Helping more SD enterprises to enter international trade

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SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — As South Dakota’s population grows, so does the statewide business community. For many companies, this growth includes international trade.

A national expert was in Sioux Falls on Wednesday to help more businesses navigate the changing world of exports.

Trading, shipping and logistics is something Ray Bowman knows very well.

“I saw with my own eyes coming from Los Angeles, the hundreds of anchored ships waiting to enter ports,” Bowman said.

As director of the Small Business Development Center in California, he understands the challenges that supply chain issues present to businesses across the country.

“All of this affects the United States, whether you’re on the coast or in the Midwest,” Bowman said. “All of us, as a global community, really need to stick together.”

That’s why he came to Sioux Falls this week to share some solutions and help the region’s exporters navigate the changing industry of international trade.

“Exporting internationally is a big part of what we do, what we want to do and what we want to do even bigger. So anything we can do to improve it helps a lot,” said Randy Iverson, freight manager at Diamond Mowers.

Diamond Mowers was one of many area companies at Wednesday’s seminar, looking to help its South Dakota-made product gain even wider reach.

“We make land clearing and forest management equipment,” Iverson said. “Think of the big mowers, the big grinders that go out and cut the wood and turn it into mulch very quickly.”

Right now, their machines are coming out “everywhere there are trees”, so everywhere in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and more.

“Before COVID, we regularly ship a lot more containers of product,” Iverson said.

But bottlenecks at ports and rising container shipping costs since the start of the pandemic are now hampering the company’s international progress.

“You just have to find the trucks, find a reliable way to get the product in,” Iverson said.

“As for import containers, for years it was two, three, four thousand per container. Now you see prices soaring to over $20,000 per container. In some cases, container prices actually exceed the costs of the goods that go into the container. said Bowman.

He says these increased costs combined with rising fuel costs are driving up supply chain costs, but he thinks it’s extremely important for U.S. companies to meet growing international demand.

“There’s so much demand for American agricultural products right now that we need to make sure we’re meeting those demands,” Bowman said.

But he also says the challenges at ports are even tougher for expedient commodities like agricultural produce.

“If it’s electronics or some type of consumer goods, those things have a longer lifespan,” Bowman said. “Our exporters are really feeling the tightening of port congestion, especially agricultural businesses to the point where USDA and DOT are getting involved, it’s really critical.”

Despite the challenges, Bowman says international trade is a great benefit to all American businesses.

“These are really economic generators, so the more companies we have that participate in global markets, the better,” Bowman said.

Wednesday’s seminar hosted by the South Dakota International Trade Center also touched on the global trade impacts of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

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