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Permanent link for Michigan Small Businesses are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should Take Advantage of MI-STEP on April 20, 2022

by Natalie Bremmer

Michigan Economic Development Corporation's MI-STEP

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) oversees Michigan’s State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) to give financial assistance to small businesses to pursue exporting their products and gain access to larger global markets.

They have roughly $2.667 million worth of aid to give out to small businesses across the state. Up to 75% of pre-approved exporting expenses can be covered with a $15,000 maximum per business in a fiscal year when the Michigan company follows the MI-STEP eligibility criteria.

This program makes entering or expanding in new global markets viable for small or medium-sized businesses eager to expand while accommodating a more limited budget.

MI-STEP may seem confusing at first glance, so here are its three main objectives:

  • Increase amount of small and medium-sized businesses in Michigan that participate in exporting
  • Grow the dollar value of Michigan exports
  • Provide an avenue for Michigan small businesses to explore new trade opportunities

The eligibility criteria to secure aid from this program include:

  1. Being in accordance with SBA standards
  2. Demonstrate understanding of export costs and business with foreign markets; including freight forwarding, packing, shipping, and customs brokers
  3. Show potential for successful exporting as well as a positive impact on the regional economy
  4. Provide an EIN number that is linked to a Michigan address
  5. Must be in good standing with the Michigan Department of Treasury as well as any other regulatory agencies
  6. Must be a U.S. company that is prepared to export goods of U.S. origin with a minimum of 51% U.S. content

Once a business gets this aid, there are particular transactions that will be covered by MI-STEP funds. These include but are not limited to:

  • Participating in foreign-trade missions
  • E-commerce fees for advertisement and website design
  • Participation in international trade shows
  • Foreign sales trips (up to two people on an economy flight)
  • EXIM export credit insurance premiums
  • Participation in export training workshops

One company that benefitted greatly from an MI-STEP award was Armor Protective Packaging: a rust removal company that specializes in making clean, safe, and easily used vapor corrosion inhibitor packaging. Through MI-STEP, they were able to expand to provide to 90% of the Fortune 500’s industrial companies as well as several other countries across the world. More specifically, MI-STEP helped this company with having the funds to create a local website translated and customized for the different languages and cultures of the specific countries they were selling to– effectively expanding their digital footprint. They were also able to travel to some of these countries to network and secure international business partners which was another huge step for them to reach their global markets.

GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center

The Van Andel Global Trade Center is an easily accessible resource with various export training programs and workshops that are eligible for MI-STEP coverage that teaches small businesses how to find success similar to how Armor Protective Packaging did. VAGTC’s incredibly knowledgeable team has been working with businesses across Michigan for over two decades in both one-on-one and group settings– entirely depending on their clients' needs. Throughout their time at GVSU they’ve worked with over 10,000 companies and have assisted more than 31,000 business professionals. Not only do they have a wealth of experience with exporting, but they also assist companies of all sizes with importing concerns.

VAGTC consults with companies in the following areas:

  • Exporting/Importing
  • Export & Import Procedure Manuals
  • Compliance (export and import)
  • Free Trade Agreements such as USMCA
  • Global Supply Chain Logistics
  • Export Controls Training: ITAR & EAR
  • Cultural Training
  • Market Research
  • Foreign-Trade Zones
  • Global Risk Factors
  • Harmonized Schedule/Classifications, Export Control Classification Numbers
  • and more!

Their website has a variety of helpful resources like guidebooks, available programs, trade zones, and Worldwide Credit Reports. VAGTC memberships are also available for discounts on workshops and more individualized assistance.

With an ever-expanding global market, there has been no better time to enter it than right now. Check out MEDC's MI-STEP website with full details on the program and begin taking full advantage of all that MEDC has to offer! Companies can also learn more about VAGTC’s services and how we can get you connected to the MI-STEP program by contacting us today! Now is the time to grow your small business through increased export sales, let us help!!

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About the Author

Natalie Bremmer is a Student Assistant at  GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center . She is a sophomore currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys lifting weights, playing video games, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.


Permanent link for What is the Harmonized System and Why is it Important? on April 8, 2022

What is the Harmonized System (HS) and the HS Classification?

The Harmonized System (HS) is a globally recognized way to identify goods being imported and exported by assigning a standardized classification. The HS classification is used for declaring goods at the time of export in export declarations and for the purpose of filing customs entries at the time of import in the country of destination. The HS classification is used to determine duty rates and collect duties, taxes, and fees for the imported products.

The Harmonized System (HS) is something every importing and export company will need to understand so proper HS classifications can be assigned to their products. Companies need to take great care in assigning HS classification and understand the compliance risks associated with their HS classification decisions.  Exporters and importers alike have a legal responsibility to properly claim and classify goods/products.

The Harmonized System (HS) Breakdown

The Harmonized System (HS) is a very structured classification system made up of sections, chapters, notes, headings, and subheadings.

The United States has two published versions of the Harmonized System (HS).  For imports, the U.S. publishes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the U.S. for the HS classification of imported products and the assignment of duty rates.  For exports, the U.S. publishes the Schedule B for export HS classifications and the collection of statistical data.

The Harmonized System (HS) is broken down into 22 sections which act as groupings of similar chapters.

There are 97 chapters of products that are organized from least manufactured to more manufactured and logically group classifications by make or by use. The first two digits of each HS classification are the chapter number. Within each chapter, the Harmonized System (HS) provides a four-digit heading with the primary legal definition of what is to be included in that heading.  Those headings are further broken down into six-digit subheadings. The heading and subheading legal definitions are universal and all countries agree to use the same legal definitions.

While the globally recognized headings and subheadings remain constant, each country can further break down the subheadings with country-specific suffixes. In the U.S. two digits (digit 7 and 8) are added as the duty rate suffix and two digits (digit 9 and 10) are added as a statistical suffix – making the U.S. classification a 10-digit number.
See the photo above for an example using Coffee.

Why is HS Classification Important for your Business?

First of all, for importers, the HTS classification determines the duty rates and the duties paid at the time of import so it has immediate revenue implications. Non-compliance can result in fines, penalties, and the back payment of additional duties owed.

Paying duties is a non-negotiable, so proper classification can reduce your compliance risk in the short and long run. The result will never be good when using the wrong classification. If your misclassification caused you to overpay in duties, you won’t receive a refund. If you are underpaid in duties, you are required to pay the difference, and customs will decide if you will need to pay interest, and whether or not fines and penalties will be imposed.

For exporting, HS classification is used in:

  • Export documentation (ex. Commercial Invoice)
  • Export Declaration
  • Import customs entry in a country of destination

For importing, HS classification is used in:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for customs clearance and entry

All in all, use the HS classification to your advantage. Generate proper classifications and importing and exporting will be smooth sailing.

Are You Interested in Learning More? 

GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center offers a yearly Fundamentals of Harmonized System (HS) Classification Training. Check out our Events page to register for this upcoming event!

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About the Contributor

Jenna Hoover is working as a student assistant for GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center. She is a junior at GVSU currently studying Finance and Supply Chain Management within the Seidman College of Business. You can find her visiting local coffee shops as she studies for classes or checks in on her Roth IRA. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog, Gertrude, and hanging out with friends along the beautiful beaches of West Michigan.


Permanent link for The 23rd Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium on February 28, 2022

written by Caleb Holland

The Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium is a yearly event bringing together business owners, senior management, and decision-makers from all tiers of the automotive industry. This premier automotive supplier event provides the most up-to-date industry forecasts, latest issues, and trends, with opportunities to network and learn from others in the increasingly challenging and ever-changing industry of automotive.

The 23rd Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium happening on March 10, 2022, in Grand Rapids, Michigan paints the picture of what a modern auto industry is. Guest speakers from five organizations will take the stage to offer diverse perspectives on what is going on in the auto industry currently and will discuss their projections for the future. A new age of auto is upon us, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

General Motors

The Automotive industry is headed into what could be the largest shift in automotive technology: The shift from fuel to battery. Electric vehicles are starting to hit the market at a rapid rate, and by 2050, they are expected to make up 60% of new car sales. One company, located in the heart of Michigan's automotive industry is beginning to transform its market to stay ahead of the industry. General Motors has pledged a transition to electric vehicles. Over 50% of their spending will be dedicated to these models of the future. By 2025, their goal is to have 30 EV options launched globally with T available in North America. Speaking for GM at the 23rd Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium is David Leich, Executive Director of Global Supply Chain at General Motor. He is equipped with over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry and his expertise will complement his reports on GM’s current position in the global market as well as where they are headed in this ever-changing industry.

Learn more about General Motors

IHS Markit

IHS Markit analysts have similar ideas about this new age of vehicles. With extensive forecasts of the driving industry, they predict the introduction of electric cars will create a domino effect in other industries. Gas stations will become obsolete; instead, charging ports can be installed at entertainment sites and shopping centers. The world of transportation will be cleaner and faster with this innovative technology. Mike Wall, a Grand Valley State University Alumni, will be speaking on the behalf of IHS Markit and will give his analysis of the automotive industry, first-hand.

Learn more about IHS Markit

HYZON Motors

Hydrogen is a key component in creating water, but Hyzon Motors has discovered many more of its capabilities. Their technology is based on complete hydrogen power. Hydrogen can be converted to electricity which, in turn, creates power for commercial vehicles and marine equipment. Jay de Veny, from the Hyzon group in Troy, Mi, has been working to execute the company's visions and create products that could change the course of the industry.

Learn more about HYZON Motors

DRiV Inc. a division of Tenneco

Adam Kochenderfer has been working with DRiV Inc. to provide a strategic progression for their values and quality of products. As an industry leader in aftermarket and original equipment manufacturing, it is critical for Driv Inc. to use innovation to remain on the command post of the industry. Automobile parts manufacturing is dynamic and diverse, and Adam has the solutions to make their visions possible.

Learn more about DRiV Inc. a division of Tenneco

Warner Norcross + Judd

The stumbling blocks of the law are no problem for Warner Norcross + Judd. They are the epitome of the modern law firm by combining the latest technology with their tried and true law practices. Extranets and video technology allow the firm to assist clients in the same secure way as meeting in person. With changing automotive technology comes changing laws, but Warner Norcross + Judd has the compass to navigate its challenges. Michael Brady will communicate how they have been backing the automotive industry as it goes through its new-age transformation.

Learn More about Warner Norcross + Judd

Join us on March 10th for a morning of networking and automotive discussions! Register here!

This event is generously title sponsored by: Plante Moran

Along with our 2022 Symposium Sponsors:  ArtiFlexChase BankCorrigan Air & SeaIHS MarkitMichigan Economic Development CorporationMorrison Industrial EquipmentThe Right Place, and Warner Norcross + Judd

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About the Author

Hello! I am Caleb Holland and I am a freshman student assistant at the Van Andel Global Trade Center. I am currently studying marketing and advertising at Grand Valley and plan to pursue a career at an advertising agency. When I am not working or studying I enjoy running, swimming boating, and spending time with friends. VAGTC has provided me with great opportunities and I am excited to see what more I will accomplish here!


Permanent link for The Michigander's Guide to the Lunar New Year 2022 on February 1, 2022

Updated from Orginal Blog by Ruixuan Ran

Whether you are still in holiday mode or you are just bored with the dull winter sky, cheer up! We have some good news – the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year (CNY) is here! This month-long fiesta will give you a legitimate reason to get back into holiday celebration mode and will help light up dreary the February days. Like many ancient festivals around the globe, Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, follows a different timetable: the Lunar Calendar. That being said, Spring Festival begins January 31st, with New Year’s Day falling on February 1st and the festivities continuing until the 15th day of the first Lunar month (aka February 15th ).

We know it’s a busy time, but we didn’t want you to miss out on this exciting holiday that millions of people around the world will be observing, Chinese New Year! So here are some important details to help you celebrate Chinese New Year like a pro.

It is the Year of…

The very first thing to know is that we are celebrating the Year of the Tiger. Each lunar year is assigned one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig – which rotate in a twelve-year recurring cycle. (Sorry cat-lovers, there is no Year of the Cat.)

Unfortunately, it is believed that people will have bad luck during their zodiac year, so for all the people who are turning 12, 24, 36 etc. in the year beginning on February 1st, you may want to wear something red all year round. Red is a color largely perceived as a sign of blessing and justice in Chinese culture, so adding something red to your wardrobe, such as a bracelet, shirt, etc., might help to ward off bad luck.

Red, Red, Red!

China is enamored with the color red. It symbolizes vitality, blessings, justice, and festivity. During CNY, you will see people using red almost everywhere you look. Houses, office buildings, and streets are covered with red lanterns and lights, and many people wear red clothes for good luck. The color is indispensable to the Spring Festival holiday.

Fu Dao

After throwing out all your bad luck by thoroughly cleaning up your house, the first step to demonstrate that you are ready to welcome a fresh new year is to decorate your door with an upside-down Chinese character “Fu” (). “Fu” means fortune, luck, prosperity, and any other favorable words you can think of. Why put the Chinese character upside-down? Well, here is a classic example of a Chinese pun. The word for “upside-down” (dào, ) is a homophone for the word for “to arrive” (dào, 0). By hanging the character upside-down, you are suggesting your fortune is on its way.

Lucky Money

Perhaps one of the most gratifying ingredients of the CNY festivities is the distribution of the red envelopes with “lucky money” wrapped in them. The origin of the tradition can be traced back to BC days when people believed children were weak and a monster named Sui would eat children at the end of the year. Parents would wrap coins in red paper to scare (some say bribe) the monster in hopes of a safe and peaceful year for their children. That is why the real name of “lucky money” is “ya sui qian” which literally means “the money that suppresses Sui”. The amount of lucky money given widely varies and depends on the region, but several hundred Yuan is generally expected.

Chinese New Year Jams

Just as we might instinctively put “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” on the radio after the first snowfall in Michigan, the Chinese New Year unofficially begins when malls start to loop the classic holiday songs that everyone claims to be tired of, yet still sing along with. Jamming some CNY classics equivalent to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at your party would definitely bring the festivity up a notch. Some of the most well-known songs are: Gong Xi Fa Chai (directly translates to Wish You Get Wealth), New Year Celebration and Congrats, Congrats. Additionally, there are several collections of CNY jingles online, even if you do not know the lyrics, it is the celebratory spirit that counts.

Midnight Carnival: Spring Festival Gala, Fireworks & Mahjong

In 1983, China Central Television launched the first Spring Festival Gala, a show that airs every Chinese New Year’s Eve featuring musical, dance, and drama performances. Since then, it has become a modern CNY tradition to watch the Gala with family while eating a reunion dinner and, more than likely, playing the game Mahjong.

Mahjong is to the Chinese what Euchre is to many Michiganders. I would argue though, the Chinese love for the game runs deeper. The fun part of this tile-based game is that there is no pressure to win it. In fact, Chinese people can barely ace it themselves as each province or even each town has its own rules. So if your Chinese friends spend half an hour debating on the rules before starting the game, don’t worry about it.

Of course, it would not be much of a New Year’s festival without firecrackers and fireworks. Although in very recent years, local governments of major cities have limited the usage of fireworks for safety, pollution, and noise reasons, many people will still stay up until midnight to watch the fireworks displays.

Modern Day

Needless to say, we now live in a very different time to the original Chinese New Year festivals. As many older folks might lament the changing of bygone conventions, the younger Chinese generation has offered their own interpretations of the holiday and many of these are now new traditions.

Customarily, the elders of a family give the red envelopes of lucky money to the children. Today however, there is no limit to whom you can give red envelopes to including friends, coworkers, or anyone you care about. The rise of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group has saved a lot of work for this gift-giving process, as apps such as WeChat and AliPay allow people to send “red envelopes” instantly (and in a more environmentally responsible way). An individual can digitally send several Yuan to another person as a gesture to spread good cheer, or he/she could put a red envelope in a group chat for people to share. This ritual has become more and more popular for business occasions as well.

Reuniting with family members back home used to be the most important way to spend the New Year, but today a stronger economy and rising living standards have extended the option of where this celebration takes place. Instead of undergoing the busiest travel rush of the year, many opt to travel overseas to Japan, Korea, Southern Asia, and even Europe during the New Year period. In fact, the Spring Festival has become the most popular time for the Chinese to take family vacations.

The 15th day of the first Lunar month (February 15) marks the official end of the holiday; you will probably be a CNY expert by then! As the old saying goes, ‘well begun is half done'. So go ahead and dress in red, hang your “Fu” on the door, spread the lucky money cheer, and have a great New Year!

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About the Contributor

Ruixuan Ran graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2018. She was a Student Assistant at Van Andel Global Trade Center. She grew up in China, and during her time at GVSU she double-majored in accounting and international business with a minor in French.


Permanent link for Harmonized System Updates Your Company Needs to Know on October 27, 2021

The 7th edition of the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature will enter into force on January 1, 2022.

Why is this important to your business?

The Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature allows for goods to uniformly be imported and exported to/from countries around the globe, 211 economies participate in this system. The Harmonized System allows for customs tariffs international trade statistics to be tracked and reported as goods flow throughout the global supply chain.

The 7th edition of the HS will include 351 amendments to the current system according to the World Customs Organization.   

Some of the major changes include classifications that deal with advancing technology, health & safety equipment, and society protections.

Advancing Technology

Technological advances are occurring daily. Thus, current heading classifications and provisions are not able to properly track new technology that is being created and traded around the world. Updated 2022 HS provisions and classifications will include e-waste, tobacco products, drones, smartphones, and other multifunctional devices.  

Health & Safety Equipment

Recent years have highlighted the need for a quicker and more streamlined way to deploy tools that help diagnose and treat infectious diseases. Classification for these tools has been simplified and provisions have been put into place in the 7th edition for supporting medical research occurring on a global scale.

Protecting Society from Dual-Use Goods

The World Customs Organization has increased its efforts to combat world terrorism. Subheadings within the HS have been created for dual-use goods that could potentially be converted to an unauthorized use product such as an explosive device.

Conventions & Clarifications

A number of goods controlled by global Conventions such as chemicals controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Rotterdam Convention to name a few, have also been updated and reflect clarifications of verbiage to ease the process in classifying products correctly.

Van Andel Global Trade Center recommends companies review the United States HS for 2022 and be ready for any changes that may be implemented on January 1, 2022, that could impact the products your business buys and sells globally. Communicate 2022 changes to suppliers, export customers, dealers/distributors, customs brokers, and international freight forwarders. In some cases, it may be beneficial to obtain binding rulings from Customs to ensure there are no issues/delays moving goods around the world.

The official announcement from the World Customs Organization of amendments effective January 1, 2022, can be found here.


Permanent link for What Rome Taught Me on September 22, 2021

By Michele Minghetti

“I could fill volumes with the time spent here in Rome. I could write books about all the people I have met, the adventures I’ve experienced. And I ask myself: What about them? All the new faces I’ve encountered, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made. Would I appear in their books? Would there be a chapter about me? A page? Or at least a sentence?”  - Alice Minghetti

When visiting a new country and a new city, especially one such as Rome it is easy to get lost in the sprawling views, rich history, and beautiful architecture that can be found around every corner. Italy is a country that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime! Italian culture offers travelers the opportunity to escape their daily routines and immerse themselves in a lifestyle focused on slowing down and enjoying life, delicious food, and the people who surround them.

Having grown up visiting family in northern Italy near Bologna, I found myself presented with an opportunity to travel to Rome one summer to visit my sister, who had moved to Rome the year before. Spending so much time with my sister, in such a beautiful city turned into one of the best experiences of my life. We often reflect on that time spent and together have come up with some essential insights to make note of before visiting, working, living, or doing business in Rome or Italy in general.

Most Importantly When in Rome…

  • Keep your eyes open for wonder. Rome offers wonders in every street, at every corner, in every Piazza . Take your time to appreciate them.
  • Get lost every once in a while. You will end up in unexpected and wondrous places.
  • You are never late in Rome ( Roma, Città Aperta )
  • There is no point in leaving the house before 9:30 am since most places open around 10, some even at 11.

Making Friends in Italy

  • 99% of the time there is no need to rush. No one is on time anyway. Appointments by time are only rough estimates.
  • If no one listens to you, just repeat what you said in a louder voice.
  • Italians like to talk. A lot. Especially about themselves.
  • Thank the bus driver/waiter/cashier/barman. They will remember you. Always thank the host.
  • Greet your neighbors and offer to help with the groceries.
  • Let people join your table.
  • Offer caffè to friends. It’s a pleasure (almost an honor).
  • Once in a while pay for your friend’s pizza. For the simple reason that you want to.

Eating Out in Rome

  • There is good pizza and exceptionally good pizza.
  • It’s socially acceptable to eat gelato more than once a day.
  • Local markets have the best quality. Don’t get ripped off and beware of the old ladies, they are witches in cutting lines.
  • There is always time for a coffee. Even if lectures start in five minutes, chances are you will meet your professor at the bar, stirring sugar in his espresso without the slightest hint of a hurry.
  • Serve white wine with fish and antipasti, red wine with the meal, digestive after dessert.
  • Don’t fill up on bread. There is better still to come.
  • Learn to know your barman. Compliment food and coffee.
  • Talk to the waiters. It will be worth it (usually in the shape of free Limoncello). Be friendly, always.
  • Learn to order real coffee. Evolve from cappuccino to caffè macchiato to caffè amaro.

Getting Around the City

  • Walking may often be faster than public transport.
  • Traffic lights and street signals are only suggestions.
  • If you want the bus to stop, you need to give a clear signal.
  • Don’t wait for the cars to stop. You will wait indefinitely. Cross the street but never run.
  • If you have the right of way, take it. Take it even if you don’t have it.
  • Toilets don’t flush and locked bathrooms are a privilege.
  • Watch out for pigeons and seagulls.
  • If a street artist makes you stop you owe him spare change. Always listen, beauty surrounds you in unexpected places.
  • Don’t wear high heels if you plan on walking in the city center (sanpietrini ).
  • Roundabouts become parking spaces at night.
  • Strikes of public transport are custom.
  • Swearing is accepted.
  • Light a candle when you visit a church. For your friends of the past, your loved ones, your departed, and the friends of the future.
  • Keep some cash with you at all times, not every store or shop accepts cards.
  • For an accurate weather forecast check what the Bangla are selling.
  • And my personal favorite: Life is too short not to eat Gelato. Try new flavors.

Have you traveled to Italy or Rome? What have we missed? Join us virtually on September 29, 2021, for Navigating Italy! We will discuss various aspects of Italy's culture from business meetings and gift-giving to communication and negotiating tactics, and more! Visit Van Andel Global Trade Center's Events page to register !

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Michele Minghetti
Graduate Assistant, GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center

Half Italian and half American, Michele, grew up in a trilingual household and has spent much time both traveling and working in Italy. Michele is an independent and self-motivated international graduate student from Switzerland. With a diverse international background and global mindset, he has a proven ability to build strong intercultural relationships. Michele is an extremely active individual with a passion for sports. He spends his free time exploring nature, reading, running, and skiing. He also enjoys cooking/baking his nonna’s (grandmother's) recipes. Particularly, as recipes and cookbooks from Italian matriarchs are among the most passionately contested objects upon the death of an Italian grandmother—all of his siblings have one, and they treasure them, especially if they include family recipes or handwritten messages from "nonna."

Michele has earned his Bachelor of Science degree in International Management with a concentration in International Entrepreneurship and a Master’s degree in International Business in Switzerland. He is currently pursuing his MBA degree at the Seidman College of Business, at Grand Valley State University.



Page last modified April 20, 2022