June 27, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

SUSTA Helps Small Businesses Get into the 'Export Game'

June 25, 2012


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- For small businesses who want to get into the "export game," there is an organization out there.

With money.

And expertise.

And money.

The Southern United States Trade Association is a partially government-funded nonprofit organization that provides programs and money to help small businesses that produce high-value food and agricultural products expand their businesses through exporting.

"Our goal here is to help small businesses get in the game of exporting," said SUSTA Executive Director Jerry Hingle. "You've got a whole world out there."

He said Alabama is one of the success stories of exporting, particularly in poultry, which is "just blowin' and goin'."

"On the ag side, they're going to Africa, southeast Asia," Hingle said. "We've got 9.1 billion people on the face of the Earth. They've got to be fed."

He said the biggest new category of exports is the packaged products line, which is predicted to be larger this year than bulk categories, and that fits the mold of small businesses.

 Among its many services, SUSTA provides strategic assistance to potential and current exporters in product packaging, flavoring and portion sizes that are appealing to and preferred by global consumers.

The organization has money for companies that produce packaged agricultural products and are considering expansion into international markets.

SUSTA will also assist businesses with the regulatory guidelines for each of the countries to which they want to send their products.

"The rules are written to help small businesses," Hingle said. "We can't help Cargill."

In the coming months, SUSTA will participate in trade shows in Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, Chile and China. SUSTA offers subsidized participation costs for international and domestic trade shows.

In 2011 alone, SUSTA participated in 30 trade shows in markets in Asia, South America and Europe. Nearly 25 percent of companies participating in these events had never before exported their products.

"We've got the money to put you on a plane and take you to a trade show," Hingle said. "We put on events around the world.

"All they have to do is show up and make contacts; we hold their hands through the whole thing."

SUSTA participants from 2011 are expecting nearly $110 million in export sales over the next 12 months.

Program funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service, private businesses and the member state departments of Agriculture.

SUSTA administers programs for the USDA and the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Hingle said companies with 500 employees or fewer that are interested in exploring international exporting should contact SUSTA at www.SUSTA.org or by calling 504-568-5986.

"We have $5 million available right now," Hingle said. "We want to see small businesses succeed."

Budd McLaughlin can be reached at budd.mclaughlin@htimes.com and 256-532-4527.

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