As director of one of the U.S. Commerce Department’s 100-plus U.S. Export Assistance Centers, you might say Susan Sadocha is in the foreign intelligence business, with firsthand experience – so far – in more than 15 countries. The LIU graduate, who earned a master’s in international relations at Boston University and did 18 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service, talks about her essential, not-so-secret service for Long Island businesses selling abroad. In her words:
MISSION BRIEFING: We work with Long Island companies looking to increase sales of goods or services internationally, or to enter new markets. We can help them increase sales in existing markets or help them understand what they need to enter new ones – everything from understanding tariffs to in-depth counseling on a total export strategy.
KEEP MOVING: I came over from [the Agriculture Department] in 2014. Right now we’re in transition, moving our satellite office into the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. We used to be at (SUNY) Old Westbury.
SPECIALISTS: We actually have a strategic partnership with the Zarb School. We develop strategic partnerships with many local organizations working with the same population we do. With ADDAPT and the Long Island Forum for Technology, we co-host events and educational outreach and bring international delegations through Long Island. It’s a way of leveraging our expertise and resources with our partners’ expertise and resources, all to help Island companies meet their exporting objectives.
SECRET WEAPONS: One advantage we offer are the foreign service officers we have stationed overseas. They’re like diplomats who work in our embassies and are there specifically to help U.S. companies work in those markets. That’s our value added. I can facilitate connections with colleagues who understand the regulatory atmosphere, the culture, everything you need to make a market entry.
COOL GADGETS: We have our iPhones and iPads and we can stay on top of information real-time. Using this mobile technology has really helped – if I’m in a meeting with a client, I can develop that record and connect with a person in whatever country so they can follow it. Now they get a message that says, “Susan is in a meeting with such-and-such company, which is interested in moving into this market,” and they’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
PLOT TWIST: We had one major new initiative in the past year: The Commerce Department hosted a number of national events called Discover Global Markets. These two-day conferences brought together U.S. companies for educational seminars and B2G meetings, including meetings with those Commerce Department officers from overseas. There was a conference in New York City focused on China and another in Dallas focused on e-commerce. This was a huge initiative to really help companies understand what markets are out there and what they need to do if they want to export.
THE LONG ISLAND CONNECTION: We obviously haven’t helped every Long Island exporter, but our client base in a given year is about 150 companies. Some of them may be looking for full-blown, in-depth counseling, some might just have a few questions. When it comes to in-depth counseling, I’d say 25 is a good number for a given year.
FOREIGN INTRIGUE: In 2015, we saw continuous interest from Long Island companies looking to export. This has continued for years, even when the recession was in place. They’re looking to expand their markets so all their eggs are not in one basket. So, every year, we get an increasing number of questions about going into new international markets.
MISSION TO GERMANY: Hannover Messe (April 25-29 in Hannover, Germany) is the largest industrial trade show in the world. Usually, there are over 200,000 attendees from all around the globe. It’s a huge opportunity: The United States is the 2016 “country of honor” and President Obama will be attending. There will be a U.S. pavilion with booths for energy, research, technology … we’re looking to promote really strong, really advanced technology companies, set up meetings with our colleagues from overseas and engage in a lot of B2B matchmaking.
NEW RECRUITS: We already have several Long Island companies that are planning to attend, representing energy, research and industrial automation. Those are only some of the industries where U.S. companies and Long Island companies will be represented. Long Island is known for its research innovations, and we want to make sure that’s highlighted at this year’s show.
DR. YES: In my meetings with companies around Long Island, it’s clear they see the international marketplace as a huge positive. There are challenges on Long Island – we’ve all heard about it being difficult and expensive here – but around the globe, everybody looks at the United States as an innovation leader, and we all know about the research institutions we have here. We have very strong partnerships between public and private organizations and they could lead to a very bright future for innovative Long Island companies. We’re here to help them make their move to international markets.
Interview by GREGORY ZELLER