Port Washington companies offered discount for enrolling in partnership’s ExporTech training
Communities looking to enhance their tax base by pushing economic development often turn to poaching companies as a way to bring in new jobs.
That is a strategy doomed for failure, according to Douglas Biggs.
It is a position on which Biggs speaks with authority as an alderman on the Port Washington Common Council and vice president of sales and marketing for Gilman USA in Grafton.
“Communities interested in economic development typically spend something like 90% of their money trying to attract companies from other communities,” Biggs said.
“Yet, statistics show 50% to 55% of a community’s job growth comes from companies reaching out to new markets and 40% comes from expansion of existing businesses. That leaves only 5% from stealing someone else’s company.”
Biggs learned first-hand about the power of tapping off-shore markets after attending ExporTech, a crash course on international business offered through the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership nearly two years ago.
He took part in the three-day program as part of a four-member management team from Gilman USA.
“It was eye-opening,” Biggs said.
It has been lucrative, too. Biggs said Gilman has boosted its business 45% through enhancing its export program.
That experience mirrors what other participating companies have seen — overseas sales increasing between $600,000 and $900,000 within the first year of completing the ExporTech course.
The course has been offered since 2010, with 90 state companies completing the training.
Biggs now wants the City of Port Washington to spread the message that exporting means added profits by offering the ExporTech course locally.
He convinced the city’s Economic Development Committee to offer $1,000 scholarships to local companies that send decision-makers to the program.
“You can spend money for the sake of spending money, but as a municipality we can’t afford that. But by promoting exporting as a means of promoting economic development, we can help existing businesses grow by 40%,” Biggs said.
The cost of the course is listed at $7,500 per company, but Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will underwrite that fee by $2,500 for companies that take part in a formal interview process.
The Port sessions will be held Dec. 3, Jan. 13 and Feb. 19 at the Country Inn & Suites on the city’s north side.
Originally, the course was going to be offered just to Port Washington businesses, but it has been expanded to include all Ozaukee County firms.
“The course is limited to 12 companies, but if we end up with 30 companies interested in the program, I am sure we will find a way to make it work,” Biggs said.
At least two top-level executives from every participating company must be enrolled in the program, because the hope is to reach those empowered to make decisions on issues like markets and strategies.
Roxanne Baumann, director of global engagement for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said three local companies have already expressed interest in the upcoming course.
“What we have found is, those who have not developed a fully vetted, customized export strategy plan are missing out on even stronger revenue,” Baumann said.
“With 95% of consumers outside the U.S., you cannot leave this to chance. In three short months, you could have your own customized export expansion plan, targeting the best countries for your products, with a full plan on how to implement it and turn it into revenues.”
More information about ExporTech is available by e-mailing