The state organisation plays an important role in helping US businesses move into foreign markets

With only 4% of US companies exporting goods, state organisations like Enterprise Florida play an important role in helping businesses move into foreign markets with the goal of stimulating job growth through export growth. So, it’s no surprise that nine of the 13 US exhibitors at the Sydney International Boat Show (SIBS) come from Florida’s US$23bn recreational marine industry.

“Going to a trade event is a lot like fishing,” said Larry Bernaski of the International Trade Division of Enterprise Florida. “There are a lot of fishing going by. You may catch one, and you may have to reel it in first to see if it’s a fish worth keeping or not.”

Speaking with IBI at the USA Pavilion of SIBS, Bernaski said his organisation works closely with groups like the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) to identify the right opportunities.

“We recognised that Australia is a market relatively unencumbered by [tariffs} and that historically there had not been a lot of Florida companies looking at the Australian market,” he said, adding that many companies like the idea of an “umbrella” a national pavilion provides, “and the NMMA is very good at developing the USA Pavilion.”

One such company, Golden Boat Lifts, probably would not have participated at Sydney without the financial help of Enterprise Florida or the USA Pavilion.

“When you’re here by yourself it’s like being on a deserted island,” sales vice president Ken Felt explained to IBI. “With Enterprise Florida and NMMA they know so many people, they’ve been in these markets they know them all. If they know someone who’s a fit for me, they’ll grab them by the hand and drag them to the booth and make an introduction.”

Enterprise Florida helps companies like Felt’s not only with grant money, but offers an Export Readiness Assessment, export strategy development, and “localising” websites into multiple languages with search engine optimisation techniques to position that website in the local market.

But Enterprise Florida doesn’t limit assistance to trade delegations like the USA Pavilion.

“Some companies prefer to be outside of a pavilion so they can be closer to the competition – they can watch how the competition markets its products, they can see what kind of clientele the competition is drawing, they can maybe draw some pointers on how to position their product in a market by being in close proximity to the competition,” Bernaski said.

Following each international event, Enterprise Florida collects a confidential report from participants that are used to advise other companies considering a specific trade event the best approach based on others’ experience.