Expanding Exports

Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle

The Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle began working to boost exports from the region long before most other U.S. metropolitan areas grasped the idea. Founded in 1991, the alliance leads study missions annually to analyze the economic strategies of cities around the world, and it takes representatives from companies big and small on trade trips to pursue international opportunities. At home, the alliance hosts workshops offering practical advice to businesses on how to expand exports and has built a database of local suppliers for foreign buyers. The approach is integrated and comprehensive, making it a model for the nation.

Home Instead Senior Care

Home Instead Senior Care was founded in Omaha, Neb., in 1994 as an alternative to assisted living, offering meal preparation, light housekeeping, and companionship for the elderly. By the late 1990s, the company was ready to take its business abroad, with Japan as the first target. It was a move laden with cultural challenges, as Home Instead struggled to articulate to potential Japanese clients the unfamiliar concept of hiring outside caretakers for elderly family members. Ultimately, Home Instead unveiled a Japanese word—konpanyanshippu—to market its service, emblematic of its commitment and agility in expanding around the world. Today the franchise has 1000 offices in 16 countries and Puerto Rico.

UCLA Anderson Export Champions Program

Last year, Robert Spich, a business-school professor at the University of California (Los Angeles), and Carlos Valderrama from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce launched the Export Champions Program, designed to help Southern California companies break into foreign markets. In teams of five, M.B.A. students from UCLA and the University of Southern California are assigned to businesses to conduct extensive research on how the companies can go global. At the end of six months, the businesses receive a professional-quality export plan that costs $15,000—a fraction of what private-sector consultants would charge—and the students have notched hands-on business experience.

Cereal Ingredients

Based in Leavenworth, Kan., Cereal Ingredients is a small, privately held manufacturer of specialty ingredients with a big global footprint. The company produces food particulates—called Flav-R-Bites and Flav-R-Bursts—that add flavor, color, and texture to baked goods and cereals. The key to its growth has been diligence and creativity in customizing products for clients, creating signature characteristics adapted to local tastes. The particles are a big hit in Latin American countries; one of Cereal Ingredients’ biggest customers is Mexican manufacturing giant Grupo Bimbo, the producer of more than 7,000 goods, many of which owe their distinctive taste to Cereal Ingredients’ toppers.


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