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"Entrepeneurs Going Global To Expand Markets, Contacts"
by Tom Ford
Published in Crain's Cleveland Business
Touring exotic locations like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing might be a great vacation for some, but it will be strictly business for some Northeast Ohioans come this fall.

Encouraged by figures that show Ohio companies export more than $500 million worth of products and services a year to the Peoples Republic, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and its World Trade Center Cleveland will lead a trade mission to China, Nov. 2-14. Currently, China is the state's sixth-largest market for exports.

``China is the number one potential market in the world right now," said David Yen, Asian regional manager for the World Trade Center Cleveland.

``And while it might be difficult for a small business to get noticed in this country, it can gain a great deal of visibility and business through a trip like this."

Mr. Yen said that while selling in the Far East might seem a far-fetched way for a small company looking to boost its business, trade missions like this one and a World Trade Center Cleveland-led trip to Britain earlier this year are ideally suited to help small business people learn about foreign markets and product needs and make valuable business contacts.

In Beijing, the Ohio travelers, most of whom will be from small businesses, will have the chance to meet with officials of China's government-controlled economy. The visit to Shanghai will allow a chance to talk one-on-one with leaders of China's main industrial, technical and financial communities. In Hong Kong, the Ohioans will be able to meet with officials of the former British crown colony, where significant opportunities exist to market Ohio goods and services in the wake of its return to Chinese control.

Mr. Yen added that Chinese markets are strong for the very products Northeast Ohio's small businesses produce, such as automotive parts, machine tools, plastic materials and resins, and industrial chemicals.

Indeed, one of the small business owners who went to Britain on the World Trade Center Cleveland trade mission last spring agreed it was invaluable to him as a business tool.

``I'm considering going to China, too," said Don Scipione, president of Acme Express Inc., a Cleveland-based manufacturer of transportation routing software.

``I think it would be a good way to size up the market in China for our product, which is aimed at setting up transportation routes for autocarriers," Mr. Scipione said.

Mr. Scipione said his trip to Britain resulted in the formation of some good contacts, which he expects to cement later this summer with another trip to the United Kingdom on his own.

During the first trip, Mr. Scipione said, he was able to identify companies that transport new cars to dealers and to pitch them on how his software can help their business. His return trip to Britain will feature meetings with several companies that expressed interest in using his product to track their shipments.

``I would hope to do the same in China, if I decide to go," Mr. Scipione said. "I would also probably stay longer and make a side trip to New Zealand on the way back, to get a feel for the markets there."

Although he said he would not be going on the China trip, John Rampe, president of the Torque Transmission division of Rampe Manufacturing Co., said the mission to Britain was useful. His 25-employee company in Fairport Harbor makes power transmission components.

``I didn't come back with any orders in hand," Mr. Rampe said. "But from the perspective of trying to sell in another country and culture, the trip was very productive. We want to establish a network of potential distributors who can take our products to the original equipment manufacturers in Europe. This was a good way to start."

Mr. Yen said before leaving on the China jaunt, the World Trade Center Cleveland will help participating companies define their strategies and perfect business protocol. He said he expects to escort representatives of about a dozen companies on the trip.

Mr. Yen noted that small businesses should not just focus solely on selling their products in China. They also should concentrate on recognizing and locating lower-cost suppliers and production partnerships, he said.

``China's role as a manufacturing engine for consumer and industrial products is well known," Mr. Yen said. "The U.S. purchases over $51 billion in products from China."

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