PLAINS TWP. — Some 24 international trade advisers completed their two-week tour of Pennsylvania in the Wyoming Valley and came away impressed by the state’s diversity in companies and quality of products.
Two — Bhavna Tahilramani of Dubai and Martin Lewis of the United Kingdom — said Pennsylvania businesses and particularly those in Northeastern Pennsylvania offer the best variety of products.
Tahilramani and Lewis were at The Woodlands Friday for the 15th annual “Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania” conference. State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and Greg Driscoll, President/CEO of Blaschak Coal Co., were featured speakers.
The 24 trade advisers met with existing and former clients and others to assess their international business development plans and opportunities and provide firsthand market experience.
Michael Horvath, international business development manager for conference sponsor Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, and Jeff Box, Alliance president and CEO, said businesses benefit from the knowledge, market intelligence and experience of the trade advisers. They said the advisers assist and work directly with the businesses to help locate trading partners.
But it was Lewis and Tahilramani that had the most to say about the region and its businesses.
Lewis said he was surprised to see the high level of interest local companies have in utilizing his services. He said the annual visit offers the advisers and the companies the opportunity to meet face to face and get a thorough understanding of products and services.
“By doing so, we save them a huge amount of time, money and legwork,” he said. “And by increasing export sales, that translates into jobs.”
Tahilramani said she made connections with local companies that export products for skin care, food, technical items, advanced health care and more.
“We have dealings with 80 companies so far and we get new targets every year,” she said. “Pennsylvania is the best among all the states. They have an exemplary program.”
Baker said the image of Northeastern Pennsylvania is key in attracting business.
“Ask someone from outside the area to name an industry, and chances are the first answer is coal,” she said. “Probably takes a lot of guesses for someone to come up with paper manufacturing at Procter & Gamble — maker of Bounty and Pampers.”
Gas drilling spotlight
Baker said the spotlight that natural gas drilling has put on the region lets people know there is more to NEPA than ski slopes, golf courses and heart-shaped tubs.
“We are an evolving leader in the energy sector, and Marcellus Shale is changing our state and region,” she said. “We have the essential pieces here — entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic, research capacity, top-shelf educational institutions and training facilities, robust health care.”
Baker said exporting success requires that state legislators take care of important business in their backyards.
“We must attend to the transportation network, the pipelines, and the port facilities necessary to move goods overseas,” she said.
Box and Horvath said some 250,000 local jobs rely on the exporting business. Driscoll said one area that has grown in recent years and continues to grow is anthracite coal mining.
“Estimates of the anthracite reserve have varied to as much as 14 billion tons,” Driscoll said. “Let me just say that there is plenty of it.”