The outsourcing of American jobs and technologies to China is well-documented by record U.S. trade deficits. However, middle-market manufacturers and suppliers in Wisconsin increasingly are looking for and finding opportunities to sell their products in China, according to Christian Bartley, executive director of the World Trade Center Wisconsin.
Wisconsin business owners are looking to sell their products to the massive Chinese population to help grow their companies back home in the United States, Bartley said.
"The Chinese marketplace consists of more than 1.1 billion people, who companies look at as consumers," Bartley said. "Many of the industries in the (Chinese) marketplace are either untapped or have been tapped in a limited way, and people want to know how to get there and how to grow."
Growth opportunities in China were the focus of the World Trade Center Wisconsin's third annual international sourcing conference at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee on March 17. This year's conference was titled, "Beyond Sourcing: Manufacturing for, Selling to and Securing Investment from China."
To penetrate any foreign market, American companies must understand the cultural differences in that marketplace. A variety of resources are available to Wisconsin businesses interested in doing business in China, Bartley said.
Wisconsin companies mostly tend to be interested in learning how to attract capital from China, how to brand and market a product in China, when the right time is to own a facility in China and how to sell and distribute in China, Bartley said.
Other business owners are only looking for foreign direct investment opportunities.
Chinese business owners are looking for similar investment and business opportunities and resources, Bartley said.
"Instead of reinvesting, people are more interested now in taking money off shore," Bartley said. "We are a great market. We are still one of the most attractive investment markets in the world, and the Chinese are looking to invest."
American companies that conduct business overseas in an intelligent manner do not have to be concerned about losing jobs in their homeland, Bartley said. Companies such as Chicago-based Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., which has built fitness centers in China, have been successful in China by knowing how to brand and market their business there.
When companies such as Bally Total Fitness leverage their resources and create competitive strategies in China, jobs and property can easily be retained at their U.S. locations, Bartley said.
An American manufacturer can create a strong competitive advantage for itself through strategies such as lean manufacturing methodologies at home and by only outsourcing the most expensive component of a product, Bartley said. If a component such as intellectual property is most expensive for a company, the next-most expensive component can be outsourced, he said.
"Some companies have already learned to leverage opportunities, and that is where we are today," Bartley said. "(Companies) are now looking at China and asking how China can make the company back here grow."
The World Trade Center Wisconsin is a member of the World Trade Centers Association. World Trade Center offices in China want to help American companies both meet the right people and resources in China and to advise companies on penetrating the world's largest marketplace, Bartley said.
March 18, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI