Member Profile: Swanson Health Products

Member Profile: Swanson Health Products

Posted on September 2, 2021

Swanson Health Products (SHP) will soon become a household name, not only in the US but internationally, says Chase Bischof, a Sales and Marketing Analyst at SHP. With their increasing brand recognition for their excellent products and health-conscious consumers on the rise, the business is growing quickly. SHP started back in the 1960s with Leland Swanson, who was experiencing arthritis pain during his golf game. Through much research and success with supplements himself, he was eager to share what he had learned. And so, Swanson Health Products was born. It was originally a catalog and mail order business. Now, it includes a large warehouse, office headquarters, and the company’s only retail store, all based in Fargo, ND. They have also expanded with other warehouses and processing facilities strategically located across the US.

The company has been a local provider for health and wellness goods for more than 50 years, focusing on providing quality, science-supported, and affordable products. With these fundamentals established, the brand has grown beyond ND with a solid footing in the US and expanding further.
SHP is growing internationally, explains Bischof, “it began in response to a wide variety of international retailers looking for high-quality and affordable US brands in their local markets.” SHP has a strong international presence already, with authorized distributors serving more than 40 countries worldwide. With this increase in international interest, “we have embarked on a journey to partner with both traditional distributors and with larger, expert supply chains with sophisticated and efficient partners to reach many more global consumers,” explains Bischof.

Working internationally always comes with challenges.“But something Swanson does well, especially with our international clients, is to listen. They know their market best, and we want to provide them the resources they need to succeed. Listening to their needs becomes a huge part of everyone’s success,” says Bischof. Keeping the message clear and “crisp” is also a strength that has done SHP well throughout its business expansion. Keeping true to offering pure and potent health products at a great value and keeping that message consistent has increased their brand recognition and consumer trust.

As the pandemic continues, many consumers have become increasingly health-conscious, which has been good news for companies like SHP, who want to provide goods that support a variety of healthy lifestyles. And as supply chains and shipping situations are improving, the efficiency to get goods overseas is only increasing.

SHP most recently completed a Swanson Cares charity golf event this August, which raised funds to support a variety of local nonprofits. The Swanson Cares program was built as the nonprofit arm for SHP to support healthier communities initiative. The donations have gone to Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, and the YWCA in the Fargo-Moorhead community.

The company is also proud to host an upcoming District Export Council meeting for ND/MN area. The event includes ND Senator Hoeven and MN Senator Klobuchar, who will discuss the exporting environment throughout the region and how to improve and expand borders and market opportunities for many local businesses.

Continuing to maintain SHP’s community footing along with their goals for global expansion of their products seems to be second nature to their loyal and hard-working staff. Consistency through the generations and keeping true to their passion for quality health-oriented products at a great value has done the company well. As SHP looks to the future of becoming a household name, it seems they are well on their way.

https://www.swansonvitamins.com/

Burgum, Sanford meet with Japanese Business Delegation to Discuss Trade Opportunities

Burgum, Sanford meet with Japanese Business Delegation to Discuss Trade Opportunities

Posted on September 2, 2021

From the Office of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford today met with members of a Japanese business delegation to discuss opportunities for partnership and investment in North Dakota’s economy and advancing North Dakota’s carbon neutrality goal.

During the discussions with the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO), Burgum and Sanford shared information about the continued growth and potential for carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCUS), enhanced oil recovery, using carbon in agriculture and the future of hydrogen in North Dakota. Burgum also highlighted his challenge for North Dakota to become a carbon-neutral state by 2030, emphasizing the administration’s approach of innovation over regulation.

“North Dakota has big opportunities in energy, agriculture and technology, and we are looking for partners in research and investment,” Burgum said. “We are excited to welcome these Japanese companies to our state and begin building the partnerships that will benefit North Dakota citizens for decades to come.”

“We continue to look for ways to attract investment and increase trade with foreign countries,” said Sanford, who serves as chair of the North Dakota Trade Office Board. “We are very pleased to have this delegation, representing a large number of Japanese businesses and organizations, here to visit about our future goals and present opportunities for North Dakota and Japan.”

Burgum and Sanford provided remarks during a daylong meeting organized and hosted by the North Dakota Department of Commerce and the North Dakota Trade Office. Companies in attendance included Toshiba America Energy Systems Corp., Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA) Inc., Hitachi Zosen Inova, Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Choshu Industry Corp. of America Inc., Kanematsu USA Inc., Mitsui & Co. USA Inc., and Sumitomo Corp. Americas (Energy Group). Also in attendance were Haruka Sakamoto from the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago and representatives from JETRO Chicago, JETRO Los Angeles and Keidanren USA. The delegation will participate tomorrow in a driving tour of North Dakota energy sites and visit Medora.

Continued Uncertainty in Global Shipping through 2021

Continued Uncertainty in Global Shipping through 2021

Posted on September 2, 2021

As I drove into work one sunny and warm morning last week, I notice a large crack running right through my windshield (what was only a tiny chip the day before became a full-on windshield casualty from a rogue rock on I-94). So I began the process of working with the insurance agent and glass repair specialist. After scheduling the repair for later that week, the scheduler mentioned that I was one of the lucky ones! Some common windshields have been hard to come by, putting people out for three months or more.

Now, this was certainly not an emergency. However, it brings us back to the reality that we still live in a disrupted world where global supply chains and logistics struggle to keep up with everyday demands across the world.

Global supply chains, shipping containers, and overland travel have had significant disruptions due to the global pandemic. The sudden halt in China of some of the busiest shipping ports in early 2020, the quick changes of consumer spending throughout the pandemic, several major man-made disasters (the Suez Canal blockage) and environmental disasters, including the most recent flooding in China and Europe, have turned the maritime shipping business on its head.

So, when will the shipping across the globe return to normal? Most experts agree it will be well into 2022 before we see some consistency coming back into global shipping. Currently, 30-40% of sea cargo arrives on time, which is much lower than pre-pandemic levels, and the shipping costs have increased dramatically. Companies are seeing as much as 500% increases in the cost of shipping containers traveling from China to the US. What was once $3000-$5000 expense for a 40-foot container is now is well over $20,000, reports Forbes (Verdon, 2021). Many businesses are forced to make tough decisions on how to afford these increases, if they should be passed on to consumers, absorbed by the business, or if the items should be delayed (Butterbrodt, 2021).  Philip Damas, Managing Director at Drewry told Reuters  that “these factors have turned global container shipping into a highly disrupted, under-supplied seller’s market, in which shipping companies can charge four to ten times the normal price to move cargoes (Muyu Xu, 2021).”

We also see information from shipping companies like Maersk reporting huge gains with their first-quarter 2021 revenues over $12 billion dollars, a 30% increase over the previous year (Baldwin, 2012). Shipping prices are higher than ever, but demand is also very high. Early fall is when US consumer spending typically rises for the back-to-school and holiday shopping season. While anticipating these habits, a premium is placed on getting goods to the US, and containers are shipped back empty due to timing and turnaround,  creating a shortage in shipping containers for exporters in the US.

Once the ships reach the US many spend days or even weeks waiting to be unloaded, and further transport inland becomes difficult with widespread labor shortages. “ The railroads are full. The warehouses are full. Port terminals are full. Ships are coming in and waiting to get worked. The factories are behind in orders. This incredible demand has got everybody in the entire value chain just clipping out at levels we never could have imagined — and it’s still not enough,” says Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles (Miller, 2021). Maersk highlighted that they see 30% more cargo through ports, and that means you need 30% more of everything else beyond the port of entry to process the cargo (Baldwin, 2012).

North Dakota Soybean exporter Bob Sinner explains challenges for exporters sending goods from the midwest. There is a geographic mismatch, where a large amount of products in the midwest (such as soybeans) are waiting to be exported, but that takes additional time and logistics for the containers to be loaded and sent back to ports. Shipping companies do not want to take that time, and they are more willing to send empty containers back to Asia for more consumer products. Where the shipments from Asia to the US  pay a very high premium, this mentality comes with increased pressure on US producers to their Asia clients. “If we can’t deliver products in an efficient and reliable way, customers are going to look elsewhere,” says Sinner.

This fall will look very different to the American consumers who are used to full shelves of goods throughout the holiday season. Experts say that there will be many more out-of-stock goods with the increased shipping rates, railway disruptions, and chassis shortages (Tan, 2021).

Finding ourselves still entrenched in the impact of the global pandemic, many of us seek to find some normalcy, but we will not see it in the global shipping industry quite yet. Normalizing shipping container pricing and increases in the labor force may be on the horizon for 2022 as we adapt to more hiccups along the way.

References

Baldwin, S. (2012, July 16). How Maersk Dominates the Global Shipping Industry. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/07/16/how-maersk-dominates-the-global-shipping-industry.html

Butterbrodt, L. (2021, August 9). Shipping Delays Affect Northern Minnesota Game Businesses. Retrieved from Post Bulletin: https://www.postbulletin.com/business/small-business/7143695-Shipping-delays-affect-northern-Minnesota-game-businesses

Miller, G. (2021, August 3). In the Eye of the Congestion Storm: Q&A with Port of LA’s Gene Seroka. Retrieved from Freight Waves: https://www.freightwaves.com/news/in-the-eye-of-the-congestion-storm-qa-with-port-of-las-gene-seroka

Muyu Xu, R. K. (2021, August 5). China-U.S. Container Shipping Rates Sail Past $20,000 to Record. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/business/china-us-container-shipping-rates-sail-past-20000-record-2021-08-05/

Tan, W. (2021, August 2). Another Shipping Crisis Strikes, Threatening Delays to Black Friday Shopping. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/03/shipping-crisis-strikes-black-friday-shopping-amid-europe-china-floods.html

Verdon, J. (2021, August 3). Shipping Container Crisis Could Derail Holiday Toy Sales. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanverdon/2021/08/03/shipping-container-crisis-could-derail-holiday-toy-sales/?sh=7a13bde8f89e

African Swine Fever Increasingly Threatens Pork in North America and Globally

African Swine Fever Increasingly Threatens Pork in North America and Globally

Posted on August 13, 2021

The African Swine Fever Virus (ASF) is a highly contagious hemorrhagic virus that exclusively infects pigs. Some farmers have experienced nearly 100% loss of herds, and the impact has expanded globally across Europe and Asia. In early August, the Dominican Republic identified two cases of ASF. Now that the virus has moved closer to the US, diligence to protect North American herds is more important than ever. The cases in the Dominican Republic are the first known detections of ASF in the Americas in  40 years, and there has never been a confirmed case in the US. Prevention, identification, and containment are the best ways to save the swine population from infection as there is no vaccine or treatment currently available.

"We need to take African Swine Fever seriously," says ND State Veterinarian and Animal Health Division Director Dr. Ethan Andress. "ND has a significant number of pigs, and although there is not a human risk, the economic and swine impact could be devastating both locally and nationally to the swine industry." Greater care should be taken from travelers and veterinarians to ensure proper sanitation to ensure infected items do not make it into the US. "We saw what happened in China with the devastation to their hog populations, we don't want that to happen here, and prevention is our best course of action," says Dr. Andress. The 2018 outbreak of ASF in China spread across the region and has reduced the global pig herds by nearly 25%, and they are now facing variants and additional waves.

"As the world opens up to international travelers, it is important that anyone visiting agriculture or food processing facilities take caution and thoroughly clean any items worn during their visit before returning to the US," says Drew Combs, the Executive Director of the North Dakota Trade Office.  These practices are essential to keeping unwanted viruses such as ASF from infecting other countries. The long lifespan of the virus contributes to the importance of good hygiene and sanitization of anything that could potentially come in contact with ASF.

What makes this virus particularly challenging to eradicate is its stability. Studies presented by the ND Livestock Alliance show that the virus can remain stable for 150 days in bones stored below 40⁰ F, 140 days in dried and salted ham, and can live for several years in frozen meat. The virus can also spread through animal feed and fertilizers. The incubation period is 5-21 days and can move more quickly when acquired by tick bites—the transmission from swine to swine occurs through bodily secretions and excretions, particularly through the nose and mouth. The animals, feed, and their products must be sanitized and closely monitored for spread.

Tamera Heins, the Executive Director of the ND Pork Council, explains, "security will be amped up in airports for any travelers from the Dominican Republic to ensure ASF does not get through."  Amber Boeshans, the Executive Director of the ND Livestock Alliance, highlights that the "African Swine Fever only causes illness in pigs and this is not a threat to human health. We want to continuously remind export partners and our consumers here at home that US pork products are safe to eat. However, the US hog industry moves around the country quite frequently. We all need to be doing our part to keep biosecurity as tight as possible. Following the best practices and going the extra mile to ensure we are minimizing this health risk to America's pig herd."  Making sure that clothing, especially shoes, are sanitized will be essential to keep this virus out of North America.

If ASF reaches the US, pork exports will cease, feed exports will also be halted, and swine sales will significantly decrease. There will also be impacts on the native herds with higher mortality rates, and commodity prices will see a deep drop in pork and feed-related products. Containment and diligence are needed to control borders. The US, Canada, and Mexico have already increased their efforts after the Dominican Republic outbreak.

Tackling ASF globally is a collaborative effort using both private and public resources to spread the word, not the virus. The measures put in place by the National Pork Industry Board should be followed to combat the exposure and spread of the virus. This includes sanitization of clothing, equipment, and other items used in the processing, research, laboratories, and fresh animal producers.

Resources:

Pork Industry Guidelines for International Travel and Biosecurity

Research Prioritizes African Swine Fever Prevention and Preparedness

African Swine Fever Inches Closer To The U.S. With Infections In Dominican Republic

Welcome the Two New NDTO Board Members

Welcome the Two New NDTO Board Members

Posted on August 5, 2021

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is excited to welcome Kermit Nash and Bill Price to the Board of Directors. Both members will bring an enormous amount of experience in business domestically and internationally, which will serve ND companies well in their efforts to expand global trade. Each new member will bring fresh ideas and insights into their positions with enthusiasm and a love for ND.

Kermit Nash, an ND native, is a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr with nearly 20 years of experience in domestic and international law, emphasizing in business operations, governance, strategy, and investments. With a vast portfolio of clients, Nash assists businesses in a variety of sectors, including software, agribusiness, energy, food processing, manufacturing, and eCommerce. He has also provided counsel to on and offshore companies making their moves for expansion beyond their domestic borders.  Nash believes in the value of ND businesses operations that serve their local communities while also competing in the global market.

Bill Price is a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in ND. He is the owner of Global Beef Consultants and has a multitude of business experience in the state as a managing partner of Price Cattle Ranch LLP and Sunnyside Feeds LLC.. He was an integral part of starting Red Trail Energy ethanol plant and has advised and served on many boards in the past. Price continues to cooperate with many businesses locally and internationally to expand ND’s reach..  With his appointment to the NDTO board, he hopes to expand export opportunities for ND businesses, help them think globally, and remove barriers that inhibit trade.

The NDTO is looking forward to the addition of Nash and Price to the board of directors and hopes that this synergy will benefit many ND companies for many years to come.

eCertificates of Origin Available Through NDTO

eCertificates of Origin Available Through NDTO

Posted on August 5, 2021

The North Dakota Trade Office is excited to announce that eCertificate of Origin processing is now available through our website. This new service will streamline the Certificate of Origin paperwork process to reduce time and costs in obtaining this necessary documentation for export.

In partnership with the American World Tade Chamber of Commerce (AWTCC), an eCertificate of Origin can be provided on average within one hour of documentation submission. The electronic iterations can benefit your company by:

  • Improving turnaround times to meet tight deadlines
  • Reduce errors to alleviate complications at customs
  • Reduce costs for couriers and wait time
  • Real-time information on submission status
  • Customers can verify eCertificates online

Certificates of Origin are used throughout the world in trade transactions and are recognized by nearly every country. The documentation is used to determine the goods' provenance, legal identification for tariffs and quotas, and identify if the good is legally allowed for import. For a refresher, see an introduction on Certifications of Origin.

The electronic versions improve the overall digital efficiency and security of the exporting package. They eliminate the risk of misplacing or mishandling the documents. The World Trade Organization has even set regulations and approves of the use of eCertificates. The necessary information to complete both the paper and electronic forms are almost identical.

This program has been an exciting step for NDTO to assist more ND companies. "Rural companies in North Dakota will likely benefit the most from this service, saving them staff and travel time to complete the certificate," says Jiwon Kim, NDTO's International Business Executive. He goes on to say that "companies who need quick access to Certificate of Origin documents will also find this as a great solution to get everything you need without leaving your desk." For NDTO member companies, the service is provided for $20 , and outside organizations can utilize the system for $50 per certificate. With this value-added service, NDTO hopes to support more ND companies and reduce time and stress on your company's exporting team.

Getting started is easy. Follow the step-by-step instructions are available here. With any questions or for more information on Certificate of Origin documentation, reach out to the NDTO team at info@ndto.com.

Tech & Trade: Blockchain for Global Exporting

Tech & Trade: Blockchain for Global Exporting

Posted on August 5, 2021

Technology can come in a variety of tools, applications, and processes to enhance our everyday lives. Throughout generations, advancements in technology have changed our daily lives, most for the time for the better. Technology can truly be transformational. In our next series of articles, we will explore how technology is impacting global trade, starting with blockchain.

Blockchain has been quite a buzzword over the past couple of years, combining data encryption, mathematics, and transparency to transactions globally. It is likely to change global trade for many generations to come.   For a great summary of what blockchain is, see our previously posted article ‘Technology & the Changing Global Landscape: What is Blockchain?’. There is also a video on ‘How Does Blockchain Work by Simply Explained’.

As a breif refersher of Blockchain, it is a system that stores a series of information on an open ledger where transactions occur.  When the movement of money happens, the account, to some degree, is visible to the world on the open ledger, and a record is created with the details of that transaction. Because the ledger is visible, it serves as a verifiable check and balance that the transaction has the money available to be finalized. The transaction is then linked or referenced to proceeding transactions and any transactions after it as a block of information. With each connecting block of information, the data is stored in a consecutive way that is highly encrypted and indefinitely linked to the previous and proceeding blocks of information. This is how blockchain gets its name; it is a series of blocks of information chained together in one system.

Here is an update on how blockchain has progressed since our last article and how it specifically impacts global trade. Reduced costs, increased transparency, and security are some of the primary benefits of using blockchain, says the World Trade Organization (WTO). Hosting entire conferences to raise awareness and adoption of digital technologies (including blockchain), the WTO believes that this technology can provide leaps forward in how  transactions are handled globally (Organization, World Trade, 2018).

Information transfer, transaction costs,  and customs verification/certification for the movement of goods are all eased with the transparency of blockchain technology. All of these benefits are expected to grow global trade by 31-34% over the next 15 years, says IBM (Sangha, Pureswaran, & Soman, For Global Trade to see Blockchain’s Benefits, Trusted Data Needs to be Shared Across Interconnected Networks in Digital Marketplaces., 2021).  With that kind of expectation for the future, some serious changes are afoot with how transactions will evolve.

The emerging organizations utilizing blockchain can be split into three groups, according to Shangha, Pureswaran, and Soman. Co-created platform companies make up 51% of users which  build networks and offer services to utilize blockchain technology. Co-created platforms use blockchain tech to incorporate additional information and details to accompany the blockchain transaction, such as tracing apps for a particular good for consumers. Companies seeking efficiency make up 31% of users. This category includes companies like Wal-Mart that see the cost-saving impacts and have shifted to using these networks. Companies that offer more than efficiency and add-on services have integrated blockchain, and other similar technologies make up 18% of users. These companies see long-term value in network integration for the entire global trading system from good creation, payment, movement, and arrival to the consumer.

One of the primary goals of blockchain is to reduce costs. Transactions costs are significantly decreased when using blockchain because traditional banks and payment systems are circumvented. There is less reliance on traditional banking as a form of legitimacy because blockchain technology allows for the open ledger as a verifiable way to purchase goods. In the future, we may even see that the traditional payment systems will need to reduce their costs to remain competitive. Mitigating risk for companies is also a benefit to blockchain users. With more transaction transparency, buyers and sellers can have better assurances of payment processing.

Blockchain has a strong potential to increase access to funds and create more efficiency for value chains, particularly for perishable products. FairFood says that “Blockchain can ease access to supply chain finance for smallholder farmers and other chain actors, can enable direct payments to actors in the supply chain and can reduce transaction costs of money transfer to LMICs” (Low and Middle-Income Countries) (Fair Food, 2019). Administrative costs and time in moving and validating paperwork for goods to be transferred can be reduced with a decentralized ledger. There will also be a clear chain of origin to ensure that moving goods through customs and across borders can go more smoothly, reducing time and effort on ensuring that documents are in order.

Blockchain, if integrated globally, could ease economic barriers to trade by improving visibility on tariffs and quotas from a government and data tracking standpoint. With these digital technologies, tariffs and quotas can be more easily tracked and traced throughout the entire process, and the reporting will become more transparent for all parties involved with one centralized data set.

Limitations for blockchain rest on scalability and adoption. Blockchain as a system will work best if embraced by the vast majority of trade parties to reduce friction across the board. If processing methods change throughout a trade deal, the benefits are lost from switching methods.

When considering financing outside of traditional banks, many small businesses can find blockchain attractive as assets are more transparent, and a relationship/history with the banking institution is not needed. Each exchange is verifiable on the decentralized ledger, which greatly reduces payment risks. Another limitation of blockchain is the volatility of crypto-currency (on which many blockchain transactions are based) which can scare off many new users and may inhibit initial larger-scale adoption (Liao, 2021).

Whole networks, not just individual companies, are needed to see a return on investments with blockchain technologies. The structure needs to work as a system of fully integrated steps chained together to create an information flow that allows for more trust. Doing business globally requires a vast amount of trust, which is how financial institutions have become an integral part of the trade process. (Sangha, Pureswaran, & Soman, Advancing Global Trade With Blockchain, 2020). Building trust has been difficult, but eventually, as blockchain gains adoption, the system itself will be the network of trust, with accountability and verifiability built-in with the transparent ledger. COVID-19 has slowed many processes globally, but the increased awareness of the need for integrated digital technologies in global trade is not one of them. The pandemic has amplified the need for such systems to keep records and maintain value-chains globally.

With interconnected trade, many barriers are being reduced, from cost, trust, and government by using blockchain technology, and it is anticipated by many in the trade industry to be transformational. Adoption and trust remain key factors to the success of blockchain technology. Time will continue to tell if these types of technological innovations will impact trade long-term.

References

Fair Food. (2019, May 29). Report: the potential of blockchain for agri-food. Retrieved from FairFood: https://fairfood.nl/en/resources/report-the-potential-of-blockchain-for-agri-food/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwub-HBhCyARIsAPctr7xm3le2_Ug4Sk4qbpjS02dMu7oLcVVtuVazWuq51vq0dfKe2Wl6vAMaAlzcEALw_wcB

Liao, R. (2021, July 19). How Decentralized Finance Will Transform Business Financial Services – Especially for SMEs. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/07/decentralized-finance-transaction-banking-smes/

Organization, World Trade. (2018). World Trade Report 2018. Retrieved from World Trade Organization: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/421/2/022051/pdf

Sangha, P., Pureswaran, V., & Soman, S. (2020, May). Advancing Global Trade With Blockchain. Retrieved from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/WVDE0MXG

Sangha, P., Pureswaran, V., & Soman, S. (2021). For Global Trade to see Blockchain’s Benefits, Trusted Data Needs to be Shared Across Interconnected Networks in Digital Marketplaces. Retrieved from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/blockchain-global-trade

ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

Posted on July 20, 2021

FARGO, ND - ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, and North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) Executive Director Drew Combs returned from a successful mission in Qatar and Turkey. NDTO team worked closely with Qatari and Turkish counterparts to ensure a successful mission which included several ND companies with interests in expanding relationships internationally into the region.

The mission was intended to build on NDTO's relationships with Qatar and Turkey that started during the pandemic to create a lasting footprint for the future. The NDTO coordinated a two-part mission, which was completed late last week. Commissioner Goehring and Commissioner Leiman, both NDTO board members, played essential roles in representing ND. "North Dakota is experiencing growing opportunities in multiple sectors," says Commissioner Goehring. "It is a privilege to emphasize all North Dakota has to offer the global marketplace."

Commission Leiman appreciated the opportunity to join the mission to build on a variety of investment opportunities in Qatar and Turkey, saying, "I don’t think this mission could have gone any better. We are looking forward to building many new avenues for businesses in ND."

Over the past year," the NDTO has a budding relationship with Qatar and Turkey, and this was a perfect opportunity to build on those relationships and create a solid foundation for the future with our new friends," says Combs. 

While in Turkey, connections were made with the Turkish Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Industry and Technology, and Ministry of Trade. Other prominent business meetings were held with energy, agriculture, and technology leaders. Both ND and Turkish businesses shared ideas on how to best partner for the future on a variety of projects.

Following Turkey was the Qatari leg of the mission. Meetings with government officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Free Trade Zones Authority,  Qatar Investment Authority, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and Qatar Stock Exchange. Qatari business people with agriculture, energy, and technology expertise welcomed the ND delegation throughout the week of meetings. The meetings focused on the exciting things happening in the state across several industries, as well as the many opportunities for partnership that will increase synergy between ND and Qatar.

"I can certainly say that the hospitality shown by the Qatari government was phenomenal, and we made many new and long-lasting connections," says Combs. Highlighting the success of the mission in both Qatar and Turkey, coupled with the ND businesses traveling with the delegation, there are many opportunities to thrive in the increasingly globalized world. The mission was a success in creating more bridges for communication, idea exchanges, investment opportunities, and cross-pollination for many ND companies in the future. As the world begins to open up and travel is becoming more available, NDTO and ND will continue to engage internationally and promote the state’s abundance in resources to increase ND’s global footprint.

 

Member Profile: Valley Express Inc.

Member Profile: Valley Express Inc.

Posted on June 30, 2021

From humble beginnings of hauling potatoes in the upper midwest, Valley Express Inc. has grown into a multidimensional global logistics company. With roots well planted in their ND home office, they started as a freight brokerage company that has expanded its services across several locations throughout the US. And through all their growth, Valley Express has maintained an impeccable reputation for consistency.

Within hours of asking if the team would be interested in speaking with NDTO for this article, I had four of their team members on a video call ready to tell me all about their dynamic approach to transportation and logistics. Overwhelmingly responsive is the best way to describe this team of hardworking and approachable professionals. Glenn Nelson, Chief Financial Officer, Wayne Larson, VP- Global Markets, Ian Nicks, VP Intermodal Logistics, and Amie O'Connor VP Global Operations, showed how their web of connectivity for imports and exports results in a highly effective model to benefit all.

Valley Express/ Worldwide moves around $70 million in freight revenue annually. They have grown and added value to their customers along the way with Valley Express, Valley Logistics Solutions, Valley Intermodal Solutions, and more. "Each one of our additional diversifications, like intermodal, has helped us become stronger and more responsive to the local community and customers," says Nelson. He goes on to explain that "just about everything we do comes from a 300-mile radius of the Fargo Moorhead area. We really are supporting this community with their freight needs." Valley Express has participated in trade missions, reverse trade missions, and STEP-funded opportunities with the NDTO throughout the years. These experiences have helped them better understand the business and build upon their connections.

"The intention was always to grow Valley Worldwide to support other aspects of the business and facilitate Valley Intermodal," explains Nicks. "Their goal is to grow to the point where our own fleet can handle our own containers through the Valley Worldwide office and vice versa, so that everything is all tied together." Nicks say that one of the biggest headaches he hears from exporters/importers is that they are often surprised by the many parties involved in moving the goods. Valley's role is to help clarify and simplify the process. "What Valley is building is a one-stop-shop. All a customer needs to do is call Valley, and that is it. They [customers] don't have to know anything about import/export documentation or if they need an AES [Automated Export System] filing. They don't have to know who is draying their container, or if there is a container shortage, and how to navigate that," says Nicks.   Customers typically come to Valley Express/ Worldwide in need of trucking services, but this relationship often evolves with the variety of integrated services offered.  The team can navigate all of the specificity of shipping seamlessly without confusing the customers.

Larson, who is based in Duluth, MN, explained that Valley Express/ Worldwide grew close partnerships with the Duluth Seaport Authority and Lake Superior Warehousing to help open an intermodal facility in 2017. The intermodal facility was a game-changer for many businesses, from seeing five containers coming into port weekly to seeing over one hundred. "Part of that is working directly with the Port Authority and Superior Warehousing," Larson explains "we can offer all types of services from freight forwarding, trucking, warehousing, and trans-loading to benefit many companies." A Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) services are also available on-site. US Customs inspections can often be scheduled the next day and take about 15 minutes. This helps to ease the timing and paperwork for many importers.

With its network of connections, Valley Express/ Worldwide has a competitive edge to help customers ship goods more efficiently. They can accommodate heavy commodity weight containers coming through the Duluth Port. The excess weight that is too heavy for roads can be stored and repacked to a manageable road weight and then shipped overland to their final destination. Companies can significantly reduce shipping costs overseas by shipping an overweight container via sea and then repacking it for road weight.

O'Connor manages operations at the Minneapolis, MN office and was described as "the epitome of operational excellence and keeping us all on the straight and narrow," says Nelson. The Minneapolis facility is an FDA-certified warehouse. Their space is also available for projects or to hold items for inventory management. The flexibility with this space is a valuable tool and can help supplement the customer's needs. In addition, O'Connor says, "our team specializes in making it easy for our importers and exporters. They don't do this every day,  and we do! If we can take this portion of their business off their hands and make it simple, we are happy to."

The Minneapolis intermodal trucking fleet operates between 40-50 owner-operators on any given day. Many of these operators are doing one to two loads per day throughout the region. With a "street-turn," meaning when full load is brought to its end destination and then can be reloaded with an export, it can then be brought back to Minneapolis full and ready for export again. The ability to do the street-turns has been invaluable for both companies to reduce costs and move goods more quickly. Valley Intermodal touches between 1000-1200 containers per month out of Minneapolis, many of which can be reused/reloaded or repositioned where they are needed. In Duluth, they are able to match the imports and exports with 50 containers going in and out each week.

Valley Express/ Worldwide is the most extensive intermodal fleet in the state of ND. "Our owner operations and their trucks have Valley Express on the doors. They are running under our licenses, insurance, authority, and their trailers are purchased from us, so we have created a structure where we can say yes to a truck that wants to come on. So we can grow for the customers quite quickly," explains Nelson. The team continues to increase their networking and have contacts in pretty much every location they have freight coming or going. As active members of the International Freight and Logistics Network (IFLN), the alliance is an invaluable resource and provides added security when shipping globally.

Valley Express/ Worldwide continues to grow and serve the community in ND to help build connections, cooperate with many businesses, and aims to simplify logistics for everyone. "Our customers don't have to be experts in international logistics. They just have to have our phone number," says Nicks, and the whole team nods and smiles.

For more information on Valley Express/Worldwide, see their video and visit their website here.

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

Posted on June 30, 2021

Trade credit insurance is largely considered a discretionary insurance purchase, but Kimberly Kelly, Founder of Trade Credit Specialty, is on a mission to change that. As one of our newest NDTO Trade Service Provider members, Kelly shares her passion for how trade credit insurance can be leveraged daily to grow domestic and export credit sales safely. Her consultative, client-centered approach is changing views for the better.

Overhead expenses, sales metrics, and achieving quotas can often be barriers to a truly consultative insurance broker relationship. "It's understandable that larger firms must consider their profitability, but this can sometimes present a conflict of interest. I wanted to eliminate that dilemma, so I created a firm with low operating expenses, allowing me to be a true consultant," explains Kelly.

Trade Credit Specialty is an insurance brokerage that operates like a consulting firm. Their focus is to advise, support, and provide technical expertise instead of simply selling insurance. Their business model relies on technology to reduce operating expenses and increase efficiencies for both the broker and the client. "It's this low overhead and increased efficiency that allows us to provide service and expertise at a level often expected from global firms but sometimes not realized with smaller firms," Kelly explains.

For example, the "Next Steps" page of their website houses time-saving embedded documents. Using the "Virtual Meeting Request" button enables a meeting to be scheduled quickly, according to your schedule. The "Relationships" page offers quick links and forms on demand.

Low operating expenses eliminate the need for sales quotas or revenue goals, allowing the only measure of success to be client satisfaction, which is their mission. "I sincerely want to help businesses, and I have no problem assessing the situation, and if trade credit insurance isn't a good fit, I'll admit that."

So, why purchase trade credit insurance? Great question; here are a few benefits:

  • Competition: By relying on a trade credit policy, a company will be able to offer buyers payment options, including higher credit limits or longer payment terms as opposed to limiting themselves to cash-only sales.
  • Non-payment risk mitigation: Policyholders can confidently extend terms to new customers or increase credit for marginal customers. Additionally, the responsibility of determining the creditworthiness of these customers is transferred to the carrier, eliminating that task for the policyholder
  • Preserved cash flow: Trade credit insurance gives confidence that cash flows will not be interrupted by slow pays or insolvencies, particularly when a concentration is identified.
  • Augmented borrowing power: Insured AR will become collateral, allowing banks and lenders to add export, marginal or concentrated risks into the borrowing base.

The examples above illustrate the variety of benefits reaped from an in-force trade credit insurance policy, supporting day-to-day operations beyond filing a claim, and that is Kelly's favorite part about trade credit insurance. "Trade credit insurance isn't a policy that sits on the shelf, tapped only in the event of a loss. It is leveraged on a daily basis to support safe growth. It's really a cost-effective tool," says Kelly.

Overall, trade credit insurance gives a competitive advantage to the policyholder, eliminates the responsibility of due diligence, and mitigates non-payment risk in both the domestic and global marketplace.

For more information on trade credit insurance, use these links to connect with Kimberly Kelly at Trade Credit Specialty or reach out to the NDTO team at  info@ndto.com.