For two weeks, trade representatives from around the world gather in Pennsylvania to meet with potential companies interested in international trade.
This year, the representatives stopped in State College for the Central Pennsylvania International Trade Conference, where 80 people met, said Noelle Long, the director of export development for SEDA-Council of Governments.
The conference held Sept. 16 at Celebration Hall became the 13th for both the state and for the region.
Linda von Delhaes-Guenther, above, a trade director for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, met with area business leaders during a recent conference.
"This launched from the state's international trade program," Long said. "Pennsylvania International Week Celebration morphed into two weeks. The trade reps are in Pennsylvania for two weeks, with a day or two in each region. There are well over 1,200 companies."
Last year's international trade conference surpassed the half-a-billion mark in reported sales, Long said.
"It's pretty phenomenal," she said. "It's a small chunk of what we do."
The overall state trade program costs the state $6.7 million for the whole year, but generated $526,343,431 for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
When the conference first began eight years ago, only 12 trade representatives attended. Since then, the number has grown to 20.
One of those representatives, Martin Lewis, who represents the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandinavia, noticed through his years of attending the conference the increase in Pennsylvanian companies interested in international trade.
"They're more interested in exports," Lewis said.
Exporting can be done for almost anything, but Lewis works mostly with high-tech industrial equipment. He recently has seen aerospace defense, medicine, biotech pharmacy, and safety and security.
Long said that exporting is not just for tangible products, but also service companies and colleges. One service that can be exported is international recruitment efforts.
Exporting also is not just for large businesses.
"The bulk of exports is happening with small companies," Long said. "If you think you're small and can't do it, it can be done. You just need to do your homework and do some effort on your part."
The authorized trade representatives are not employees of the state, Long said, but contracted by the state.
"They have goals and objectives to meet as per state requirements to maintain their contracts," Long said. "The bulk of the representatives have been with the state many, many years."
For Linda von Delhaes-Guenther, a trade director representing Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, there are three big differences between the way business is approached in Germany and America.
The first difference is approach. She said Germans are more traditionally-oriented and do not like change as much as Americans.
The second difference is time management.
"Americans are more straightforward," von Delhaes-Guenther said. "Time is money. They talk quicker. Germans are heading in that direction."
Finally, Germans explain minute details of engineering, while Americans just try to make the sale.
"Germans explain everything about technology," she said. "They forget you might not be an engineer."
For many of the visiting companies, this is their first interaction with a trade representative. Long said the conference provides the opportunity for companies and trade representatives to talk face-to-face.
Pennsylvania has the strongest state trade program.
That includes local assistance, such as Long's office, a network of international representatives and state sponsored trade events. Long's office also provides international relations to 11 central counties of Pennsylvania, which includes one-on-one counseling, seminars, workshops and overall market development.
After years of working with the international representatives, Long said she knows what to do to make the event run successfully.
"I've got it down to a science," she said.
Even weeks after the event, the work is not finished.
"Most of the work comes after the event," Long said. "Following up, that's the hard part. It's the aftermath. There's no other way to describe it. It's true for the reps as well. After two weeks, they come home to a ton of work."