Global Business Connections Spotlights

Global Business Connections Spotlights

Posted on May 5, 2022

On May 24, 2022, the NDTO's Global Business Connections conference returns, live and in person at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, ND. The event will open with a keynote address by Natusyou Lipschutz, speaking about the keys to success in global communications. You can read more about her expertise in this article. The rest of the day is filled with great topics that are not to be missed, and we are excited to share more of what's in store for this one-day event packed with information essential for your export businesses.

Mainstage Events:

The Congestion Conundrum: An Insider Panel on the Transportation Challenges Exporters Face

This panel will take on the tough topic of transportation that defines so many business interactions and touches almost every industry today. The panel will be moderated by Bob Sinner of SB&B Foods, who has been a long-time advocate for ND exporters. Members of the panel include ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman,  the President of Lake Superior Warehousing  Jonathan Lamb, and a representative from BNSF. Each panelist has an insider look into the transportation and supply chain issues that are impacting so many. Come ready with questions for this interactive discussion of one of the largest hurdles to exporting today.

Insights on the Evolving Business of Export with Howard Dahl, Amity Technology

Howard Dahl, the president of Amity Technology, has been a longstanding leader in ND with a passion for innovation and the drive for exporting. With the last few years providing several challenges, we are eager to hear more about his take on the evolution of exports and what he sees for the future.

Breakout Sessions:

Economic Considerations for Exporters with Sarah House, Well Fargo

Sarah House, the Managing Director and Senior Economist at Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Bank, will share her insights on today's economy and how it will impact exporters. Based in Charlotte, NC, she covers the US macro-economy, including the labor market, inflation trends, and monetary policy. Sarah frequently speaks about the economy to the national media, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, CNBC, and National Public Radio. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2010, Sarah worked as a research associate for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Business Opportunities in Africa

With such a large market full of potential, this session will feature local experts in their experiences in doing business in Africa, offering guidance and perspectives along the way with plenty of opportunities for discussion. The panel will include Heather Ranck of the USCS Fargo, Delore Zimmerman of Praxis Africa, and Alexandre Cyusa of Weather Modification/Fargo Jet Center. NDTO's Executive Director, Drew Combs, will moderate the panel.

Cybersecurity Threats Facing Exporters  with Alexander R. Bilus, and Kermit Nash of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr

Experts in the field of cybersecurity and data privacy, Alexander (Sandy) R. Bilus and Kermit Nash, will dispense their knowledge on this ever-changing landscape and how to mitigate the digital risks for exporters. Bilus and Nash will help exporters take a closer look at all things digital to consider the compliance and integrity of their digital sphere and how to identify and mitigate threats.

Doing Business in Asia with Michael Hirou, Tractus Asia

Michael Hirou, USA Chief Representative and Manager with Tractus Asia, joins us from California to talk about the market trends and nuances for ND exporters doing business with Asia. Several key countries, including in the ASEAN region, Japan, and China, will be presented in a multi-industry approach.

Michael joined Tractus Asia in 2017 with a unique background combining entrepreneurial endeavors with Wall Street experience. He works with US-based clients on projects in real-time, bridging the time zones between North America and Asia in our Economic Development, Strategy and Execution, and Corporate Finance practice areas while also focusing on business development.

Register now for GBC to save your seat for this day focused to help you grow your export business.

Springing into 2022 with the NDTO

Springing into 2022 with the NDTO

Posted on May 5, 2022

While we all know the saying 'April showers bring May flowers' at the NDTO, May is raining down with events! Check out all the new things happing as we move into spring and onward for 2022.

May 24 brings the return of the Global Business Connections conference hosted in Fargo, ND. This one-day event is packed with keynotes, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and the 2021GBC Awards ceremony. Take this opportunity to engage with ND exporters, the government, and many colleagues and friends who are serious about ND exports. Register here.

In late May, the NDTO, along with ND Agriculture Commissioner Goehring, will lead a trade mission to Peru and Columbia. Prescreened buyers are selected in the host countries to meet with several ND specialty crop producers and processors to expand their business internationally. This project is funded by Specialty Crop Block Grants through the ND Department of Agriculture.

In June, NDTO will lead a small group from ND on a multi-industry trade mission to South Korea. The group is expanding on relationships and foraging new contacts to sell ND products into this region. The SBA STEPND program is funding this project.

Big Iron International Visitors Program planning is well underway for fall, as the NDTO partners with USCS in Fargo to bring a wide variety of international delegates to ND for the Big Iron Farm Show in September. We will be working closely with NDTO member companies to match the delegation's interests and showcase ND machinery and agriculture technology with tours, education sessions, and interactive activities throughout the show.

October will bring the long-awaited Japanese trade mission, a joint trade and investment mission that is being planned with the ND Governor's Office, ND Department of Commerce, ND Department of Agriculture, and NDTO. This Governor-led mission will feature several industries from ND  to build new and reconnect with existing Japanese partners.

In mid-October, NDTO will lead a trade mission to SIAL Paris for specialty crop producers and processors. This show, held biennially, attracts visitors from over 200 countries to showcase leading innovations in the food industry.

If you and your company are eager to get moving again, don't forget that NDTO has opportunities for qualified companies to support exporting projects like sales trips, trade missions, marketing, and translation projects through grant funds. Check out more details on grant opportunities here.

Member Profile: Genesis Seed

Member Profile: Genesis Seed

Posted on April 8, 2022

Genesis Seed Solutions, based in Berthold, ND, is a seed production company with state-of-the-art facilities and prides itself on efficient and effective agronomic practices. Founder Nathan Fegley grew up on the family’s farm, with his father owning part of Fegley Grain. So, you can certainly say that this lifestyle is in his blood.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do after college, but I knew I wanted a steady income and to stay around the farm. I even started a cow-calf operation at one point,” says Fegley. With previous experience growing seed with Fegley Grain, he was familiar with seed production process and wanted to grow the business. Genesis Seed was born to produce superior seed and then process and sell the seed after production. They have two locations that handle screening, color sorting, debearding, grading, and even on-site packaging to ensure the quality and output of an excellent product.

Genesis Seed is a private company invested in finding successful varieties of seed, which can be a lengthy process of crossbreeding, selection, and testing. Working globally, they have found varieties of seed that do not perform well in other climates, but they do very well in ND. For example, wheat and dry pea varieties that have less success in Europe can thrive in North Dakota. “We are highly selective on the varieties we choose to move forward with, and it takes time to discover and grow a consistent crop and reliable seed for use,” explains Fegley.

As the seed business started to take off, the business grew from Fegly Grain Cleaning, moving forward to merge with United Agronomy. This merger led to the formation of Genesis Seed in 2018. Fegley explains, “the partnership with United Agronomy brought a lot to the table for Genesis Seed; with more professionalism and services, we were able to grow into the business that I had always wanted.”  The merger brought more opportunities to grow Genesis Seed, allowing Fegley more time to explore new markets.

“We’ve gone down a lot of rabbit trails, but we like to explore so many ideas in this business. Exploring has served us well to find opportunities the ‘other guys’ aren’t even considering,” says Fegley. Exporting is one of those trails. Genesis Seed started working with a grain merchandiser to focus on exports year-round. This has helped open up opportunities across the globe for their products. Having someone focused on exports has helped with consistency, keeping exports top of mind, and exploring untapped regions. “We can take a product like dry peas, where the market is rather mature around North Dakota, and find opportunities in developing markets like India or the Middle East in need of these products,” he explains.

In 2019, Genesis Seed expanded its facilities, which led them to new opportunities. Fegley explains that “we knew if we built a bigger facility, more business would come. And it did!” With the two facilities, they have greater flexibility and overall capacity. The increasing need for gluten-free products has worked in Genesis Seeds’ favor, as their facilities are well-suited to accommodate separation to ensure quality. Their facilities are also advantageous for exporting. Large shipping containers are often needed for export and grain elevators are not set up to load containers, but Genesis Seed is. They are even well-positioned with the intermodal port just 25 miles away in Minot, ND. Although there are major challenges worldwide with shipping and logistics, utilizing a port close to home is an advantage.

Fegley was reluctant to offer advice for exporting as a relatively new exporter, but, as a business owner, he recommends spending 20% of your time figuring out what doesn’t work. Exploring “rabbit trails,” as he calls them, can help find the niche and uniqueness for each company. Also, finding trusted mentors and people you can bounce ideas off has been highly beneficial.

Fegely’s goal with Genesis Seed is to “capture the margins from seed to seed production, through to the end-user, and we keep ourselves very busy. If we can do that, it would be really great,” he says. But even more, Genesis Seed is steadily increasing its impact and global footprint from Berthold, ND. A continuing eagerness to explore new ideas, markets, and applications will keep Genesis Seed at the forefront of the industry for many years to come.

A Global Strategy for Cultural Communications

A Global Strategy for Cultural Communications

Posted on April 8, 2022

Natsuyo Lipschutz Keynotes Global Business Connections, May 24, 2022

Natsuyo Lipshutz will give this year's opening keynote at the Global Business Connections conference, hosted by the North Dakota Trade Office on May 24, 2022, in Fargo, ND. She stands out as an international speaker and author with a unique perspective on global leadership and cross-cultural communications strategies.

Her presentation is designed to bridge cultural gaps and leverage diversity to inspire audiences to become more successful in their communications styles and leadership on a global scale. She breaks down communications strategies into digestible action items and provides meaningful insights on some of the most basic communications missteps. With the goal of helping business people recognize and remove barriers, she delivers an empowering message to move beyond our differences and communicate effectively.

Lipschutz is well versed in global business communications and has, quite frankly, written the book on it. She co-authored "The Success Blueprint" with  Brian Tracy, a renowned businessman, author, and motivational speaker.  She is also the author of "20Ji Ni Sogiotose" ("Say It in 20 Words") in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, as well as "Story ni otoshikome" ("Motivate with Your Own Story") in Japanese.

Her consultancy work in global leadership and cross-culture communication has not gone unnoticed, as she is recognized as one of the leaders in this field. Lipschutz is a managing principal of ASPIRE Intelligence, her own strategy consulting firm, and an executive consultant for Breakthrough Speaking, specializing in global public speaking engagements. She is an accomplished public speaker with engaging TEDx talks and is a 5-time Toastmasters International speech contest district finalist. Lipschutz continues to provide training and strategies to top companies, including American Express, BNP Paribas, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Toyota, and Shiseido.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Lipschutz started her career at the Japanese trading company ITOCHU International in New York, New York and earned an MBA from New York University. Traveling to Japan frequently, she continues to conduct training, workshops, and speaking opportunities for both Japanese and English-speaking audiences.

She competes as a Latin ballroom dancer in her free time and is a proud mother and cancer survivor.

If you are interested in global leadership and communications strategies to expand your knowledge and success internationally, Natsuyo Lipschuts' keynote is not to be missed. Be sure to register for Global Business Connections on May 24, 2022, in Fargo, ND.

Register Now for Global Business Connections

For more information about Natsuyo, please visit her webiste:

International Travel Increasing, Restrictions Lifting, and North Dakotans on the Move

International Travel Increasing, Restrictions Lifting, and North Dakotans on the Move

Posted on April 8, 2022

March and April are bringing a whole slew of new travel updates, and most of them are on the bright side. Many countries are loosening restrictions on travel, opening up borders, and welcoming business and leisure travel once again. While travel is back in many locations, it looks slightly different from a few years ago. So we thought, who better to talk about travel, than our own Lindsey Warner, Director of Operations at NDTO? She is an expert traveler who recently returned from the Gulfood show in Dubai, UAE, this February, where several ND companies showcased their specialty crop offerings. We are happy to report that everyone on the mission made it back safely with only a slight weather hiccup (blizzards in ND, go figure?). But, she admits, she never really stopped traveling throughout the pandemic, she just took many more precautions domestically and internationally. Here are some of her tips and tricks for traveling for those of us who are out of practice.

Plan ahead but be flexible. As a professional planner, Warner does know a thing or two about travel and trade missions, but, with so many unknowns, she says, don't forget to leave some room for flexibility. Be as flexible as possible, as the world is seeing so many changes with flight delays, alternate routes, and the limiting of overall flights, changes in your travel plans should be expected. "Because of all the flight issues, it is an even better reason to plan ahead," says Warner. Some airlines with recent fuel prices and global instability issues have taken to reducing flight frequencies by as much as 5-10% says Fortune Magazine. These delays are being seen at airports of all sizes as staffing shortages are an increasing issue for delays and cancellations.

Working with a travel agent can relieve some stress. "They will assist in so many ways and are well-versed in what is needed for international travel and help keep the documentation straight," explains Warner. Travel agents have been in high demand with changing rules and regulations across the globe and are skilled at navigating many of the stressful parts of planning and logistics for travel. Many agencies have seen a significant increase in their business starting in mid-2021 as CDC gave the green light for vaccinated travelers. These agents may also recommend travel insurance. While it may have seemed unnecessary in the past, travel insurance can save a lot of money if you test positive for COVID-19 on your trip. "Be sure the travel insurance is comprehensive and covers any changes specifically due to COVID-19," clarifies Warner, and rightfully so, as not all insurance is created equal.

Keep up to date with changing restrictions from country to country. Whether you are working with a travel agent or not, it is best to stay up to date on travel restrictions. While restrictions are lifting in many locations, it is still wise to keep informed about your destination country's rules and regulations. COVID-19 did teach us at least one thing - the world can change quickly, and so can each country's travel restrictions. Many sites tout real-time information, but the destination country's website should be checked regularly and followed closely. Warner also recommends Skyscanner, with a variety of tools that can help you assess your options and updates.

Keep your vaccination card handy. Even if you don't think you will need it, it is good practice to keep a copy or photo of your vaccination card on your phone available. If the situation changes quickly during your travels, it is best to be prepared with proof of your status if needed. There are also many businesses and events that require proof of testing or vaccination record for entry. A card from the CDC may not be enough for some locations. Each country can set up its own guidelines. Some countries require a digital version with a QR code; others require uploading your information before leaving your home country. Doing your research and looking at each country will be your best way to see which documents are required.

With this dynamic environment, it is even more essential to have a good plan for traveling internationally, make sure you have considered the hiccups that may pop up, and be flexible when they do. Overall, traveling can be challenging even without a pandemic looming, but Warner did have some general advice as well. "For any travelers, COVID-19 or not, my best advice is to be keenly aware of your surroundings." She goes on to say, "be a conscious traveler and fully aware of the situations you are putting yourself into, especially if you are traveling alone."

We had to ask our globe-trotting teammate what is the one thing she won't travel without? "A travel yoga mat," she explains, "traveling is stressful, and it is so easy to get out of a routine. The yoga mat is a great reminder to at least stretch."

There it is, some great suggestions to get you on your way to traveling again, be it for business or pleasure. As we move out of isolation and into more "business as usual", it is exciting to travel again, but also requires more planning to ensure you can travel safely and without incident.

Resources and References:

EruoNews: COVID in Europe: An Updated list of Travel Restrictions for Every European Country

Fortune: Rising Fuel Prices Make Travel and Airfare more Expensive

New York Times: Make Way for the Travel Agents. Again.

Skyscanner: COVID-19 travel updates and restrictions

The Washington Post: How to Use Vaccine Passports for International Travel

USA Today: UK Plans to drop International COVID Travel Measures, Including Testing Requirements, This Week

Welcome NDTO’s New Export Assistant

Welcome NDTO’s New Export Assistant

Posted on March 3, 2022

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is excited to welcome our new Export Assistant,  Dorothea Afriyie, to the team. Afriyie hails from Ghana and is pursuing her master's degree in Agricultural Economics at North Dakota State University (NDSU). She has a definitive passion for policy and economic research, wanting to learn all she can to help positively impact the future of Ghana.

Despite her father being a farmer, her interests in agriculture were not fully realized until her undergraduate studies in development planning at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. Throughout her studies, she engaged with the farming community and saw agriculture as the way to build and grow prosperity for Ghana. "My father always pushed my siblings and me into education, but through schooling, it brought me back to farming… and I see a need for change in the way we do agriculture," says Afriyie. She also earned a Master's in Economics and a certificate in the Ghana Stock Exchange.

As she speaks about her homeland, you can hear the passion in her voice about the many opportunities she sees for the future. "We have so many people who are knowledgeable about farming in Ghana, but I feel we lack direction. I see government directives and assistance to help the flow of things will be of great importance to the success of the agriculture industry for Ghana." She explains that younger generations are less interested in farming, as they want to pursue white-collar jobs in more populated communities. But Afriyie sees agriculture as something that Ghana could excel at and decrease economic hardships with the right changes in technology, processing, exporting expertise, and informed policy. "Ghana has so much potential, throughout the whole agricultural process from seed, harvest, processing and exporting, they all just need alignment," she says.

North Dakota and NDSU are her newest adventure that Afriyie is eager to take on. "The thing that excited me most about North Dakota and working with NDTO was the macro research, and most of the commodities in North Dakota are ag-related, which is all very interesting to me," says Afriyie. She is also looking forward to the summer. With so many agriculture companies nearby, Afriyie is excited to get out in the fields and get some hands-on learning that she can take back to Ghana. The steps beyond harvest are of particular interest to Afriyie. She would like to better understand how the US does the processing, distribution, and exporting parts of agriculture that she has had less exposure to in the past.

In the future, she hopes to return to Ghana with a full head of knowledge that she can dispense and help propel the next generation of farming. This would include improvements to infrastructure, processing, distribution, and farming technology – all of which she hopes will help Ghana excel on a global stage with their agricultural commodities.

The NDTO is excited to have Afriyie join the team, help her grow her interests, and provide an excellent opportunity to explore her passions. Welcome to the team, Dorothea!

ND Meat Exports Reach Record Highs Thanks to FTAs

ND Meat Exports Reach Record Highs Thanks to FTAs

Posted on March 3, 2022

The US overall saw an increase in red meat exports throughout 2021. A primary reason for the success is the Free Trade Agreements now in practice with Korea, China, and North American partners. The USDA reports that volume and value records in beef and port exports have exceeded $18 billion for the first time.

Preliminary data for 2021 shows a 52% increase in beef exports from 2020 to 2021 from North Dakota ranchers. This totals $64.8 million in sales for 2021, which is well over the $42.4 million reported in 2020. The value of beef increased based on reports from the USDA, as similar tonnage of exports was recorded.

These record increases are attributed to sharply reduced tariffs opening up a larger opportunity for US beef and pork exports. Korea is the top export market for ND beef products, with China and Japan following as the next highest export markets depending on the year. The US has benefitted from the steadily lowering tariff rates, which reduced from 40% to 10% under the US-Korea FTA (KORUS). KORUS entered into force in 2012, and the US will continue to see the staged decreases into 2025 for many products. Korea’s beef consumption has risen steadily over the last decade, and with the reduced tariffs, US beef is getting more shelf space.

Phase One of the US-China Trade Agreement has increased competition, and the value of beef has soared since 2020. Hormone-treated beef can now enter China, which has been one of the increasing factors. There is additional opportunity to export underutilized cuts in the US, such as tongue, tripe, and intestine to China.

Japan has been a steady ND beef importer for the last decade. With the 2019 US-Japan Trade Agreement, wich to effect in January 2020, the US is seeing staged reductions in tariffs for beef, pork, poultry, and other agricultural products. A rise in consumption and a more even playfield are on the horizon for US red meat and other agricultural products.

While many other states saw a rise in pork exports, ND was not one of them. Pork exports from ND appear to have remained steady from 2020 to 2021, around $14.5 million. The US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) also contributed to Mexico’s increase in red meat products in 2021, showing record-high imports for the country. Pork was the primary increase in Mexico, with the USDA reporting a 27% increase in consumption. The consumption of pork has also risen in Central and South American nations, including Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. On the other hand, China has been importing less pork overall, as they continue to recover from the African Swine Fever outbreak in 2018-2019. Seeing increases as China has decreased their pork imports is a promising sight for those in the port industry.

The news of increasing red meat exports from the US has been a bright spot for many in this sector as we come out of another challenging year. Experts also point to continued growth for the red meat markets in 2022, although it will be tempered compared to the surge seen in 2021. NDTO is happy to assist if you are looking opportunities to export livestock in this successful atmosphere.


Member Profile: HC International

Member Profile: HC International

Posted on March 3, 2022

HC International (HCI) is a company truly built on customer service. This two-person operation noticed a performance gap from their peers and grew their own company to export and trade agricultural commodities. Curt Petrich and partner Heather Heley created HCI in 2016 and haven't looked back. Working with the farmers, growers, and buyers, Petrich has always enjoyed agriculture and has made it his career. He continues to work with them all to make the process of buying and selling commodities as seamless as possible. This month, he was more than happy to share his experience in the world of exporting.

When trading commodities, HCI is an expert connector, working with local growers and farmers and making connections for export markets to fulfilling everyone's needs as best they can. Getting into this type of business takes skill, determination, and commitment to the customers, Petrich explains. These skills will set a trader apart from others, and that is what HCI continues to do. "We are able to pick up business because previous suppliers don’t respond, and I always take the time to pick up the phone,” says Petrich. “And this is where the magic happens, as we [HCI] can often assist where others previously could not – or would not." Being a small company and making decisions quickly is an advantage for HCI; the company is more agile than larger firms. HCIs' paradigm is also to do what is best for their customers, making recommendations and market evaluations that are right for their clients, not just HCI. They are able to thrive off of referrals and their own tenacity for gaining clients.

His secret to exporting? “Get yourself a skilled logistic person or company, and one who will stick with you,” says Petrich. Although many new technologies help with logistics, there is still so much uncertainty with shipping products internationally. Having a skilled and patient logistics support can enhance the operation immensely, as logistics can change rapidly. For example, with only one delay in the shipping process, it will mean that everything after, logistically, will likely need to be updated and redone, and that can happen several times throughout the route.

"Trading like this can be a tough job," Petrich explains. The shippers and the buyers take on all the risk once the products are out of the fields, and Petrich laughs as he says, "there is no crop insurance for what we do." The continued shipping delays throughout the globe are causing havoc in many industries, and HCI is not alone. "This would be a fun business if we didn't have to ship anything!" jokes Petrich.

"Global shipping has certainly been a challenge," he notes, as many of us are aware. Petrich goes on to add that historically, much of the overland shipping in the Midwest had not been as robust as needed. However, he argues that many involved in exporting today would much rather go back to how the shipping behaved twenty-plus months ago than how it is now.

The conversation shifted as Petrich reflected on the global state of affairs, “There is so much noise on the globe with Russian aggression and trade barriers with China, but we still have so many issues to work out domestically. This includes labor shortage, inland shipping, and port congestion.” All of which are ongoing topics not isolated to ND companies. “I suspect another business disruptor will come to change how things are done," says Petrich, "they have to. Exporters in the Midwest cannot continue to operate with this much uncertainty.” We have seen many disruptors in other business models. It will just take some time."  Like so many other seasoned exporters, he is watching to see the changes in global trade, shipping, and the challenges that will be overcome, hopefully in the near future.

According to Petrich, HCI is a dedicated and hard-working team of two who focus on customers' needs and have a proactive approach to doing business, which sets them apart. If you are in need of HCI's services, Curt Petrich can be reached at  +1 701.850.0340.

Member Profile: ND Ethanol Council

Member Profile: ND Ethanol Council

Posted on February 1, 2022

The North Dakota Ethanol Council (NDEC) has been active since 2009 when the  ND State Legislature established it to promote ethanol in the state. A total of six plants are active across ND, including Blue Flint Ethanol, Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, Hankinson Renewable Energy, Red River Biorefinery, Red Trail Energy, LLC, and Tharaldson Ethanol Plant. As a relatively new industry in ND, the council promotes ethanol research, education, and market development across the state. Deana Wiese, the NDEC's Executive Director, Jeff Zueger,  NDEC Chairman and Chairman for Blue Flint, and  Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, and Keshav Rajpal of Red River Commodities all took some time to talk more about the ethanol industry in ND.

Zueger explains that he and his team had their eyes on ND as a primary location to build an ethanol plant back in the early 2000s, as regulations regarding clean and renewable standards were taking hold across the US. "The business culture and legislation were ripe with opportunity, and so many people were willing to help," says Zueger as Blue Flint was coming to fruition in Underwood, ND.

Another integral piece to stabilizing the ethanol industry in ND was the advancements in corn genetics which allowed for an 82-day growing period and hybrid corn well suited for ethanol production. "Growing corn with genetics that worked well in North Dakota essential, so once that happened, we knew would be a game-changer. We believed the corn varieties would come, and they did." described Zeuger.

Wiese emphasized the economic impact of corn growth across the state has been not only significant for the ethanol plants, but also the agriculture industry. "Five out of the six ethanol plants were built in small towns they reap the jobs and tax benefits. It also increases the quality of life for those communities," she says. Wiese goes on to explain additional benefits, like new schools being built in Richardson and Casselton. By having so much ethanol production in the state, many North Dakotans may not even realize that they enjoy lower-cost fuel with added ethanol, but it is an added benefit, says Wiese.

Most of ND ethanol is produced from corn, and anywhere from 40-60% of corn grown in ND goes towards ethanol production. The ethanol plants use more than 140 million bushels of corn each year, and 80% of that corn is grown in ND. In addition, Red River Biofuels in Grand Forks, ND, creates advanced ethanol from waste, including remnants from potato and sugar beet production. "We've been able to monetize waste into a usable commodity," says Rajpal. This plant also produces ethanol, but because it uses waste, it has a lower carbon output than other ethanol products. This edge has been vital for opportunities in export markets requiring lower carbon footprints.

Only about 10% of the ethanol produced in the state stays in ND. The rest is shipped by rail across state lines, either inside the US, or to Canada. There is an increasing ability for some of the low carbon ethanol to qualify under EU regulations, and the export of ND ethanol is fast approaching. "It's a lengthy process," says Rajpal, "but it allows us to access many new markets and arbitrage of new potential markets" Some of the best advice he has for exporters is to use your resources, take advantage of trade missions, and visit with international delegations to make new contacts. "The NDTO and the STEP (State Trade Expansion Program) program were very helpful for us, and we have several opportunities brewing as a result of these activities," says Rajpal. There are many applications for ethanol for the future, and ND plants are continuing to innovate and utilize ethanol and its byproducts in a variety of ways.

Distillers grain is a byproduct of ethanol production and is increasingly used by livestock producers for animal feed. The distiller's grain is high in protein and a good source of energy for cattle, dairy cows, swine, and some poultry. Tharaldson Ethanol announced in December 2021 a new feed facility to harness distillers grains and open a variety of new opportunities.  The feed is primarily geared toward pet foods and aquaculture feed uses with high protein needs.

Another venture for the ethanol plants in ND is CO2 storage. The geology of ND is well suited for underground storage of CO2, another byproduct of ethanol production. The intent is to lessen the amount of CO2 released into the air as a result of ethanol production. The CO2 can remain in the ground indefinitely and would lower the carbon footprint of the plants. Currently, projects are underway for Blue Flint and  Red Trail Energy, where C02 injections appear to be feasible.

As Wiese and Zueger reflect on the ND ethanol industry as a whole, innovation and ingenuity stick out as the driving forces behind the successful ethanol industry in the state. "North Dakota was doing ethanol before it was cool," explains Wiese, "the companies in North Dakota were able to move so quickly into the area because they had been exploring ethanol for some time. This group is always looking for new ways to optimize their assets." As they look to the future of the industry, Zueger says, "ethanol is what we are producing today. We will continue to progress, that ethanol molecule will move into other applications and other markets, and we will be ready for more than just transportation fuels."

As an environmentally friendly fuel, ethanol is being explored for a whole host of applications, and with the strong foundations the ND Ethanol Council has laid so far, ND will not be left behind in this innovative field. Rather, it will be leading it.

Tips on Finding International Agents, Distributors or Reps

Tips on Finding International Agents, Distributors or Reps

Posted on February 1, 2022

Finding buyers internationally can be a challenge for many businesses, large or small. One approach that may be useful to finding buyers in-country is engaging with a partner, foreign distributor, or agent to represent your company in an overseas market. These relationships can take on a variety of roles, including sales, relationship building, customer visits, and attending tradeshows on the company's behalf. There are many benefits to having such a resource available in your chosen international market, but detailed vetting and trust are needed to ensure success.

Before engaging with a foreign representative, it's good practice to do market research to identify where your product will fit and how you want to move forward. Without these essential questions answered, your approach may have less impact. Unless the products are sold directly to consumers, or easily sold online, a foreign representative, distributor, or agent may be one of the best ways to get local market access.

Doing your homework at this stage is essential. Honing in on the market and the company's needs is a good start. Once goals are established, it can be highly beneficial to find someone who will represent the company's products and values well, help negotiate goods deals, and serve as a cultural liaison in your chosen market. Working with domestic resources such as the US Commercial Service or the NDTO to research or be introduced to reputable contacts can be beneficial. It might even be beneficial to make a  journey to the market yourself. This way, you have the opportunity to fine-tune the companies needs and what is expected in an overseas representative. Connections may also be found by engaging with the US or the international markets' trade associations. These organizations may help identify contacts and distributors. There are many examples of individual industry professionals with a strong presence who will make a great representative for hire throughout your target markets, and these people should not be overlooked.

The hiring process for an overseas representative will require some research. Are you hiring this person on to your team as an employee, or will they be a contracted individual? Each country has differing laws for employees and their tax codes. Often it may be beneficial to hire independent contractors, as the burdens of tax laws often fall to the contractor, not the company. Regardless, the you need to do the due diligence to understand where these burdens fall to avoid any unexpected taxes. Be sure to complete this research before entering into any agreements, so both parties have clear expectations from the beginning.

When entering into agreements, be clear and concise with what your company needs in that international market. Trust is crucial for these relationships because direct oversight is limited due to physical distance. Approach each new market with an open mind and be flexible. Different countries do business differently and the agreement you enter into with your foreign representative will often be market-dependent.. Additionally, a company may have a mix of distributors, individual sales representative or larger agency representatives depending on their needs.

When choosing an international representaibe, be sure to consider the following:

  • Asking around: there may be similar people or companies in the same industry with some advice to give, be it positive or negative.
  • Create a formal agreement: a more formal agreement allows for clear objectives, outcomes and control of your product and how it is represented.
    • Make sure it spells out conduct and termination clauses.
  • The local laws: some agreements are acceptable while others are not legally binding. This is highly dependent on the country and it is recommended to consult with legal professionals with knowledge of international law to assist with the agreement finalization.
  • Training: depending on the company and expertise of the agent/representative it might be best to bring them to the US for training. This allows the company to build a relationship and ensure products are well represented. Or, a company may visit overseas periodically, schedule calls, or jointly operate tradeshows to ensure everything is in order.
  • Maintain regular communication and oversight.

Another option is to hire someone from the US and send them to the intended market or country. With this option, be sure to understand their motivations and comfort with the  market, as there are more challenges when doing business in different cultures. Finding someone with experience in that market will help the business hit the ground running.

Whichever option best suits your international business, remember that time and dedication are needed for expansion. Patience, consistent communication, and clear expectations are pinnacles when finding a representative, agent, or distributor overseas.

Additional Resources

American Express: 5 Ways Your Business Can Find an International Distributor

Entrepreneur: How to Find an Overseas Distributor

International Trade Administration: Finding Buyers and Partners

Universal Cargo: Selling Overseas?: How to Find and Hire a Perfect Sale Rep for Your Business