Top Reasons to Attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program

Top Reasons to Attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program

Posted on March 18, 2022

Below is a list of the top 5 reasons to attend the Big Iron International Visitors Program.  For more information on the event, including participating hotels, agenda and registration, please click here.

1) Exclusive Programming & Receptions
The Big Iron Farm Show runs annually from Tuesday through Thursday.  Each year, on the Monday prior to the opening of the Big Iron Farm Show, the North Dakota Trade Office and US Commercial Service hold special programming for our international guests participating in the Big Iron International Visitor’s Program (or Big Iron IVP).  This year, international guests will have the opportunity to tour a farm and learn about the farming practices used in our region. Additionally, there are two receptions specifically for international visitors held on both Monday and Tuesday evening.

2) Specialized Tours Allow Participants to see North Dakota Agriculture at WorkIMG_2464
While trade shows are a great way to see a variety of products at once, at the Big Iron IVP we understand that sometimes seeing the dealership or manufacturing facility and the agricultural technology in the field is important.  That’s why we hold specialized tours each year, with different focuses, to allow international guests to see North Dakota machinery at work, whether it’s a tour of one of our member’s dealerships or an educations session on a specific crop, we can assure our international visitors that they will learn about our agricultural technology on a deeper level.

IMG_21123) Networking with State Leaders
Agriculture has always been a driving force in North Dakota’s economy, and our state leaders are proud of this heritage.  Because of this, our state leaders are frequently involved in the Big Iron IVP.  This is an opportunity for our international guests to be officially welcomed to North Dakota by our leaders, because our state truly appreciates your visit.

_MG_59934) Hotel Support & Free Ground Transportation
One of the most difficult aspects of being in rural United States is getting from your hotel to the places where business deals happen.  During the Big Iron IVP, we partner with specific hotels to make the hotel booking process east. Additionally, we provide large tour buses for transportation to ensure that you can get to the Big Iron Farm Show and to facilities without any worries.  And, don’t worry about paying for this transportation – it’s on us.

_MG_64205) International Visitors Pavilion
Last, but certainly not least, the Big Iron IVP has a designated International Visitors’ Pavilion for our global guests to call home at the Big Iron Farm Show.  In this Pavilion you will find coffee, water, snacks, free WiFi, private meeting space and – most importantly – warmth.  Additionally, if you need access to an interpreter, this is where you will find them waiting for you.

Our goal is to make the Big Iron International Visitor’s Program as successful as possible for our international guests as well as our North Dakota companies.  And, in typical North Dakota fashion, we want you to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable during your visit here.

For more information on the event, including participating hotels, agenda and registration, please click here.

We hope to see you at Big Iron 2022!

Member Profile: Dakota Air Parts

Member Profile: Dakota Air Parts

Posted on March 31, 2021

Dakota Air Parts Intl., Inc. (aka Dakota) has been serving the operators around the globe by supplying their requirements that range from smaller consumables up to entire aircraft like the Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopters since 1994. The Fargo-based company has over 40,000 square feet of warehouse space filled with aviation essentials. NDTO had the opportunity to connect with Shawn Johnston, General Manager, and Maddie Hanson, the Trade Show Coordinator.  Dakota has continued to grow since its founding through strategic business partnerships both domestically and internationally.

Dakota Air Parts and its strategic partners specialize in the buying, selling, and support of rotor-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, turbine engines, and parts - OEM & aftermarket. Supported platforms include: UH-1 “Huey,” OH-58 “Kiowa,” OH-6 “Cayuse,” Bell 206, 204/205, 212, 412, 407, MD 500 series, Honeywell T53 and T55 engines, and Rolls-Royce M250 series turbine engines. Dakota routinely purchases surplus aircraft, engines, and aviation inventories which are brought to its warehouses, inventoried, marketed, and resold.

“While we support a wide range of aircraft including commercial aircraft and business jets, our niche,” Johnston explains, ”is rotor-wing and, more specifically, ex-military aircraft. Our customer base ranges from government and military operations, police, commercial uses in agriculture, forestry, and firefighting - and then there is the occasional individual who has one as personal aircraft.”

Helicopters, when properly maintained, have a long lifespan. For example, Dakota purchased a fleet of UH-1 Iroquois from the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 2016, a fleet that had been in operation for nearly 50 years. The aircraft, parts, tooling, and equipment to keep the fleet operational were all purchased by Dakota, who in turn used this material to support other UH-1 operators with the items they needed to continue to operate and maintain this durable platform.

Keeping a stockpile of parts, Johnston explains, is part of Dakota’s success because OEM’s and repair facilities often have limited inventories. Dakota can provide those parts on short notice if needed. “A good example of this is when a firefighting crew is operating and they need to replace a flight-critical part. Sometimes a needed part isn’t available from the manufacturer until months in the future.  Those guys can’t wait, and that is where we come in,” says Johnston. Hanson adds, “and because we have been in business so long, people know who we are and what we do. Dakota has an excellent, loyal customer base.“ Inventory and how quickly parts can turn around is always top-of-mind for the team. With their advanced software and infrastructure, they can track parts and orders and do business all over the world in real-time.

Although the company did not start off exporting, there was a substantial market for it, and the team at Dakota jumped right in. There are many opportunities worldwide for supporting aircraft operators ranging from governments to private owners. Their advice to exporters is to be as detail-oriented as possible.  Johnston advised, “one small thing that should have taken an hour could turn into days or weeks of your time. Come into exporting with specific, detailed questions, even if they seem like silly questions.” The more information you know upfront, like how the shipping works, what is needed to get items off the vessels, at what point are you getting paid, are all excellent questions to ask. The team remembers when a shipment was ready for pick-up, and although there was a forklift, there was no one there to operate the machine. “What a learning experience!” said Hanson.  Each set of questions will be different, and for Dakota, it is highly dependent on the product, says Johnston, “much of our inventory gets shipped by common carriers like FedEx or UPS, but then we ship whole helicopters too.  There is a different set of requirements and a whole round of questions each time.”

With the pandemic reducing global travel and events, it has been challenging to meet with existing and potential customers. Trade shows are an important part of Dakota’s business, but many shows of interest have either been postponed or canceled altogether.  With new virtual platforms available, the company has tried a few different options, “I don’t think we quite got what we wanted [from the virtual trade shows]. We are based on relationship building, which is more challenging in a virtual space,” says Hanson. According to Hanson, some of the virtual activities have been great practice for the business development team. Johnston adds that “the trade shows have been difficult. Not being able to meet in person is a challenge, and I don’t know if anyone has figured it all out yet.” This can be especially hard for companies with a diverse range of products to offer. ”Dakota is hard to define sometimes. At trade shows, people will accidentally stop by our booth, and we get to talking, then we find opportunities. With the virtual platforms, this is more difficult,” explains Johnston.

Dakota is looking ahead as they expand into business jet inventory and different types of aircraft. The next steps will help with diversification while continuing to support rotor-wing platforms like the UH-1 will help make Dakota Air Parts more sustainable overall.

For  more information about Dakota Air Parts, please visit

North Dakota’s Continued Partnership with the United Kingdom

North Dakota’s Continued Partnership with the United Kingdom

Posted on March 31, 2021

On March 16th the North Dakota Trade Office, in partnership with Her Majesty’s Government, hosted an agriculture roundtable to discuss furthering the partnership between the United Kingdom and North Dakota. Speakers included Consul-General Alan Gogbashian (Chicago), Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America Antony Phillipson, Jennifer Groover, Senior Policy Advisor for Trade & Agriculture UK Embassy, Washington D.C., and ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

The roundtable was attended by a broad selection of North Dakota’s agricultural leaders. The discussion, in addition to the overall UK/ND relations, centered around greater cooperation in trade and investments, both in the UK and ND, in the agriculture space. Delegates spoke about opportunities, issues, and outlook for greater cooperation with North Dakota’s ninth largest trading partner.

This event is the first of series of UK/ND roundtable’s that will focus on various industries and opportunities. Please be sure to check in periodically for times and dates of the next roundtable discussion.

NDTO Facilitates South America Virtual Trade Mission

NDTO Facilitates South America Virtual Trade Mission

Posted on August 5, 2020

The NDTO facilitated a virtual trade mission to South America with seven specialty crop producers and processors from North Dakota. Meetings took place in late July and early August, with more than 60 meetings. Chile, Colombia and Peru participated with great interest in ND specialty crops. In 2019, ND producers and processors exported more than $7 million in peas, lentils, and chickpeas to these three countries.

The virtual mission came to fruition as a result of the travel restrictions to South America, as the intended trade mission was set for spring 2020. Shifting with the current state of travel, NDTO is adapting to connecting businesses with international partners and continue to assist companies with their global business goals. Companies are eager to find ways to make connections and eager to continue doing business in this unique environment.

“While a virtual mission is no substitute for a trade mission, it is a means where our businesses can get connected to buyers and build relationships.” said Drew Combs, North Dakota Trade Office’s Executive Director, “NDTO is doing what we can to accommodate the situation in the world.”  He goes on to say that the virtual sphere can work well for some things, but international trade often requires meeting people, shaking hands, and getting out there to build relationships. “People still want to touch, smell, and see where things are actually produced before any sales are made.”

With limitation on travel, Combs and the NDTO team are continuing to connect buyers and sellers for conversations, introductions and start to establish relationships, so when the time comes for travel, some foundations are already built. “For North Dakota to stay competitive in the world market,” Combs says, it needs to get out and make relationships, not sit idle. “There really is no substitute for a face to face meetings. This is a band-aid but, this is the best we can do right now.” Throughout the virtual trade mission, companies met with prescreened buyers with clear objectives, as well as a team dedicated moderation, notes and translations to contribute to success overall of making connections.

Funding for this project comes from the ND Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block grant and will be utilized to increase market visibility and competitiveness of this specialty crops including peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas on a global scale.”

If your company is interested in future specialty crop projects, please contact Jiwon Kim at For questions on applying for grants funds, please contact Amanda Nordick at

Funding for the Virtual Trade Mission to South America with NDTO was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant North Dakota (DA02321ACT08). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

US-UK Negotiations Begin on Free Trade Agreement and What That Means for North Dakota

US-UK Negotiations Begin on Free Trade Agreement and What That Means for North Dakota

Posted on May 11, 2020

Formal negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom were announced jointly on May 5, 2020 by US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer and UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss.  The negotiations began virtually and will continue for ten days followed by a four-week recess and then parties will reconvene. Both sides are hopeful that a comprehensive trade agreement will be reached quickly and benefit both economies   especially in light of the recent global pandemic.

So, what do the new trade negotiations with the UK mean for North Dakota?  The US exported more than $125.9 billion in goods and services, making in the second largest country of import for the UK’s market. Currently, US merchandise exports to the UK totaled $69 billion in 2019, with the top 5 exports being in precious stones and metals, aircraft, mineral fuels, machinery and electrical machinery sectors.

In 2019, North Dakota was exporting $26 million to the UK, of that electrical and agricultural machinery (19.6 million), grain (2.7 million) and organic chemicals ($1.1 million) make up the majority.   North Dakota exporters may see more opportunities to export agricultural machinery including tractors, plows and parts, soybeans, and organic chemicals.  There is potential for more ND exports in legume’s and pea products. As the negotiations continue, more clarity and specifics will come to light on additional opportunities for ND businesses in specific sectors.

Both parties play a major role in each other’s economies with the US being the largest and the UK being the 5th largest economy in the world, respectively.  More than one million workers are also exchanged from each country across the pond. Additionally, the US Chamber of Commerce reports that foreign direct investments from the UK total over $540 billion, while the US invests nearly $750 billion in the British market.

The UK following the separation from the European Union finds themselves in a new position to explore options with trading partners and policies apart from that of the EU.  Overall, they are looking forward to more freedom for open dialogues in hopes to create expansion. The UK has opened 14 formal discussions with countries regarding trade, with the US being one of them. Additionally, the UK emphasizes its continued commitment to working with the EU as it seeks to build new opportunities to participate in the global economy.

With the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, there is potential that previous trade barriers will be renegotiated, which were subject to the EU’s regulations. Some of the EU regulations are stricter on food safety guidelines and pharmaceuticals, and both parties are interested in diligently working towards success for workers, farmers and business industries.

As negotiations get underway, the US and UK will work through both parties’ objectives. The US is aiming to balance regulations and reciprocal trade and looking to see growth in industrial goods and agriculture. Both parties speak towards a vision for the future in linking two of the world’s largest economies in a comprehensive agreement that will not only benefit small and medium businesses, but also touch on a variety of sectors including agriculture, technology and telecommunication, intellectual property, financial services and improved business mobility. Opening remarks of the US & UK trade negotiations can be viewed here.

In the coming months, more information regarding these trade talks will become clear as more than 100 negotiators from each side of the pond work towards an amicable deal. For North Dakota, there are a variety of opportunities to work with the UK and export our quality products. The UK is eager to work with states on a more individualized level once negotiations are finalized.

The NDTO is building connections via the State International Development Organization with the  regional US trade advisors working with the UK.

For more information on the free trade agreement between the US and the UK, please contact the NDTO at

Update on COVID-19

Update on COVID-19

Posted on March 16, 2020

Like many businesses across the state, NDTO staff will be working from home until further notice, but we are still available to assist you with any export related issues that may impact your business. If you need assistance, please email and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Even though this pandemic may have slowed your international business, NDTO does have resources available to you to continue to grow your business worldwide. For companies that qualify, the STEP program has funding available for certain market research and marketing activities. Please contact the NDTO for more information on how you can utilize our various services.

Below, are some useful resources for your business and travel questions.

Business Resources

Travel Resources

Press Release: North Dakota Trade Office Hires New Executive Director

Press Release: North Dakota Trade Office Hires New Executive Director

Posted on December 26, 2019

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is pleased to announce that after an extensive search process, current team member Drew Combs has accepted the role of Executive Director. He will lead and manage the administration, programs and strategic vision plan for the NDTO. Drew has nearly two decades of international and domestic experience in agriculture and energy, and has lived and worked in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

"Drew has the knowledge, experience and passion to lead the North Dakota Trade Office," said Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, NDTO's chairman of the board of directors. "We're especially excited about his background in agriculture and energy - pillars of North Dakota's economy - as well as his experience in logistics, a vital issue for our exporters."

Drew joined the NDTO in August 2019 as a Business Development Executive. Prior to his involvement with NDTO, he was Director of Minerals Management at the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands for over eight years. He has also consulted and worked with agricultural as well as oil and gas companies both domestically and internationally and gained a reputation for helping companies succeed in extremely complex and challenging markets.

"I am honored that our board, comprised of business and government leaders, selected me for this position," said Combs. "I look forward to leading a team dedicated to making a positive difference in North Dakota and its businesses while empowering people to expand trade across all borders." A proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Drew has a Bachelor's of Science Degree in political science and history from West Texas A&M University, and a Master's Degree in Energy Business with a logistics focus from the University of Tulsa.

The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership founded in 2004 that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and North Dakota companies can increase exports and grow their international business.

Guyana’s Economy to Rapidly Expand

Guyana’s Economy to Rapidly Expand

Posted on December 5, 2019

Guyana is creating a buzz as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the country’s GDP will increase by a whopping 86% in 2020, an unprecedentedly high number and up from its 4.4% estimate in 2019. The only English-speaking country in South America is preparing for an economic boom after it’s set to become the 4th largest oil producer in Latin America when drilling begins in early 2020.

According to the IMF, the country’s oil revenues will climb from nil to $631 million by 2024. That number could reach into the billions as production ramps up. With a population roughly the same as North Dakota, the country will likely become the world’s largest oil producer (and wealthiest) per capita.

Guyana’s history includes colonization by both the Dutch and British. English is the official language and is used for business and education, however the majority of people also speak Creolese – a mixture of English and anglicized French – informally. The country’s culture has more in common with the Caribbean than South America.

The Guyanese predominately live on the coast and about half are in or near the capital, Georgetown. The vast majority of land is forest, including some of the continent’s largest areas of unspoiled rainforest.

By most accounts, the country does not have a plan in motion for its impending windfall other than a framework on paper to lift its population out of poverty. Its infrastructure needs massive improvement, as does its educational and health systems.

As it grapples with sudden wealth, Guyana’s administration hopes to achieve what other resource-rich nations, including its neighbor Venezuela, have not – wealth without ruin.

Export Education at Your Fingertips

Export Education at Your Fingertips

Posted on December 5, 2019

A well-organized, rich library of export education courses is at your fingertips right now with NDTO’s eLearning Portal. The eLearning Portal is accessed through NDTO’s website and is powered by Amber Road’s Global Trade Academy. Courses are updated regularly, and achievements are tracked on an individual basis.

NDTO’s eLearning Portal has three levels – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced. Subjects include the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, EU vs US export controls, customs processes, export control and compliance, import compliance, free trade agreements and much more.

Each course has a detailed description, estimated time to complete, and is led by an instructor with in-depth knowledge and experience in that topic.

Amber Road’s Global Trade Academy designed these courses to ensure attendees are provided with current information and resources to efficiently and compliantly manage international supply chain operations.

NDTO offers the eLearning Portal to those that wish to educate themselves, their team, or improve career prospects.

The courses are even approved for continuing education credits through the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America.

NDTO’s eLearning Portal is free to NDTO members.

To get started, NDTO members may go to the Member Login page. Non-members may email to sign up.

When in Rome: Countries that Don’t Like to Say ‘No’

When in Rome: Countries that Don’t Like to Say ‘No’

Posted on December 5, 2019

Americans are known for being direct negotiators and saying no when they mean it, but this style of communication isn’t popular in the world. There are many countries in which saying no is frowned upon. Here we’ll look at a number of cultures that may say yes when they mean no, and how to find out if your negotiating counterparts fall under this category.

NDTO’s When in Rome series examines cultural issues that may affect exporters including business card etiquette, gift giving, small talk around the world and alcohol and business.

The first country on our list that doesn’t like to say no is Chile. Chilean culture values “saving face” and thus will not give negative feedback. Instead of no, you may hear maybe or possibly, or your Chilean customer may fall silent. If it’s your turn to offer a negative response, you’re encouraged to echo this practice in order to remain polite. If there is a negative issue to be discussed, a private conversation with the appropriate person is the way to go.

Thais literally cannot say no as the word doesn’t directly translate into their language. Rather, there is a phrase that means “not yes.” It’s important to pay attention to non-verbal communication in Thailand and any pauses in conversation, as they may be used to bypass saying no. Your negotiation counterpart may ignore a question or “not understand” a question instead of saying no. Pay close attention to your customers’ smile – it’s used to convey many things, including approval, displeasure and embarrassment.

Egyptians are more likely to give ambiguous answers than say no. You may hear, “We’ll think about it,” or “We’ll look into this” or even silence when the real answer is no. A yes may also be a softer way of saying maybe. It’s wise to adapt the same manner or risk appearing rude.

People in the United Arab Emirates also don’t like to give direct refusals. They may say yes to delay the negotiation or convey it’s possible. Further discussions are needed to clarify. This may vary when dealing with large multi-national companies that favor more direct communication.

Kenyan businesspeople are interested in preserving their own dignity as well as yours and will avoid giving negative answers, especially in a group setting. If there is an issue with the deal, they may tell you no by way of a metaphor or a story.

The common thread here is that businesspeople from these countries don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or lose face, so they’d rather set the deal aside than reject it. This could be an opportunity for you to reevaluate your offer, or further develop the relationship to achieve more understanding.

These cultural cues as well as a ton of country-specific cultural information can be found on NDTO’s website within the A to Z World Trade Reference. Simply go to NDTO’s website and click on Member Login. If you’re new to NDTO, contact for access.