It was American poet Walt Whitman who said, “A great city is that which has the greatest men and women.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s the people–their attitudes, convictions, work ethic and culture–that make each city unique. And just as great men and women have varying personalities and “drivers,” so do our nation’s cities. Some people are destined to be entrepreneurial, and so are some cities. Does one create the other? It’s not important–they seem to find one another. That’s the case with our pick for this year’s Most Entrepreneurial City for Global Trade, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Our special report on the Top 50 Cities for Global Trade is really two rankings in one. The overall ranking lists the 50 largest metropolitan areas by export volume. Lest that seem a tad stiff, we offer a second set of superlative rankings selected by the editors at Global Trade. These appear in the same order of their export contributions, but have a special call-out for their designated superlative.

For those cities not listed in the Top 50, your contribution is in no way diminished. Global trade takes all of us–in cities large and small–doing our best and making products that the world wants. Exporting is a very exciting endeavor that cannot only be very lucrative, it also has the added value of helping our nation earn much needed foreign exchange.

With this in mind, thank you for doing your part to help make your company strong and America a great exporting nation. And now, without further ado, enjoy the Top 50 Cities for Global Trade.

1. New York, New York

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA

$85.1 billion | Canada, China, Japan | Misc. Manufactured Commodities, Chemicals, Computer

The Big Apple’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg captured the world’s epicenter of finance, communication and culture’s essence: “If you want to start a business, create a new product or have a big idea, New York City is the place to be.” Its eye-popping numbers include 12 million tons of sea cargo, $16.1 billion in miscellaneous manufactured commodities, chemicals at $14.4 billion, and $6.6 billion worth of computers and electronics. The “miscellaneous” category includes NYC’s third-largest manufacturing sector, $4 billion worth of “bling”–diamonds headed overseas. To avoid sensory overload on NYC’s smorgasbord of attractions, try Lower Manhattan’s Ground Zero Memorial and the Customs House, home to the Indian Museum and NYC’s bankruptcy court. And remember our Super Bowl champs. Go Big Blue! –Marlene Piturro

2. Houston, Texas

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

$80.6 billion | Mexico, Canada, China | Chemicals, Petroleum and Coal Products, Machinery

Houston ranks ahead of Los Angeles and a mere $5 billion behind New York, despite having half and one-third the populations, respectively. True, this little global engine that could is powered by a lot of big boy industries and companies—Houston, we have a Halliburton—but its consistent ranking as a top city not only for doing business, but also in which to work and live, must lend to its success. –Steve Lowery

Best Proximity to Universities

3. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

$62.2 billion | Mexico, Canada, China | Computer & Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Misc. Manufactured Commodities

Think of L.A. and what comes to mind? Disneyland, Dodger baseball, Rodeo Drive and beach volleyball, right? And if you added the University of Souther California (USC) and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), you hit the mark. The Los Angeles metropolitan area boasts no less than a staggering 73 universities and colleges, making it our hands-down choice for Best Proximity to Universities. What has that to do with advancing global trade? In a word: inspiration. If we want trade to grow, we have to inspire the next generation of young tai-pans, and that is precisely what universities are doing these days. Take USC for example. They pay scant attention to the legacy applicants of their alumni, yet they scour the world for international students. Across town at Loyola Marymount University, students have their choice of study-abroad internships at foreign locales as diverse as Honduras, Ghana, Auckland or Bonn. Colleges are immersing students into global cultures and orienting them toward international careers. And nowhere is this being played out more than in the greater L.A. metro area. –Drew Lawler

Most Improved

4. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI

$44 billion | Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia | Transportation Equipment, Machinery, Computer and Electronic Products

The International Trade Administration’s report on the highest-volume exporters by metropolitan areas showed that Detroit exports exploded by 55 percent during 2009 and 2010, the best growth rate in the country according to the most recent data available. Detroit sends a whopping 71 percent of its exports to North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries, and—as expected—transportation equipment topped the list of the city’s exports, with $28.8 billion, or 66 percent of its $44 billion total export volume. The second spot was claimed by machinery with 9 percent. Respectable, but a footnote by comparison. Three of Michigan’s 20 Fortune 500 companies hail from Detroit, with General Motors ranking highest at the fifth spot on the prestigious list. Livonia adds another with TRW Automotive Holdings, which surely lends to the high percentage of the area’s auto exports. It’s also interesting to note that, despite being able to hit Canada with a stick thrown from Detroit, Mexico stands as Detroit’s leading export market, outpacing our northern neighbors by about $700 million. –Patrick Dooley

5. Miami, Florida

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

$35.9 billion | Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia | Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Machinery

The Magic City’s global deal-making is helped by the fact that its metro area is home to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States. Not surprisingly, Miami is categorized as an “Alpha” or “Global City” and considered a critical cog in the world economy. Much of the area’s trade is done with Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, which seems only fitting since Miami’s diverse population has earned it the nickname “Capital of Latin America.” –Steve Lowery

6. Seattle, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

$35.4 billion | China, Japan, Canada | Computer and Electronic Products; Fishing, Hunting, Trapping; Misc. Manufactured Commodities

Being one day closer to Asia than other U.S. ports and sending air cargo via polar route have fueled metro Seattle’s $35.4 billion export boom. It scores big with Asian traders: $5.2 billion went to China, $3.6 billion to Japan and $1.6 billion to South Korea. America’s top city for intellectual capital, computers and electronics head the export leader board with $2.9 billion. Its iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Fish Market entertain both natives and visitors. –Marlene Piturro

7. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI

$33.7 billion | Canada, Mexico, Germany | Chemicals, Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery

Perhaps it’s because Moody’s rated it as having the most balanced economy in the U.S., or maybe it has something to do with the Second City owning the second-largest labor pool in the country. Whatever the reason, Chicago and its surroundings are home to 12 Fortune Global 500 and 17 Financial Times 500 companies. A few years back, Naperville was named the second-best place to live in the United States by Money magazine, while a 2010 study rated it the Midwest’s wealthiest city. Coincidence? –Steve Lowery

8. San Jose, California

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

26.3 billion | Canada, South Korea, Mexico | Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery, Chemicals

Anchoring the Silicon Valley, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara’s strong showing in computer exports ($18.6 billion) comes as no surprise. In 2012, the area benefited from existing trade agreements, exporting $5.3 billion worth of goods to NAFTA and $183 million to CAFTA-DR. The area’s nearly two million residents are packed with engineers, technologists, managers and entrepreneurs, making it a major headquarters for technology companies. Just 40 miles from San Francisco, the area also has ready access to global shipping. –Mary Shacklett

9. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

$23.2 billion | Canada, China, Mexico | Crop Production, Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery

General Mills, 3M, Medtronic and Target help explain why Minnesota hosts 20 of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies. Its excellent educational and cultural opportunities offset long winters for more than 2.85 million residents. In the heartland, 27 percent of Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington’s exports were crops, but 13 percent were computer and electronics products, reflecting the area’s diversity. The Minneapolis metro area capitalizes on NAFTA and CAFTA-DR markets—with access made easy since it’s a major Midwest rail and air hub with Mississippi River shipping. –Mary Shacklett

10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

$22.7 billion | Canada, U.K., Mexico | Chemicals, Computer and Electronics, Transportation Equipment

The birthplace of the U.S. Constitution was once home to America’s busiest port; some 250 years later, Philadelphia remains in the top 10 U.S. metro areas by export volume. It’s home to a handful of Fortune 500 companies, with Comcast ranked highest at 49. Also interesting to note, the City of Brotherly Love is a top metropolitan exporter of “printed matter,” a fun historical parallel considering famous Philadelphian Ben Franklin’s legendary printing prowess. –Patrick Dooley

11. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

$22.5 billion | Mexico, Canada, China | Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Machinery

From the land that brought us J.R. and the Bass Brothers, we would expect the Greater Dallas-Fort Worth area to show big. What’s not to like about Dallas-Fort Worth? With superb cargo facilities at DFW, great rail service from BNSF and access to a plethora of interstates, it’s a logistic dream. Friday night lights, cowboy boots and line dancing at Billy Bob’s can make for a fun weekend, too. Go Frogs! –Drew Lawler

12. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH

$21.8 billion | Canada, Japan, China | Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery, Misc. Manufactured Products

Walk Boston’s 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to appreciate what forged America—and what spurs the area’s $21.8 billion in exports. With M.I.T. and Harvard’s intellectual capital and strong financial markets, there’s also a wealth of infrastructure to accommodate global traders. Undergirding this commercial powerhouse is a transportation infrastructure hubbing six New England states. A deep water port, three interstates, Amtrak and Conrail railroads, and busy Logan Airport keep Beantown metro moving. –Marlene Piturro

13. San Francisco, California

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA

$21.4 billion | Canada, Japan, China | Computer and Electronic Products, Chemicals, Machinery

As the western port for a major technology industry, 31 percent of the San Francisco metro area’s exports are technology-related. The area is well positioned to do business with growing Asian consumer markets and is a major metro hub with more than 4.3 million residents. The big surprise is that 19 percent of exports went to NAFTA countries. San Francisco is established as a major logistics center for warehousing, highway and ocean access, air shipping and freight forwarding. –Mary Shacklett

14. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Caguas, Guaynabo, PR

$20.4 billion | the Netherlands, U.K., Belgium | Chemicals, Misc. Manufactured Commodities | Computer and Electronic Products

U.S. Duty-free access and tax incentives have contributed to Puerto Rico’s export strength since the 1950s, but today the area’s major markets are the Netherlands ($2.5 billion), the U.K. ($1.3 billion) and France ($1.1 billion). Chemicals comprise 87 percent of exports. Puerto Rico’s Europe-facing location also facilitates logistics. San Juan is a pleasant area to do business in, with tourist such attractions as Old San Juan, the Bacardi factory and the tropical beaches. –Mary Shacklett

15. Portland, Oregon

Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA

$18.5 billion | China, Malaysia, Mexico | Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Crop Production

Often recognized as the greenest U.S. city, Portland is a top exporter of wood products, accounting for $301 million of its $18.5 billion export volume. There’s no doubting Portland’s vibrancy—named the City of Roses, known for a trendy music scene and Mecca for craft breweries. It’s home to the Port of Portland and the University of Oregon, with its football coach so successful he’ll be unanimously elected mayor upon retirement and ride the shoulders of every Portlander to his inauguration. –Patrick Dooley

Best Cost Structure

16. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN

$17.6 billion | Canada, Mexico, U.K. | Transportation Equipment, Chemicals, Machinery

Cincinnati’s low rates for facility leasing, transportation and property taxes contribute to its ranking as the least-costly metropolitan area for business in the U.S. The 2012 KPMG study—which rates metro areas with populations in excess two million people—reports Cincinnati has a business cost index of 95.9, or 4.1 percent under the U.S. national baseline of 100. The large metropolitan area provides companies with a skilled workforce of more than 1.6 million and finds more than 300 universities and colleges within a 200-mile radius. Cincinnati also offers proximity to consumers, suppliers and competitors, along with access to major ports on the Ohio River, five airports and three interstate highways. Ten Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Cincinnati, with Kroger, Procter & Gamble and Macy’s Inc. counted among the most notable. The city is home to more than 1,000 area firms that contribute to Cincinnati’s position as an international trade center and generate approximately $6.7 billion in sales to markets outside the U.S. annually. –Kendra Phares

Best Quality of Life

17. San Diego, California

San Diego, CA

$16.5 billion | Mexico, India, China | Misc. Manufactured Commodities, Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery

San Diego thrives in its year-round business of importing sunshine and exporting smiles. Home to an authorized Free Trade Zone, excellent port and the most heavily traded border in the world, there’s nothing not to love about doing business in “America’s Finest City.” Yet it’s the quality of life that we admire most. San Diego’s weather has been ranked as best in the nation and second in the world—meaning plenty of perfect days for taking in a Chargers or Padres game. According to San Diego’s Economic Development Division, the city has three regional parks, 190 community parks, seven open-space parks, 26 shoreline parks, and 25 miles of ocean and bay beaches. It’s all here—Sea World, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park, shopping, dining, museums, and surfing. San Diego remains in the top 10 of our nation’s safest cities despite a population of 1.3 million. There are more than 25 hospitals, proximity to dozens of colleges and universities and 34 libraries. –Patrick Dooley

18. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA

$15 billion | Canada, Mexico, Singapore | Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery

High energy meets Southern hospitality in this booming metropolis that hosted 10,320 Olympians in 1996. Busy Hartsfield International Airport, three interstates and connections to Savannah’s port brought the athletes in—and they sent $15 billion of exports out in 2010. With a low cost of doing business and a culture that spans from upscale Buckhead boutiques to the Varsity’s gut-busting chili dogs, Atlanta’s hard to beat as headquarters for an international exporter. –Marlene Piturro

19. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA

$14 billion | China, Singapore, the Netherlands | Petroleum and Coal Products, Crop Production, Food and Kindred Products

In one of history’s great international trade deals, Thomas Jefferson bought (most of) Louisiana (and much more) from Napoleon in 1803 for $11.25 million and cancellation of $18 million in debts, securing access to the port of New Orleans and usage of the Mississippi River. Over 200 years later, New Orleans is a top American exporter, and one of the fastest-growing for merchandise exports between 2009 and 2010 with growth of over 38 percent. –Patrick Dooley

20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, PA

$12.2 billion | Canada, China, Brazil | Mining (except Oil and Gas), Primary Metal Manufacturing, Misc. Manufactured Commodities

Pittsburgh is truly one of the recent feel-good American export stories, having increased merchandise exports by 46 percent between 2009 and 2010. This is all the more impressive considering the Steel City no longer deals in steel. In fact, there is not a single steel mill in the city itself. Its redirection and recovery are due to a wide-ranging economic sector that spans from mining to technology, and finds major trade partners in Asia, Europe, South America and Canada. –Steve Lowery

21. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, MO-IL

$11.2 billion | Canada, China, Mexico | Chemicals, Transportation Equipment, Food and Kindred Products

Mark Twain’s storied river town (now more than 2.8 million residents strong) earned its reputation as a central Midwestern hub on the Mississippi River. It continues to be a logistics haven with great water access. Chemicals ($2.4 billion) followed by transportation equipment ($1.3 billion) are St. Louis’ leading exports. Top export destinations are Canada ($1.8 billion), China ($1.3 billion) and Mexico ($1.1 billion). – Mary Shacklett

22. Peoria, Illinois

Peoria, IL

$11.1 billion | Chile, Canada, Brazil | Machinery, Fabricated Metal Products, Chemicals

This All-American City’s exports grew 42 percent from 2009 to 2010, boosted by being the nation’s No. 1 exporter of heavy machinery with a value of $8.4 billion shipped, or 76 percent of its total exports. Although battered by Illinois’ budget troubles and tax hikes, Peoria’s Heartland Partnership has answered with TransPORT, a 95-mile transport hub along the Illinois River. City amenities, hiking trails, wineries, paddleboats and a Christmas Festival of Lights make life in the Heartland go down easy. –Marlene Piturro

23. Washington, D.C.

Washington, Alexandria, Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV

$11.1 billion | U.K., Singapore, Taiwan | Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products, Fabricated Metal Products

The metro area surrounding the nation’s capital boasts more than 5.5 million residents and supports major export activity in transportation equipment ($3.4 billion), computer and electronic products ($2.4 billion), fabricated metal products ($1.3 billion) and chemicals ($1.3 billion). The area is an East Coast port with strong air, sea and rail/trucking access. The U.K. is a major export market ($1.1 billion). A surprise export market is Singapore ($1 billion), a Pacific port. –Mary Shacklett

Best Logistics Infrastructure

24. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, TN-MS-AR

$11.1 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Misc. Manufactured Products, Computer and Electronic Products, Paper

Three interstate highways, two major large-volume railroad crossings at the Mississippi River—with freight running both east-west and north-south—the second-busiest inland port in the U.S., plus four railroad and two highway bridges connecting adjacent states across the Great Mississippi, all amount to Memphis as our pick for Best Logistics Infrastructure. There’s a reason FedEx established its global “Super Hub” at Memphis’ International Airport. Freight lines running through Memphis include BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern, connecting such major cities as Dallas, Houston, Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Though it’s well connected for railway, it was the city’s natural high position along the Mississippi that established it as an economic force, free of flood concerns. Memphis aptly took its name from an Egyptian capital along the Nile River when it was founded in 1819 in part by “Old Hickory” himself, Andrew Jackson. At various points in its history, Memphis has been the world’s leading market for cotton, hardwood lumber and, believe it or not, mules. –Patrick Dooley

25. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

$10.7 billion | India, Hong Kong, Canada | Primary Metal Manufacturing, Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment

With its proximity to steel resources, there’s little surprise that Salt Lake City’s top export is metal-related. Chemical products rank fifth on the city’s list of exports, no doubt led by its sole Fortune 500 company, Huntsman Corporation (now famous for its heir, Jon Huntsman Jr., himself having been exported to China on diplomatic duty). SLC was another of America’s fastest-growing exporters between 2009 and 2010, enjoying a 35 percent boom during that period. –Patrick Dooley

26. El Paso, Texas

El Paso, TX

$10.3 billion | Mexico, Brazil, Honduras | Computer and Electronic Products, Electrical Equipment, Primary Metal Manufacturing

Given its location on the Mexican border, it’s not surprising that El Paso’s largest trade partner is Mexico by a wide margin. The $7.9 billion of business the city does with its neighbor to the south makes up 77 percent of its total exports. Fun fact: Due to Texas’ size, El Paso is actually closer to state capitals in four other states—Arizona (Phoenix), New Mexico (Santa Fe), Chihuahua (Chihuahua) and Sonora (Hermosillo)—than it is to the Texan capital of Austin. –Steve Lowery

27. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH

$10.3 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Chemicals, Machinery, Computer and Electronic Products

It should be counted as an achievement that Cleveland’s third largest export category belongs to computer and electronic products, given the city’s focus on attracting tech companies and partnerships. Cleveland State University has also worked to build this sector by helping their research get into the hands of Cleveland-based companies, and even hiring a vice president for Economic Development to expand the local economy with the help of CSU’s resources. –Patrick Dooley

King of the Hill

28. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis-Carmel, IN

$9.4 billion | Canada, Germany, Mexico | Chemicals, Transportation, Computer and Electronic Products

Indianapolis is our pick for the King of the Hill due to its strong showing in all categories. There’s a reason the largest Indianapolis employment sector is manufacturing. Logistically, there’s plenty of access to the worldwide marketplace. Indianapolis International Airport is a registered Free Trade Zone, and the city claims three ports, five rail lines including Norfolk Southern and CSX, and five major interstate highways. Indianapolis can also claim the lowest use and sales tax in the Midwest and competitive utility rates. Dozens of colleges are within a few hours—Purdue, Ball State, Butler (and many others) are in town, and Notre Dame is in state with Mendoza College of Business, ranked No. 1 by Bloomberg Business as Best Undergraduate Business School for three consecutive years (Go Irish!). It’s also a great place to live, with four distinctly beautiful seasons, several museums, theaters, parks, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pacers and Colts—all helping the Circle City rank among America’s best for our nation’s exporters. –Patrick Dooley

29. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

$9.3 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Machinery

Seven Fortune 500 companies hail from Phoenix, with the electronics corporation Avnet helping to keep computer and electronic products the city’s leading export. Phoenix is also home to one of Intel’s largest sites, employing some 10,000 in the chip manufacturing business. The city also affords exporters quick access to Sky Harbor International Airport, the 10th busiest in the United States, and 24th in the world. –Patrick Dooley

30. Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT

$9.3 billion | China, Canada, Mexico | Chemicals, Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products

Claiming 46.9 percent of Connecticut’s exports, the Bridgeport metro area sends $1.8 billion worth of chemicals, $1.3 billion in transportation equipment and $677 million in computers and electronics to the world. All three cities access I-95, the 1,925 mile East Coast highway spanning Maine to Florida. The cities also hug the Long Island Sound, offering maritime diversions such as Norwalk’s Aquarium, tall ships and the annual Oyster Festival. –Marlene Piturro

Most Likely to Succeed

31. Austin, Texas

Austin-Round Rock, TX

$8.9 billion | Taiwan, China, Mexico | Computer and Electronic Products, Paper, Transportation Equipment

Some sober advice: When it comes to business-friendliness, don’t mess with Texas. Austin is our pick for Most Likely to Succeed because of its low-tax structure, key incentives and record for growth. Texas has no corporate income tax or individual income tax, and businesses receive tax breaks both for hiring and providing healthcare. “Economically distressed” areas receive some measure of tax refund, and tax exemptions are available for manufacturers, according to the Texas Economic Development Division. The Milken Institute ranked Austin third among America’s 200 largest cities in 2011 for job growth, and 14th for wages and salary growth over a five-year period. Forbes also ranked Austin the No. 1 metropolitan area among all big cities for jobs in 2012. Austin’s tech boom competes with Silicon Valley’s, and the area offers a lower cost of living. The sector attracts bright young minds who love Austin’s eclectic downtown area and one of America’s largest music festivals, SXSW. It’s what you’d expect from the Live Music Capital of the World. –Patrick Dooley

Best-Kept Secret

32. Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, SC

$8.7 billion | China, Mexico, U.K. | Machinery, Plastics and Rubber Products, Computer and Electronic Products

Is Greenville really the best kept secret? Well, sure. A quick run down most of the top 50 metro areas finds many of the usual suspects, and of the pleasant surprises, we think this South Carolina city sits atop the heap in attractiveness for a manufacturer. Plenty of universities are within proximity, most notably Clemson and the University of South Carolina, each with strong MBA programs. Shippers have access to three interstate highways and three freight lines, including CSX and Norfolk Southern. There are five ports that can be reached within hours—Port Charleston, Port of Savannah, Port Royal, Port of Georgetown and Port of Wilmington. The city provides special assistance for shippers, including a manufacturer’s roundtable that serves to plug members into a support community. The local chamber offers a variety of helpful reports and surveys, complimentary Certificates of Origin for exporters shipping to applicable countries, and other discounted programs for talent recruitment and leadership development. –Patrick Dooley

33. Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT

$7.9 billion | Germany, Canada, China | Transportation Equipment, Electrical Equipment, Fabricated Metal Products

As you might expect of a city founded in 1637, Hartford has gone through its share of economic incarnations. Best known as a center for the insurance industry, Hartford holds its own in such palpable industries as transportation and electrical equipment and metal products. It held its own so well that, according to the Brookings Institute, Hartford has the highest GDP per capita in the world at $75,086. –Steve Lowery

Best Incentives

34. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI

Canada, Mexico, China | Machinery, Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment

Milwaukee is our pick for Best Incentives because it caters to new start-ups and manufacturers, and because start-ups are our pick for Most Likely to Search For Best Incentives. Entrepreneur magazine ranked Milwaukee as one of the “hottest” urban areas for entrepreneurs, and as Choose Milwaukee points out, 85 percent of the area’s businesses have fewer than 25 employees. Additionally, the BizStarts Milwaukee program helps support new start-ups with such necessities as early-stage funding. To a large degree, Milwaukee’s shippers benefit from Wisconsin’s state-level commitment to manufacturing. America’s Dairyland provides various tax exemptions for manufacturing machinery, equipment and other materials, and tax credits and incentives are awarded for relocation, job creation, dairy manufacturing and research expenditures. The state has about a dozen business programs aimed at helping businesses get started; among them are the Technology Development Fund, Industrial Revenue Bonds and “BEST,” a program which helps recoup employee training costs. –Patrick Dooley

35. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, MO-KS

$7.4 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Crop Production, Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products

Deep in the Midwest farm belt, Kansas City’s leading export is crop products ($2.3 billion), followed by transportation equipment ($2 billion). Its leading export customer is Canada ($2.5 billion). Kansas City is also home to the Negro League Hall of Fame and to some of the best steakhouses in the country. It is located on Interstates 70 and 35, making east-west and north-south access easy. KC is also a major rail hub that hosts an international airport. –Mary Shacklett

36. Tampa, Florida

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

$6.6 billion | Mexico, Canada, Brazil | Computer and Electronic Products, Chemicals, Machinery

With St. Pete’s beach voted No. 1 by travelers to Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast, the Greater Tampa area naturally attracts exporters. Boasting $6.6 billion in exports, Tampa’s metro area has easy market access via air, sea and interstates. Close to South America, 50 percent of its exports flow to NAFTA and CAFTA countries. Tampa’s Ybor City, with its historical Cuban district, is the place for a Cuban sandwich—spicy meats, Swiss cheese and pickles. Caramba! –Marlene Piturro

37. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, TX

$6.4 billion | Mexico, Canada, Brazil | Transportation Equipment, Machinery, Computer and Electronic Products

Just the name “San Antonio” conjures images of rough men herding cattle. We probably have the old Pace Picante sauce commercials to blame (“This stuff’s made in… New York City!”), but it’s little wonder that this Texas city is one of the nation’s top exporters of leather and allied products—and, we assume, salsa. More surprisingly, San Antonio is one of the few Top 50 U.S. Cities for Global Trade that can count Brazil among its top three export markets. Its port has more than 7.7 million square feet for its customer population, with a large number of aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. –Patrick Dooley

38. Riverside, California

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

$6.2 billion | Canada, Mexico, Japan | Misc. Manufactured Commodities, Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment

Riverside has been very aggressive in its pursuit of international trade. In fact, of the county’s 28 cities, 20 are located in foreign trade zones (FTZ), which provide duty-free treatment to goods processed for foreign trade. A prime example of the FTZ’s benefit is illustrated by shoe manufacturer Skechers, which has a 1.8 million-square-foot headquarters and distribution center in Moreno Valley and stands to save more than $3 million each year by being located in a FTZ. –Steve Lowery

39. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Jefferson County KY-IN

$6.2 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Transportation Equipment, Chemicals, Computer and Electronic Products

Located in bluegrass and horse country (it is home to the Kentucky Derby), Louisville exports $1.6 billion of transportation equipment and $1.3 billion worth of chemicals, which makes up nearly half of all its exports. Canada is the leading trading partner ($2.4 billion), followed by Mexico ($522 million) and China ($356 million). Louisville is graced with excellent access to Great Lakes, the East Coast and southern ports. –Mary Shacklett

40. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, New Bedford, Fall River, RI-MA

$5.8 billion | U.K., Canada, Switzerland

A Northeast U.S. seaport area with excellent logistics, the Providence metro area has a history of shipbuilding and exports $153 million of fishing, hunting and trapping gear annually. However, the leading export by far is manufactured metal (43 percent). The U.K. is the area’s leading export partner (37 percent) followed by Canada (13 percent).When logistics and manufacturing workers aren’t working, you might find them at the Newport Jazz Festival—a stone’s throw away in Newport, RI. –Mary Shacklett

41. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN

$5.7 billion | Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia | Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products, Electrical Equipment

The success of Nashville early in its existence was in large part due to its river and railroad access, and today the city enjoys the added benefit of a network of colleges and universities. Nashville experienced economic booms following the Civil War, in the 1970s, again in the 1990s, and remains an exporting force today via traditional products. Nashville is one of the nation’s top exporters of textiles and fabrics, plastics and rubber, printed matter, and forestry and logging. Classically American, we must say. –Patrick Dooley

42. Wichita, Kansas

Wichita, KS

$5.5 billion | Canada, Mexico, Brazil | Transportation Equipment, Chemicals, Food and Kindred Products

There are 21 aircraft manufacturers (including Boeing and Cessna) in Wichita and a wealth of aerospace engineering/manufacturing talent. It’s small wonder that $1.8 billion of Wichita’s exports are transportation equipment. Leading export markets are Brazil ($310 million) and the U.K. ($269 million). Proximate to the farm belt ($400 million in exports) and the oil fields ($53 million in exports), Wichita is also on the I-35 corridor. Wichita’s Kansas Aviation Museum showcases the area’s rich aviation history.–Mary Shacklett

Most Entrepreneurial

43. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC

$5.4 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Machinery, Transportation Equipment, Chemicals

In the past decade, Charlotte has seen greater than 800 new firms established in a given year three times, according to a study by the Charlotte Chamber of Economic Development. The years between 2002 and 2011 accumulated nearly 7,000 new firms, with more than 57,000 created jobs. The Charlotte area makes a strong case for Best Incentives as well, with electric and gas utility discounts, fast-track permitting, a handful of available grants and plenty more. There’s great support for an entrepreneur, with the McColl School of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, CPCC Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business & Technology Development Center each having a range of programs aimed at helping new start-ups and the next generation of business leaders. Assistance is also available for opening foreign markets through these and other organizations. –Patrick Dooley

44. Laredo, Texas

Laredo, TX

$5.3 billion | Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands | Computer and Electronic Products, Transportation Equipment, Food and Kindred Products

Few areas benefited as much from the passage of the NAFTA as Laredo. Not only do more than 91 percent of its exports go to NAFTA members, the huge majority of that heads toward neighbor Mexico. And Laredo benefits even when the goods aren’t its own; more than 47 percent of U.S. international trade headed for Mexico and more than 36 percent of Mexican international trade crosses through the Laredo port of entry. –Steve Lowery

45. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore-Towson, MD

$5.2 billion | Canada, Mexico, Japan | Transportation Equipment, Chemicals, Computer and Electronic Products

Home to the Baltimore Ravens and Edgar Allan Poe, the area until recently experienced tax and regulatory woes scarier than The Raven. However, the last two years showed double digit export growth and 40,000 direct new jobs. Transportation equipment valued at $1.1 billion, chemicals at $757 million, and computers and electronic equipment’s $709 million led the way in exports to Canada ($1.0 billion), Mexico ($341 million) and Japan ($204 million). For relaxation, visit Baltimore Harbor for its microbreweries and the best crab cakes anywhere. –Marlene Piturro

46. Rochester, New York

Rochester, NY

$5.1 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Chemicals, Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery

This Erie Canal boomtown in New York’s Finger Lakes boasts big city culture courtesy of the Eastman School of Music, plentiful intellectual capital, strong high-tech job growth and affordable housing. Rochester’s exports account for 7 percent of New York’s total. Top trading partners are Canada at 23 percent, followed by Mexico’s 11 percent and China at 10 percent. Kick back at area wineries or visit the Rochester and Genessee Valley Railroad Museum for fun. –Marlene Piturro

47. Denver, Colorado

Denver, Aurora, CO

$5.0 billion | Canada, Mexico, China | Computer and Electronic Products, Machinery, Food and Kindred Products

Anyone who is observant of geography, or old reruns of Dynasty, knows that Denver’s proximity to the Rockies makes it a gold mine for, well, mines and petroleum and such. But even gold, silver and, yes, oil go through their booms and busts, leading the city to diversify so that such non-mountainous products as computer and electronic products ($526 million) and food and kindred products ($343 million) now rank as its major exports. –Steve Lowery

48. Davenport, Iowa

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL

$4.8 billion | Canada, Mexico, Brazil | Machinery, Transportation Equipment, Fabricated Metal Products

Straddling the mighty Mississippi River, the Davenport metro area spans two states. Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa join with Illinois’ Moline and Rock Island to form the “Quad Cities.” Metro Davenport’s exports recently leapt 35 percent. Home to heavy agricultural machinery manufacturing, 76 percent of its exports ($3.6 billion) are machinery. For work and play, Davenport’s River Renaissance has a music history center, the Figge Art Museum and an agriculture-tech venture capital campus. –Marlene Piturro

49. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, VA

$4.6 billion | Canada, China, Mexico | Chemicals, Paper, Mining (Except Oil and Gas)

With men like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Robert E. Lee, perhaps Richmond’s greatest export has been History. Richmond is currently home to five Fortune 500 companies, and 11 Fortune 1000 companies. Interesting fact: 55 percent of America’s consumers are within a two-day truck drive of the city. It’s a testament to Richmond’s geographical strength that the city reclaimed its economic power after the British set it ablaze in 1781 and again when Union troops leveled it during the Civil War. –Patrick Dooley

50. Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, IL

(No details provided)

This may not be the largest metro area on the list—just 114,749—but Decatur has hosted its share of heavy hitters. Abraham Lincoln made Decatur his first Illinois home and location of his first political speech, and city was the original home of the Chicago Bears from 1919 to 1920. Both Lincoln and the Bears left to pursue further success. Fortunately for the local economy, such global powerhouses as Caterpillar and agricultural behemoth Archer Daniels Midland have stuck around. –Steve Lowery


The Top 50 Cities for Global Trade methodology is a subjective and objective hybrid. There are two rankings incorporated into this report: superlative rankings and export volume rankings. The superlative rankings, such as Most Entrepreneurial City or Best Cost Structure, were chosen by the Global Trade editorial team. We analyzed a host of materials and reports, many of which were unique to one particular category. So while one could make the case that the superlative categories are in fact objective, subjectivity also played a role.

For example, many of the qualities that led us to name Charlotte as “Most Entrepreneurial” could have also been used to name Charlotte to another superlative category, hence the full disclosure that the superlative rankings are both subjective and objective in nature. But that’s what makes them fun reading. Can anyone really say that Miss Texas is more qualified to be Miss America over Miss Nebraska? In the end, the judges just have their opinions.

Regarding the rankings by export volume, we are calling this report the Top 50 Cities for Global Trade for ease of identification. The rankings are based on the export volumes of the greater metropolitan area surrounding the lead city. In some case the greater metropolitan area can encompass different counties, even different states.

Rankings are based on total export volume as compiled by the International Trade Administration, which lists a complete analysis of the methodology employed by the ITA on their website at

HOW TO: Build Your International Business Network Online – Part I of the International Business Series

Last week, I have been asked by UPS to speak at their International Forum, which will take place on October 4th in New York. The Forum will be an invitation only event for  group of company owners and executives seeking to enter or expand their international business. As part of the pre Forum activities, we will be presenting and International Business Series – a collection of posts, which deal specifically with HOW TO issues to help our readers acquire or perfect, their cross-border business skills.

The International Business Series  is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

Sarah Kesslerby 33.Mashable Business



International business requires an international network. But, unless you own a private jet, there are obvious obstacles to networking in person with people who live in other countries.

Thankfully, the web is truly worldwide, and these obstacles can be easily overcome with a little online networking and social interaction. We asked people who have successfully accumulated large online international networks about their recommendations for getting started. This is what they had to say.

Add your own tips for building an international professional network via the web in the comments below.

1. Join International Groups and Networks

Participating in online discussions that include international voices is a primary way to make connections and expand your international network. E-mail lists, online groups, and networking sites are easy ways for getting involved in these discussions.

Shel Horowitz, a publishing consultant who started an international business ethics pledge that includes signers from more than 30 countries, says he’s met most of his international contacts through online discussions.

“Over a period of time, people exchange information, answer questions, pontificate on whatever is going on in the publishing world,” he says. “And not only did I develop an international network of friends and colleagues through this, but also a considerably greater expertise in the publishing consulting I do.”

What kind of discussions you join will depend upon what your networking goals are. “You have to find a niche and decide who you want to meet,” says Vinil Ramdev , an India-based consultant for entrepreneurs. “Because if you’re an actor and you’re only meeting entrepreneurs, that’s not going to help.”

Social networking sites like LinkedIn or community platforms like host discussions that you can search by interest, meaning you can find relevant international topics with the right search terms. E-mail lists from your alma mater, professional societies, and any organizations you belong to most likely have international members, as well. If you’re looking specifically to meet international contacts, however, you might also consider:

  • Viadeo: Like LinkedIn, but oriented for European business
  • An invite-only business networking platform for China
  • A Small World: Another invite-only networking site that links members with other members, discussions, and events related to their interests
  • Internations: Connect with expats living around the world. Membership is invitation-based, but you can request an invitation, so you don’t actually need to know a member.
  • Xing: Like LinkedIn, but has a stronger presence in Europe
  • Sandbox Network : Designed for the most influential people under age 30, this by-application-only social network has “ambassadors” in more than 20 cities.
  • MeetingWave: This site allows you to search for networking events and meetings by interest and location. Look for international networking events near you.
  • GeeksOnaPlane: Promotes cultural exchange through technology and entrepreneurship. You can request an invite to join the group on their international travels.
  • Orkut: This is Google’s social networking site, which is quite popular in Brazil and India. You can target your posts by groups of friends, such as “Work Buddies” or “International Contacts.” All you have to do is create and name a category of contacts and add people. This feature allows you to keep your work and personal lives separate.

You may have noticed that some of these networks are invite only. But you should be encouraged, not intimidated, by the exclusivity, says Severin Jan Ruegger, the co-founder of the Sandbox Network.

“With LinkedIn or Facebook anybody can join. And I don’t dispute that they’re helpful in certain situations,” he says. “But sometimes there is a lack of trust. And in any relationship there has to be some trust.” In Ruegger’s experience, people are more approachable, helpful and willing to talk to him in invite-only networks.

If you’re looking for an invite, Rawn Shah, the author of Social Networking for Business and a member of the Social Software Enablement Team at IBM, suggests that you check your existing connections to see if they are members of the group you want to join. Some sites, like Sandbox, have application-like invitation processes, in which case you can just apply.

Another option is to create your own e-mail list or group, which is what Horowitz did when the e-mail list he was on stopped meeting his needs.

“I just announced to that list that I was starting another list and that this was what was going to be different, and a critical mass signed up very quickly,” he says.

2. Don’t Forget About the Classics

While targeting international networks and groups is effective, networks that you may already belong to, like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, can also be extremely helpful if leveraged properly. In fact, Horowitz says his first international speaking gig came from LinkedIn.

Ramdev uses these networks to stay in touch with people after he has met them online, at a conference, in a webinar, or by commenting on a blog. “E-mail is very hard to send because it’s one on one,” he says. “If I update my Facebook status, though, I have 30 or 40 people commenting on it.”

It’s important not to go overboard while inviting people to your network on these platforms, however. “More connections doesn’t necessarily mean better, stronger relationships that help you in business,” he says. “Work first on interacting on a regular pace with your peers in the group through the discussion.”

Shah also recommends limiting the number of groups you’re involved in on sites like LinkedIn as well: “You want a productive relationship, which means that you should interact with others in the group for some time (at least a few weeks), and decide for yourself if it is worth staying in,” he says. “This means that it will take time to form your relationships in each group. The effort is not wasted, however, if you decide not to stay. It gives you perspective into different views and mindsets. Also if you look across groups, you might find the same names appearing repeatedly as they post. They may be worth getting to know.”

It’s also worth understanding that different networking sites are popular in different countries. The above mapuses data from Alexa and Google to show which sites are the most popular in each country.

3. Attend International Conferences and Webinars Online

Luckily, there are a lot of webinars and live-streamed conferences out there. Seek out these opportunities to connect with industry professionals, and when you attend, make sure you stick around for conversation. After you physically attend a conference or seminar, you generally make small talk with your fellow attendees and the host after it ends, right? There’s no reason you can’t do that online as well.

“It’s a little more difficult obviously, however, the approach is very similar to offline,” says Ruegger. “You might also do that by chatting or sending a quick e-mail to follow up. It can also be personal. It doesn’t have to be very stiff and business-like. Something that makes you approachable, that makes you nice.”

Shah suggests taking advantage of the bio and contact information that is usually posted for each speaker by making contact after the seminar. It’s also helpful to chat with the group in the group space during the webinar or contact individuals about a comment they made or a question they asked during the webinar.

Another great way to stay in touch with your online international contacts is to invite them to your own webinar, which you can create using tools like Supercool School.

4. Find a Way to Interact With Your Contacts

Collecting contacts internationally isn’t merely a matter of adding connections to your social sites. If you want a valuable international network, you’ll need to stay in touch.

Ruegger’s approach is to be as helpful as possible. “Send opportunities, links — anything that you know these people would value. Send it over, give a contact, introduce people, and bring people together,” he says. “[It’s] just like offline. Introduce people to each other. All these interactions over time will build you a network that needs to be nurtured.”

Ramdev stays in touch with his network, which is mostly composed of entrepreneurs, by linking to information that will be relevant to them on his Twitter feed

5. Make Your Web Presence Internationally Friendly

When Horowitz started his first web page in 1996, he took very seriously the phrase “world wide web.” His page included an introduction that was translated in a number of languages and apologized for an inability to translate the rest of the page.

Today, he is able to use a WordPress plug-in called Global Translator that automatically translates his site into 48 different languages.

Horowitz also started the International Association of Earth-Conscious Marketers and recommends using the word “international” in any discussion groups or e-mail threads you start. “Having the word ‘international’ in print says, ‘you are welcome, we want your input,’” he says.

6. Understand How Networking Differs in Other Cultures

“There are significant differences in culture that alter the way you network,” says Ruegger, who has spent time living in China and several European countries. “American people have a tendency to understand networking and its purpose as possibly useful, but it’s much harder on an Asian continent.”

Ruegger says the best way to learn about networking in other cultures is to live there. For instance, while living in China he learned that it’s not culturally appropriate to criticize people or make suggestions in a public setting like a forum.

Obviously, moving to another country isn’t an option for everybody. But you can still take cultural differences into account. “Even though it may be virtual, people instinctively transfer the work behaviors, norms and expectations from the physical world into the online world,” Shah says. “There are many books on working with international cultures which would be a good start. Search Google or Amazon for “Doing business in [country].”

You can also use a site like Forrester Research to learn about how people use social media in whatever country you wish to target.

Shah says one thing to keep in mind is that in some cultures, personal and business networking is strictly separate. Therefore, it might be advisable to exclude your beach photos from profiles that you plan to use for international business networking.

7. Meet Online Contacts in Person Whenever Possible

It’s great to have online contacts, but offline relationships are often easier to maintain. If you happen to be in the area of an online contact, ask to meet them in person.

“You actually try to physically meet the people who you met online … which then makes them much stronger connections in your general network …” Reugger says.

Series supported by UPS

The International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

There’s no level playing field underground

Ex-Im boss says American companies can compete, just not against countries

By: Peter Morton in Washington From: Business without Borders

One of the world’s largest government-supported export development agencies has come out swinging, saying that competing agencies in developed and developing countries are moving underground to support their own domestic companies.








Fred Hochberg, president of the
U.S. Export-Import Bank

In a recent speech Fred Hochberg, president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, said government-supported financing has recently become a game of “a wink and a nod — finance now for future benefits.”

“Export finance is increasingly like the Wild West, where rules are loosely followed, if at all,” he told the Center for American Progress in a speech entitled “A Wake-Up Call on American Competitiveness.”

American companies have what it takes to win in the global economy, Hochberg said. “But they can’t go head to head with another country bringing all kinds of financing resources – both visible and hidden – to support its own companies.”

Hochberg, who had struggled earlier this year to get refinancing from a skeptical Congress, despite providing $33 billion last year in export financing to support more than 3,600 American companies, said the profound world economic downturn has altered export financing.

“The international export finance landscape is changing dramatically and not in ways that necessarily benefit the United States,” he said, noting there are more than 60 export credit agencies (ECAs) around the world offering a wide variety of incentives to their domestic industries. And all of them are trying to expand their footprint and increase exports.

In an unusual move, the U.S. Export-Import Bank sent analysts to several markets, including Brazil, India, China and Mexico. “We found a stunning increase in the amount of ECA financing that is happening underground and in the dark,” he said.

“We found increased use of unregulated OECD programs, like direct investment and untied financing, as well as the growing presence of ECAs from Brazil, India and China, which are not part of the current export credit guidelines,” he said.

Some of the 34 OECD-member countries were also stretching the rules, Hochberg said. He specifically pointed to Canada – the United States’ largest trading partner, and Japan, also a key trade ally.

“Like when Canada’s export credit agency delivered a $100-million loan to Colombia’s Ecopetrol – with the understanding that Canadian companies will get a first look in future investment and procurement decisions,” Hochberg said in his speech.

“Or when Japan’s ECA delivered $200 million to India to finance clean energy projects – with the expectation that more Japanese technologies will eventually be used by India,” he added.

Essentially, government-supported ECAs support their national exporters by providing credit to foreign buyers. The OECD rules, such as linking credit to a purchasing deal, are intended to level the playing field, so exporters can compete on price and quality versus favorable financial terms.

For its part, the Ottawa-based Export Development Corporation (EDC) insisted that while it does not usually respond to political rhetoric, it insisted it follows all the lending rules.

“EDC’s job is to help improve Canada’s trade performance, just as Ex-Im’s job is to support American exporters,” a spokesman said. “Given how closely connected Canadian and American companies and economies are, EDC and Ex-Im often work together on many projects, and a number of American companies have benefited from EDC’s global presence and financing.”

Most of Hochberg’s criticisms, however, were aimed at developing markets Brazil, India and China, which are seeing their growth rates slowing. They have been trying to offset stagnating domestic economies by expanding exports through government-supported programs.

“Our study estimated that there was roughly $100 billion in unregulated OECD export financing and an additional $60 billion from the BIC [Brazil, India, China] countries,” said Hochberg. “And my guess is that our estimate of BIC financing is still too low.”

Hochberg is working on what he calls a “new international architecture to bring more of this activity into the light.” He said the U.S. is determined to reduce trade-distorting export finance that ultimately creates a less efficient, less stable international trading system.

“This is the world we live in. And we’ve got to compete in the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be,” Hochberg said. To that end, he proposed two ways to improve America’s competitiveness: build a new, broader framework for export finance that includes more countries and more transparency; and reorganize the trade functions within the U.S. government.

America Is Approaching The Export Tipping Point – A Commentary


Above article is an opinion piece by Gregor McDonald, a researcher and an international energy investor. We would like to hear your point of view and will publish select commentary in our upcoming issues.

Adapt to Change

 How flexible is your company when it comes to adapting its product or service to global markets?

If you have been doing business in your home country in the same way for twenty or more years, you will need a different mental attitude before taking your business on its foreign adventure. Inflexibility will be your enemy. In order to conduct business abroad, especially in emerging markets, you and your organization will have to be flexible so that you can evolve with the market and respond to competitive and regulatory threats that may come along. Yes, flexibility is also a very important asset in the domestic business arena, but it is that much more important when you are entering foreign markets and planning to grow your business there.

As global markets for medical equipment and services blossom, U.S. manufacturers stand cement their position as credible players and compete for their rightful market share in many countries. One segment of this market where U.S. companies will likely not be able to compete successfully abroad is emergency medical vehicles (ambulances). The key reason is inflexibility.  Over the last couple of years, we had to pass up several mandates for financing U.S.-made ambulances and clinics. There was a 1,500-unit order for Ukraine and a 500-unit order for Kazakhstan and just to name a few. The reason is very simple. All U.S. ambulance models, except for one (which is based on a European design and cannot be exported) are fabricated on top of large U.S. made chassis with massive 6.0 and 6.7 liter engines. These are great in the U.S. where the roads are wide and gas, at least until recently, cheap, yet completely unacceptable in Eastern Europe or Africa where gas is extremely expensive, streets are often narrow and roads to reach patients are poor or nonexistent. Of all equipment segments to be adapted to foreign use, the fabrication of ambulances lends itself perfectly to implementation of smaller engines, all-terrain chassis, and other attributes that make the products more competitive outside of the U.S. Some fabricators do make  halfhearted attempts to adopt their products to the target markets, yet even they simply wish to sell their equipment in the U.S. without providing in-country service or support.

In one case, a mandate to supply mobile clinics to Kazakhstan called for serious all-terrain capability. In that instance Russian made mobile clinics, albeit inferior on the equipment side, but built on top of military truck platforms, decimated the U.S. competitor who offered a stock U.S. product made for light off-roading. There was absolutely no reason for it, just inflexibility on the part of the U.S. supplier.

In some ways, flexibility is a result of commitment. Once you truly commit to the market, you will be much more apt to bend and shape your business in response to the demands of the market and to address competitive challenges. It goes without saying that the basics such as marketing materials, a product’s voltage, product instructions, specifications and training aids must be adapted to the local language and customs. But you should be prepared to license your intellectual property, alter your business model, product packaging, local compensation plans and product positioning as warranted. Diet Coke in the U.S. becoming Coke Light in many other countries is a great example of flexibility, as Coke adapts both the brand and the product to suit the local tastes.

You should absolutely avoid the “not invented here” syndrome. Often, when you venture abroad, you will find innovative approaches or your local personnel may improve on your product or service. Embrace it, adapt it and encourage it further. Earlier in the book I talked about many of our U.S. business people bringing their air of superiority to emerging markets. Such a disposition often precludes one from seeing innovation and impedes flexibility and adaptation. Do not make this mistake.

Yet, as with everything else, there is a fine line when it comes to flexibility. If you are adapting your product or service to local conditions, make sure the investment of time and money is financially viable. Make sure you retain the intellectual rights for any adaptation. As for your brand and your marketing message, your challenge will be to adapt to the local market conditions, but retain that “American” quality of the product that would differentiate it from the competition.

Flexibility in doing business abroad is key, but don’t over do it, as you risk the loss of your product identity, or erosion of the economic premium, which is essential in foreign market transactions.

This post is reprinted from the book Fluent In Foreign Business

Boutique companies team up, go global

Partnerships enable even tiny bagel stores to sell their products abroad.

July 15, 2012 Crain’s New York
By Eilene Zimmerman
Samantha DiGennaro

Buck Ennis
EFFICIENCY: Samantha DiGennaro’s public relations firm partnered with London-based Eulogy to offer multinational services.

Like many growth-minded -entrepreneurs, Samantha DiGennaro, chief executive of DiGennaro Communications, sees plentiful opportunity overseas, despite turmoil in Europe. “There’s a lot of potential for global business, especially in this age of digital advertising, because that transcends borders,” said Ms. DiGennaro, whose boutique public relations firm, based in Manhattan, has 35 employees and more than $4.5 million in annual revenue.

Enter Adrian Brady, head of Eulogy, a similar-size boutique firm in London. A mutual client of both firms suggested that they join forces, and in January, DiGennaro and Eulogy formalized a partnership. Last month, Ms. DiGennaro and Mr. Brady met to devise a strategy for moving forward. That may involve going after global business together or looking for another small business partner in Asia or Latin America.

Meanwhile, they have been able to partner on multinational service and introduce each other to clients who need the other’s help. For instance, Eulogy recently paved the way for DiGennaro to work with its existing client, G2, an operating unit of international advertising and marketing services company WPP. Their arrangements have reduced the need for each company to travel to serve overseas clients.

“Working this way is so much more efficient,” said Ms. DiGennaro. And Mr. Brady appreciates the new ease of doing business in the U.S. “For years, we couldn’t offer clients a seamless support in a key market,” he said in an email.

DiGennaro Communications isn’t alone among local businesses in venturing overseas. The New York area ranks as the largest export market in the U.S., according to the International Trade Administration. Merchandise shipments totaled $85.1 billion in 2010, based on the most recent data from the ITA, and 58% of the state’s total merchandise exports came from small and -medium-size businesses in 2009.

Already contending with the high cost of doing business in New York, a small but significant number are turning to overseas partnerships to save on the expense of opening their own foreign outposts, say experts. “It’s a fantastic idea for small companies, which don’t have the resources of a midsize or larger company,” said Alexander Gordin, managing director at merchant bank Broad Street Capital Group and author of Fluent in Foreign Business.

Small businesses often see a substantial payoff from venturing abroad, according to Elizabeth L. Littlefield, president and chief executive of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a U.S. government agency that, among other things, provides financial products like direct loans to help American businesses expand into emerging markets. “Research has shown that small businesses that invest abroad have much higher survival rates and much higher productivity and pay than those that don’t,” she said.

Of course, overseas partnerships require trust and careful planning. Ms. DiGennaro said that she and Mr. Brady decided to determine how fees are split on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, the two firms will bill separately for their combined services. “In other cases, we will have one central billing structure,” she said. Both companies agreed to forgo formal fees for referrals, which they see as a way to foster good will between their firms.

Demand for New York specialties

Mr. Gordin said small businesses often partner on an informal basis with potential foreign counterparts, though many eventually formalize these relationships. Demand for products considered New York specialties has created opportunities for neighborhood businesses to sell their wares through foreign shops, he noted. “Even bagel places on the corner are exporting all over the world,” he said.

The hankering for New York-branded products is what helped propel Danielle Malka’s company into the Russian market. Ms. Malka is the founder and president of eShave New York, a brand of luxury shaving products with two retail outlets in the city, 16 employees and about $2 million in sales last year.

In May, Ms. Malka awarded exclusive distribution rights for eShave’s products to Regency Ventures in Russia. “We also gave them the right to open and operate eShave New York stores in Russia,” she said.

The first kiosk is slated to open in Moscow in the middle of this month, with three more due to open by the end of September.

Although eShave’s products are distributed in 17 countries, they aren’t sold through stores with the eShave brand name, as they will be in Moscow. “It will be our name and our voice out there, and this is part of our thinking about expansion,” said Ms. Malka. “We want to have a bigger impact in the international market.”

A version of this article appeared in the Jul. 16, 2012, print issue of Crain’s New York Business.

Read more:

“They WILL be asking you to pay bribes…” Invitation to a roundtable event and networking reception




6 Essentials of Foreign Market Research

How to perform a truly valuable ground rise assessment when entering foreign markets

By: Alexander Gordin

as seen in the July, 2012 issue of The New York Enterprise Report

The problem of risk opportunity assessment in international expansion is that every country has its share of inherent risks, which both local and foreign businesspeople need to identify and overcome in their quest for good returns.

Suppose your company decides to explore entering the Ukrainian market, and initially begins exporting your product or service, with an eye for setting up local operations in the next two to three years. Scanning recent press, you could see that a company controlled by US shareholders was recently raided and its ownership allegedly snatched away from them by a state-sanctioned criminal enterprise. In another article, you would read a prediction of economic collapse for the country immediately following the end of the soccer tournament finals in July. On the flip side, you would also see a 100-plus page comprehensive report by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine saying that the greatest investment opportunity sectors are agriculture, alternative energy, retail, and pharmaceuticals. Much of the information you’d read, both positive and negative, is true, yet it should represent no more than five to 10 percent of your decision-making equation.

To do business in emerging markets, you need to become a bit of a detective, building your own local network and getting to know the lay of the land for yourself.

If you are unwilling to invest the time, stay home and continue to read the news on the internet.

1. During your preliminary research, identify potential issues, dangers, and opportunities. Good places to start are Fi180 country profiles, online English language local media, and Western media mentioning the target country and its leadership. Perform internet searches on the target country’s criminal enterprises, corruption, corporate raids, terrorism, and economic development. These will form your initial thesis, which you will either confirm or not during your initial visits into the country. Notice I said visits, as one visit is not nearly enough.

2. Talk to as many people as you can about the issues. Start with representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service, local AMCHAM (American Chamber of Commerce), and the appropriate U.S. Business Council for the target country. Interview law firms operating in the country, and talk to local government officials and get their group of business or legal professionals, the best way to approach the conversation is to frame it in the form of a Q&A. Tell them that you are new to the market and offer one or two of the issues you have identified. Then seek their opinion and comments. When you are between meetings, talk to taxi drivers, waiters, hotel clerks, and local businesspeople. Some will be wary to talk to strangers, but some will be more than happy to provide their honest opinions. The more people you speak with, the more accurate a picture you will get. Good conversation starters with this group are fairly basic—a local sporting event, complimenting the local architecture, weather, or food. Once the ice is broken, you may first have to answer some questions about the US, as many people are very interested. After an initial bond is established, it is safe to move onto more serious subjects.

3. Go out on the streets and observe people’s activities in restaurants, markets, shopping malls, and entertainment venues. Observe people’s facial expressions, their mood, interactions, level of dress, and grooming. See if kids are playing at playgrounds; how full shopping malls, markets, hotels, restaurants, and cafes are; look for signs of civil unrest; and read the content of the graffiti. Often, behavior you observe will clash with published economic statistics. Depending on the business you are in, the consumer behavior may be a direct foreteller of how attractive the market is, or may just simply provide another indication of the country’s state of affairs.  Trust your gut. During your trips, you need to be methodically focused on understanding the true situation and fleshing out opportunities for your company’s business.

4. You need to understand your potential competitors, their allegiance, and power base. While this is not an easy task, you can accomplish this by talking to representatives of local leading accounting and law firms over drinks or dinner (you host) and asking them direct questions.

5. It is very important to understand the forces affecting the particular sector your company plans to enter. For instance, if you carry out your due diligence correctly, you may find out that, although a country’s pharmaceuticals and alternative energy are listed as very attractive sectors, they are controlled by powerful interests, such as an influential local family, that would greatly hamper any attempt to bring new medicines into the country or develop large-scale solar or wind projects. Fantastic opportunities, however, may exist in smaller scale solar development, conversion of gas boilers to woodchips, and export of woodchips production to nations of the European Union.

6. Choose your partners very carefully and perform thorough background checks through the U.S. Commercial Service and, if necessary, through private investigation agencies. Consider buying political risk insurance, which protects US business interests from a number of perils, including expropriation, creeping expropriation, and nationalization.

Once you have done comprehensive due diligence explorations, amend your thesis, share it with some of your local advisors, and begin to plot an all-inclusive business plan that takes into account the information learned and risks identified during your research phase.

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[By Paul Brennan], Global Trade Magazine, June-July, 2012

You remember those grade-school maps, the ones that marked places with icons depicting chief industrial output—iron for good-old Pittsburgh, a film reel next to Los Angeles, an automobile for Detroit, oil wells across Oklahoma and Texas, steer for Chicago’s stockyards, maybe?

North Dakota would have been stamped with geologically significant sheaves of wheat or monstrous loaves of bread. Today, while still a major grain exporter, North Dakota’s No. 1 export is tractors. And one of the leading agricultural equipment exporters is Brandt Holdings Company of Fargo.

For most Fargoans, Brandt is probably best known as the owner of the local hockey team, the United States Hockey League’s Fargo Force. But internationally, it’s Brandt’s agricultural division that attracts the most attention. So much so, that last year the company received from the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration the Presidential “E” award, which was established in 1961 to honor “persons, firms, or organizations which contribute significantly in the effort to increase United States exports.”

Still, Brandt’s international sales make up only 5 percent of its overall sales. But it’s precisely because Brandt’s domestic sales are so large, that its international sales are so necessary.

The company was founded in 1992 by Ace A. Brandt. Brandt, the son of an agri-businessman, grew up on the family farm in North Dakota, and his company’s reach now extends from the needs of farmers to real estate development and the gap-toothed smiles of junior-league hockey players. Importantly, Brandt Holdings owns 23 John Deere dealerships over five states.

John Deere is an iconic brand, of course, both here in the United States and abroad. Its   green and yellow color scheme is familiar to people who have never been any closer to a farm than their supermarket’s produce department. Its name is synonymous with agricultural equipment from riding movers to massive combines. But with all the inbuilt advantages that come with owning a dealership of any sort, there are certain constraints as well. And it is in those constraints that Brandt Holdings has found opportunities.

First, John Deere does not allow its independent dealers to sell new equipment to foreign customers. Deere, naturally enough, doesn’t want to be competing against its own product for international sales.

Second, just as a new car dealer inevitably ends up with an inventory of used cars as well, a John Deere dealer ends up with used equipment. And when you have 23 John Deere dealerships you end up with a lot of it. Unfortunately, there’s virtually no market for used John Deere farm equipment in the United States.

It’s not that used Deeres aren’t reliable. It’s that the evolving state and federal regulation of farming practices, and tax incentives, make the purchase of new (rather than used) equipment the logical choice for an American farmer. That’s why, according to Stacy Anthony, Brandt Holdings’ international sales manager, “a dealer needs to adopt a global mindset.”

Anthony, who has worked in agribusiness sales since leaving the southeastern Kansas family farm where he grew up, was a natural choice to head up sales when Brandt expanded into the international market in 2006. With more than two decades of experience, Anthony, who had owned his own Deere dealership as well as having worked for a multi-dealership chain, had given a lot thought to the opportunities for domestic dealers overseas.

If you can’t sell new equipment abroad, and you can’t sell used domestically, finding markets for your used stock abroad both turns a dead weight into a valuable commodity and creates a revenue stream that bypasses the constraints the manufacturer has placed on you.

Assuming such markets exist. And they do.

The most obvious advantage to buying used equipment is the savings. For example, depending on the model, a new combine costs between $350,000 and $500,000. Brandt, on the other hand, offers a top of the line 2009 John Deere combine for $269,500. And naturally, the older the piece of equipment, the greater the savings. “Most of our inventory is 15 years old or less,” says Anthony, although there are a few outliers. Brandt’s inventory includes a 1959 International Harvester tractor for $4,500. For those whose taste in farm equipment runs more to the era of Mad Men, instead of the Eisenhower years, there’s also a 1962 John Deere tractor for $6,500.

Another factor that makes used American farm equipment attractive is the relative definition of “used.”

“An American farmer will typically put 300 to 500 hours of use on a piece of equipment each year,” Anthony explains, “while the same piece of equipment in one of the vast farming enterprises overseas will get between 10,000 and 15,000 hours of use a year.” What’s thoroughly used to an American is much closer to new in, say, Ukraine.

So say you’re a Ukrainian agri-businessman, and you’ve bought a combine from Brandt. Now what? You can’t exactly drive it home. That’s where customer service comes in. And according to Stacy Anthony, that’s the real secret to Brandt’s success: “Service, and our people, are what make us really stand out,” he says.

Brandt offers a disassembly service. So, from the dealership your combine goes to a disassembly center in Illinois, after which it will fit into a conventional 8×40 shipping container. Then it travels by ground—truck or train—to the appropriate port, and is loaded on a cargo ship. Even when shipping to Mexico, it’s still less expensive to send it by water.

But savings become much less important if you find yourself staring at shipping container full of combine parts like a baffled father trying to assemble toys on Christmas morning. That’s why Brandt offers to arrange for either a reassembly service to handle matters at the end user’s location, or to train the purchaser’s employees to turn the parts back into the whole.

Reassembly training isn’t the only training Brandt offers its international customers. It offers a full-range of training in the use and servicing of the equipment it sells, either in the customer’s home country or at one of its training facilities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Minnesota.

Likewise, Brandt is ready with spare parts, an important consideration for the purchaser of used equipment. “We try to direct our customers to local sources,” Anthony says, “but if those aren’t available—whether it’s because the country doesn’t have a developed network of suppliers or because local dealers prefer to concentrate on new equipment—we can sell them the parts they need.”

That attitude of putting local sources first is, no doubt, another reason for Brandt’s success. Instead of just trying to barge into a new market, Anthony and his team carefully consider what would be the best approach for each country, whether it’s partnering with established local dealers or selling directly to end users.

Partnership is working. Working out of Brandt’s international sales office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Anthony and his sales staff (five employees in Sioux Falls and another three at the corporate headquarters in Fargo) now have customers in 18 countries, with their biggest markets in Mexico and Ukraine. Sales have grown steadily since 2006, with the exception of the generally disastrous years of 2008 and 2009 (which, of course, saw sales drop in almost ever sector of the economy, except perhaps for retailers of antidepressants). Anthony predicts sales will grow again in 2012. And Brandt is looking to expand into more countries, particularly in the southern hemisphere: because farm equipment sales follow the seasons, and the seasons south of the equator are opposite those in the north, more customers in the south will produce a more consistent sales profile.

“You have to treat the customer the same whether he’s five miles down the road or 5,000 miles across the ocean,” is how Stacy Anthony sums up the attitude of Brandt Holdings. It’s that sort of mindset that allows a business to turn a local liability into international success.


Brazil’s answer: spend, spend, spend

June 27, 2012 5:48 pm by Jonathan Wheatley, Financial Times

Eight thousand trucks; 3,000 tractors; 30 mobile missile launchers; 3m items of school furniture. These are some of the things the Brazilian government will buy in an R$8.4bn ($4.1bn) spending spree announced on Wednesday.

It’s an extraordinary programme. Not just for its size but also for some strangely candid admissions it makes along the way – and for what it says about economic policy.

The package is dubbed the “PAC Equipamentos“  – PAC from the government’s flagship accelerated growth programme (PAC in Portuguese) and equipamentos because that is what it will buy. Of the R$8.4bn in the programme, about R$6.6bn is additional to spending already planned.

So, what makes it odd?

First, its language. It arrived in our inbox as “measures to tackle the deceleration of the economy” (although over on the finance ministry website the target is “deceleration of the global economy”).

“These anti-crisis measures strengthen our condition to overcome the difficulties of the international scenario,” the programme says, adding that they are being introduced “when the Brazilian economy is already returning to growth”. So the finance ministry can’t quite admit that Brazil’s economy is in trouble, though the hints are pretty strong.

Second, its take on foreign exchange policy. While the government has made no secret that it is fighting a “currency war” with the unfairly devalued currencies of its trading partners, the central bank has always denied that it targets or manipulates the exchange rate. Yet the programme contains a chart – “Permanent action on the exchange rate” – showing just how effective and, er, permanent this action has been.

Third, its inclusion of a reduction in the TJLP, the long term interest rate that the BNDES, the state development bank, charges for its lending (borrowers typically pay the TJLP plus a margin charged by the commercial bank handling the loan). This will fall from 6 per cent a year to 5.5 per cent. Bear in mind that (according to the programme presentation) market lending rates are an average of 25 per cent a year to the corporate sector.

The presentation says cutting the TJLP will deliver “yet another reduction in the cost of finance to investors borrowing from the BNDES”. It will also deliver a bigger bill to the taxpayer and a further distortion of Brazil’s credit market, making it even harder for those companies not favoured by government policies to raise finance.

The PAC Equipamentos is further confirmation that the government believes the way to encourage investment and growth is to pick winners and back them at the expense of everyone else. No doubt bosses and labour unions in the automotive industry will be delighted. Those labouring in other parts of the economy – who would be more grateful for a level playing field and removal of across-the-board distortions such as Brazil’s tax and labour systems – will be dismayed.

Still, nothing like a crisis – especially one you deny is really there – to bring out the old instincts. The Brazilian state is settling ever more comfortably into its position at the centre of the real economy.

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