By John Patterson
A sold-out crowd of more than 50 international businessmen and women converged at George Washington University’s Exploration Hall on Wednesday to discuss Loudoun’s advantages in international trade, and a recent boom in interest from Middle Eastern markets.
Bob McCollar, international business manager at the Department of Economic Development, was not surprised by the luncheon’s strong turnout.
“We have over 125 different international businesses that I know of,” McCollar said. “What we don’t include in that is people who move here from another country, and basically start up a business of which we have hundreds. Some of those people are here today.”
After a barbecue buffet, four panelists from Loudoun’s biggest Eastern markets took the stage. Eiling Chao, president of the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Washington, represented China; Muthu Arigovinden, principal and office manager of Terracon, represented India; James Lee, marketing manager at Korean Trade Group’s business development center, represented South Korea; and Ali Qureshi, managing director of Surdak and Company, represented the UAE.
The operations of all four are located the heart of Loudoun’s international trade business in Dulles Airport, which offers nonstop flights to global trade hubs including Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, and Dubai. Coming this July, Dulles will also offer nonstop flights to Delhi. The connection will mark the first direct route between the capitals of the United States and India.
“It’s very convenient for people in China who want to do business here in Loudoun,” Chao said.
Loudoun is also home to Foreign Trade Zone #137, which encircles a 60-mile radius around the airport. Program allows major importers and exporters to transport products outside of U.S. customs law.
“Simply put, you bring in the widgets, duty-free or duty-reduced, put them together, then ship them out.” McCollar explained. “Fortessa uses the Foreign Trade Zone and they save millions.”
Sterling-based Fortessa exports cutlery worldwide and it building a new headquarters at One Loudoun.
Lee went beyond the airport to explain the county’s rising Korean population and business.
“Particularly here in the DC area, the main focus is education,” Lee said, praising the area’s public school system to a collective affirmation from the audience. “They’re attracted to that.”
Beyond the area’s public school system, Lee also cited Loudoun’s “IT infrastructure” as a luring force for Korean immigrants, as information technology is “a new emerging market in Korea.”
“There’s a lot of activity going on here,” Qureshi said. He spoke about the UAE’s recent interest in Loudoun business, particularly from Dubai.
“Dubai is really positioning itself as gateway to the East,” he said. “If you land in Dubai you’ll feel like you’re in Southern California. Totally multicultural society.”
Qureshi noted Dubai’s executives invested in setting that impression.
“They want people to traverse through there. They want them to shop. They want them to do everything,” he said. “I think they realize that they are just in the middle of the global marketplace, so having that link with places like Loudoun … is something that’s developing.”
The International Business Luncheon was part of Loudoun Small Business Week, which has events around the county every day this week. See details at loudounsmallbiz.org/calendar/small-business-week.