Executives from several Connecticut companies, along with U.S. Department of Commerce officials from Middletown, are on a trade mission in Australia this week to promote exports, inbound investments and tourism. It’s all hands on deck. Officials dressed up as Mark Twain and Nathan Hale at “The Tastes and Sights of Connecticut” event, which kicked off the week-long visit.
According to U.S. Consul General Niels Marquardt in Sydney, there’s a lot of interest in both export opportunities and franchising. “Munson’s Chocolates, Jonathan Edwards wines, Stonington wines and Jake’s Wayback Burgers...people were very taken with those products,” he said. Only two percent of all U.S. companies currently export, and Marquardt believes Australia is a perfect place for people to start.
“Australia is a fantastic place to sort of cut your teeth as a new-to-market exporter," Marquardt said. "It’s a great country; it’s a wealthy country. They’re interested in American products. They protect intellectual property, and there’s recourse to the rule of law if there’s ever a dispute.”
Medical devices company Kelyniam Global in Canton makes a highly unusual and innovative product: human skull implants. The U.S. is Kelyniam’s only market for now, but CEO Tennyson Anthony wants to change that. “The market here is, I think, just prime," he said. "They’ve got a great medical model for us to fit into. They’ve got public and private hospitals and facilities here, both of which seem to be wide open for products.”
Ken Keegan, vice president at aerospace supplier Jonal Laboratories in Meriden, talks not just to Australian businesses, but also to American companies growing their market share in Australia. “We had meetings with Lockheed, and with Raytheon," he said, "and also had high-level meetings with the Australian government. We want to talk to them about military work here.”
The state’s aerospace and defense sector could benefit from the U.S.-Australia “Defense Trade Cooperation” treaty that came into effect this May. It allows U.S. companies to work in sensitive areas like cyberspace and defense, and avoid delays associated with the export licensing process. David Tomasi, an Australian tax and audit firm partner, is helping the trade mission make headway.
The U.S. and Australia are especially suited for trade alliances, Tomasi said. “The fact that we have this great history with the U.S.," he said, "not only on trade, but also on a political relationship perspective, really makes it easy for us to relate to those companies that are coming over here. We seem to understand the way that we all do business. It’s also a great opportunity for companies here in Australia to develop their skill sets and their product sets much better.”
Anne Evans of the U.S. Department of Commerce is leading the trade mission. The current exchange rate, she noted, makes it attractive for Australian companies to import precision manufacturing, aerospace and medical device products from Connecticut. “You’ve got to keep in mind that the U.S. dollar right now is actually quite weak compared to the Australian dollar,” she said. “So not only are we [strong in] advanced manufacturing and high tech, but we’re also a real bargain.”
The trip is partly funded by a participation fee paid by companies to the Connecticut District Export Council. According to Evans, airfare for U.S. government staff was paid out of funds raised from offering training events. Some companies will obtain federal reimbursements via the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program, administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Members of the trade mission are scheduled to return by the end of this week.