Contributed by: Don WinnerBY John D. Howman for The Southern - WILLIAMSON COUNTY - Two Williamson County businesses have been recognized by Gov. Rod Blagojevich for their success at a state-led foreign trade show in Panama. It marked the first time an Illinois delegation had traveled to a Central American country. Advanced Power International, LLC, a provider of power quality and protection equipment for the industrial, commercial and telecommunications markets in Latin America, is based in Carterville. Diagraph MSP, a manufacturer of quality marking and stenciling products, is in Marion. Both established significant contacts and business leads from the trip. "The Panama trade mission was an excellent business trip for us, which helped us make several key contacts and find new distributors in Panama and Colombia," said Samir Velarde, co-owner of Advanced Power International. Velarde said he received his first purchase order from Panama one month after the March trip, and will be traveling to Colombia in a few weeks to give several seminars with new distributors. (more)
As a result of its one-on-one meetings, Advanced Power International has been able to begin building relationships with potential distributors and client customers for power quality equipment in Latin America. The company obtained 16 leads for potential sales and representation during the mission.
And it expects to increase its sales to Latin America by up to $100,000 within the next year.
"None of this could have been done without the support of the state," Velarde said. "As a small business, we are very grateful to have this opportunity to tap into new markets and increase our sales."
Velarde's wife, Krista, who is also co-owner, said the business was formed in 2001 when the couple lived in Florida. The move to Carterville was made in 2004.
"What really helps us is that we both speak Spanish," she said. "And we have a partner office in Mexico."
Krista said it was "wonderful" to win recognition by the state.
"I would say that we've never had a business trip to Latin America that was so well organized, which has allowed us to get results quickly."
Diagraph MSP, which is owned by Illinois Tool Works, was able to meet with 10 potential customers and anticipates selling up to $30,000 in Panama as a result of the mission.
"This trip to Panama was our first trade mission and we had a very positive experience meeting with potential business partners from all over the region," said Kathy Halstead, direct sales manager with Diagraph. "The services provided by the state were invaluable, including converting our flyers to Spanish, creating posters, logistics support and providing interpreter services. We look forward to growing our business through new partnerships overseas."
Halstead said about 1,100 companies participated in the March trade show in Panama and about 25,000 residents attended in all.
"When it comes to foreign markets seeking quality products and services, Illinois businesses are in high demand, so we must continue our efforts to connect our many creative companies to the global community," Blagojevich said. "Through trade missions, like this recent trip to Panama, we are better able to engage our small and medium-sized businesses to the wide ranging global opportunities and help them forge lasting partnerships that can result in major business growth and more jobs here at home."
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's Office of Trade and Investment led the trade mission to Panama. The trade show provided a number of opportunities for participants to access the growing regional market and establish profitable commercial relations through individual appointments with prospective business partners throughout the region.
Participants also took part in a networking reception at the U.S. Embassy in Panama, a briefing breakfast organized by the U.S. Commercial Service, a trip to the Panama Canal and a visit to the Colon Free Trade Zone.
The participating companies on the trade mission gathered sales leads, met with potential agents, representatives and distributors now under consideration, and developed joint ventures and licensee leads. OTI staff also assisted with the translation of promotional materials into Spanish, logistics support and interpreter services.
"Illinois has experienced unprecedented growth in exports over the last several years, and I commend Gov. Blagojevich and his economic development strategy for taking the initiative to help open up markets across the globe for Illinois companies," said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. "I congratulate Advanced Power International and Diagraph MSP as they continue growing their businesses through international trade."