Key markets within Europe
France and the United Kingdom are the second- and third-largest economies in Europe, after Germany. Both markets are sophisticated and diversified, with a mix of companies that matches several of Wisconsin’s sectors of strength—and thus, these are markets where Wisconsin companies can learn more about their competitors’ business practices as well as benefit from the strength of the industry by selling to customers with similar interests.
In 2017, the U.S. exported $34 billion to France and $56 billion to the UK; Wisconsin exports to France were $455 million and to the UK $736 million. The UK is the #6 export market, and France #10, for Wisconsin products, but there is still room for further growth in both markets. A large number of Wisconsin ExporTech graduates name both France and the UK as being among their top markets for export growth potential based on analysis conducted during the course.
In June 2019, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will be leading a global trade venture to France and the UK, with segments in Paris, London and Birmingham. Wisconsin exporters seeking to enter these markets, or grow their exports in these markets, are encouraged to attend this global trade venture. Given the strengths of Wisconsin and the target countries, companies that make innovative production equipment and components, safety and security products, renewable energy or energy-efficient products, medical and scientific devices, or aviation components are especially encouraged to consider attending.
Although participants in this trade venture should have some prior exporting experience for best results, the UK is often one of the first markets that Wisconsin exporters pursue outside of North America, because of the common language, shared history and cultural similarities.
Although these markets are separated by just 20 miles across the English Channel, they have different languages and different business cultures; with the UK’s impending departure from the European Union, differences between the two markets are expected to widen further. It’s not clear yet just how much “Brexit” will affect U.S. companies selling into the market, but this trade venture will allow Wisconsin companies to observe firsthand how potential partners in the UK are dealing with the changes and uncertainty.
It may be tempting to think of doing business in the UK as “the same” as doing business in the U.S., but this is a different market with its own business norms and regulations, currency, and logistical issues. Participating in this global trade venture will allow Wisconsin companies to observe these differences firsthand and build trust by meeting potential partners face to face and demonstrating their commitment to the market. In France, the differences in how business is conducted and what appeals to a French customer should be more readily apparent, but are still important to consider, and will be a focus area in the market intelligence reports and briefings provided to participants.
This program includes stops in three important European business centers, each with its own unique features. In each city, participants will be scheduled for customized one-on-one meetings with prospective partners in the market. These partners are chosen specifically for each participating company based on the company’s business needs and objectives. Each participant in the global trade venture will also receive a market intelligence report specific to his or her company, detailing considerations to keep in mind when introducing the company’s product or service into the French and British markets. WEDC has eyes and ears on the ground in Europe, in the form of an authorized trade representative based there—thus making it easier for Wisconsin companies to find local partners they can trust, and taking some of the guesswork out of launching in a new market. Traveling as part of a trade venture also provides the opportunity for peer-to-peer networking and sharing of experiences and business connections among participants.
Paris is a city of 2 million, with another 10 million in the greater metro area. Its economy has recently shifted toward high-value-added services such as finance and information technology, and it has become a hub for high-tech manufacturing. Most of the largest French companies have their headquarters in Paris, and multinationals with a presence in France tend to have offices here as well. This trade venture was scheduled to coincide with the opening of the Paris Airshow, a major biennial event for the aviation industry, so Wisconsin-based aerospace manufacturers and suppliers are especially encouraged to attend.
With a population of 8.8 million (and an additional 5 million in the greater metro area), London is the governmental, financial and cultural center of the United Kingdom, as well as a leading global city in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, health care, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transportation. It is the world’s largest financial center, according to several indexes from firms that track the finance sector. Like Paris within France, London is the location of most head offices for multinationals with a presence in the UK, as well as the headquarters of British companies.
With six universities and the second-largest metropolitan area in the UK (population 4.3 million), Birmingham is also the UK’s second-largest metropolitan economy. It has a long history of strength in manufacturing: at the turn of the 19th century, Birmingham was hailed as “the first manufacturing town in the world,” and it is where the industrial steam engine was invented. As in London, the manufacturing operations in Birmingham have modernized, with automation and “smart” manufacturing helping companies thrive in the 21st century. Birmingham is especially strong in some manufacturing subsectors, such as food processing and automotive. The city can also serve as a base for reaching England’s entire Midlands industrial region, with easy access to Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.