On a snowy morning last week, Chippewa Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) welcomed Nicola Michels, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)’s Trade Representative in Germany. Nicola is from Berlin, Germany, and is a WEDC consultant working to help Chippewa Valley businesses begin their exporting program. Berlin, Germany’s coat of arms is a bear, of course, so it was only fitting that she be the guest of a CEDC BEAR Discussion centering around exporting! Discovering the opportunities that Germany and the Broader European Market offer was the main topic of the CEDC BEAR discussion.

BEAR, or Business Expansion and Retention, is the CEDC’s flagship economic development program and makes up about eighty percent of our efforts as an organization. Our BEAR Program is aimed at helping our existing businesses get the information and resources they need to be successful and grow. The BEAR Program utilizes listening sessions, lunch & learns, partnerships, podcasts, visits, and other special methods to identify and implement strategies that position our existing businesses for success.

The “Berlin BEAR” Discussion was centered around exporting and how it is a strategy to expand a business’ market. Learning how to do business in Germany and the Broader European Market was the topic presentation. CEDC collaborated with the Chippewa Valley Innovation Center (CVIC), Momentum West, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Eau Claire, WEDC, and the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC) to highlight the business assistance programs available to companies looking at this market. After the breakfast discussion/presentation, several small businesses had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Michels and Stanley Pfrang, Market Development Director for the WEDC International Team, to begin their exporting journey.

In her presentation, Michels discussed the pre- and post-pandemic Broader European market, while focusing on Germany and Austria. Europe, especially Germany and Austria, have similar industries to Wisconsin and can benefit from the added exports. “Like Wisconsin, Germany and Central Europe are focused on manufacturing, food processing, and agriculture,” noted Michels. “It is totally feasible for Wisconsin businesses to export to the Central European market, as long as they are able to tailor their product(s) for the European market and customer.” In short, local companies need to have quality products, a process-driven/always professional attitude, and they need to be prepared with very technical and meticulous presentations to be successful.

Pfrang highlighted several state programs, such as the International Market Access Grant (IMAG) program, that can help Chippewa Valley businesses cover some of the expenses associated with exporting [i.e. trade shows, overseas trademark and product registration, and translation].

“BEAR Discussions like this one are critical to any business beginning the exporting process. One of the first steps is to contact the CEDC office to see if we can match you with the right mentoring program or get you ready for UW-Stout’s ExporTech Program,” noted Charlie Walker, President/CEO of the CEDC. “Visit our website or contact our office today to find out how to participate in the BEAR Program.”