Rosanna Masucci thinks globally in her job. The director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center in downtown Buffalo works with companies interested in selling into other countries or doing more of it. Masucci, 38, was named director last September, after serving in the role on an interim basis since early 2012. She has been with the Commerce Department for about 15 years and now oversees a territory covering about 30 Upstate counties as far east as Utica.
Q: What is the role of your office?
A: Our sole purpose is to help U.S. companies export their products. We focus a little bit more on the marketing aspect of it, providing information for companies so that they can figure out which markets they want to focus on. We have a database of market research that’s authored by my colleagues that are located all over the world, in U.S. embassies and consulates. We use that information, we do trade statistics for companies, to help them focus their efforts. And then once we help them figure out where they want to go, we help them find contacts in the market, too. So if they need a distributor or a sales rep, we have some fee-based programs and services that companies can qualify partners to work with.
Q: Where are Buffalo companies exporting?
A: Everywhere. A lot of companies now are concentrating on some of the new free-trade agreements that we have, so it’s some of the South American countries. The free trade agreement makes it advantageous for people in those countries to buy U.S. products because the duty rate is either reduced or eliminated. … Wherever it’s going to work for the company, wherever they have the most potential, that’s where we help them go. We do have offices in most of the countries in the world that most of the companies want to go to, there’s no limit to the help that we can give them.
Q: Do a lot of companies based here export to Canada?
A: Yes. In fact, a lot of companies export to Canada, but they’re not reaching their full potential. Maybe they just have sales to end users. We help them to take a look at that and say, OK, what else can you be doing in Canada? What if you appointed a distributor? What if you looked at the West Coast of Canada? What can you do to develop more business there? It’s funny because so many local companies treat Canada as the 51st state, which it really isn’t. There are subtle things, subtle differences between the two countries, so we really encourage companies, even if they are currently exporting to Canada, to really take a look at the market and see what else they could be doing to really develop it.
Q: What business sectors here are involved in exporting?
A: Medical equipment [is one]. The Department of Commerce recently provided a grant to World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, and we’ve been doing a lot to try to develop the medical equipment companies: life sciences, biotech, advanced manufacturing. There are also aerospace companies [exporting], also industrial equipment manufacturers.
Q: Do both big and small companies sell overseas?
A: It’s not about their size, it’s more about their attitude. A one- or two-person company can have a really global approach to doing business, and even if they are a start-up, they know that they have to include exporting in their full business plan. … The larger companies definitely see the benefit of working with us because they can be more efficient in their approach to international business. And the smaller companies see a benefit working with us because we can provide them with so many resources that they might not have in-house to really develop their international business. And then the medium-size companies that export to one or two markets see the value because they can get qualified contacts in countries that maybe they have a few sales to end users but don’t have distribution in. So if it’s a U.S. company and they have at least 51 percent U.S. content, we are happy to help them in whatever way that we can and with whatever level service.
Q: When the U.S. dollar is weaker, exporting from here should be more favorable. Does that come into play?
A: I think it comes into play more because companies are getting approached more by potential foreign customers or foreign partners, because their products are now priced at a more favorable rate, so it’s more attractive for these companies. We get a lot of phone calls because people say, ‘This guy sent me an email, he wants to buy my product, but I don’t know if it’s a good company or not, so what can you do to help me qualify this company and make sure it’s a legitimate opportunity?’
Q: President Obama set a goal of doubling U.S. exports. What can be done to encourage more Buffalo-area companies to export?
A: I think it’s continuing to put together the programs, let people know about the resources, showing them the statistics about companies that export are more successful, provide higher-paying jobs. It’s really just getting the word out. It’s a grassroots kind of thing, getting out there and letting companies know it’s something they should be doing if they’re not, it’s something they should be doing more of, and then providing the resources they need to be able to do it.