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Borek: Export assistance available to business

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Export markets can be very important to manufacturers and other businesses. Exporting products and services help increase sales and profits, reduce dependence on domestic markets and help stabilize seasonal fluctuations.

A variety of services are available to assist businesses with exporting. The programs have been established to help companies get started in exporting or to expand sales into new global markets.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Small Business Administration helps companies begin exporting with an online tool: “6 Steps to Begin Exporting” (www.export.gov/begin). The process starts with a self-assessment to help companies determine their readiness to succeed in international trade. The assessment is followed by tutorials on training and counseling programs; creating an export business plan; conducting market research; finding foreign buyers; and financing, insuring and mitigating risk of export operations. After completing the assessment, companies are referred to resources specific to their individual needs.

The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. They provides the following services: market research including country commercial guides, industry sector analyses and customized market research; international business matchmaking including company profiles and partner searches; consultation and foreign market advocacy; coordination of trade events including trade shows and trade missions and publication of the Commercial News USA export advertising catalog. For information and assistance from the U.S. Commercial Service, contact Patrick Hope at 815-316-2380, patrick.hope@trade.gov.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s offers financial and technical assistance through a grant from the SBA. DCEO’s State Trade and Export Promotion Program provides funding support for participation in multi-company foreign trade missions, individual foreign market sales, subscription services provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, trade show exhibits and other export promotion activities. Financial assistance can range from $1,500 for matchmaking/trade show reimbursement to $5,000 for travel cost reimbursement per company. To qualify, companies must meet certain criteria such as a minimum of $250,000 in annual revenues and demonstration of export readiness. For more information about the STEP Program, contact Luanne Mayorga at the Illinois International Trade Center at the College of DuPage, 630-942-3041, mayorga@cod.edu.

The Export Import Bank of the United States provides credit and insurance to finance and manage risk associated with international transactions. A guaranteed credit line may be secured to purchase finished products, pay for raw materials, supplies, labor and overhead, and cover standby letters of credit used as performance or bid bonds. The Ex-Im Bank's export credit insurance provides payment coverage for commercial risks (such as buyer default) and political risks (such as war). The insurance also enables exporters to sell on competitive "open account" terms, instead of requiring cash-in-advance or costly letters of credit. For information and assistance, contact the Ex-Im Bank Chicago Regional Office at 312-353-8081 or www.exim.gov.

• Paul Borek is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.

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