Last updated: February 17. 2013 2:24AM - 59 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – Heralded by many as the most productive export assistance program in the country, Pennsylvania's international business development program hosted a networking event at the Woodlands Friday for advisers to meet with global-minded professionals.

Using a corporate business model and a $4.5 million budget, the state program offers free consulting services to export-ready business owners who feel their product fits an international demand.

Pete O'Neill, executive director for the state's office of international development, said by subcontracting advisers who are already established in the 21 countries the program reaches, they are able to streamline the program, spending about one-fifth of what it would cost to put state employees in each country.

He said their advisers facilitate market entry by evaluating need for manufacturers' products, assisting with logistics like breaching language barriers, determining shipping costs and setting up meetings with potential buyers or distributors. Assisting about 1,200 Pennsylvania companies annually, O'Neill said program officials tracked about $830 million in sales this year through the companies they assist.

Jef Potters, international sales manager for Buflovak, a company that manufactures pharmaceuticals production equipment, sat with advisers Ken Yang and Ara Cho, from South Korea, during what he called speed dating for international business consultants.

Potters said he hoped to determine whether South Korean companies will buy his company's products and to craft a market-entry strategy.

Cho estimated South Korean companies import about $80 million in U.S. goods from program companies.

Susie Christensen, an advisor from Sydney, Australia, said this program is one of the best.

"Pennsylvania's probably got the strongest trade programs in the country," she said, adding it's because they run it like a business, offering advisers bonuses for successful transactions and treating them as consultants rather than government employees.

O'Neill said, where they would pay a state employee around $500,000, they can slim down to a $100,000 salary for advisers.

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