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The Council for Urban Economic Development presented its Export Trade Award to the Missouri Office of International Marketing at the national organization's annual conference Sept. 14, according to a news release from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The award, sponsored by Export Today Magazine, recognizes achievement in promoting economic development through exports.

The Office of International Marketing (OIM) is a program of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

John Money, publisher of Export Today Magazine, said in a letter that the program "was singled out for its outstanding and innovative export trade effort, which has significantly increased export trade performance."

Last year, the office assisted more than 1,134 companies, which documented $531 million in new export sales.

The DED news release said that figure represented a 740 percent increase in influenced sales compared to 1994. In 1994, 300 companies were served by OIM.

U.S. Department of Commerce figures show that Missouri businesses sold $7.5 billion in products and services to other countries. Missouri ranked 23rd in the United States for export sales.

Chris Gutierrez is director of OIM. He said the growth trend in export sales could be traced to a change of strategy.

"Instead of limiting our activities to basic export seminars and educational programs, we are working directly with companies to market competitive products internationally, Gutierrez said in the release.

Missouri is active in the North American Mid-Continent Trade Corridor Partnership to enhance trade opportunities between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The state hosted a 1997 meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Conference.

Among the strategies instituted by the state program are a trade-lead dissemination program; a joint-venture program; the procurement of sister-state relationships focused on cultural ties and business relations; promotional and advertising services evolving from the use of federal agencies and corresponding programs; partnerships to develop promotional catalogs and brochures; trade-show participation; and being the first to place trade specialists in the U.S. Department of Commerce offices through cooperative partnerships in St. Louis and Kansas City.

"It is our intention to operate our office as a client-centered organization, which is more like a business than the stereotyped government agency," Gutierrez said. "Our success is now measured by the success of our clients."

Clients are surveyed annually through the office's Total Quality Management program to continually assess their service needs and improve the program. The computerized client tracking system used to help measure quality also is used to match trade leads to compatible Missouri businesses.

OIM representatives help businesses determine if they have international sales potential, and then assist in devising a strategy to capitalize on it.

"We want Missouri businesses to think of us as their marketing partner," Gutierrez said. "They should actually consider our foreign trade offices as their international sales team."

Missouri operates foreign offices in Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil and Chile.

The release cited the experience of a number of Missouri companies to support its success.

King Filtration in Creve Coeur was not selling to international markets four years ago. But, the release said, the company now sells about $2 million in products to foreign markets each year in Asia, Mexico and South America.

Addison Biological Laboratory in Fayette also was selling little in export markets. Now, the company's international sales have grown by more than 200 percent and the company won the Governor's Export Achievement Award.

"Missouri's Office of International Marketing has been like a business partner," said Kelly Rudolph, of Hans Rudolph Inc., in Kansas City. "We greatly appreciate the assistance and service we receive from the staff. This office has helped us increase our sales two-fold throughout Europe."

"It's a challenging world market," Gutierrez said. "We try to make it a little less challenging, and a lot more profitable."

More information about OIM is available by calling its Jefferson City office at 573-751-4855.

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