Sheffield of New London expanding export market

New London — U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, joined U.S. Department of Commerce officials Thursday at Sheffield Pharmaceuticals to highlight the success of a federal initiative to help small and medium-sized Connecticut businesses expand globally.

Anne S. Evans, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Connecticut District Office in Middletown, said Sheffield has taken advantage of International Trade Administration market research reports and state-funded staff to figure out ways to help them grow overseas.

Sheffield employs 200 people at its longtime location at 170 Broad St., New London, and at a warehouse at the Norwich industrial park.

Two years ago the company exported about 2 percent of its health and beauty products to about 20 countries outside the U.S., according to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Davis.

He said the company is in the process of expanding to 58 countries with plans to have export sales reach 8 to 10 percent of their total business by 2018.

“That market is ripe for us,” Davis said. “Our plan at Sheffield is to really grow that export business, because there is a real renaissance we feel particularly in the types of products we make in the USA. People want that quality in products they put in and on their body. These are health products and we’ve seen interest in a lot of areas … including China.”

The company has taken its own steps to increase export sales by hiring an international sales manager.

Davis said the complexity of registering products overseas, finding the right markets and who is best suited to buy the products can be tricky.

“That’s where the Department of Commerce has helped to target our efforts,” Davis said. “We don’t want to do a shotgun approach.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce has developed an industry and market-specific online market research library center for U.S. companies wanting to expand their global sales.

These can be found at www.Trade.gov and can be downloaded at no cost to U.S. companies.

Sheffield is visiting potential distributors in Latin America and the Middle East, Evans said.  

Courtney said larger companies have staff overseas, while smaller companies should take advantage of the local expertise “to make those connections, sell more products, hire more workers, and invest more in our area.”

“This company has taken advantage of those tools by the Commerce Department,” Courtney said. “This is not just some alphabet soup program. It is something that actually has a real localized hometown benefit for companies.”

Following his address to a crowd of Sheffield employees, Courtney joined Department of Commerce officials and New London Mayor Michael Passero for a tour of the New London facility.

Parts of the Broad Street plant are under construction to make way for additional manufacturing equipment in space once occupied by inventory that has since moved to Norwich.

Evans said the greatest barriers to exporting are a lack of knowledge about foreign markets and licensing concerns.

Evans’ staff at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Middletown, for free or for $50 depending on the complexity and time required, will develop reports that include country specific tariffs, standards and regulations and local business climate.

“We try to make people understand we’re here to help and they should not be afraid to call us. Ninety percent of what we do is free,” Evans said.

For more information visit the Connecticut District Export Council at http://www.Trade.gov.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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