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This week, the U.S. Commercial Service, the export promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, hosted a national conference in Salt Lake City in an effort to aid American businesses to increase exports to the Indo-Pacific.

SALT LAKE CITY — While Utah already exports billions of dollars annually in goods and services to countries around the world, a U.S. trade official notes the state, and many others as well, still need a little help finding a match for their businesses.

Along that line, the U.S. Commercial Service, the export promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, hosted a national conference in Salt Lake City this week in an effort to help American businesses increase aerospace, defense and cybersecurity exports to the Indo-Pacific.

"We have representatives from 15 Indo-Pacific markets and they do (hundreds of) one-on-one appointments with our U.S. small- and medium-sized companies," Thomas McGinty, acting deputy undersecretary for international trade, said. "It's kind of commercial speed dating to start a dialogue about whether they are a good prospect for whatever they make or their service in that market."

Companies from 37 states and the District of Columbia participated.

The primary goal of the event was to connect U.S. companies with potential business partners on a global scale. The concept of Discover Global Market is to bring the assets of the International Trade Administration "directly to communities like Salt Lake City and Utah," McGinty said.

He said having such a conference is a time and money-saving solution for small-and medium-sized firms that allows them to develop relationships they might otherwise miss out on.

The conference connected American suppliers and manufacturers, U.S. commercial diplomats and international executives from more than 15 markets, including Myanmar, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Among the agencies and firms speaking at the conference were Boeing, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

The conference included numerous components aimed at preparing U.S. firms to succeed internationally, McGinty explained.

"It's all about jobs. Our mission is about jobs," he said. "If what we do ultimately doesn't lead companies to increase their revenue, increase the markets they export to and ultimately hire people, then we're not doing our jobs."

Last year, the U.S. exported more than $480 billion in goods to Asia with many nations in the region announcing plans or budgeting funds to expand aviation facilities as well as pursue defense and other security-related projects, he said.

During the conference, U.S. Commercial Service officers and specialists based in more than a dozen Indo-Pacific markets counseled U.S. companies on developing effective strategies for selling products in their countries, he noted. Key decisionmakers from public and private-sector organizations also attended the event to meet U.S. suppliers of aerospace, defense and cybersecurity products and services, he said.

Additionally, original equipment manufacturers connected with smaller U.S. companies that can support their supply chains, he said.

Gary Olsen, vice president of business development for VPI Technology Group in Draper, said his company was able to benefit from the conference by meeting with various prospective clients from across the globe. VPI is an engineering design firm, specializing in electronic design services, prototyping, certification and testing services, as well as electronics manufacturing.

"If we just come away with one new client or some connections and opportunities with customers that can lead to work for us supporting another company to design new products or manufacture new products, that's success for us," Olsen said. "Even just one client."

The conference was part of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aims to accelerate U.S. private sector involvement in the region and support export growth.

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The U.S. Commercial Service is part the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration with personnel in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries available to help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increasing sales to global markets, explained Suzette Alles, chief operating officer of World Trade Center Utah. She said approximately 350 American companies participated in the conference, which provided foreign investors a prime view of all that Utah has to contribute economically.

"We want to make sure (international companies) know that Utah has a lot to offer as far as a great talent pool, great companies with a lot of innovation taking place at a lower cost (of doing business)," Alles said.