draw on.
If a company shows itself truly ready to stake a claim on foreign soil, Manning’s next step is to help them realize just how many resources are waiting to offer counsel. He cites a few whose aid to certain firms he has personally witnessed:
The American Chambers of Commerce Abroad. A volunteerorganization, linked with the U.S. Chamber, AmCham consists of American enterprises and individuals who are doing business in particular countries and are willing to share their expertise. There are 115 AmCham offices in 102 countries. For details call 202-463-5460.
Embassies, consuls, and trade missions. The consulate’s primary function is to enhance business between its locale and the home nation. It is not, as many think, to pull blundering tourists out of scrapes. They hold conferences, can guide money transfer, will offer introductions, and can explain protocol.
U.S. Commercial Service. This is Manning’s most recent alma mater. Operating under the U.S. Department of Commerce, the service offers market intelligence to help exporters find the right fit, aid in trade logistics, partnership promoting, and general trade counsel. Its list of publications (many of which may be downloaded as PDFs) include such titles as “Basic Exporting,” “Business Guide to Federal Export Assistance,” “Trade Finance,” and “Export Packaging.”
Delaware crisscrossing. While it may seem an outreach from the City of Brotherly Love, much of the Philadelphia World Trade Center’s “Job Creation Through Export” program mimics a Trenton-based plan created earlier. As director for the U.S. Commercial Service’s Trenton office, Manning helped to launch the impressively successful “Trade Winds Forum” totally funded by private firms. Aimed at bolstering the New Jersey and regional states’ business presence abroad, Trade Winds developed four trade missions in as many years, beginning in Istanbul, Turkey; them moving to Warsaw, Poland, and on to Brazil’s Sao Paulo and Rio last year.
Reflecting on the Brazil mission, Manning says, “We took 190 people representing more than 100 firms. They toured, got the feel of the land, attended rounds of international conferences, and made scores of business-to-business appointments that are the preludes to partnerships.” Such is exactly the type of mission Manning is seeking to establish at the WTCGP.
Manning knows well what it takes to move New Jersey companies into the international eye. Born and raised in Camden, Manning claims his ambition came from his father, who began as a letter carrier and ended up as postmaster for the greater Camden area with thousands of employees under his supervision. Young Michael went off to LaSalle University, graduating with a bachelor’s in economics in 1966. As a second postgraduate job, Manning joined FMC Corporation, where he ran a packaging operations plant. Later, as sales administrator, he got his first taste of international trading when given the Caribbean and Canada regions.
After five years, Manning took his sales skills to the Budd Company, a major automative metals manufacturer that moved him to its Troy, Michigan, headquarters and again set him in international trading. With this experience, Manning later became a global metals trader for the Lauria Brothers, a division of Ogden corporation.
All this international experience, both public and private, has made Manning aware of the profits to be made abroad and the exciting opportunities of reaching across cultures. But despite all his cheerleading, he is a realist. “Not every firm is cut out for trading beyond its borders,” he says. “In fact, some of the most valuable counsel I have ever given on the subject is telling a company owner. ‘No, I’m sorry. This venture just is not going to happen. You really need to back off.’” Sometimes, no matter how rich the strike in the far hills, it’s best to prospect in your own back yard. — Bart Jackson