University of Southern California

USC Conference Premier Forum for Export to Asia
Asia Pacific Business Outlook Provides U.S. Companies with Opportunities to Asian Markets
April 15, 2009 • by Mike Martinez

The Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference, sponsored by the USC Marshall School of Business and the U.S. Commerce Department, drew 300 entrepreneurs, experts and U.S. officials to the University Park campus to discuss opportunities in an overseas market predicted to grow despite the U.S. recession. The two-day assembly was held at the Davidson Conference Center Monday, April 6 through Tuesday, April 7.

The annual gathering, held for the past 22 years, is regarded as a premier forum for small-and medium-sized business seeking to export products to Asia. The participation of U.S. senior commercial officers who travel to USC from a dozen embassies in Asia and India enhances the yearly event, giving entrepreneurs direct access to U.S. officials to start and expand export operations.

For many businessmen, the event was more than just a conference chock-full of seminars, workshops and one-on-one meetings with the U.S. commercial officers or experts.

Some came for the behind-the-scenes opportunities to network with experts and officials to glean tidbits of valuable information about Asian business opportunities.

"It's the free-flowing dialogue over lunch or drinks, and the little snippets are worth a fortune," said Christopher Goode, president and managing director of White (China) Drive Products of Hopkinsville, Ky., which makes hydraulic motors in Zhenjiang, China, about 135 miles outside Shanghai.

Rich Maddux, president of Propulsys, also of Hopkinsville, Ky., which is parent to Goode's firm, said he's been attending the conference for the past three years. "This is the only one we do. When you look at the people they get and the quality of the speakers, this is the one," Maddux said.

For example, William Overholt, senior research fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, spoke to 60 people in a seminar about "Obama's Asian Challenges." Executives should embrace, not fear, China because it and the United States are in "a collaborative relationship," he said.

"I think the administration has its heart in the right place, but I'm not sure Congress has its heart in the right place during this economic squeeze," Overholt said, referring to President Barack Obama's administration. "We need presidential leadership to say we celebrate the economic success of India and China. We have nothing to fear."

Another session dealt with an "outlook" on Korea, where John Fogarasi, senior commercial officer in the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, provided a PowerPoint analysis on how Korea has become a rags-to-riches story since 1960 and is now the 8th largest export market for the U.S.

"Companies who establish themselves in Korea can quickly – in terms of proximity (to other Asian nations) – branch out," Fogarasi said.

Keynote speaker James Flanigan, a business columnist for the New York Times, told the 300 attendees over lunch Monday that Southern California will weather the economic downturn and see a better future because of its vast network of research universities stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego – including USC. Their research will yield discoveries that will revive the economy, he said. "It's a tremendous hotbed," Flanigan said. "The future of American industry is definitely in the universities because they can do the research and the public companies cannot," under studies requiring more than three years of work, he said.

Marshall School of Business Dean James Ellis told speakers and sponsors at the private APBO Cast Dinner that the conference was designed for all "to share thoughts and ideas about what's happening in the Pacific Rim." Adding: "This is a very, very meaningful event to us at USC."

One snapshot of a firm seeking a toehold in Asian markets played out at a dinner table featuring Carmine D’Aloisio, minister-counselor for commercial affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi who has attended almost every APBO Conference since 1996.

One entrepreneur, Dennis Calvert, president of BioLargo Inc., which makes iodine-based disinfectant technology, said he was looking to create licensed partners in India.

D'Aloisio introduced Calvert to Gunjan Bagla of Amritt Ventures Inc., whose experience is in global sourcing and marketing in India.

"That could be big," Bagla told Calvert about the technology.

"Our goal is to expand globally with a partner," Calvert responded.

Later, D'Aloisio said the APBO conferences are "well rounded" events, serving new and established companies.

"I can't think of a more effective way to stay in touch with U.S. Embassies and our industry sector specialists who do the research" for APBO participants prior to their private appointments with the Senior Commercial Officers at APBO, he said. "I don't think there's a conference like it in terms of talent and information exchange."

Richard Drobnick, director of the Marshall School's Center for International Business, which produces APBO, summarized the value proposition of the conference with: "For 22 years, USC Marshall has provided excellent value to APBO participants by recruiting 50 Asia business experts to provide up-to-date information about the rapidly changing business opportunities and challenges in the dynamic economies of the Pacific Rim."


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.