Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Commerce


Thunderbird hosts global trade finance seminar

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, a coalition of business, trade, and educational organizations will host The Global Connect: Arizona Trade Finance Seminar on Friday, February 21, 2014 at Thunderbird School of Global Management.

The seminar brings together trade finance experts from both the public and private sectors to discuss the resources available to U.S. exporters, especially local small and medium-sized companies, for their financing needs. This seminar is also offered in support of the advancement of U.S. Hispanic-owned businesses in global markets. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with experts one-on-one.

Keynote speakers include: U.S. Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services Ted Dean, who leads the Department’s efforts to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. services industries; MBDA Acting National Director Alejandra Castillo, one of the highest ranking Hispanic officials in the Obama Administration; and Ernesto Poza, Thunderbird Clinical Professor of Global Entrepreneurship.

The seminar is co-sponsored and presented by Thunderbird School of Global Management, FCIB – The Finance, Credit & International Business Association, the Arizona District Export Council, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and NACM of Arizona – Southwest Business Credit Services.

Manufacturing Companies

GPEC, ASU earn Department of Commerce Grant

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and Arizona State University (ASU) this week were awarded a $170,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The initiative, called the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” (IMCP) seeks to accelerate manufacturing sectors and job creation in cities across the country.

The funds will be used to develop a plan to implement an Innovation and Commercialization Center for Advanced Manufacturing (ICCAM) in Greater Phoenix that advances the region’s manufacturing sector and improves its competitiveness for domestic and foreign investments, advances research commercialization and prepares workers for advanced manufacturing jobs. The ICCAM will focus on new growth opportunities, like advanced sensor and control technologies, and applications that leverage historic regional strengths like aerospace, semiconductor, electronics, precision and control technologies.

“This grant is crucial to the ICCAM’s success as we seek to support and grow high-tech manufacturing technologies and their respective supply chains by providing access to applied research, product development and design services, as well as access to global markets,” GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome said. “Creating a strategic plan to develop these technologies is important for retaining, upgrading and growing the region’s key industry clusters.”

“This award is further recognition of the significant opportunities for growth in the manufacturing sector in our region and our state” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, Senior Vice President for ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “ASU is committed to ensuring the continued expansion of manufacturing in Arizona and has implemented several programs and initiatives, with community partners and organizations such as GPEC, which will encourage startup and established manufacturing, ensure students become more involved in manufacturing and spur the overall growth of this sector as a driver of Arizona’s economy.”

Together, GPEC and ASU will assemble a project team to implement the project in two phases over a one-year period. Phase I will focus on finalizing the ICCAM’s technical parameters, refining its programs and services and developing performance metrics. Phase II will center on developing implementation strategies, identifying investment sources, building coalitions and finalizing a full implementation plan through the program’s launch.

Pending support from Congress, the ICCAM project will be eligible to compete for future large scale IMCP grants that are 50 to 100 times the size of the implementation strategy grants. This would allow the region to execute on its proposed strategy for advancing manufacturing in Phoenix and beyond.

Creative Financing: Options for Funding Business

Creative Financing: Innovative Options For Funding Business

Whether you are just formulating a business plan for launch or you already have a company that is in need of a cash infusion, bank loans are often unattainable if you don’t meet the proper requirements. Fortunately, there are a variety of creative ways to fund the growth.

If your banker turns you down, instead of becoming discouraged, consider one of these 10 alternative financing options:


Before there was currency, there was only bartering. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 25 percent of the world’s trade is still done this way. Bartering can save money, move unused inventory and find new customers. Think about how you can trade or exchange your products or services. Bartering directly with another business can be done through a barter exchange like IMS Barter.

Business incubators

If your business is new and technology-based, then it may be a good candidate for seed money or a mentorship program that will help connect to capital. Organizations like Excelerate Labs and TechStars have a great track record of success. While there is a lot of competition to become part of an incubator, it is good to focus on a handful of organizations which match up best with your goals.

Business plan competitions or other contests

When all else fails, try to win the money! There are a number of regional and national competitions giving away substantial amounts of money. These include the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Challenge, the GE Ecomagination Challenge and the Amazon Web Services Start-Up Challenge. This is one of the toughest ways to raise money, but if you have a very competent team, a great idea and a stand-out presentation, go for it.


A sister method to peer-to-peer, you can now get people to invest in your cause in exchange for something other than money. This is a different source of funding because the money is not repaid. The incentives for donors range from receiving your first products to having a product named after them. Popular sites that facilitate crowdfunding include IndieGoGo.com and Kickstarter.com. Crowdfunding is very emotional and involves gathering cash from many people. The success in raising cash is based on the appeal of your idea, but if you don’t raise your goal amount, in some instances, you don’t receive any money from the people that pledged to invest.

Government grants

There is money to be found in government grants, but these programs require research at local, state and federal levels. Agencies such as USDA, the Department of Commerce, and the Treasury Department offer some attractive programs, but they are very specific and technical in nature, and each comes with reporting strings attached.


Receiving an immediate cash advance against invoices or accounts receivable from asset-based lenders called factors can be an optimal solution for securing cash needed to grow. The factor advances most of the invoice amount, usually 70-90 percent, after reviewing the credit-worthiness of the billed customer. When the bill is paid, the factor remits the balance, minus a transaction or factoring fee. Factoring can be a good source of capital for high growth or start-up companies, but not a method of financing for a company that is shrinking or losing money.


While this is relatively new in the United States, small loans up to $10,000 are gaining popularity. The loans are based on your experience, passion, market opportunity and sales. Organizations offering microfinancing include Accion USA, Grameen Bank and Kiva. If you have an appealing idea and only need a small about of money, it can be a good alternative.

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)

It is now possible to go online and get funding from people you do not know on sites such as Prosper.com and LendingClub.com. P2P loan amounts will depend on credit score, the economy, the length of the loan and the business’ story. The downside here is P2P loans are not easy to secure, and the interest rates can be very high.

Retirement accounts

Before borrowing money from an IRA or 401(k), first find out if you can get a 60-day interest-free loan from your retirement account. The benefit here is there are no fees, if the loan is paid back in the 60-day time frame. Remember, this is your retirement money, so using it is risky and potentially devastating to your livelihood — if the business fails.

Supplier or wholesaler financing

Supplier or wholesaler financing secures money needed through a business’ supply chain. This method works best with a smaller, local supplier that really wants business and is willing to work with you. Factors can be a big help in this area, as they can offer vendor assurance letters which can help garner additional credit from a vendor.

The key is to think beyond the traditional and to research various avenues to determine what may work for you. Although these options may not all be long-term financing solutions, they can definitely help bring in the cash you need for growth, until you qualify for a traditional bank loan or can appeal to investors.

For more information about financing, visit fswfunding.com.

Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

The Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone Opens Up Business Possibilities In The West Valley

At a time when the West Valley could use an economic boost, officials have put the finishing touches on the proposed Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone. Under the administration of WESTMARC, an acronym for Western Maricopa Coalition, this new Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) is seen as a welcome economic development tool that will spawn jobs and millions of dollars in new investment.

Participating cities are Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Goodyear, Peoria and Surprise. Initially, four sites in three of the cities have applied for FTZ status: two in Goodyear at Interstate 10 and Loop 303, one in Surprise near Bell Road, and one west of Buckeye in an unincorporated area. The Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone is actually a series of trade zones, with each city acting independently but represented by WESTMARC.

Federal approval of WESTMARC’s application of the overall trade zone by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security is expected before the end of the year. Launched in 1934, the federal Foreign Trade Zone program provides for reduced or eliminated federal taxes and fees in connection with imports and exports. For customs purposes, an FTZ is considered outside the United States.

Consultant Curtis Spencer, president of Houston-based IMS Worldwide, says there has been quite a bit of interest in West Valley sites from brokers looking for build-to-suit opportunities, particularly for solar and other manufacturers.

Spencer says developers generally pay the initial fee of about $50,000 to be in the FTZ depending on proposed use. Companies locating in an FTZ also pay an annual fee, but Spencer estimates the savings to a company can range from $300,000 to $1 million a year.

A typical business in an FTZ pays wages 7 percent to 8 percent more than a similar company not involved in exporting and importing, and employs 10 percent to 20 percent more workers, Spencer says.

“Foreign Trade Zone activities now exceed the statistical equivalent of imports and exports carried by truck into and out of Canada and Mexico,” Spencer says. “It’s a significant portion of our economy.”

A company in the West Valley area that decides to seek FTZ status puts in an application that will go through WESTMARC, which holds the federal permit, and on to the federal Foreign Trade Zone board. Zones are not limited to the four that have been selected. Likely candidate businesses for an FTZ range from high-tech manufacturers to distributors.

“It should give a major boost in investment and job creation,” Spencer says. “In the next 10 years we should have added hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of new investment.”

Basically, FTZs speed up the supply chain, reduce importing costs and provide better security, Spencer says.

“It’s faster, cheaper and better,” he adds.

Regarding security, companies that have been certified for FTZ status by federal authorities undergo extreme scrutiny, and therefore are not likely to be dealing with unfriendly countries or terrorist organizations. Concern over the importation of contraband has heightened since the attacks of 9/11.

Harry Paxton, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, says participating cities can use the FTZ as a marketing tool.

“It says that these communities are ready to accept businesses involved in international commerce,” he says.

Goodyear, which was among the first to express an interest in establishing an FTZ three years ago, hopes to fill some existing buildings by offering significant property tax breaks. Personal and real property taxes in an Arizona FTZ are cut by 75 percent.

But the perception that such tax reductions will have a negative impact on a city is incorrect, Paxton says. The assessed valuation of an activated FTZ reduces to 5 percent from 20 percent, but still generates additional revenue when compared to agricultural-use sites that collect $300 per 10 acres. What’s more, Paxton says, the FTZ becomes a catalyst for other development not requiring FTZ tax benefits, resulting in a full tax rate on those businesses.

“It’s a win-win,” he says. “It helps us become more competitive.”

Mitch Rosen, director of office and industrial development for SunCor Development Company, says his company owns 250 acres that will be part of the FTZ.

“The reason we’re interested is that we believe it to be an exceptional tool to stimulate the economic development of the West Valley,” he says. “It’s a good way to stimulate quality employment and it creates a competitive advantage for Arizona and the West Valley. It encourages businesses throughout the country to elect to locate in the West Valley.”

Jack Lunsford, president and CEO of WESTMARC, expects FTZs to spring up throughout the sprawling West Valley as cities become more aware of the benefits.

“We are thrilled,” he says, “to help bring this economic development tool to our West Valley communities that will assist them, especially at a time like this.”

www.imsw.com | www.suncoraz.com | www.ci.goodyear.az.us

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

Globe, International Business Growth in Arizona

New Group Aims To Boost International Business Growth In Arizona

Most Arizona legislators and business leaders now recognize the value of international commerce to the state. It hasn’t always been that way, but today there is broad agreement that exports from Arizona and foreign direct investment into Arizona from around the world create jobs and community growth. After all, 95 percent of the world’s population is outside the U.S., along with 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power. Why not tap into that power?

Arizona has made relatively slow progress with international trade compared to states such as California and Texas. Those states have each made greater per capita investments to encourage local companies to export and foreign companies to invest locally. Arizona is ranked in the bottom of U.S. states for foreign direct investment — No. 31 — according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This creates an excellent opportunity for improvement.

With exports, the picture is a little better. Arizona businesses have done a reasonably good job of selling their products overseas. Exports from Arizona-based companies increased to $19.2 billion in 2007, contributing to good job and tax revenue growth. These figures rank Arizona as the 17th leading state for exports.

People all over the world know about the Grand Canyon, but few know about businesses within Arizona. Exports can help build global awareness of Arizona businesses, making the state a more viable candidate for foreign investment. That’s important because foreign companies investing in Arizona pay higher wages than local companies, and with today’s sputtering economy, the state’s economy needs all the help it can get.

According to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), if Arizona could increase foreign direct investment to be the 17th ranked state as it is with exports, it would attract 84,000 more jobs and $12.5 billion more in capital investment. How’s that for an economic shot in the arm?

“We need investment to capture strategic industry growth for Arizona, like Germany-based solar companies,” says Rod Miller, vice president of international economic development for GPEC. “In the current environment, increasing our investment in economic development initiatives will support a quicker and stronger economic recovery.”

Miller’s data shows a return in capital spending and taxes of as much as $110 for every dollar spent attracting companies to Arizona. GPEC is making progress despite Arizona’s low per capita investment. The good news is that many know what’s needed. The bad news is that Arizona, like other states, faces a challenging budget crisis.

It has been against this backdrop of both opportunity and challenge that the Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) was founded in 2007. AZIGG was created to provide a place for Arizona-based business owners to gain all the international information and connections they need to be successful overseas. Each of the existing business-support organizations has a piece of the international puzzle, but none has a full view of importing, exporting, international company attraction and international company retention. AZIGG brings it all together, including forums to attract and retain foreign companies.

AZIGG has quickly attracted more than 1,000 members from the Arizona business and business-support community. The group meets monthly to hear international business speakers and discuss ways to help Arizona-based businesses to export or to attract foreign direct investment.

AZIGG encourages cooperation between local international business and cultural groups, including the consulates, the Department of Commerce, GPEC, other city economic development resources, the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council of Arizona, financial institutions working with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, trade associations such as the Arizona Technology Council, and international business service providers such as accounting, insurance, marketing and legal firms. AZIGG allows each resource to address the group monthly to keep business owners aware of the most recent ideas, news and opportunities.

In the same spirit of cooperation, the global law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey is stepping forward as the first business sponsor for AZIGG. This month, the firm is hosting the AZIGG International Business Fair at its law offices in Downtown Phoenix in order to make local businesses aware of all the services available for companies to grow internationally. Arizona and Arizona-based businesses need to be especially creative to compete against other states for opportunity dollars.

AZIGG encourages both government and private business actions to grow international development. Monthly meetings feature Arizona-based entrepreneurs such as Lee Knowlton of Kahala Corporation (which owns Cold Stone Creamery), Colin Christie of MX Secure and Omar Sayed of Succeed Corporation, all of whom are pioneers for Arizona in connecting their companies to the global market place. Similarly, global service firms such Squire, Sanders & Dempsey show leadership to help others succeed internationally.

Business owners now have more choices with less risk to grow their businesses internationally. Their success ultimately will result in a more balanced and sustainable economy for Arizona. Besides AZIGG, the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Council and foreign consulates are available as resources to Arizona-based business owners. Additional resources are available on the AZIGG Web site, in AZIGG monthly meetings and as part ofthe AZIGG International Business Fair.

Besides international sales growth, there are other initiatives that all residents of Arizona can support to create a more level playing field for companies based in Arizona. They include:

  • More direct international flights to Sky Harbor International Airport.
  • Sending a clear message that Arizona is a state open to legal immigration.
  • Improving education from below average to above average in the U.S.
  • Providing tax incentives to attract capital-intensive industries.
  • Supporting international sales with education and infrastructure to increase exports.

Doug Bruhnke is president and founder of the Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) and CEO and founder of Growth Nation. For more information, visit www.azigg.com


Local Arizona Firms Benefit From Federally Funded Chamber Program

By Don Harris

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Arizona Minority Business Enterprise Center, three Arizona firms are among the many that have benefited from a federally funded program.

Arizona Business Magazine, September 2008

Operated by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the center is opening doors to market opportunities and much-needed capital. A nonprofit organization, the center is funded by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The MBDA is the only federal agency created specifically to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in America.

Now in its second three-year grant under the operation of the Hispanic Chamber, the center focuses on minority businesses with $500,000 or more in annual revenues that generate significant employment and long-term economic growth.

“The center assists minority business enterprises in the areas of financing, planning, management, marketing and obtaining government procurement opportunities,” says Harry Garewal, president and CEO of the chamber.

The center also honors companies and entities that have made payments exceeding $1 million to minority businesses through contracts awarded. Most recent honorees were Sundt Corporation, Hunt Construction Group, Salt River Project, Turner Construction Company and the city of Phoenix Aviation Department.

The emphasis is on minority, not specifically Hispanic, businesses. To be eligible, businesses must meet certain minority standards and be members of certain groups that include, but are not limited to, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Aleuts, Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Indians, Eskimos and Hasidic Jews.

Ray Gonzales, president and CEO of RBG Construction; Enamul Hoque, president and owner of Hoque & Associates; and Stuart Smith, owner of Specialized Maintenance Services, tell how they and their businesses were aided by the Arizona Minority Business Enterprise Center.

Gonzales’ RBG Construction business, based in Glendale and founded in 1996, currently has about 100 employees. However, depending on conditions, payroll ranges from 20 to 125 employees. The firm has two divisions: general contracting and its original unit — concrete. Portions of projects landed through the center’s guidance, according to Gonzales, include the University of Phoenix Stadium, concourse work at Sky Harbor International Airport, a major car rental center adjacent to the airport, the Phoenix Convention Center, Arizona State University projects and a Border Patrol station in Douglas.

“The center has been a great vehicle for our company,” Gonzales says. “Its services helped us get minority certification to bid on government contracts, and helped us with banking needs.”

There’s an added bonus — educational opportunities. The center lined up grants through the Small Business Administration to send Gonzales to the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H. The grant covers rooms and meals, plus a one-week course. Participants pay their own travel expenses.

“They send minorities to brush up on finance, business planning, project management, marketing and business strategy,” Gonzales says. “It’s a crash course. It’s not a party.”

Hoque is founder of Hoque & Associates, a consulting engineering firm specializing in geotechnical exploration, civil engineering, construction materials testing, environmental assessment and solid waste engineering. Launched in 1997 as little more than a one-man operation, the company now has 22 employees. Hoque credits the center for his company’s growth.

“It helped us then and it’s still helping us,” Hoque says. “We’re a small company and the center helped us find sources of work. We could not afford to have a marketing person full time. You’re able to network with others, find your own niche. They can’t give you work, but they can find it for you. They point you in the right direction.”

Through the center’s efforts, Hoque for 10 years has had a contract with the Cochise County Solid Waste Management Division. Other jobs include work on a federal prison near Tucson, and a Sprint building in South Phoenix.

His firm also does environmental work, such as restoring “a blight site” landfill where Tempe Marketplace was built.

“I was the main guy to help investors to make money off the landfill,” Hoque says. “With blight sites, if you can beautify and restore it, that’s a catalyst for future improvements. As the energy crisis goes on, building inside the town rather on the periphery makes sense.”

Smith, an African American, started Specialized Maintenance Services — a commercial janitorial maintenance firm — in 1990, and since then has added other services, including heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. He’s up to 60 employees.

“The center helped in terms of putting together a financial business plan, access to capital, and a requirement by the Small Business Administration to get certified as an ‘8a’ minority firm, which makes us eligible for contracts with the federal government,” Smith says. “We could not have gotten this work without certification, and the center was helpful and instrumental. They also helped with a marketing strategy and held motivational meetings for our employees.”Arizona Business magazine September 2008

In the last four years, the center has been able to facilitate $145 million in loans and procurement assistance, leading to the creation of more than 600 new jobs, Garewal says.

The first three-year grant under the chamber’s operation ended in 2006. A second grant of $365,000-a-year for three years began in 2007. Grants are reissued annually by the federal government based on how well the center performs, and the center matches the grants on a percentage basis.
Arizona Business Magazine, September 2008
“We know a majority of small businesses that are flourishing are minority-owned businesses,” Garewal says. “For the most part, minorities are pretty entrepreneurial. They always figure out ways to make additional money. They have that entrepreneurial spirit. When you think about it, the American dream is to be entrepreneurial, to provide for their families and to be successful. Isn’t that why we go into business?”


In Invest We Trust- AZ Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006

Pension Reform Act To Impact Your Investment

In Invest We Trust

Pension Reform Act to impact your investment

By David Bernard

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. This basic law of physics can be applied to most people’s retirement planning—risking too much or too little and seemingly too apathetic or uninformed to affect change.

In Invest We Trust, Arizona Business MagazineThe Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA law) obligates employers who offer a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k), to act as that outside force, pushing or redirecting their employees’ retirement investments. Until recently, plan sponsors were pretty limited by the types of plans and guidance they could provide for their employees. The newly signed Pension Reform Act of 2006 creates some tools and opportunities to help both plan sponsors and participants.

The new legislation is focused on improving employee education, increasing participation and changing under-funded or poorly performing plans. If you offer or are considering offering your employees a defined contribution plan, it’s time to jump on this bandwagon and take advantage of the new opportunities.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Work with a broker or agent you trust to fully disclose information and who benefits from ensuring that you have the right plan for you and your employees. It’s not in your best interest to work with someone who benefits financially based on specific investments or products you select. A fee-based advisor has a fiduciary responsibility to you and your employees and is not motivated by commissions. How people get paid often has a big impact on how they behave.
  • With the help of an experienced advisor, you can adhere to the Department of Labor guidelines for complying with 404(c) regulations. The keys are to know what the regulations mean and being able to document and defend what you have done. Having a compliance strategy with documentation is equally as important as being in compliance.
  • As a plan sponsor, you are responsible corporately and privately for safeguarding the assets of your company’s plan. This means choosing, monitoring and continuing to oversee your plan. Annual reviews and ongoing oversight will help ensure that your plan evolves to meet changing needs and legislation.
  • Finding the right plan involves selecting the right investment choices and the right education program. One size does not fit all when it comes to retirement investing, and there are new options available. Offer your employees a well-researched retirement plan from an unbiased provider.
  • Encourage your employees to participate through automatic enrollment and matching contributions. Employees tend to improve their savings rate when employers offer incentives. This can also serve as an effective way to attract and retain great employees.
  • The annual “educational” meeting to educate workers on investments and register new enrollees just doesn’t cut it any longer. Employees need help not only managing their retirement plan assets, but also with understanding how these investments fit into their other financial considerations. They need individualized, objective advice so that they can achieve their retirement goals.

AZ Business Magazine October / November 2006The burden is on plan sponsors to help employees realize that they can no longer be passive when it comes to their retirement—and Congress has just helped ease the burden. With these new tools and the increased forces, we should see a whole generation of active and engaged retirement investors—no more retirement planning by inertia. We’ll have workers who are well equipped and in top shape to reach their retirement goals tomorrow. David Bernard is the president of Wealthpoint.

At a Glance
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 could greatly raise the number of workers participating in company-sponsored savings accounts by allowing the automatic enrollment of new employees. The legislation also will make it easier for plan sponsors to offer investment advice to 401(k) savers. Over the last decade, personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income has steadily fallen. In the second and third quarters of 2005, the saving rate, for the first time in the last 60 years, has fallen into negative territory—meaning that Americans are, as a whole, spending more than they save. In the third quarter of 2005, the personal saving rate was 1.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.


Arizona Business Magazine Oct/Nov 2006