U.S. firms told to look overseas

October 04, 1990|By Graeme Browning

5/8 TC U.S. companies can no longer afford to shy away from selling overseas, panelists told Baltimore business people yesterday at a seminar on marketing to the European Community.

In the 1950s, only a few U.S. products faced international competition, speaker David Gergen said, citing statistics from the Washington-based Institute for International Economics.

Today, 70 percent of U.S. products compete with foreign-made products, said the U.S. News & World Report editor and former presidential adviser.

"The reality is that U.S. businesses have to be competitive in the international marketplace," Mr. Gergen said.

The seminar at Stouffer's Harborplace Hotel, co-sponsored by the Baltimore law firm Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman and Georgetown University's Center for International Business and Trade, focused on the practical aspects of selling and manufacturing products in the 12 member countries of the European Community as they move rapidly toward economic integration in 1992.

Several speakers said that exporting can be difficult for small- and medium-sized businesses.

"It's a daunting experience," said George Muller, deputy director of theCommerce Department's Office of Export Trading Company Affairs.

But businesspeople in the audience said they were encouraged by statistics showing that consumer sales within the European Community are reaching more than half a billion dollars a year.

Marketing to Europe "is something that small businesses, given the right approach, will be able to benefit from and participate in," said Doris H. Powers, president of Shielding Technologies Inc., an Aberdeen-based engineering company.

Bombproof panels designed by Shielding Technologies are already being used by airport security teams in the Middle East, Mrs. Powers said. "We're definitely considering joint venture possibilities in Europe now," she said.

Europe is already a booming market for Baltimore Aircoil Co., which has plants in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Italy, and has just begun a distribution operation in Spain, said Chris Vissers, general counsel for the Baltimore-based manufacturer of air-conditioning and heating equipment.

Smaller companies, however, "are often so involved in the day-to-day demands of business that they don't have the manpower to tend to exporting," said Mr. Vissers, whose company has 1,500 employees worldwide. "Sometimes they need a specialist" to handle exporting needs, he said.

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