It was not a good day at New Castle-based Kapejo Inc. when president Peter Martinez learned that he was being ripped off 7,000 miles away.
An employee of one of Kapejo’s Chinese distributors had started a competing company. The upstart claimed that he used his own fiber product-reinforced asphalt for several construction projects that, in truth, had used Kapejo’s trademarked BoniFibers.
Years ago the specialized polyester replaced asbestos in asphalt applications for road and bridge surfaces. Because building highways had become a national obsession in
Then he met with a trade representative from
In business, as in other endeavors, it’s often who you know that counts. Hence the
The center may be a low-profile operation, but it has a very high impact.
The local offices are in a three-story building on Seventh Street in Wilmington, where WTC provides a window on the wider world for Kapejo and other Delaware companies who seek exposure overseas. In some ways, the view is just now coming into focus.
“A lot of companies don’t know we exist,” says executive director Rebecca Faber, who calls her organization “a chamber for international businesses.” A busy slate of programs covers everything from export financing to keeping shipments safe from terrorism. Most members are small and medium-sized firms that are expansion-minded but need some guidance. “New hires of companies attend our events,” says business development director Meg Bhatt. “Many of them have no clue [about international business].”
WTC becomes their pathfinder, schooling them in logistics, recommending foreign trade shows, identifying key contact people in other countries.
“Companies may have perceived risks such as, ‘How do I get paid?’” says Faber. Enter the recent seminar “ABCs of Importing and Exporting,” which addressed, among other topics, payment options. Other seminars featured a U.S. Export-Import Bank officer who spoke about working capital and credit insurance, trade specialists who explained the thickets of cargo insurance and “merchandise passports,” and
During a WTC foreign policy luncheon early this year, DuPont Co.’s chief international counsel, Geoffrey Gamble, assessed the 2005 World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong, and a foreign policy forum explored
But special events are just part of the picture. With a small, energetic staff buttressed by a few interns, WTC reduces the world to a local phone call, an invaluable resource for small businesses with big dreams. Tailored research (for a fee) is available in-house. A Delaware International Business Directory has been compiled. As the administrator of the
And it’s not just for the little guy. “It’s a natural, cost-effective conduit for our marketing activities in
Many market analysts suggest that the real risk in the 21st century is not to go global, and indeed, there is two-way action at WTC:
“For overseas companies looking to do business in the
But WTC’s primary goal is to “create jobs through exports,” according to chairman Henry Beckler—local jobs, that is. “We can help
Though productivity and technology make a less-than-perfect correlation, when companies sell more products, they tend to hire more people. That’s been an important part of the mandate since WTC Delaware activities began in 1988 under the direction of the State Economic Development Office. The two agencies continue to work closely together.
“It’s a sort of public-private partnership to strengthen the state’s business community,” says Faber, who was an intern at DEDO before moving to WTC seven years ago. A non-profit organization since 1997, WTC receives an annual grant from the state legislature, and raises additional monies through membership dues and program fees.
In Faber’s public-private model, WTC offers an appealing balance.
“Some companies don’t like to work with the government,” says John Pastor, international director at DEDO. Pastor says that WTC provides flexibility, which can mean expanded opportunity. “Let’s say a construction company wants to build a facility overseas. I can help the ones in
The WTC led a similar delegation to
HSBC’s Clay says that