CUMMING -- Ken Bass of Radarsign Inc., a Forsyth County company that produces speed detection and other safety signs, had a simple question for local business owners thinking of expanding overseas.
“Is there anybody here who is thinking about exporting right now?” he asked the group. “Because if you are, you’re in the state to do it.”
Bass was one of several business owners on hand Wednesday morning for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s International Engagement breakfast at Keller Williams Reality off of Lake Center Parkway.
The focus of the meeting was to inform business owners of the importance of exporting and resources available from the state.
“There is the perception that the barriers to entering the international market are very high,” said Mary Waters, of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“But then you couple that with the fact that 98 percent of all exporting firms in the United States are small business. What are those companies doing? What is the missing link? And I would argue that that missing link is access to resources, particularly to small businesses.”
Waters said businesses new to exporting work with the state department and their partners, including government agencies and local chambers of commerce, to give owners “the nuts and bolts, understanding what they need to know, what they need to think about a global business plan for their company.”
Bass said his company, which recently won $5,000 from the Atlanta Metro Export Challenge, had concerns over exporting until his company started noticing website visits from other countries, including Canada.
He began working with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center, which he said gave him access to knowledge and resources he wouldn’t otherwise have.
“If you’re going to export, I would start here,” Bass said. “You have all these experts coming up and telling you how to do this stuff, telling you all the ‘gotchas’ and how to get around them.”
Bass said one service that helped was a website review that helped optimize his company’s website for exports by giving a different email for foreign orders and recommended which languages, or dialects of languages, the website should offer.
“It’s great for a small businessman because you don’t always have time to think about the why or the how,” Bass said.
Waters said the time is right for Georgia companies to look into exporting. The state ranked 11th in the nation for exports, totaled about $38.5 billion in merchandise sales and, according to Waters, sold products almost everywhere in the world except Antarctica and North Korea.
It can also bring benefits closer to home.
“Those increased profits, that economic value does come back here to the local community,” Waters said, “and grows the local company here.”