Moresi Foundry, of Jeanerette, cuts the cost of the steel products it sells to South Louisiana’s sugar mills by importing from overseas, so the company sent employee Brandi Lefevre to Lafayette for a refresher on international trade Tuesday.
Lefevre said Moresi Foundry buys components from India, Brazil and Mexico that are modified in the host countries then shipped ultimately to the company’s Jeanerette facilities for resale. It will soon have a fourth foreign supplier.
“We’re going into Colombia right now,” she said.
Lefevre was among businesspeople at the Lafayette International Center to learn at a primer on importing, a two-afternoon course taught by importing consultant and University of New Orleans adjunct professor Ruperto Chavarri.
Another businessperson who attended, Fernando Pérez-Viart, said he was there because he and others in Lafayette’s Cuban-American community want to re-establish Louisiana-Cuba business ties in the near future.
Pérez-Viart said his aim was much more basic: “I want to engage with small businesses in Cuba” once the U.S. trade embargo is lifted.
Chavarri said overseas markets offer established companies a way to shave costs and offer individuals armed with a high-speed computer, discipline and the ability to learn ways to supplement their incomes.
There are plenty of potential pitfalls in doing business with a foreign country, however, including cultural differences that can lead to expensive misunderstandings. A less-than-working knowledge of currency differences can lead to bankruptcy, and there better be a helpful team of experts including a banker, a lawyer and a customs broker to help navigate the minefield of foreign business dealings.
Chavarri had another bit of advice for the part-time sole practitioners starting out: Don’t abandon that day job just yet.
“It’s going to take months, if not years, to be successful,” Chavarri said.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of guidance from such entities as the World Trade Center of New Orleans; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Chambers of Commerce Abroad; the Small Business Administration; the Port of New Orleans; and the Port of South Louisiana.
There’s also the Lafayette International Center, formerly Le Centre International de Lafayette, which put on the importing seminar that continues from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday The Lafayette International Center, which is part of Lafayette Consolidated Government, also offers one-on-one consulting.
The import seminar differed from those offered through the U.S. Commercial Service and other federal agencies. Those agencies focus mostly on helping Louisiana businesses increase exports to increase U.S. job growth.
Philip Gustin, director of the international center, said imports play a huge role in the U.S.
“Importing is not bad for the economy. It is necessary for the economy,” he said.